By Jena Lynde-Smith

Success is measured by the number of people a business is able to help, not only the bottom line.

Win-Win Homesharing founders receiving an award as the crowd favorite at a pitch competition.

This is the core belief that secured the founders of Win-Win Homesharing one of eight Halcyon Incubator fellowships this year. The Ottawa-based start-up was the only Canadian venture accepted into the 2020 cohort by Halcyon, a nonprofit organization that aims to help young companies interested in social issues. An opportunity of a lifetime, the fellowship will help the new business reach sustainability by providing it with expert guidance and financial support.

Co-founded by journalism alumna Cat Kelly, the project is an online platform that helps seniors maintain their independence while providing affordable housing for students by matching homeowners with individuals willing to lend a helping hand.

Students do chores such as snow shoveling, taking out the garbage, cooking, and cleaning, in exchange for rent at a discounted rate. During the process, Win-Win Homesharing does the heavy lifting. They determine the needs of both parties, set up interviews with potential housemates, prepare the legal documentation, and organize automatic rent payments.

As Halcyon Incubator fellows, Kelly and her co-founders Brendan Lucas and Mattias Lightstone have the chance to transform their business. During the five-month program they will receive free residency and workspace at the Halcyon house in Washington, mentorship and leadership coaching, support from business consultants, and a $10,000 US stipend.

In addition to being chosen for the fellowship, they were also selected to pilot a new initiative as Halcyon’s first sponsored fellow. This will give them access to exclusive mentors and an expansive network.

“It’s such an honor,” said Kelly.

Cat Kelly speaking at Carleton University about her experience in the Stories North journalism class where she travelled to the Yukon.

“I’m someone who works every day in hopes to be able to do something for others and to do some good in the world,” she said. “To be recognized and accepted into a fellowship that will allow us to work on a project that is so close to my heart and that will prioritize the social good we are doing versus the bottom line… it means a lot.”

Kelly said that she has always wanted to do something in social entrepreneurship, which is an approach used by companies to implement solutions to community problems. She said it is the perfect meeting place between story-telling and activism. When she started journalism school after spending a summer with her grandparents, using social entrepreneurship to help seniors became her focus.

“My grandparents don’t have internet and they live seven hours away. We’re not able to go help them when they need snow shoveling on a weekend or someone to do laundry,” she said. “So, I thought there must be some way that we can help them get connected to younger people.”

Kelly said she was looking into doing a magazine or blog to share seniors’ stories when she came across an article about home sharing.

“I asked myself ‘well why isn’t this available in the small town where my grandparents live… and why isn’t this available in Ottawa?’ And then I thought, ‘well why aren’t I doing it if no one else is?’”

She decided to take the project on and asked her co-founders to join her in the undertaking. Lucas and Lightstone are both finishing their computer systems engineering degrees at Carleton and will join Kelly in Washington in February.

Cat Kelly with Brendan Lucas and Jamie Hopkins, Win-Win Homesharing graphic designer, at an event where she presented a prototype of their application.

“I knew I couldn’t do this on my own. I needed help to make this idea happen,” she said. “I’m so grateful to have a team that believes in this vision for Homesharing and the passion to make it happen. They’re irreplaceable.”

Kelly graduated in 2019 with her bachelor’s degree in journalism where she was able to use Win-Win Homesharing as a final project for a few of her courses. She said that journalism is underrated as a degree that people take when they plan to start their own business.

“The one quality that very successful business leaders have is their curiosity. In journalism it’s a degree in curiosity and asking questions. That’s the foundation I have to my core and it really helps me differentiate myself from other business people,” she said.

As a word of advice for current students wishing to follow in her footsteps, Kelly said to pay attention to campus resources, especially CUSA opportunities like Hatch and the Student Initiative Fund. She also said that students should attend conferences to help gauge their interests. Lastly, she urged students to put fear aside and connect.

“Reach out. My journalism degree made it really easy for me to pick up the phone and ask people questions,” she said. “You would be shocked. CEOs answer the phone and are so happy to give you 30 minutes to an hour of their time if you just ask for it.”

Win-Win Homesharing has made four matches since its launch in 2018. When speaking about the future of the business, Kelly said she always has her grandparents in mind. She hopes to one day make the service available everywhere.

“My dream is that I’m able to create a platform that makes it accessible to them.”

To see what other journalism graduates are doing, visit:

Wednesday, January 22, 2020 in
Share: Twitter, Facebook

More News Posts