The Entrepreneur Podcast
The Entrepreneur Podcast

Episode 53 · 1 month ago

Helping Canada Upskill with Melissa Sariffodeen

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Melissa Sariffodeen has a number of roles and titles on her profile. One of them is "lifelong student." 

And it’s fitting.

As Co-founder and CEO of Ladies Learning Code and Canada Learning Code, lifelong learning is integral to her founder’s journey. Since 2011, over 700,000 Canadians from all walks of life have had the opportunity to learn critical skills and build up the confidence to become builders - not just consumers - of technology in an increasingly digital world.

In this episode, Sariffodeen joins fellow Ivey alum and Director Internal of Morrissette Entrepreneurship, Deniz Edwards, to share her story and her passion for entrepreneurship, education and technology.

You're listening to the Entrepreneur podcast from the Western Morrisson Institute for Entrepreneurship powered by Ivy Ivy Alum Denise Edwards will anchor this session. Melissa Sara Fidean has a number of roles and titles on her profile. One of them is lifelong Student and it's definitely fitting. As co founder and CEO of Ladies Learning Code and Canada Learning Code, lifelong learning is integral to her founder's journey. Since two thousand eleven, over seven hundred thousand Canadians from all walks of life have had the opportunity to learn critical skills and build up the confidence to become builders, not just consumers of technology in an increasingly digital world. In this episode, we talk about her story and her passion for entrepreneurship, education and technology. Well, thank you again, Melissa for joining us today. It's so awesome to have you here, and I know that the students are really excited to kind of hear about your journey and everything that you've done with Canada Learning Code, so I'd love to kind of hear from you. Yesterday we were talking a lot about with the students, really just starting from the beginning with entrepreneurship. So what was it for you that really encouraged that entrepreneurial spark and what was it that kind of started you down your journey. Yeah, well, first all, thanks for having me. Thanks great to see so many of you to talk about my favorite topic. UM. For me, I it's hard to pinpoint exactly what that moment was, but I ever since I was young, I always just wanted to build and create things. So it was often like you know, crafts to begin with, and then it was a newsletter for my street where I was charging like fifty cents for an ad um. You know. Then it kind of became here on campus and actually started a franchise. I brought a franchise from the US here, was involved in clubs, and we just always wanted to make things that didn't exist. Um. But it took a long time to realize that that was actually like a career path that you could follow. UM. But I think for me, it was just really driven by this idea of like wanting things UM that that weren't around me, that I wanted to look a particular way UM. And you know, it also was really driven by you know, this idea of you know, creating impact and scale and you know, just contributing something meaningful. It really motivated me and was really you know, it still does to know that people are impacted positively by the things that I'm you know, contributing. Um So, yeah, I was like from the earliest things I can remember, I always had this entrepreneurial drive in me. Yeah. I've met with a lot of students that started out with a paper route or a landscaping business or something. So that's really awesome that you kind of had that that was the start for you. And so you kind of mentioned a couple of different things that you did there, and so walk us through how you kind of got from that too. How did Canada Learning Code previous Ladies learning Code get started? What was that creation and what did that story look like at the beginning? You know, like I said, I, um, you know, started a newspaper for my street, made you know, fifty cents a month doing that. Um In you know, elementary school started a school canteen um. But also around that time in elementary school, I taught myself to code. Um So I was building websites and like really basic applications, and I see the women in technology back there and AI, So I know there's a good representation here. Um. But I again, I was really driven to build something. UM. So I taught myself to code, made these websites, made a guest book for you know, the kids in my class over the summer. Um. Okay, so I'm a little bit older than probably most, if not all of you. So we didn't have really like um well I don't even know if you do an msn IS, but we didn't really have instact communication tools. So the way that we would communicate over the summers through these guest books. UM, these like basically really simple websites where you could leave like asynchronous messages kind of like a form on blackboard or quirkus or um, you know, any of the platforms you'd use. And so I built one of those. Um, you know, really enjoyed creating. You know, went into high school, took computer science, wasn't encouraged to take it beyond that first course, even though I quite liked it and I think I did quite well. Um, but I wasn't encouraged, and so I ended up going you know, to university here obviously went to business, but those skills were still really relevant along the way. I was actually still using them. So I co directed the own fashion show, which I think is still on campus. You know, it was involved in tweaking the website whatever you know project, I'd sort of create an HTML website for it. So I was still building and using those skills even after I went to Toronto. I worked in accounting for a bit. I worked for a bunch of early stage startups. UM. But I you know, then at one point kind of realized the work that I was doing wasn't fulfilling UM, and I wanted to, yeah to wanted to to kind of really really fulfill...

...that purpose in me. So I quit that job that I was in and accounting. I started getting involved in the tech community. Realized that, you know, my skills, although I had taught myself to code, UM, we're we're we're like quite out of date. Um there. You know, technology moves very quickly, and so I wanted to learn to code again. UM. And that's really where um. You know, I met the other three co founders who UM started the organization together, and we just like we wanted to learn to code. So we just created workshops to help us learn to code. And people really liked them, and eleven years later, here we are. We've taught almost a million people in Canada. We've taught justin Trudeau. Um. We've had really incredible people support our work, like the CEO Shopify, Toby was on our board for a period of time. UM. So we've just really created this national movement, all really driven around this problem that we wanted to solve that we had in ourselves. That's such an interesting story and I love that you shared because I've talked a lot with students about how it's Um. Often students will get a job after school and you get some industry experience and that entrepreneurial bug will kind of catch afterwards. So that's really interesting that you did go on and kind of work at an accounting firm and different startups and things like that. Yeah. And I think those like foundational skills are so important and I always tell people, you know, there's some benefit in finding out what you don't want to do, right, So not only do you acquire all of these skills and experiences and accounting is so relevant and reading a business like and I think it's you know, a big reason why we've been successful and been able to kind of keep money in the bank, but you know, you really also figure out what you don't want to do, so I think you can't really go wrong. Yeah, for sure. So one thing I wanted to ask about yesterday with all the students here, we spent a lot of time and we did a couple of activities and exercises to really hone in on problems and identifying problems that the students were passionate about. Because at the core of kind of every entrepreneurial venture is a problem that you're solving. Um So, I'd love to hear from you. What was it the problem you kind of alluded to it, but what was it that core problem that you had identified that kind of led to the creation of Ladies Learning Code. Yeah, great question, I'll get there. I guess I'll just underscore how important that is to find a problem that you're passionate about. Um So, again, like circling back to all these different entrepreneurial ventures that I had. One of them, one of my like failed adventures is when I was here on campus, I was in second year UM and I kind of stumbled upon this US company that was storing students UM furniture over the summer and the colleges in the US, and they wanted to bring that to campus into Canada. UM, and I'm like, okay, I'm starting something. Love it. You know. I was connecting with the CEO really inspiring, really interesting. I was like, sure, let me launch that UM. You know, so I got going, UM launched it here. You know, realized first off in London generally I don't know if it's still the case, but there are twelve month leases if you're not in resident so no one needs to store their stuff in the summer. So like didn't really validate that problem. UM. But I also like didn't really have a passion for storing things UM. So I just didn't really put all that much energy or that much effort. It didn't go anywhere. I don't think it exists. That company, you know, was really successful. It was acquired by U Haul in the U s and UM, but it just wasn't like the problem for me UM. And that would be very similar to a lot of the other like failed ventures that I've been part of, is that there just wasn't this connection to something that I'm passionate about. So for CLC, it really was this perfect combination of wanting to learn technical skills, but also a problem that was looking to really scale. Um. So when I worked in accounting, UM even that experience actually with college boxes, that storage unit UM or you know, I worked at Domino's Pizza and I worked with the franchisees. I had done a lot of it, had a lot of experience in UM franchising and uh you know sort of Chapter Mo moddel clubs on campus and so so there's a problem that com you know, to technical problem wanting to learn those skills. But for me and that like business opportunity was that this problem to be solved, this you know, um need for more women at first to have technical skills really required scale. Right. It required us to run experiences, to run them everywhere. That's what we wanted to do. That's how we wanted to bring our idea into life. And so it required someone who had e that passion around that idea, but also maybe like some experienced scaling things. So all of a sudden, all of this random experience with franchising and um, you know the college boxes and others really positioned me, I think, really extremely well to then scale. At the time, it was called Ladies Learning Code across the country, UM, so pre pandemic. We were in almost forty cities across the country. We had these vehicles traveling UM. And it was because I had learned and actually failed a lot um you know, along the way, and all these other experiences that...

...really kind of brought full circle this, you know, the passion and some of the expertise for me to build that idea. That's really UM. Yeah, that's really awesome. And I love that point that you made about, um, the passion behind it, and how you were saying that, like you didn't have a passion for furniture storage, And I think that's so important. Like it's one thing, like sure a business might be viable, it might be successful, but if you don't have that internal drive that kind of makes you wake up every day and want to keep working on it, then it's not the thing for you. And that's okay, and you can move on. And so I think that's that's really important. And I love that you kind of brought that up for sure, and I would just say to like, it can change over time. So at first I wanted to learn technical skills encoding myself, so I was passionate about that. Then you know, we got to that point in the organization where we were looking to do this and support and help people, like as many people as possible. So then I was really motivated by actually scaling the business, um, you know, focus on adults. And then a few years after that, I was part of the summer camp and it was for young girls, like it was a girl's learning code camp, and this young girl, like first day of camp, like fun summer camp, she came to out of the room crying and she was saying things like I'm not gonna be good at math or I'm not gonna do it. My parents are gonna be disappointed, like I'm not good at this coding stuff. And for me, that was then like this third kind of UM purpose. For me, it was this critical incident where I was like, Okay, if this young girl at this like really fun coding camp already thinks she can't be good at technology, like we need to fix that. And that was then for me the catalyst to then get my master's in education to focus on youth. UM. So there's like three there's more, but there's like three examples of where the same organization, same business, I've like refound my passion for in different ways. And I think that's the one thing I love that the most about entrepreneurship is you're creating your your whatever it is you want to do. So the organization has grown along those interests, along you know, community demand, and so I found lots of different things. I've grown a ton, I keep growing, Um, but I'm motivated at different points by different things, and I think that's just like the best part for sure. Yeah, that's that's so interesting for sure. So another thing that we talked about yesterday was about validation and how entrepreneurship is very iterative and you have this idea, you have a problem, a solution, and you have to go back. You have to keep going out and talking to the market and getting that validation. So, um, how did you go about validating kind of that initial problem that you had identified? And also was there a point where you felt like, Okay, I have enough validation, like this is something that I know or there's enough information out there that I should just jump in and run with it, or are you still validating to this day? Good question. So yeah, in the college box example, that was a perfect like textbook example of not validating the problem them or the idea UM. So learned a lot from that UM the way that Ladies Learning Code, which was the organization when we founded it, it's not now Canada Learning Code UM. It actually started through a brainstorming session a month before our first workshop, so it was you know, built by the community for the community, so validating the problem UM. And you know, first off, by having eight people on a waitlist at that workshop or that brainstorm session for us was a really good indicator that there's some people that are interested in this UM. And then through that we got their feedback the eight people that were there about what that workshop should look like. We you know, looked at other types of workshops that were happening in other parts of the world, and then we never stopped doing that. And I think, you know, part of it also by solving a problem you're passionate about UM, it can be a problem that you know, you you're not maybe directly impacted by by passion, but passionate about. In our case, we were like also our end consumer at the beginning because we weren't technical, we were you know, we were learning UM. So there was this you know, huge benefit of also building things that would benefit us, right UM but then you hit a point where you you know, you're now to tech savvy, You're no longer a beginner. You know, you are not your customer anymore, and depending on the business you build, you may never be. And so we you know, really prioritize talking to that learner or that end UM customer. For us, it's learners, it's volunteers, it's our team UM. And we do that through you know, surveys and focus groups and lots of the probably tools you've you talked about UM, and so that is like core, We're never done doing that. Throughout the pandemic, we had to pivot a ton, like we are never done iterating. We're UM. You know, we're always looking at what it is that UM our our sort of end user or end customer needs and and that changes as quickly as technology does. UM. But that's like really really important. And I think the moment you do that, UM, you know, or you stop doing that, UM, you start you stop being relevant, right UM. So I think it's really really important. And then to your point around like how do you know you...

...have enough UM? I think in terms of launching a business, in my experience, like you never are gonna have everything, like, you're never have all the information you need, You'll never have all the answers, probably never have all the resources. Um. But I think for me, what I've learned is when you start to like hear these themes and um, you know, maybe no new themes start to emerge or not substantially, when you feel like you've kind of have a really strong inclination inclination, things are starting to kind of converge in a direction. That's for us when we're like, okay, like we feel pretty confident, we can you know, dive in there because we're starting to hear a lot of similarities. Um. But then we also just keep agile, so we might do that, and then that doesn't work, and then we're really comfortable and just like scrapping that and doing something different, and so keeping really fluid and flexible I think is important as well. For sure, Yeah, definitely easier said than done, but it's great to hear that you guys are still um, validating. I think that's so important. I think all companies, um, even big corporations, they're always kind of collecting information and data to make sure that they're always iterating and innovating and all of that stuff, So switching gears a little bit. Yesterday we heard from a lot of students UM that are very motivated by a social impact UM. And I've talked with so many students more and more every day. I think that's such a driving factor for students these days. And I find that so inspiring and so amazing and so obviously UM Canada learning code. You are not for profit and there is kind of that social impact aspect to it. So can you walk us through how you decided to go that direction and kind of went that not for profit route and what was that meaning of that social impact for you? A really good question, we UM. I don't think any like myself, any of our founders, we ever thought we would UM have a nonprofit or charity. I mean, I don't think we even thought we'd have a for profit UM. You know, we we started, we were really a loose collective of people trying to solve a problem UM. But then I think, you know, you realize, okay, this there's something here and you need to put structure and in place. The way that I've come to think about it, because we've questioned at different points whether you know, when we were nonprofit if we should become a charity, if we should be something different, UM. And so the way that I think about it is like what is the right structure to solve the problem that you want to solve. So for us, we wanted, you know, our workshops to be everywhere in Canada UM and maybe beyond that, but we'll have to rebrand UM. We wanted to be everywhere, and so we we knew though also that core to our experience was this really high ratio of mentors to learners. So we for every four learners in our workshops, there's one person, one mentor working alongside you, which is like unheard of, right, That's not what we see in traditional classrooms. So we knew that if we wanted to create this experience, and this experience and that mentor ratio was so core to the impact we wanted to have UM. And we have this like theory of the change we want to create, and this is really cord to it. There's research around it. That's you know, there's UM, you know a lot of research around you know, having people teaching you, were mentoring you who look like you, and so just based on all of these things, it requires this like high number of of of mentors and volunteers, and so as we talk through the different opportunities and the different ways that our our business could be formed or grow, we realized that it needs to be a structure that it supports and UM you know, helps the volunteers thrive. Because we could never afford to pay UM that many UM mentors UM in a kind of formal way. We just we couldn't figure out the math on that as much as we did it, and that's where accounting was helpful. UM. So then what we talked through, what we learned was that as a nonprofit and sort of volunteer focused social impact, UM type of of kind of structure would help us solve the problem best because we knew that that was so important to how we wanted to solve it. So that's really how we ended up as a nonprofit and a charity, was just picking a structure that solved the problem. UM. I think there could have been lots of other ways. And and now in Canada there are lots of other organizations that are different types of structures for profits that are doing what we're doing, but they're doing it a little bit differently and that's great. It solves a problem differently, UM. But we really really focused on what is the right structure UM? And I think any type of structure can have a social impact UM, you know, and that's really the purpose and how you do it is what's more important than maybe the way that it looks UM. You know, So I wouldn't you know, you might there might be considerations about what structure to choose to help solve the problem. But my advice would you just focus on solving the problem best, um? And if you focus on that, like the other pieces would start to fall into place and aren't as important UM and shouldn't be the main driver about how you think about building um the you know, the business of the vision that you have. Yeah, for sure. I think we talked a little bit about this yesterday for you guys that were here yesterday, about kind of the viability of a of a business idea and how the...

...different paths it takes. But at the end of the day, is it a viable business um? And can you support the activities that you want to do? So I love that you kind of touched on those points and it and it all kind of drives back to the problem, right, the problem that you've identified and how best can you solve that problem? And the structure kind of falls out from there. So that's that's really insightful. UM. So I'd love to hear about your time at Western because obviously you were here at Western, you are an alum. UM. I think you talked a little bit about some of the things that you did while you were a student here, But was there anything that really sticks out to you of things that you got involved with or different activities that you did that really helped you to get where you are today. Yeah, Well, I loved I love being on campus, especially during homecoming. I I think the most like significant or the things that I think about the most. I mean, lots of friends and I'm still in touch with more definitely getting involved in clubs um. And I'm not just saying this because they're around the room. Like literally, that is like the most important thing I take away. And when I actually talked to some of my peers from from UM from university, they often like talk about that at me. You know, they're like, oh, I wish I did what you did, which was get involved, right and like you know, have that real life applied experience and running something and building something because if you are int interested in entrepreneurship, I really feel like it's such a good, um sort of low stakes, no cost way of building the skills that are necessary. UM. So I was involved in a variety of different clubs, you know, one that I mentioned was the the Own Fashion Show co directing. I was focused on the business side of it. I'm not artistic. I can't saying I can't dance and a model, UM, but I was focused on sponsorship, revenue, like, the revenue side of it, costs, um, procurement, revenue, booking like for a really large production relative to anything I had done before. And so those types of skills negotiating, asking for money, UM, you know, balance seeing your books, like there's such a good opportunity to learn, and I did that quite a lot. So that's I think that what I took away the most was just having you know, tons of opportunities here on campus to do that UM that you wouldn't otherwise. And so you know, I definitely encourage if you are, um, you know, looking to get experience coming out to things like this, being part of different programs, being part of clubs. UM. I wish there was like things like this when I was on campus. But there's lots of ways to get that experience that um it doesn't cost anything, because it does cost you down the road, um, you know, so it's a good it's a good way to learn but actually get skills that are useful. Yes, definitely, And that was not a planted answer for sure. So yes, I'm so happy that all the clubs are here. So I really hope that you guys take that to heart because, um, there's so many ways to get involved in all the entrepreneurial skills and entrepreneur mindsets are definitely very transferable and you can learn them in so many different ways and apply them in so many different ways. So that's, um, that's really great. So another and about your entrepreneurial journey is that obviously entrepreneurship can be quite lonely. UM. I know you said that you had three co founders, so you were fortunate to have a team with you, but it can be very um up and down process and um, lots of highs, lots of lows. And I just would love to hear about what kind of support mechanisms or who did you reach out to to help you kind of especially in those early days, really good question. Yeah, it's definitely lonely. UM, it can be for sure. UM. And and then you know, even I had co founders and it was awesome in the early days for sure, but even UM then as the organization grew, grew ended up taking on the role of our chief executive officer, which canna put me at the top of this hierarchy, so to speak, which just does it does mean you know, and you you hear things like it's it's lonely at the top. And as like as that can sound like, there is this element, UM. You know, as your you build a business where you you know, the things that you or the issues you have you probably shouldn't and can't maybe share with everybody or the people around you might not know, or your you know, your friends, your roommates, your partners are like, I'm done listening to you talk about these issues. UM. So it can be tough, for sure, And I think that's actually very very valid and something to prepare for. UM. I really focused on UM building a network around me of people doing similar things. UM. I kind of at the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey UM. Post graduation, UM, I really would go to networking events, and I would think, Okay, let me like reach out to the most senior person in the room, you know, and think that's who I want to talk to, right, um. But then I actually started realizing that people who were like just a little bit further ahead in whatever they were doing were actually the most valuable. Um. The people who have like made it, They've got lots of great advice, like and you know, definitely have been there and you can learn an immense amount. And I have those people in my network as well. UM. But you know, those that had just done it, you know, six months ago, a year ago, like, they have real deep understanding and appreciation having just done...

...it. And so I found in that way, like looking at networking or looking at building my kind of mentor base, I really focused on people at different points in the journey. UM and really you know, seeing everybody um as as an opportunity to learn something from. So that was always really important, um as it is like setting boundaries. I wasn't great at that. I'm probably still not the best at that. Um. You know, especially when you love and your passionate about something like it's hard to not turn your brain off, like you are constantly working through it. And I think that's also um, you know, a real a reality for a lot of entrepreneurs is like everything you see in the context Like I came here and I was like, oh, women in technology society, Like I should chat with him about doing a workshop, you know, like everything's in the context of my of work. So just making sure you set boundaries, whether it's working out, watching TV, UM, hanging out with friends, like just really really prioritized doing that UM and trying to turn off is really important as well. Yes, I think that's a message that often gets lost with entrepreneurship, is because there's this big glamor of like, um, pushing yourself and working all the time, and I think that that's self Guaranteeing care of yourself is definitely most important. And it's a marathon, not a sprint, even though like it can feel like a sprint all of the time, and there are milestones like it is a marathon. And the problems that you're passionate about, I'm I'm I'm pretty confident are like long in nature, like long term, like, so I always say kind of play the long game as well. And you know, for me, trying to transform education. Um, that's not going to happen, you know, in the next you know, to five ten decades maybe, Um, you know the way that I would love to see that final vision. So you can't sprint every day, um or every week or every year like you really do have to see it as an endurance. UM, you know, opportunity for sure. UM. So this is my last question that I have and then I'm going to kind of open it up to you guys. What is the biggest piece of advice that you would give for any of the students here? They're all just kind of just starting out. They maybe have a kernel of an idea, they're super excited and passionate about entrepreneurship. What would be your advice to them? Usually it's like just start, But I don't think that's enough. Like that's probably based advice. The thing that I would say, um, and maybe it's like where I'm at right now in my life, is like to not be afraid to challenge the way that you see yourself or the narrative that you're telling yourself. So that's probably like the most difficult piece of advice that I've ever received, but the most like um significant and the most kind of like pervasive piece of advice I ever give. So I'll give a little bit of story to kind of add context to this. UM we UM were in kind seen and we were at CLC had this opportunity. We've been working really hard. We just had justin Trudeau Code with us, and we have this opportunity to get a significant amount of money from the federal government, like ten plus millions of dollars, and we were going to invest in this fleet um of codemobiles which exists around the country. And I remember talking to one of my board members, UM really prominent, like runs one of the biggest companies in Canada. And I remember talking to him and I was saying things like, but I'm nervous, like I'm an accountant, I'm so risk averse, Like I don't know if I can do it, Like I don't know if I can you know, if I can UM like get the order to a place where it needs to go. And I kept saying things like I'm an accountant, right, um, And he stopped me and he said, listen, stop for a second, right, Like you would never be here quitting your job, launching a company scaling to forty cities, across the country getting into a position where you have an access to that type of investment if you were a risk of ours. Right, that's a narrative that you're telling yourself, a story. You're telling yourself about someone that you think you are based on your education, your work experience, your family, your background. You know, maybe who you were to three years ago, but that's not who you are and that's not how people see you. And I find that, like I'm constantly up against that, like all the time. Um, you know, I I hold on to who I might have been, but we change so much. And I think especially in university, UM, and as you enter your career, you're going to change a ton You're gonna learn, Like the amount that you learn and like a semester is like just overwhelming. And so that is like I would say, the biggest thing to think about is like, don't let you be in the way of you. UM. If you have an idea problem, it's not too big. UM, you can shift the your perspective and don't be afraid to challenge that. Um you know, and and get that critical feedback about who you are because ultimately, and I think often we're like our worst enemy right, and we're the one standing away of the greatness that we can become. UM. And I think that's just so important to question and keep a pulse on always. I think that's just great advice for everyone in general, not just entrepreneurship, but just a good, great life advice. So yeah, that's awesome. Okay, I want to open it up to you guys. Do you guys have any questions? UM, Jake, why don't we start with you out? Um? How did you...

...go about hiring and scaling a team? Did you start with your friends, co workers or just other people and you're network. Yeah, that's a good, really good question, UM. Have So we're eleven years in, have had probably two hundred full time staff over that period of time and thousands of volunteers to have learned a lot and have been a lot of mistakes, a lot of learnings and lessons. UM. I think we really focused on in early days on you know, really entrepreneurial, passionate folks who you know, we're filling gaps that we we may have, UM, you know, and we we did hire some friends in our network. I think that's tricky. I mean this might be controversial, but idea I have had, UM like not some amazing like our like our co founders, but not always the most amazing experiences. Like I think the advice I got once is like your business partner, UM may maybe the most important partner relationship that you'll ever have, like over your spouse UM or you know. And the reason is because ultimately, at some point, like money gets involved and you want to think that that's not going to change things, UM, but it, like in my experience, it ken. And so I've really focused as much as possible to hire amazing people who are filling gaps UM. You know, maybe there are people you know, referrals in our networks, but you know, now I would really caution away from hiring um you know, like at scale like family and friends, UM, until you're at a point where you can have that like objectivity UM you know, and maybe have you know, HR and other things UM. But really focus on what are those gaps that you have? What are the skills that you need, um in order to do in order to scale and grow? Did you do online job posting? Like technical? How do we do that? Oh? So yeah, we did a little bit of that, UM, a lot of you know, we focused a lot on UM kind of broad awareness for our work, you know, in public relations and things like that. So we would have a kind of an always on place on our website where people were like coming inbound. But a lot of events like this, a lot of networking, your fairs, basically anyway we could find um really great talent, we would do it. We've done all of those things. UM what's most successful? It really depends on what you're looking for to UM. You know, there are definitely some job boards that are like more curated. There are some communities that are more you know, if you're looking for like someone who is really skilled in AI, you know, there's certain places you could go to find those folks. But I think all of those things and the more creative you can be about it, I think that probably the better the outcome as well. Thank you. Okay, So what made you like decide to switch your target market for your business and also like how did you in general like feel about that, Like, was it stressful or rebranding from Ladies Learning Code to Candle Learning Code. Oh, it's a good question. That was took a year. It took a year to actually rebrand, and it took about two years from the idea that we wanted to Why we did that, UM, A couple of things. Like one, we started as Ladies Learning Code and we wanted to foe us on increasing the number of women in technology. UM. But then we realized that diversity and tech is beyond just gender. And I think that kind of coincided with you know, a broader conversation that was happening in society, research that was coming out that helped educate us about about that. Right. So part of the reason that we wanted to rebrand or evolve, I like to say, is because we just realized that, um, we had a kind of maybe too narrow view of the work that we wanted to do. UM. And then the other thing was more of a bit of a like a marketing problem so to speak. And you know, so if you can think of a brand, I would say, it's like a bucket, right, Ladies Learning Code as a bucket like good get filled really quickly because it's focused on a very like targeted, very specific audience. So we had this like really big vision still do that all people in Canada will have the skills and confidence to harness the power of technology. That's big. So the marketing bucket of ladies learning code was too small for the vision that we had, so we like from marketing perspective, we needed a bigger bucket that we could use to promote and to build awareness for our work. So there's kind of two things that were happening in that two year period, UM, and it was very controversial. So it took a year of talking to our community, our our learners are volunteers, our funders, our partners to finally get to a point where we brought people on board with that journey UM. Because as you could imagine, people lots of people were at our organization because they wanted to focus on helping women access careers in tech right, and so all of a sudden, you know, we're rebranding. People were like, well do we not do what we are here for? Like are we not here for the same thing anymore? And so it was very controversial and it took me, I was, you know, in communities, talking to people very regularly to bring people on board with this bigger bucket and bigger vision UM. And then by the time we launched, it was like a non event. No one said anything. UM. It wasn't exciting at all, but I thought that was a huge success because it could have been like really bad. Did you sort of do any planning before doing that, like any in are you...

...like sort of scared? And how did it like payoffs in the end? Yeah, tons of planning. So um yeah. And again going back to validating the problem, we're getting user research like you know, this was again we were we were hearing this consistently from our community as well. We had lots of parents who had UM, you know, children that weren't weren't women, weren't ladies. We had ladies who said that's something like an antiquated term UM, you know, or didn't identify you know, lots of don binary UM learners as well, And so we were hearing that, getting that research and that validation UM to be able to make that decision along the way. UM. And then again I think because by the time we rebranded, no one really had anything to say, um, it was his success. Um you know, and people you know, our work, we've grown, We've grown exponentially since we were ladies learning code. So I think it's also a testament to this bucket that we have and and like people you know, buying into and being part of this bigger vision that fits better with Canada Learning Code. I think, now, what's the biggest discip appointment that you've had to face with them running the company and things like that, and how did you navigate pushing through and still going on with your vision. I'm like, uh, like some days it's like every day there's something like you know, but again, every day there's something amazing, like that roller coaster, like the highs or highs and lows or lows are totally entrepreneurship some days and like of this day is horrible, but like one percent is so amazing that it like overshadows all of the other nine. Like that is totally my experience with entrepreneurship. It's you know, I know it can't be like well pent Worth it. I don't know if you can be more than that, but yeah, it is. I think some of the things that it's been really really challenging, certainly leading and building an organization for the pandemic Um. I think that was hard. We did have to at the beginning of the pandemic Um restructure and let some people go off our tam. That was hard, like people or why we are here, our team are like everything that's why we're here. Like I, yes, I'm talking and you know, leading the ship, but it's nothing without this team. And so moments like that are really hard, and you know, you like, you don't ever really get over them. UM, you know, but I you know, you do what you can. And so in those moments, you help people navigate land people have landed, um, you know, in different places. But I think, yeah, there is this reality, UM, you know, the people part of it. So you know, this is our people, and so UM, as complicated as we all can be during like a global pandemic, really really hard UM. And if I think back to before that, all of the like lows, you know, most of them. There's times where you know, funding or other things didn't come through the way we wanted to, But a lot of them do relate generally to UM, to people, UM you know, and that for us is just the biggest part of our business. UM. And you just work through, You do what you can. You show up every day with the same character and integrity and the same values. You know, you put people first and UM you know, so sometimes you have to make hard decisions. But what I've also learned is that it's never really that decision or you know, the way that people see that decision isn't in that moment, it's like all of your interactions before that. So I just focus on showing up, like to be authentic and you know, caring about people every day and and helping navigate through those tough moments in that same way as well. So back to hp A one life. UM, do you think that's LPO courses and communication courses really contribute to entrepreneurship or or not so leading people and operations? Is that what you are or just any courses as the leading people? Yeah, leading and people eying operation. Yeah, I mean I think that yes, Like I think that UM the case method as well in general. I mean I'm biased and I love it, and UM, I think it's helpful to just give you scenarios and like to think through how you might approach something. UM. In my experience, like entrepreneurship, there are lots of UM, you know, books that you could read, there's lots of scenarios, there's lots of people you can talk to, but no one's done what you've done as you in this point in time, UM, and we're all sort of figuring it out. So I think The more that you can get that practice without having to like make the real mistake UM in your business and it might cost you financially is great. So I think you can learn a lot, and I think you can learn about the leader you want to be, the leader you don't want to be. UM. When I think about some of the jobs I've had out of UM, you know, university, Like I've worked for amazing leaders and not so great leaders, and they've all been amazing experiences in the end, because it helps you hone in what you want to do. So yeah, and I think also a variety of topics and skills is also helpful. Like I would sort of characterize myself a bit of it, like what people have said is like a bit of a Swiss army knife, in the sense that I've done a little bit of this, a little bit of that, a little bit of this, and so that helps you just think about like problems UM with different perspectives. So that's another thing in the book question gen Um.

Some advice I also once got, which I really value is if you read a traditional type of book often like go to the I say, bookstore or wherever you purchase books, UM, and go to a section that you would never read, you know, and it's just about framing your perspective a little bit differently. So if you always read, you know, books about um, I don't know, mechanics or business, like, go read about art and design and like go do something totally opposite. So it's all helping just perform inform your perspective. So I think it's really valuable. Yeah, thank you. I was really wondering how you kind of have this like startup, and I know you said that the idea is what matters to a certain problem that occurs where you can see and like the solution is kind of like your basic startup, but like how did you actually start up? Like okay, like like get something happening? Um, yeah, So I have two things I'm gonna say there one okay, so in actually starting up, all the other examples like you just start somewhere. So in our case for for CLC or Candle Learning Code, we had a brainstorming session and we got a bunch of people, eighty people together and we said, okay, what would it look like to teach people to code women to code? And then we just set a date for a month later and then we just like figured out what we would need food and you know, we need a venue, and we would need a marketing site, and like you just one step at a time, like quite literally, just like work through the different things that come your way. In terms of like actually starting I think, um, there's you know sometimes this this idea that you need to have like all of these things done and anything. You know, you need a certain amount of stuff done, absolutely, but you know things are always going to come up. So just like one foot in front of the other is important. Um. And then the other thing I would say, um that I've also come to realize, and I talked about my team often is like this other piece of advice, um, is just what I say is like fall in love with the problem, not the solution, so you know, and what I mean by that is like you're you're the solution. The way that you solve the problem is probably going to change a ton and it's going to constantly change. And if you're running a really successful business, like you will want it, I think to change in response to the people that you serve. So for me, like you know, pretty pandemic, we run every we ran everything in person, all of our workshops and I thought, if we ever do anything else, like, I'm not going to do this anymore. Um. I really fell in love initially with like delivering in person experiences, and the pandemic was this like huge wake up call for me to say, you know, like it realized that actually, no, like I was happy to run live online, I cared about just delivering these experiences to people. I wasn't like, you know, I and I was forced to not be as hooked on the way that we did it, um, and I couldn't. For my team, we needed to like do things differently. So, like I think, even more than anything, focus on like the problem that you want to solve or the impact that you want to have, and how you get there is going to shift and change along the way. Is there any specific like event or situation that you were put in and that kind of gave you that Like, yeah, you had that slow startup that you're talking about, and it's escalating of course, but there was that at this one point and you're like, whoa, we're actually an organization, we have a plan, we have what to do. How did you know it was that point? And how what did you do right after that point? So for us, it was like our third workshop, it sold out in thirty seconds. And I used to joke at like if sold out fast and the Beyonced concert, like it was like this, so and then we had people asking again and again and again, and we had just so much demand. So for us, it was like this moment, we're like, oh, like we probably just can't be a group of people, uh just like running workshops anymore, Like we've got money, like sitting here, um, you know, I had like a ton of stuff, um in my home. Laura, one of our co founders for car was like completely full of things. Were like, we probably can't sustain this anymore. Um. But for us, we tried as long as we could to like you know, this idea of bootstrap you know, and really just like be into what people needed as opposed to like, um, formalize it too quickly. So for us, it just we just knew when like we needed to put some structure around it, like you know, when it was taking over our lives and we were you know, working full time jobs on the side, Like we just we just came to that, like we kind of just knew, um, when what was working wasn't working anymore. Yeah, thank you. Um, what's the biggest challenge you had while scaling and how did you overcome it? Scaling? Scaling the biggest problem scaling UM, going from like one to two is like like double but like it's manageable. Two to four is manageable. Four to eight okay, and then you go eight to fifty, which is what we did. UM, very very hard. You get to a point where you just don't have maybe like the structure that you people expected an organ that size. Like I think that's probably one of our big learnings is we had a you know, a larger brand than we maybe had like infrastructure for so we were and...

...we were also hiring really talented people from bigger organizations and so you know they would come and be like, okay, like it's day one, Um, who where do I go to get it? T uh like get my laptop set up? And I'm like, well, you're the I T person. You know, we just didn't have that. So that's hard. And so as much as you can plan for some of those things early on, like plan to scale, UM, I thought we were, but not nearly like you know, just think think bigger than maybe where you are. So if you're thinking about, like you know, a solution. Um, you know, maybe you you need something like medium size now, but you're gonna get really quickly to where you need the larger size solution, like a larger enterprise. So think about, think about and plan to scale. Don't set yourself short because you'll get their way quicker in my experience than you think you will. And then when you get there, you're like, oh, you know that, like that was just yesterday and you know, and and that's been hard just to like navigate that. Um, Melissa, nice to me, you and everyone else here plan zohe and HB A one student. Um, My question for you is how do you preserve your mental health through the entrepreneurial journey because it seems like there's a contrast there. They're almost mutually exclusive that to be a successful entrepreneur you have to put in one hours per weekend just like grind right, So where does mental health come into play for that? Yeah, that's a really good question. And uh yeah, definitely I didn't have like the best boundaries I think at the beginning. Um, but but I think I was okay, Like I look back, and um, I think you just do need to know what you need, and that can change at different points in time. So when I look back in the last like a decade or so, like, there are points in time where you know, I was just I wanted to to work, you know, my hundred hours a week or more. I was just passionate about it. But there are points in time where I didn't UM, and you know, just have to really check in with myself and not feel guilty about it. I think it's important. But also yeah, just knowing, Yeah, just really being in tune what you need, like what need compared to what my co founders needed or what my partner needs. He's entrepreneurial as well. UM are very different. So like you just have to listen to yourself and set those boundaries. You do not need to work a hundred hours a week to be successful by no means UM, you know if you don't want to UM. But again, every person is different. So that like I did my yoga teacher training, I do yoga, like watch TV like you know those types of things. I used to read a book a week. UM. You know, whatever it is that you you want to do, I think, just make sure you put those in place and hold yourself accountable to it because the thing is, no one's gonna be like, did you do that? No, Like nobody's checking in on you. So you just really have to have that self discipline to do it. Got it? Thank you for entrepreneurs. It's pretty easy to find the problem, But how do you make people fall in love with your solution? Very good question. I think it does go back to like building what people want right and talking to them um. And I think if if it is like um that, like, if you're really who trying to get people to like by what you have or use what you have, I would sort of say, is it really solving the problem for them? For starters? And it may and there might be other things that are influencing the ability to make those decisions. So think about how you reduce friction in those ways. So you know, is your you know, if you have a software solution, is it not integrated in this area of the business. And so I think that's where like just talking to that you know, your end consumer is really really valuable because you might think that it's something to do with what you've built and it might not be right. It might be you know, the approval that their business has right, And it might be the structure that they have and they want to use what you have. They love it, it's better than the alternatives, but like there's some barrier somewhere else in the organization that's limiting their ability to use it. So you're not going to find that out unless you go and ask and figure it out. So it's like what what is that? Um? But I think if you're really trying to sell someone's up and doesn't something to someone they don't want, then I would question the solution. But then understanding like what is a friction in this process? Um, and kind of getting to the bottom of that. Yeah. Right, So would you say, um, for like finding your value proposition? Would you say that identifying your market is the strongest suit or making sure that your product stands out from someone else. That's a good question, um, And there's probably like a more structured answer, I guess, like find out who the end like end customer really is. I guess, right. Like, so in some of my experiences selling, um, you know, let's say to like you know, uh and I just some angel investing. So as an example, like one of our one of the companies we you know, we sell to um to like hr right, but it actually you know, it's a recruiter. We think we're selling to the recruiter, but it actually isn't because they're not the decision maker. And so like we are building this solution and our sales funnel on tactics around this person who is going to be the one who uses it, but not the one who buys it, right, So thinking about like and really understanding like who's that decision maker. So this relates to the value prop um. But...

...yeah, I think sometimes like we we can get confused about who's really like buying the stuff that we're selling. Yeah, that's helpful, that's great, Thank you. Okay, I'm not trying making it quick because I don't want to like, you know, one because we're reading. But like, okay, I have a couple of questions. So my first is, so it's kind of like a theoretical thing. But you know how when you started your business it was directed towards woman. So you were talking about opening the bucket everything, But what if you had made like you had opened it up, but you had sub sections, so one for older people, one for a woman, Like did you ever think about that? How do you think that would have affected your success. And we do still have that, like we do market um certain like to certain audiences in that way. So we do, yeah, and that that again there's like a bit of a difference maybe between the overarching bucket and then like who were communicating to you and how um you know, use the example of youth and this going back to the question the question before, like we used to think that we you know, when we ran camps, like we were talking to our our campers right like at the beginning and of our entrepreneurial journey, and we realized it's a parent, right, So our marketing was like very youthful for camps, very youthful and very like kid friendly. And then we're like, well that's actually not enough information for parent. A parent actually wants who's taking care of my kids? What are your policies in place? When do they stop for lunch? Do you have after care? Right? So this like come learn camp and like maybe robots stuff like did not appeal to the actual person that we were selling to. So we do have like different sub brands that are like catered more specifically to the audiences that were like um serving yeah, yes, sorry, no, I was I just didn't know a song. I don't know. It's okay, okay. So also just have a physical product do you sell or no, it's a service. It's a service yeah. Um. And finally, like when you were like you know and whenever thing did you invest and what did you use for investing? If you did so? You say that again like when you were in school, did you invest? What did you use? Like did I invest my personal money and stuff? For example? Um, to some extent, yes, UM. I wish I did more because compounds. So if you have any amount of disposable income that you can save, save it now. Uh, ten year, eleven, twelve, fifteen years makes a big difference. But when I was back there, I think I like did mostly just um like mutual funds and g I c s and things like that. I wasn't. I didn't very much invest in the stock market. Now I do invest as an angel investor in some businesses. Um. You know that are maybe related to things I'm passionate about. I'm still probably not as aggressive um from an investment perspective as some people are. UM for me. I And this is about kind of understanding yourself too. I'm the type of person who person I take a lot more risk in my business then I'm comfortable with personally. And it's weird, um, but I like for me to be successful, I think in in my entrepreneurial ventures, I like to keep things like really just simple at home. So I just try to like keep my you know, my expense as low as possible, keep no frills and like, so I just I don't experiment with that, like I keep that for my business and um, you know try to drive that. So yeah, that's I have no good advice other than save. Now that's my advice. The Entrepreneur podcast is sponsored by Quantum Shift two thousand and eight ale. I'm Connie Clarici and closing the Gap Healthcare Group. To ensure you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast player, or visit Entrepreneurship dot u w O dot C, a slash podcast. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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