My company, Spently, partners with retail, e-commerce and point-of-sale system companies to give them the ability to send e-receipts and transactional messages they can use as marketing tools.
Most companies sending email receipts send them in plain text. They're not interactive. We give merchants a way to customize those receipts with logos, branding, ads and social links - that type of thing - to engage and extend the customer experience.
As a technology start-up, I have to wear many different hats, from carrying out the vision and the product to managing my team, handling and raising finances, driving sales and talking to customers.
I received my undergrad degree from the University of Western Ontario. I studied business but graduated with a major in philosophy. Balancing business, where you're learning hard skills, and philosophy, which allows you to think creatively and critically and come up with ideas, allows you to see things from different perspectives. That definitely helped in life and in entrepreneurship.
After Western I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I didn't know exactly in what way. I stumbled upon Humber's two-year post-grad global business management program. I got into that to refine and broaden the business skills I learned at Western.
While at Humber I won a contest for the idea of Spently - it was called Green Receipt at the time - with my co-founder, Vincent Panepinto. The $8,000 we won is not a lot of money for a tech company, but it gave us validation to pursue the idea and develop the technology. Our win was a pleasant surprise. Without that grant, I don't think Spently would have gotten started.
In our first year, we came up with the business plan and brought it to our program coordinator for feedback. He allowed us to pursue our business as part of our internship, so we learned what it takes to interact with the start-up community in Toronto.
In the Humber program, almost every project ended in a presentation. Now I'm pitching to investors and at events, so I've carried those hard skills into start-up life. That's the main difference from MBA programs, which are very theory-based, is that Humber is very hands-on. We had lots of interaction with different entrepreneurs and field trips.
The best part about running a start-up is creating something from nothing. The highs are extremely high and the lows extremely low. Dealing with those highs and lows has been a great experience for me personally. I don't think anything can prepare you for that; you just have to go in and do it. But school did prepare me to critically think about things and execute a plan.