In the middle of a sleepless night caused by having too many ideas running through his head, Brennan McEachran — a second-year student at Ryerson at the time — typed in a Google search and found the email address of Ryerson’s then-president, Sheldon Levy. McEachran sent Levy a message with his ideas “not thinking it might ever be read,” he said. The next morning, to McEachran’s surprise, Levy had personally replied to his email and booked a meeting with him. This 2 a.m. email and the reply from Levy became the starting point of SoapBox Innovations and McEachran’s entrepreneurial journey.
Originally from Cobourg, Ont., McEachran enrolled in the Ted Rogers School of Management to learn the tools to start a company, while doing small web projects on the side. While in his third semester, he and his friends started chatting and coming up with ideas here and there that could improve the experience at school. “There were things like, ‘I wish I could check my grades on my phone,’ and little things that didn’t exist yet,” he said. “I had no idea, you know, what to do with these ideas, so we just chatted with each other ‘Why don’t we do this or that?’”
After gathering his ideas, he presented them during his meeting with Sheldon Levy. “To my surprise, Sheldon loved those ideas,” he said. “Sheldon was kind of starved of this raw, authentic feedback,” McEachran said of what amazed him in the meeting. “Traditionally he’s been getting that feedback through filters.”
This observation spontaneously sparked an idea in McEachran’s mind during that meeting. “Across the table, I said, ‘Sheldon, wouldn’t it be amazing if we give the students at Ryerson the same opportunity you’re giving me?’” McEachran said.
This idea would become the essential concept of SoapBox: the opportunity for employees to share ideas to higher management bodies. A sharing method that McEachran described as “raw, unfiltered.”
The Digital Media Zone had just launched around that time and McEachran said he enrolled into night classes to fully focus on SoapBox while pursuing his degree. A few years later, in 2014, SoapBox graduated from the DMZ. Today, SoapBox Innovations is a company that provides corporations with an online platform for employees to share ideas to their bosses. Among its clients are Ryerson University and corporations like Coca-Cola Canada and Indigo.
SoapBox has been nominated for many entrepreneurial and startup awards, and more recently for the 2015 Techvibes Entrepreneur of the Year award. To McEachran — now CEO of the company — being a finalist for this award was a nomination he considered to be not just for himself but also for all his colleagues, the 30 people working at SoapBox.
McEachran’s advice to the aspiring entrepreneurs at Ryerson is to seize opportunities and take advantage of the university’s resources to kick-start an entrepreneurial project.
Featured image courtesy of SoapBox