By Fiona Lam
A company providing therapy tools for children with sensory issues would seem worlds away from three recent McMaster and Ryerson engineering and computer science graduates. But when they discovered a need in the clinical rehabilitation market, they decided to take a leap and begin building their budding business, Senso Minds, in 2018.
In its first year, Senso Minds grew its first product, the Sensory Chew Necklace, into a number one bestseller on Amazon and reached $300,000 in revenue selling to over 15,000 unique customers. This year, they’re on track to increase that by 30%. The company was also a finalist in Lion’s Lair and won $10,000 at the Forge’s Student Startup Competition.
All of this was achieved by three STEM students with no formal business education. They had long been intrigued by entrepreneurship, dabbling in small businesses and entering business competitions, but starting a business from ground up never crossed their minds. The opportunity to start Senso Minds impelled the trio to learn basic business skills through self-taught online courses and resources.
A recent survey showed that 73% of Canadian learners like to reinvent themselves by learning new skills and 52% cited using professional short courses or online tools (Pearson, Global Learner Survey 2019). This DIY mindset is reshaping the face of education. Students like the Senso Minds team are thinking beyond the traditional notions of education and using technology to take control of their learning in order to rise to the economic opportunities open to them.
According to a recent global Pearson survey, 73% of Canadian learners like to reinvent themselves by learning new skills
Main founder Ryan Ticlo studied computer science at McMaster but he always admired the expansive opportunities and independence that came with being an entrepreneur. Ryan decided to take a leap of faith and start his own business. With no knowledge of business theories or strategies to rely on, Ryan had to extract the trial-and-error lessons from his prior dalliance with entrepreneurship and the basic knowledge he gleaned through self-taught education to create the business that would become Senso Minds. He used concrete analytics and objective data to determine the direction of his business, a data-driven approach that ensured his company would actually provide value to people and fill a need in the market. “40% of why startups fail is because there is no need for what they’re building”, said Ryan.