The #MadebySFU’s annual marketplace is fast approaching, and a new set of entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to showcase their products. In preparation for the event, we highlight past competitors from the product competition who have taken their ventures to new heights.
What if we could spin burnout and chronic anxiety into creative inspiration? Transform adversity into valuable opportunities. For Jesika Kula, what started as a means of addressing her own personal wellness journey, evolved into an opportunity to equip others with the tools they needed to thrive. As a student, Jesika quickly learned that she was not alone in her struggles with her mental well-being. This realization piqued her curiosity and in 2021, Jesika launched her company, Seedling Art Co. which addresses the need for accessibility in the mental health space. She participated in #MadeBySFU 2021, Simon Fraser University’s largest product entrepreneurship competition and received the Engaged Alumni and Fan Favourite Award.
Tell us about yourself!
My name is Jesika Kula, and I am the founder and CEO of Seedling Art Co., a company that aims to make mental health tools more accessible through journaling. I started working on Seedling as a means of addressing my own personal wellness journey. At the time, it served as a distraction from the various challenges that I faced. During the early days of university, I struggled with burnout, chronic anxiety, and a severe lack of motivation. It was overwhelming but when I began to open up about my experiences, I learned that many of my peers were undergoing the same thing. From there I explored the problem further and recognized that not only was it widespread, but it was also difficult to find mental health support and resources.
The Seedling Growth Journal makes learning reputable therapeutic treatments such as Cognitive and Dialectical Behavioural therapy tools easy, fun, and intuitive. Our goal is for teens and young adults to be able to use these skills to improve their moods and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Though these are not meant to replace traditional treatments like counselling, journaling is a proactive way of taking charge of your mental well-being.
How did #MadeBySFU impact your life and your company?
#MadeBySFU was a great starting point for Seedling Art Co. as we were able to gain exposure and bring awareness to our products. I highly recommend the competition to all product entrepreneurs as it will challenge you to test the market and gain plenty of feedback.
Where do you feel you are in your business now? How have you grown since the competition?
Seedling has significantly evolved since the competition. At the time, we were just starting out and still in the process of product development. During #MadeBySFU, we sold posters to raise funds for our proprietary journal. After refining our pitch and reiterating our offerings, we went on to participate in multiple competitions. The most notable was the international Queens Entrepreneurship Competition (QEC) where we placed second.
We further examined the problems that currently exist in the mental health space and narrowed down our scope to mental wellness. This led to the growth and expansion of our team, the completion of the journal’s first draft, and prototype testing. We then implemented the feedback and collaborated with counsellors and other mental health professionals to further improve the product.In a whirlwind of a year, Seedling went from product ideation to launching a Kickstarter for our Seedling Growth Journal: Journey to Mental Wellness. This is a fundamental step in our progress, and our entire team is incredibly excited to see our vision come to life.
“Don’t be afraid to pivot. Learning and adapting is a critical aspect of entrepreneurship. Be open to the fact that the solution or product you created might not actually address the needs of the customer or end user.”
Are there any notable moments that have stuck out to you in your entrepreneurial journey?
I will never forget the countless late nights that the Seedling team sacrificed for our journal. When we started, we were a group of students who poured hours of hard work into this project while balancing school and other commitments. It was inspiring to see everyone’s devotion and dedication. I am extremely grateful for the hard work that the team contributed to launching the venture. Seedling Art Co. has always been my passion, but I would not reach this point in the entrepreneurial journey without the support of so many individuals. I would like to acknowledge our lovely mentor Lynn Warburton, provided through SFU’s Coast Capital Venture Connection incubator program, for ensuring that we have a strong foundation and explored all possible avenues, as well as the entire team at the Charles Chang Institute for Entrepreneurship for their incredible help and support.
What do you wish you knew before you started?
I wish I knew just how complex managing a business would be while finishing my degree and working at a full-time job. In the beginning, the Seedling team was volunteering their efforts and expertise, which posed many challenges. It was difficult to set aside time for a project of this scale. If I could go back and tell myself one thing, it would be to offer reassurance that everything will work out. Despite all the failures that I experienced, it was fundamental to learning and growing through the entrepreneurial journey.
What is your proudest achievement so far?
I am very proud to have finished and launched the Seedling journal. It was a massive undertaking that required significant research, consultations, user testing, design and more. There is something incredibly gratifying about working day in and day out for a project and culminating it with a physical deliverable of all your hard work.
What is one thing you would share with other product entrepreneurs or those with ideas that they want to pursue?
Don’t be afraid to pivot. Learning and adapting is a critical aspect of entrepreneurship. Be open to the fact that the solution or product you created might not actually address the needs of the customer or end user.
Sometimes we create simply to create, or we create for ourselves – and that’s 100% okay. However, if you are working on selling a product that serves a greater purpose, make sure you 1) Go out and talk to people – beyond your family and friends, and 2) Understand the problem you are trying to solve.
Jesika graduated from Simon Fraser University’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology and also completed the Charles Chang Institute’s Certificate of Innovation and Entrepreneurship alongside her degree. Through the certificate, she gained initial founder training, subsequently accessed early-stage startup services for Seedling Art Co. through the Coast Capital Venture Connection incubator and was a finalist in the 2022 SFU Coast Capital Venture Prize competition. Applications for the 2023 Coast Capital Venture Prize open in January 2023!
Are you a student entrepreneur, changemaker or team ready to commit to your start-up full-time for a semester? Apply for eCoop which allows you to receive a paid salary while working full-time on your very own start-up. The deadline to apply for Spring 2023 is November 16 2022.
A collaboration between SFU Charles Chang Institute for Entrepreneurship and SFU Spirit Shop, #MadeBySFU celebrates product entrepreneurship across Simon Fraser University. All competitors will showcase and have the opportunity to sell their products at the fair. They will be judged for a number of prizes. Selected winners will have their products bought and sold through the SFU Spirit Shop and the online store. This competition is open to SFU undergraduates, graduates, staff, faculty, and alumni who graduated between 2012 – 2022.
The SFU Spirit Shop believes in sourcing and supporting local BC companies and products. By supporting local businesses, we hope to strengthen our community, grow BC’s economy, and maintain a sustainable and ethical business for our community partners.
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