Success Story

Meet Andrew and Justin McAleenan, EightSix Network

Sometimes success means staying right where you are. For Andrew and Justin, that was definitely the case. After completing their degrees at SFU, they didn’t have a clear-cut career path, but they had worked in the restaurant industry as students. When it was time to decide on a career, these entrepreneurs turned to what they knew – hospitality and retail workers need jobs, those industries need workers and the hiring process can be hard for everyone involved.

Andrew and Justin used their experience and online fluency to create EightSix Network, a job site that helps connect hourly workers and students in the hospitality and retail industries to employers. Job seekers build online profiles to get hired by businesses in the network, making recruiting easy.

Today, their social platform-inspired web app has grown a community of more than 100,000 job seekers.

Do What You Know

Starting a new business can be difficult, so keep an eye out for accessible ways to learn new skills and make valuable contacts in your community.

Instead of spending time learning an entirely new sector or trade, Andrew and Justin leveraged their existing experience to launch their business. They devoted themselves to understanding hospitality and retail industries even more in-depth, which conserved valuable resources that were invested in the business. And for entrepreneurs, especially with an all-new idea like EightSix, every dollar and minute counts.

The two founders also used resources at Small Business BC networking events and meet-ups.

Develop a Minimum Viable Product

For new businesses, developing a minimum viable product (MVP) is essential to the first stages of growth. This is especially true in the tech sector, where MVPs tend to be more agile. Because they are not physical products, businesses are able to respond quickly to consumer demands at a lower cost than many other industries, such as manufacturing or forestry.

When giving advice to tech entrepreneurs, Andrew and Justin say, “Try to launch with a minimal viable product and then be relentless in your pursuit of feedback from the industry. Once you’ve listened, then don’t be afraid to make changes or pivot based on what you learn.”

Put Your Own Spin on It     

The two entrepreneurs aren’t shy when sharing their inspiration. Growing up in the age of social media made them fluent in platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. By using these models as the foundation for their original concept, they have created an intuitive user experience that attracts and retains job seekers and employers.

Taking a proven model and making it your own can go a long way to keeping your consumers happy. Embrace what you already know to build a better business.

Validate, Then Go for It

Before creating their product, the founders committed significant time to research, and only moved ahead when they knew that their idea had merit. However, one of the biggest lessons they learned was that, “You can do all of the research in the world but until you start speaking with potential customers and having real sales discussions, you really don’t know how the market will react or what your customers truly want and value.”

Andrew and Justin recommend the same process to others, saying that, “If you have a strong concept that you’ve validated with thorough research and you truly believe in your business, throw caution to the wind and go for it.”

While it’s essential to back your idea with a solid business plan and market research, taking action is a vital part of moving your business ahead.

Leverage Your Opportunities

EightSix Network received the Small Business BC Award for Best Concept in 2011, and its founders used the opportunity wisely, attributing a wide-range of benefits to their win, from self-evaluation, market fit, pitching and networking. Andrew and Justin’s business has been recognized as one of BC’s most innovative companies, and has expanded to offer its services across Canada.