Jody Swain is an Elite+ member based out of Whitby, Ontario. She is the founder of Hire & Fire Your Kids, an App for the “Future of Parenting in a Digital Age” which is a game-like system combining chores, hygiene, manners and behavioural expectations all in one! Jody’s philosophy behind the App is to give kids the opportunity to be contributing members of a team, establishing strong family bonds, and teaching them to respect family values. Helping kids be independent, responsible and accountable are critical success outcomes, in addition to keeping a peaceful, tidy home. Practical skills are developed and rewarded, giving kids a sense of pride and capability to function well in the “Real World”. We are excited to share Jody’s Success Story!
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
As a kid, I ran many small ‘pretend’ businesses. When I was just seven years old, our home in Markham, Ontario, was full of fruit trees. While most would simply pick and eat them, I picked, packed and took them two hours North to sell every weekend at our family cottage on Stony Lake. I would sit out by the dirt road with my apples, my table, and handmade signs and I would sell to all the traffic heading to the resort down the road from us. My Dad still talks about me sitting there for hours and hours, often having to call me in to eat or drink. When we moved to Stouffville, Ontario, our home backed onto the 16th tee of a golf course. I would convince my younger sister Lisa to come with me to hunt for golf balls, and would spend days collecting in preparation for the high traffic tournaments. Then I’d set up my table, freshly cleaned golf balls and prepared rates/packages to sell to the members. My business was on FIRE – that is until the Pro Shop shut me down as I was stealing their customers! I even had my own candy store when I was 10. I would take my allowance and head to the local convenience store, buying up gum balls and other candy. I would come back to my aluminum shed “candy shop” and sell my inventory for double to the local kids who were too young to walk to the store on their own. It was Awesome!
I always imagined having my own business one day. Post-secondary I focused on Retail Marketing, followed by a 20+ career in Retail Sales & Management. My past has prepared me for my future. I held several positions and worked my way all the way up to Assistant General Manager of the Holt Renfrew’s Yorkdale location. Recently, that door has closed, which has led me to opening another one, and a new chapter with Hire and Fire your Kids™. This was a program I’d created while on maternity leave with my daughter in 2014. I’d bought the domain name but never planned to do much with it until friends and family tried our system and experienced explosive results, while the name itself was a controversial hit! As our kids grew and everything digital became the norm, we realized that the HFK (Hire and Fire your Kids™) system would be much easier to manage as an App. This led to the expansion of HFK beyond our home – so here we are!
What is your “WHY” behind your business/being an entrepreneur?
In my career I’ve always enjoyed developing and growing my teams to achieve success, and did whatever it took to make it happen. To quote Harold B. Lee, “The greatest work you will ever do, will be within the walls of your own home.” I believe the Hire and Fire Your Kids App will improve the family dynamic for others, and instil even stronger family values. Through its use, the HFK app will create an environment for kids to demonstrate their respect of those family values, along with becoming more responsible, accountable team players and family members. Our motto, “HFK and the families that play”, sets kids up for success! My goal and vision is to help families nurture their bonds, create peaceful and tidy homes, and create well-rounded successful kids. If I can do that through HFK, then my work is done and I am fulfilled.
What’s the best part about owning your own business?
I still don’t feel like I own anything – yet. I’m creating and driving strategy forward every day and I LOVE the passion I have for it! I’m enjoying how I can be with my family and friends and also carve out time for HFK on my own terms. I am putting more time and energy into this business than I was as a full time Director – and enjoying every minute of it!
Can you describe a typical day?
I started going to the gym with a friend in January 2018 and decided to “go big or go home”, so my alarm goes off at 5:15am and we’re at the gym for class by 6:00am Monday-Friday. This was a big change for me, as I’d done virtually nothing very physical before; to start a new regimen I considered the workouts like waking up early for a job. In doing so, it’s given me incredible energy for my body and mind to continue to create and develop the HFK business.
A big part of my day is spent on following up with my focus groups, making any website changes necessary, growing my connections, brainstorming, following up with the App development team on progress, and researching other sites and Apps to see if there are any better or similar to mine – haven’t found one yet! Last but not least is of course taking care of my kids, home and hubby!
Who do you count on for help?
My sister Lisa has been a HUGE help setting up the website and social media sites, which we have yet to publish. I have always been so private; I just joined Facebook in March 2018 because I knew I had to in order to launch HFK. My husband Ted keeps me on track and helps me manage through the highs and lows, and always keeps me laughing. He’s an integral part of this and a very smart cookie – nice to have with a new venture.
Have you ever had to sacrifice something at home for work? Or vice versa?
My husband Ted said to me the other day, “Maybe we should consider getting part-time care for Ellen (our youngest daughter) this summer so you can focus on HFK.” His statement reminded me the sacrifices I made while at work in retail, and I knew I was starting down that road again where I typically put work first.
It was a wakeup call for me and well timed, given I could (and was), literally working on Hire and Fire Your Kids day and night. Fortunately for me, my life experiences have taught me to slow down and enjoy what’s most important in life – my family. There’s a big reason why for me, family is especially important, given the enormity of challenges ‘life’ has thrown our way. In May 2012, we lost our son Lukas when I was 40 weeks pregnant, and I had to deliver him stillborn, which was inexplicably tough. Next, my 72 year ‘young’ mother, who was golfing and seemingly healthy one weekend, was diagnosed with stage 4 terminal Ovarian Cancer. She passed 11 weeks after diagnosis in 2016, a stunning and incomprehensible loss. Lastly, and most recently, the loss of a job in an industry I’d spent 20+ years working day and night with rigour and diligence and where we’d felt like family. It was like a slap in the face. I have never been a risk taker, so starting my own business is risky and scary to me yet completely exhilarating and fun! I don’t think I would have even attempted starting my own company without my life experiences and support from family and friends.
What do you do on a day off? Do you even know what a day off is?
I love time with family and we enjoy our cottage and backyard a lot. I love to dine out at an amazing French restaurant called Nice Bistro in Whitby, and often do dinner at my Dad’s on Sundays. I look forward to Fridays as we get to spend quality time together as a family. We love board games (dominos, mah-jong, Sequence, Rummikub, Mouse Trap, Game of Life), home movie nights, and walks around the neighbourhood. (HFK board game coming soon!)
What does the future look like for you and your business?
It’s funny, I’m usually a “worst case scenario” kind of girl, but with HFK there isn’t a single thing inside my body or brain telling me to stop, or “What are you thinking, this won’t work, no one will use this”. All I can see is HFK being popular and going viral. I can see us benefitting families for the better and nurturing their family bonds. I see us helping to raise all our kids in this generation or the next with more independence, responsibility and accountability so ALL are more successful when they enter the real world! We plan to incorporate the business, launch Hire and Fire Your Roommate and Hire and Fire Your Spouse, as well as take it into schools. Video game and books will come, as will merchandise and workshops/conferences.
Any tips for women thinking of starting a business?
I am certainly not an expert at this stage of the game. I would love advice as well from anyone, however I’d say if it’s something you love or you are passionate about, go for it! Life and circumstances have a tendency to fall into place when you have a vision and a work ethic; make a plan and work your relationships!