Bounsa is a learning and development platform where anybody can bounce challenges and ideas off tech experts, creating on-demand access to experienced mentors in the tech sector for a new generation of learners. Co-founders Sophie Stanley and Rachel Smith met while working at agtech startup WayBeyond.

How did the idea for Bounsa come about?

Sophie was trying to find someone to bounce ideas with to learn more about enterprise sales. She assumed that there would be a platform or product that made this easy but couldn’t find anything that fit the bill. After discussing it with Rach during lockdown (we are next door neighbours so were in each other's bubble!), she also reflected on her experience struggling to find good mentors for her product team. The cherry on top was a discussion around how limited our options were to increase our income and how all of our peers were looking at side hustles. This set us on a journey of validating our own lived experiences with others by doing stealth Mom test interviews with other people in the industry in 2022. What started out as a simple idea of how to bounce ideas and challenges soon turned into a big vision to transform workplace professional development. Plus, the learning and development opportunities on offer in the market were very dry, so we couldn’t resist. And I guess as you say, the rest is history.

What do you love most about being a business founder?

We love that we get to be masters of our own destiny - that includes creating a culture and community that people love to be part of, as well as being able to be our authentic selves. We also love working on problems that excite and challenge us.

What has been your biggest challenge so far in your entrepreneurial journey and how did you overcome it?

One of our biggest challenges so far is the juggle between building Bounsa, and working on the side so we can pay our bills and bootstrap the business. Not enough is said about the less exciting realities of startup life. It often assumes or requires a partner who is earning enough income to keep the household going or some wealth to start with, while you’re waiting to go full time into the business. We haven’t had the luxury of that, so in 2022 we worked full time and built Bounsa on the side in our spare evenings and weekends. We have not yet overcome it fully, but we manage it by slowing down and ensuring we look after ourselves first. Sophie now works on Bounsa three days a week, and Rach one day so we can start to build some momentum!

What’s a business highlight you’re proud of?

We are extremely proud of onboarding eight companies and 40 Bounsa mentors to our paid beta programme, so that we could learn as much as possible. We wanted to prove early on that businesses would pay to solve this problem, and we proved this by securing eight companies for our beta.

What or who inspires you?

Sophie: My family and my partner. People who follow through with an idea, even at the risk of failure. People who aren’t afraid to be authentically themselves.

Rach: My mum and dad, nan’s, mentor Sam, close friends Rae, Daniel and my niece Tilda. Basically a long list of incredible people in my life who have done brave incredible things.

What is the best advice you’ve been given?

Momentum creates momentum.

Do you have any advice for female entrepreneurs?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it - bouncing (or bounsing) off others can improve confidence and reduce the stress that keeps you up at night. In the same vein don’t be afraid to ignore advice if it’s not for you. You’re still likely the best person to make decisions for your business - female or not.

How do you unwind from work?

Sophie loves to trail run, mountain bike and get out of Auckland and into the great outdoors whenever possible.

Rach likes to blob out with trashy telly and good company.

What three things can’t you live without?

Sophie: running, nature and loved ones.

Rach: eight hours of sleep, laughter and loved ones.

If you won RISE UP, what would you use the money for?

We would use the money to invest into product development. We’ve just launched the Bounsa marketplace that gives everyone the opportunity to sign up, have a look around and book a bounse (check it out here). We have so much more we’d like to do though to keep creating more value for our users.

RISE UP 2023 is proudly sponsored by Callaghan Innovation.

Get your FREE ticket to our RISE UP Pitch Night in Hamilton on 29 August 2023.