This is not just another story of an overachieving 20-year-old with brains, beauty and remarkable athletic skills who had an idea that she and her computer-camp friend turned into a moneymaking startup. It’s a story of a young woman who was so excited about trying new things and exploring her creative side that it was inevitable she would start a related business – one that allows other students to monetize their own passions. But no one who knows Melissa Morgan is surprised by what she is doing; she has a long history of accomplishments that range from playing provincial-level soccer to modeling and acting, as well as writing for numerous publications. She’s also a self-taught graphic designer with impressive skills – and she did all this while achieving academic excellence in both French and English during her high school years. Today, she’s the CEO of the startup uIntuition (currently operating out of the Stratford Accelerator Centre), and an undergraduate at the University of Waterloo Stratford Campus’ Global Business and Digital Arts program.
What is surprising is that Morgan can reduce all of her accomplishments into one simple phrase, “If you want something, you really have to work at it to make it happen.”
Morgan, along with co-founder Michal Ulman, 19, recently launched uIntuition, a business that matches student talent such as photography, illustration, music, graphic design, coding and tutoring to businesses that need those services. Morgan realized many post secondary students have remarkable skills they have honed over the years, but were working part-time in hospitality or retail outlets to make ends meet. She knew if she could find these students and match them up with people who required those talents, and then take a small commission, she would have a viable business. Students would earn some extra cash and build up a credible resume, while expanding their networks. Clients, in return, would receive professional-quality work at a fraction of what it would have cost them had they used a traditional supplier.
Student Talent Practically Endless
Since launching in February 2013, Morgan and her team have signed up students from across Canada, all of who have gone through a rigorous screening process to ensure they can deliver as promised, and have assigned them more than 30 paying projects. With more resumes pouring in every day, she realizes the wealth of student talent is practically endless.
Morgan says her startup capitalizes on a little-known fact. Many high school students are busy teaching themselves an impressive set of skills that rival those of professionals. The availability of low-cost software and online tutorials means a student with an interest, and time, can become an expert in just about anything including app development, game design or databases. Or they can master Adobe Creative Suite, including Photoshop and Illustrator; skills that are in demand at every level of expertise. Morgan knows this to be true as she taught herself impressive graphic design skills while in high school and her business partner, Ulman, did the same with visual effects for film, and has a movie credit to his name for his efforts, as well as regular video clients.
Technology Plus Passion
In other words, the hours that kids spend in their rooms on their computers may not be just frivolous, says Morgan. For young people like Morgan and Ulman, technology plus passion means an autodidact’s time has come.
But she concedes it takes more than just being self-taught. Morgan based uIntuition’s business model on something she is familiar with – the modeling industry – where she still pulls down regular modeling assignments. Morgan replicated the commission structure and used the business knowledge she gained working as an intern at several major corporations, as well from UW’s new Global Business and Digital Arts program, which focuses on the commercializing of the digital media economy. This cross-disciplinary program blends the arts, business, and technology, giving Morgan a head start in entrepreneurship skills, project management and creating effective teams.
Besides encouraging high school students to explore their creative side, she does have some advice for budding entrepreneurs. “Passion is key,” says Morgan. “Don't start [a business] if you can't see yourself working at it for the rest of your life.”
But if you’re a student and your passion has given you a marketable skill, call Morgan. She’ll hook you up so you won’t need to work as a barista to pay tuition.