Are you an entrepreneur in the hospitality industry? Wouldn’t it be great to encourage your staff to connect with others in your industry for advice, tips, and camaraderie? There’s an App for that!

Imagine you and your partner are focusing your spare time and creative energy on making your dream come true. You are building an app for hospitality staff when suddenly you realize; you’re actually not in the business of building the app, but you are curating content and building a tribe!

Kelly Southworth and Paul Southworth, co-owners of Life of a Server

The Business

That’s exactly how Innovation Guelph (IG) Startup Program clients Kelly and Paul Southworth’s Life of a Server app has evolved and pivoted along the way! The couple who both work in the service industry created the app for like-minded people who are working crazy hours to have a place to connect and share.

While the app does have a Facebook community with 380,000 followers and millions of views, the app goes far beyond Facebook providing a place for users to share events, side-hustles, employment opportunities, and swap and sell items. It also has a meet and mingle component where individuals can connect about work and social life. It’s also a safe place for servers and bartenders to visit, unwind, connect and learn with other like-minded individuals. Paul and Kelly are proud that the users have become a community. The app is also great for companies who cater to the hospitality industry to advertise and promote their products or available jobs. It is where the next stage of the business will focus; finding ways to monetize the app to support the longevity of their company!

The Why!

“We’ve been in the service industry all our lives and we love to talk about it and share our experience,” Kelly said. “We were inspired to create a place where people can be real, speak their mind without judgement, share a laugh and feel a sense of connection.”

Kelly said, with 20,000 downloads mostly in the US, their one wish is to succeed in their efforts to give their service industry family a supportive and fun environment where they can connect with others who understand.

The Entrepreneurs

Kelly said it brings her and Paul joy to see people connecting, providing advice and support, and having a laugh during the struggles that have resulted from the pandemic. Their tribe has created a support system to help each other ride the waves of closings, uncertainty and restrictions.

Initially, the founders thought they would restrict use to servers only and not allow owners or management. At the time, Kelly was working as a bartender and the owner of the bar downloaded the app. Because of their staff-only mindset, they drafted an email that shared their position thanking him for his interest, hit send and deleted his account.

“I had to work with him the next day and was unsure about how he would react; he was totally fine with it and understood, we laughed,” Kelly said. “At that moment, we realized we cannot control who downloads our app so we decided to let our members join with a handle, like Instagram. This way they can remain anonymous and freely express themselves without fear.”

Help from IG

Kelly and Paul called Innovation Guelph (IG) looking for help to accelerate their growth and monetize the app. Kelly says with IG’s Startup Programming and the help of mentor, Hari Stirbet, they’ve learned to reflect and consider additional avenues and options for their business.

“Hari’s insight encouraged us to look deeper and broader with greater focus,” Kelly said. “Hari goes above and beyond and exceeded our expectations. We are very happy to belong to a community with others who understand the struggles of being an entrepreneur.”

Lessons Learned

The two have learned that hurdles always exist but it’s how you accept them, and jump over, that move you forward.

“Ask for help, believe in your commitment and passion. Dedication is all you need,” Kelly said.