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“It won’t be easy, it won’t be hard: it will be challenging and it will be rewarding.” These are the wise words of Jean Bruce Koua, the co-founder and COO of Elev, when discussing the nature of entrepreneurship. 

Born on the backs of students themselves, Elev’s mission is to provide safe, comfortable, trustworthy accommodation to students all around Canada. 

Today’s episode of Entrepreneur Stories with Jean was a truly inspiring one. His passion and authentic care was deeply felt and interspersed with invaluable knowledge for other entrepreneurs. From the value of reaching out for help when you need it to being passionate about what you do, Jean has heaps of knowledge to share from his experience.

What are three things every Entrepreneur should know?

Jean began his answer to our favourite question by stating that entrepreneurship is not easy or hard, rather it is challenging and rewarding. There will be long nights and there will be obstacles, but at the end of the day every extra hour you spend on your business will reward you. 

The next thing Jean mentioned was one that we’ve heard before here on Entrepreneur Stories but that doesn’t take away from its importance - if anything, it adds to it! Jean believes that as an entrepreneur, you absolutely need to enjoy what you're doing. If you want to succeed and make it through any and all obstacles - you need to be passionate about what your business does. 

Lastly, Jean encouraged entrepreneurs not to be afraid of reaching out. There are people out there that want to help you and want to see you succeed. Your journey will be immensely easier if you let them! Reach out to people, connect with your community and ask for the help that you need.

What problem does your business solve and who are its customers?

As mentioned above, Jean Bruce Koua’s business is called Elev. It was started by him and his co-founders looking to solve a problem that they each had experienced themselves: student housing. 

They have created an ecosystem for students that primarily focuses on off-campus housing. The platform streamlines the entire process, starting from the search for suitable accommodation to managing payments as well as making maintenance requests.

For students, Elev offers a comprehensive, easy-to-use solution. It begins with a user-friendly interface that helps students find housing that meets their specific criteria. Unlike traditional methods, Elev employs a matching score system to ensure a better fit between students and their potential living spaces. 

Students can easily schedule viewings, submit applications, and even complete lease agreements and rent payments, all within the platform. This simplifies and centralizes the off-campus living experience for students.

On the landlord side, Elev provides significant benefits as well. It assists landlords in finding qualified and genuinely interested student tenants. Elev enhances the screening process, emphasizing objectivity over subjective judgments. 

Landlords can access crucial information to make informed decisions about potential tenants while knowing that their rental income and cash flow is safeguarded with secure online transactions.

What inspired you to become an Entrepreneur?

Jean Bruce's inspiration to become an entrepreneur was rooted in his determination as well as his refusal to give up. From a young age, he possessed a tenacious and driven mindset. Even when faced with seemingly simple tasks, Jean was driven by an inner resolve to persist until he found a solution, seeking help when needed.

This entrepreneurial spirit deepened when he faced a significant challenge during his move from Tanzania to Canada for his studies. As an international student, he couldn't afford on-campus housing and struggled to find suitable off-campus accommodations. This experience highlighted the need for a better way to navigate housing for students like him. 

Jean, along with his co-founder, Kevin, decided to tackle this problem head-on. Their goal was to ensure that no other student would have to face the same difficulties they did when searching for off-campus housing in a new country.

If someone had given you a million dollars when you first started your business, what would you have done differently?

Had Jean Bruce received a million-dollar investment when Elev first started, there are several things he would have done differently for a more successful launch, the first being a stronger focus on a customer-centric approach.

Jean recognizes that they should have focused more on engaging with potential customers, instead of relying solely on their own knowledge and assumptions. Jean would have used part of the investment to conduct targeted customer interviews to validate their ideas and truly meet the needs of their target audience from the very beginning. 

Jean would have invested in enhancing the platform, involving users for valuable feedback, resulting in a friendlier interface. He also underscored the significance of robust marketing to attract more users, as they had a fairly slow start when it comes to downloads in their early days. 

Additionally, with the financial expertise and network that Jean has gained, he would have maximized the investment impact by identifying co-funding opportunities to take the million-dollar investment and turn it into a 3 or 4-million-dollar investment. 

The investment essentially would have allowed Jean and his co-founder to create a platform that was more targeted to those that need it most, ensuring that the service provides genuine value and is recognized by the intended audience.

What is your proudest accomplishment as an Entrepreneur?

The most amazing thing for Jean has been the people that he’s met. He mentioned a panel he was invited to with some students and other entrepreneurs from different industries, essentially discussing what it’s like to be an entrepreneur. 

Once the panel discussion was complete, everyone was able to mingle and ask questions, during which time Jean was approached by two girls. The girls didn’t have a question per se, however, upon introducing themselves Jean recognized their names. They went on to say that they used Elev to find their own housing and that they wanted to thank Jean. 

It was a full 360 moment for Jean and their heartfelt gratitude resonated deeply, erasing any prior doubts or challenges. In that moment, the platform's glitches and complaints faded away as he realized the genuine impact of his work. Hearing stories of transformed lives, like someone saying their journey is brighter due to his efforts, is the ultimate reward for Jean. 

These personal connections and the positive change he brings to people's lives stand as his most cherished accomplishment.

What big goals are you looking to achieve?

Jean has three major goals he aims to achieve with Elev in the next year.

Firstly, he's focused on expanding Elev's services beyond Alberta and eventually across all of Canada, with the target of achieving nationwide coverage by 2024. 

Secondly, he's dedicated to enhancing the value of the platform's products and services. This involves automating processes to provide a more personalized experience for students and landlords, thereby streamlining operations and allowing for more tailored interactions. 

Lastly, Jean is determined to increase awareness and recognition of Elev. His mission is to help students find affordable and suitable accommodations while assisting landlords in connecting with qualified tenants, all contributing to a more efficient and mutually beneficial housing ecosystem.

Stubbornness, an inability to give up, and a desire to solve problems: these traits are all synonymous with Jean bruce Koua. If they’re traits that you possess, traits that have motivated you on your own entrepreneur journey, let’s connect and chat about them. 

What problem does your business solve, how are you solving it, and what challenges have you overcome? Contact us today so we can share your Entrepreneur Story tomorrow!

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