By Hayley Hanks
Kaylie Greaves, 25, is one of 40 students in the Digital Media master’s program at Ryerson University. Her online business idea, Kahoots, was started one year ago this month, and has already received more than $50,000 in grants.
“So the idea is that we’re trying to help students connect across faculties, to collaborate on passion projects and start-up ideas,” said Greaves.
“[It’s like] a student group, [that’s] trying to diversify the types of students that they’re bringing in. And then people can post their project, and then other students with the right skill sets can essentially go and team up with them,” said Greaves.
Kahoots, an online network service that connects students between faculties and academic disciplines in order to begin business startups or other projects, began in March 2014.
Greaves and her partner, Allison Rhodes, took a capstone course in their final year of their undergraduate degree, where they were given eight months to start a business. Greaves and Rhodes wanted to draw upon other students in the university to aid their startup, but found they were not connected with students across different faculties at Ryerson. This is where their idea for Kahoots stemmed from.
“We kind of realized that if Ryerson students were having this problem, it’s probably the same at every other major institution,” said Greaves.
“When we pitched it to our profs, they liked it so much that they were like, ‘Go, enter the business plan competition, there’s real potential here,’” said Greaves.
Greaves and Rhodes entered Kahoots in the Slaight Communications Business Plan Competition in March 2014, and won, receiving a startup grant of $25,000 that was matched by the Ontario government.
“In my undergrad, I look around me and it’s all business students. And it was like, ‘Okay, cool, these are, my kind of people’. I understood them very well, we all had the same mentality, but I think that’s really dangerous. Right? that’s not what life is like,” said Greaves.
In her first semester of her master’s program, Greaves took five courses. Now in her second, Greaves is taking two courses and has more time to focus on her major project, Kahoots. The third semester, which will take place this summer, will have no courses, and students will be expected to focus on their major research papers or assignments before graduating in August.
Greaves identifies time management as a struggle she faces as a graduate student at Ryerson.
“We’re running Kahoots, and we’re doing a full-time master’s program and we TA as well…just because our startup’s not paying us right now,” said Greaves.
Greaves is a TA in an undergraduate entrepreneurship class. She also spends a lot of time promoting Kahoots with other universities and institutions, organizing events and talking to students about the online platform.
“It’s definitely, long days, fifteen hour days. But the beauty is it doesn’t really feel like work, I love everything that we do so, that’s the good news, is that it’s all so fun,” said Greaves.
Before coming to Toronto in 2009 for her undergraduate degree, Greaves attended one year at the University of Ottawa’s business program. Greaves, originally from Ottawa, found she was spending a lot of time with people she went to high school with who also decided to stay in Ottawa. She was commuting from her home off campus.
“The commute wasn’t even that bad, it was just the fact that I didn’t feel like I was part of the university community. I wasn’t in residence, where everyone, finds their friends, so I really didn’t get that university experience that I was hoping for,” said Greaves.
Greaves started in the Entrepreneur and Strategy program for her undergrad at Ryerson in 2009.
“People say, ‘Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?’ And I always say, I had a lot of part time jobs through high school with a lot of managers that I didn’t necessarily have a lot of respect for, so I think at that point I kind of decided, it would be nice to be able to work for myself,” said Greaves.
Now in the digital media master’s program, Greaves finds it an exciting learning environment.
“The program is still kind of getting up and running…They’re still kind of trying to refine exactly what the different classes are going to be and who exactly is a prime candidate for the program,” said Greaves.
“I think it’s really cool to be a part of the program and get to kind of shape it for future students, it’s really exciting for us,” said Greaves.
Greaves hopes to work with Kahoots after graduating from Ryerson in August, and eventually hopes to move into working with social enterprises, specifically in Asia.
“I think I’m doing my dream job, honestly. I absolutely love what we do every day,” said Greaves.