Emilie Cushman is a young entrepreneur, and the CEO of Kira talent. Named as one of Canada’s 100 most powerful women by the Women’s Executive Network, Emilie is very passionate about innovation and technology. I recently had the chance to speak with her about her life and career, and she shared some great advice for utmONErs who aspire to one day create their own businesses!

The idea of creating Kira Talent originated from a team-building exercise during The Next36’s National Selection Weekend in November 2011.

Emilie Cushman, then a senior at the University of Windsor and her teammates, came up with the idea of creating an interviewing platform that allows admissions officers or hiring managers to record video questions and send them to candidates through email or embed them in their online application process. Cushman says that they really started thinking about the power that videos can have in improving selection processes after their mentor, John Kelleher at The Next36 mentioned how slow and gruelling the process would be to hire interns for that upcoming summer. From this conversation, that was rather random in nature, Cushman and her team saw an opportunity to leverage technology to fix an all too common problem that HR people everywhere face on a daily basis. After presenting their idea and business plan to the stakeholders of the Next36, Cushman and her teammates were among the thirty-six students selected to receive up to $80,000 in venture capital, two CEO-level mentors and access to world-class educational faculty and leaders. The team spent the next few months researching and developing their idea and officially started to build their product in March of 2012.

Cushman, who has a Business Degree says that what she learned from within the four walls of her university mostly involved business fundamentals which are much more useful when working within large corporations. The young woman herself thought about working with companies such as L’Oreal Paris or KPMG when she first started her post-secondary education. Coming from a rather small and tight-knit community in Windsor, Ontario and seeing the downfall of the city’s automobile industry, Cushman never really saw entrepreneurship as an option. She says that living in a smaller city made it more difficult for her to have access to opportunities otherwise available in larger and more prominent cities such as networking events or entrepreneurship programs.

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Cushman, who believes that networking is crucial in business, says that aspiring entrepreneurs should take every opportunity to speed up and grow their networks, even if some travelling is required. She says that networking has a “domino effect” and that once you start connecting with people, they tend to lead to other contacts. Cushman also believes in the positive impact that great mentors can have on young people.

The best advice that Cushman would give to aspiring entrepreneurs is to learn how to code so that they don’t have to rely on other people to start building their enterprise. Cushman believes that coding is similar to a foreign language in terms of the time and effort required to master it. She also asserts that the earlier utmONErs are introduced to those fields; the more likely they will be to seriously consider them as viable career options. According to Cushman, the three qualities that are essential for any entrepreneur are: focus, resiliency and curiosity. Cushman believes that successful entrepreneurs have a mindset that allows them to assist in the process of identifying problems and coming up with innovative and creative solutions to solve them.

These days, Cushman doesn’t have much free time. The energetic young woman says that a typical workday for her starts at 9:00 am and doesn’t end until 11:00 pm or 12:00 am. She says that at this epoch, work-life balance is literally non-existent but that she enjoys what she’s doing so much that it doesn’t actually feel like work. Kira Talent, which was just two people in August, has grown to a full team of fourteen with seven interns. Cushman says that they are actively recruiting new talent to join the booming new enterprise and that she expects the team to double within the next year. The company is also closing its next round of financing and Cushman says that she is proud of the fact that she and her team were able to take an idea and build it into a fast growing company. Cushman attributes her strength within to working towards the vision that she has for the company and being surrounded by a team of very motivated people who share her vision.

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