Marc Nzojibwami, Co-founder at StudentHire
In the spirit of back-to-school, we’re featuring post-secondary students who are building companies between classes.
Marc Nzojibwami is a Co-founder at StudentHire and a student at Mount Royal University’s Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship.
1. What does StudentHire do?
StudentHire is an online platform that connects post-secondary students with people who need one-time, odd jobs done. Our goal is to help students find flexible work that works with their schedule, without compromising their studies. The platform also helps employers get to know students in the community and find quality work at a lower price.
Although we don’t claim to be the full solution, our overarching social mission is to help students struggling with debt. Close to 50 per cent of students have an average of $27K of debt upon graduating, and we want to help them get through that in a way that doesn’t affect the quality of their education.
2. What inspired you to start? What problem are you solving?
One semester, one of our co-founders was taking a light course load and he decided to work a few odd jobs to help him make some extra cash. He was searching on Kijiji for work and found a job that paid $18 per hour, but later found out that he also had to buy expensive tools in order to complete the job. That was the genesis of the idea – he realized there had to be an easier way.
3. How did you go about building your team?
We have a team of four – myself and Renato Niro in Calgary, and Richard Clark and Adam Prince in Edmonton. Richard, Adam and I met during a service mission for our church and became great friends. We later met Renato through the entrepreneurship program at Mount Royal University. Our roles have developed on the job based on our strengths.
4. If you could hire someone today to help you with one thing, what would it be and why?
We would hire someone who could help us understand and perfect the customer/user experience. The further we get, the more we realize that the most important thing is how our customer experiences our product.
5. What are your future goals for your company? Any specific milestones for 2018?
Our long-term vision is to expand across Canada so we can help as many students as possible and put more money in their pockets.
Within the next year, we want continue to work to understand our customers fully and give them an optimal experience.
6. What are your plans for your company once you graduate?
One of our co-founders recently graduated and the rest of us have three semesters left. When we all graduate, we want to push forward as much as we can. We are dedicated to this for the long haul so the only difference will be the amount of time we can dedicate to it.
7. How have the programs and support available at Mount Royal University helped you in your entrepreneurial journey?
The entrepreneurship program at Mount Royal University has been amazing. The program is so helpful for students like myself who actually want to start businesses. During the program, I needed accounting help and my mentor Ray DePaul connected us with an accountant at JMH who helped us complete our first year taxes for free. The whole team, Ray DePaul, Jenn Macdonald and Emily Knight, are focused on helping students learn and grow, and will make the sacrifices necessary to help us move through the next step.
8. How can companies make the most of their experience with these programs?
Wanting to start a business can be very intimidating. Getting the courage to start when you have no idea what to do isn’t easy. My advice is to go be a part of the community and utilize the support that is available. It is the only way to overcome those feelings of intimidation and see that it isn’t as daunting as it may seem. Once you surround yourself with the right people, you’ll naturally end up following their lead.
9. What was the biggest surprise you encountered building your startup?
How uncomfortable it is. I am constantly in a state where I am doing something I have never done before. It was quite surprising to be so consistently uncomfortable, but you do get used to the feeling. I have grown a lot from constantly pushing my limits.
10. What event, program or resource in Calgary’s startup community made the biggest impact on your company?
The first startup event I went to was Startup Calgary’s 2015 Launch Party. I went with one of our co-founders and we talked to all of the different companies. By the end of the night we realized that this is what we wanted to do.
Published on September 11, 2018