You leave work, stopping by Starbucks to pick up the latté you just ordered on their app. You take an Uber home, order the latest bestseller form Amazon, book a place on Airbnb for your next vacation, and swipe through the latest hotties on Tinder, all while waiting for the Foodora courier to deliver dinner to your door. Technology continues to make our everyday tasks simpler. Apps and sites appear like genies on our screens, ready and willing to grant our wishes, promising instant responses and guaranteeing fast service. Anyone born in the new millennium has grown up only knowing life in a world of immediacy, with these genies always available in their pockets. The creators of new apps understand these consumers and continue to look for ways to make their day-to-day tasks more convenient.
Like learning how to surf, launching a new product can be quite daunting. As weather affects the ocean’s currents, technology dictates shifts in market trends. If we are careful wave watchers, we can see patterns in the rapidly changing technology. We can learn to predict the tides, in order to know when and how to enter the market, when to seize the right moment for the pop-up. Such was the case for Stephanie and Alexander Florio: they paid attention to the technology surrounding us, found what Generation Z was missing and decided to take action. Ready to take on the vast ocean, and equipped with the knowledge gained from working in marketing and advertising, the Florio siblings surfed into the waters of entrepreneurship.
In 2016, Alexander was not feeling fulfilled at his job, so he began looking for a new one. Getting frustrated with his search, he wished there was an easier way to apply for jobs. He also noted that students were still applying to jobs by printing a stack of resumes and walking around the mall handing them out. All of this sparked an idea: what if there was an app that would connect students and employers and simplify the job application process? Excited, he told his sister about it and the two of them got to work! They saw a problem and created a solution: an app called Swob (SWipe and jOB combined). “I think the most surprising thing for us was to find out that there’s a need for this. So even though we’re living in such a digital world, students are still going out to malls, handing in physical pieces of paper and there’s really nothing targeted and geared towards them.” Stephanie says. The Swob duo spent a year getting the app ready and testing with employers and students, both officially left their full-time roles, and launched the app in November 2017.
“…her strengths are more of my weaknesses, whereas my strengths are more her weaknesses.”
“Swob is a free job app that we’ve created for students that are in high school or in college [or] university that are looking to work maybe part-time during the school year, or full-time during summer holidays. …it’s really fast and easy and efficient to use, and the best way to describe it is, the Tinder for jobs. So swipe left if you don’t like a job, swipe right if you want to apply,” Alexander gives the elevator pitch.
Searching for a job can take a while, and for students, getting a first job can be especially difficult. The Swob app makes the steps for applying much easier and faster for students – they can sit on their couch and apply right on their phone! To use the app, students simply create a profile with their contact information and answer a few basic questions found on most application forms. Since Swob is used for mostly entry-level jobs in high-turnover industries, these brief answers are enough for an employer to get a sense of the candidate. Students can choose whether they are looking for part-time or full-time hours, the industries that interest them and the distance they are willing to travel. Next they upload a resume and fill in previous experience. That’s it – then they can scroll and swipe through potential employers.
On the employers’ end, Swob also saves time and energy. The employers do not have to go through a stack of resumes. They are able to see who applied, view the student profiles, and if they are interested, they can contact candidates for an interview. While doing their research Stephanie and Alexander found that employers were annoyed when they posted part-time, entry-level work on job sites and applicants from completely different cities would apply. To address this issue, the siblings added a feature for employers to choose the maximum applicant distance.
Working with a sibling can have its ups and downs but the Swob team sees their kinship as an asset. “It’s hard in the fact that you see them non-stop,” Stephanie laughs, “but it’s actually kinda nice because…if we have different opinions on something, we can be completely honest with each other – ”
“Yeah, there’s no filter,” Alexander interrupts, “we’re certainly not shy to speak our minds, …and one of the nice things too is…her strengths are more of my weaknesses, whereas my strengths are more her weaknesses.”
Stephanie and Alexander complement one another, which makes them strong when they face a storm. A big challenge has been getting an initial meeting set up with employers. After a lot of cold calling, emailing, connecting via LinkedIn, networking, in short, Alexander says, “being annoying without being annoying,” the Swob duo have managed to get big companies such as McDonald’s, Tim Hortons, Pizzaville, M&M Food Markets, Virgin Mobile and Bell to sign up. The degree of difficulty to get that first meeting depends on the structure of the company as well. For example, when they landed McDonald’s they had to get approval from head office for the app to be used in restaurants across Ontario, but in the case of Tim Horton’s, the franchisees have the power to sign up on their own. Luckily, once they are able to obtain that first meeting the product sells itself. “I’ve never worked this much in my life, I’ve never been this stressed in my life,” says Alexander, “but, I’m doin’ it for myself, …it’s for us, it’s our own thing.”
“Hundred percent,” Stephanie nods in agreement.
“And if you never try, you’ll never know.”
Despite the rough waves they have had to overcome, surf’s up for the Swob team. In May 2018, Stephanie and Alexander won the ‘Pitch to Rich Competition,’ hosted by Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Mobile. Chosen as winners by Branson himself, the Florio siblings were awarded $10, 000 and the opportunity to meet with Branson. Their other accomplishments include hiring interns, forming a partnership with Employment Ontario, and most recently, expanding business into Calgary and Vancouver.
“If you believe in what you’re doing, then go for it!” Stephanie exclaims. It can take us a while before we learn how to surf and are comfortable riding waves. Once our product is out there, we feel amazing, yet anxious and afraid to lose our balance. When the waters are too intense and we want to bail, Alexander says, “Don’t get discouraged… don’t get too high, or don’t get too low, and just keep grinding through.”
“And if you never try, you’ll never know,” Stephanie adds.
We will wipe out, but with practice we will build resilience and improve. We will refine the takeoff, learn how to carve properly and get to know the waves. If we do what we love and we trust in our abilities to keep our balance, the waves will carry us to success. Aloha.