Startup Story: Selfling

An interview with James Higgins, Founder and Principal at The Selfling Teen Support Foundation and Launch Party 2016 Semi-Finalist

The Selfling Teen Support Foundation

About Selfling

For those unfamiliar, please explain what Selfling does.

The Selfling Teen Support Foundation is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to closing the gap between teens and vital professional support agencies like the Distress Centre or Boys & Girls Club

"Our mission is not to duplicate existing services, but to amplify them."

We provide support agencies with licensed access to The Selfling Teen Support App so they can showcase their services to more young people and collaborate with other agencies. We want to avoid resource overlap as much as possible, which is a common issue amongst these agencies.

Why do you do it? What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about helping young people find their voice and the strength to persevere and overcome the challenges they face. As someone who experienced bullying as a youth, I understand the fear of violence, judgment, and ridicule.

Teens need to know that they always have a way out, especially when a figure of authority is abusing their power. 

"Every young person should have access to the basic resources and infrastructure they need to realize their gifts and become great. That is what I seek to change."
What are some of the current issues in Alberta that Selfling aims to solve?

One in five Canadian teens will experience mental illness. That’s over 67,000 in Alberta alone (http://www5.statcan.gc.ca/cansim/a26). 80% of them will not receive the support they need. These stats need to be lowered drastically. We need to improve access to support to do that.

Your Life as an Entrepreneur

What motivated you to apply to be a showcase company at Launch Party 2016?

Startup Calgary is a growing community of people looking at a problem and finding new and innovative ways to fix that problem. I knew that Launch Party would allow me to inspire someone by showcasing our efforts to strengthen bonds between teens and those working so hard to help them. At Pitch Night, over 200 people heard my vision. That was something.

What have some of your biggest challenges been as an entrepreneur?

Finding a way to financially sustain the app and the organization has become increasingly difficult because our target audience includes non-profits, charities, and vulnerable youth.

Selfling has also forced me to look outside of my experience, which is front end web development. I’ve had to strengthen my knowledge of healthcare, while developing the perspective of a service provider, in order to be successful.

What do you see as your biggest success as an entrepreneur?

Becoming a Launch Party Semi-Finalist is up there! Facilitating a great relationship with a dependable developer is too. However, my greatest victory comes from sharing Selfling’s story with those who really believe in what I am doing.

What does your company have in story for 2017?

We will continue to test the app and record feedback from agencies so we can build the first real production version, hopefully by late Q1 or early Q2 2017. This will require a significant increase in funding, which we should be able to acquire from agencies in the form of licensing fees.

Advice Corner

What does your company have in store for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to take their idea on the back of a napkin into the marketplace?

Know why the problem you want to solve matters. Whatever your venture, if your motivation is only financial, you will not succeed. Telling your story from a place of passion is always a win.

Learn to ask for what you need. Know what your ask is and be concise about what that is. Don’t forget to show your appreciation. If you took an hour out of someone’s day, make sure they know what it meant to you.

What do you see as some of the biggest opportunities for entrepreneurs in Calgary?

Members of our  business community are always eager to share their experiences and collaborate. Just be clear about what you need and you’re golden. There has never been a better time to start a business in Calgary.


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Launch Party 2016 is on November 17 at the Red and White Club. Get tickets now!

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