The battle is on. Things are heating up. And our final 6 have been chosen.
We met one-on-one with the 2021 OKGN Angel Summit’s finalists to hear their insights into the Summit and their pitch for the top spot.
Meet Melissa Welsh and Mike Irvine, co-founders of Live It in Nelson, BC. They’ve created a platform that delivers innovative online programs to schools and homes featuring stories that celebrate the natural world. We caught up with Melissa and Mike to learn more about their inspiration behind Live It, their experience as entrepreneurs and their plans to go the distance in the Summit.
What problem were you trying to solve when you started Live It?
Mike: I became a diver and realized that there was a gap in the general public’s ocean literacy, especially with kids. We started to look at everything from sea to space—all environments and nature literacy as a whole. There was a serious barrier in trying to engage youth with different environments, and connect them with leading experts that could help them get inspired and excited about these different places.
Why should your clients be excited about your service?
Mike: Whether you’re a little kid or a big kid, our programs are a lot of fun. We’ve noticed a significant uptake in parents looking for activities they can do with their kids. It’s not just for the schools, our videos and programs are something you can enjoy together as a family.
Tell us about the success you’ve found already
Melissa: It was the first week of March break last year and we realized that kids weren’t going back into school. So, we went from producing a program every 2 months to building a program every week. We figured out, from an operations standpoint, how we could accomplish this remotely and still maintain the level of production we wanted. We provided 10 weeks of free content, which allowed us to launch our subscription service in September. The pandemic, and the work we did in those early days, is what we’ve used to spring into the rest of the market.
What kind of expertise is your team bringing to Live It?
Melissa: We have a lot of educational and creative expertise. Both Mike, our CEO, and Dave, our Director of Education, have a strong background in educational curriculum design. Dave has been involved in education for almost 20 years now. My background is as an award-winning professional photographer—I’m bringing creative excellence. I also bring a background in business, having built other startups and tech companies before Live It.
How do you see your company growing?
Mike: Our 3-year goal is to be one of the leading online education providers in Canada. Our crazy 25-year goal is to be available in every country with shared experiences from around the world in all languages. We also want to leave it open as to what those experiences are because we know that technology, and how people engage with content, is going to evolve and change.
Melissa: Our one-liner for our BHAG (big, hairy, audacious goal) is to be the leading global connector between youth and the natural world.
If you were to win, what would you do with the investment?
Mike: Definitely put it towards our marketing and sales. We have a lot of good content ready to go and the market just needs to know we exist. We want to win the opportunity to expand our business and hit the targets we’ve set.
Melissa: All of our growth to this point has been grassroots and word of mouth. We haven’t spent any money on marketing. All of our resources have been going into the product and perfecting the experience for the kids. So, we’re really excited to put some money into marketing and see what happens when we’re actually trying to sell our products and programs.
What has this experience taught you about the entrepreneurial journey?
Melissa: That realization that we’re onto something. Both Mike and I have been entrepreneurs since we were in college and university. We’ve tried lots of things, had successes and failures, and continued to learn, evolve and reinvent. Our heads have been down working our butts off for the last few years and one of the things the Angel Summit has helped us realize is how far we’ve come.
Mike: Going through this pitch competition, seeing other companies, and hearing the questions from investors has given us a lot more confidence in how we feel about our company and its potential for growth. I’ve been grateful to go through this process, to meet the people we have, and to have them share valuable information with us. It’s really set us up for success.
What surprised you most about participating in the OKGN Angel Summit?
Melissa: I think we were surprised by how much interest there is in investing in our company. We didn’t think we were investable yet. It’s been a pleasant surprise, seeing that all of our hard work has added legitimacy to our programs. We built a solid business and investors might want to participate in that.
Do you see a lot of benefits to being located in Nelson, BC?
Melissa: Nelson is very rich in creative talent. We’ve been able to capitalize on that. Living expenses are a lot less than what you’d find in Vancouver or Victoria so, from a business standpoint, I don’t think we could have done what we’ve done in a big city. It would have cost us more to produce our content in a place where people need to make 80-100K a year in order to pay their bills. That’s not the case in a small town. And that’s the beautiful thing about technology and the opportunities brought on by the pandemic—it’s provided people in rural areas the chance to get involved in bigger things.
What advice would you give to the participants of next year’s summit?
Mike: It’s handy if you also have some outside advice that can support you through this process. We have our own advisors that are able to provide unbiased opinions and advice to help us navigate this process.
Melissa: Especially if you haven’t fundraised before. If you haven’t made it through due diligence previously, make sure that you have some advisors or mentors on the outside that can help you.
For tickets, more information, and a complete list of the participating companies, please visit www.okgnangelsummit.com.
Meet the other finalists: