FS Women in Entrepreneurship: Mallory Maynard and Sabrina Vila, Ripple Studios9 min read
In this blog of FS Women in Entrepreneurship, we will be featuring interviews of Mallory Maynard and Sabrina Gomez Vila, Co-Founders of Ripple Studios.
Mallory and Sabrina are Formula Student Alumni from Ryerson University and they have both participated in the Formula Bharat competition as Design Judges.
In 2020, they co-founded Ripple Studios, an EdTech company on a mission to inspire ALL students to consider a career in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) through educational video games and other digital media.
Tell us about your Formula Student journey
Mallory: I joined Ryerson Formula Racing during my first year at Ryerson University and was on the team for 3 years. My first role was Finance Director and I was responsible for the team budget. In my remaining two years, I took over the role of Team Manager. I planned the logistics for our yearly trips to compete at FSAE Michigan and led our finance, marketing, sponsorship, and more. When I look back at my University experience, my time on the team is among my fondest memories.
Sabrina: I joined Ryerson Formula Racing while completing my Aerospace Engineering degree at Ryerson. I initially joined the Aero team and quickly started helping with team management and administration. I became Team Manager and stayed there for 3 years. We competed in FSAE Michigan (USA) and Formula North (Canada).
Have you always had an inclination towards entrepreneurship?
Mallory: From a young age, I was interested in one day running my own company. My parents owned a boat dealership so I was exposed to entrepreneurship early on. Growing up, I worked for their company every summer and it was like a crash course in business, marketing, sales, and finance. After high school, I managed their business for about ten years. I learned pretty early on that running a business is tough. You have a lot of important stakeholders you need to keep happy and you are often making important business decisions with incomplete information. THE RISKS AND CHALLENGES ARE WORTH THE REWARD. Entrepreneurship is an incredibly rewarding experience. Every day, you get to work towards something you are passionate about and you get to do it on your own terms.
Sabrina: Not really. It wasn’t until I started working and doing my Master’s degree at the University of Toronto, I started thinking about entrepreneurship.
What is the problem your company is trying to solve?
Mallory: Ripple Studios is an educational technology company with the mission to inspire all students to consider a career in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). Through educational video games, Ripple Studios is pairing positive role models with curriculum-based content to empower students to see themselves in STEM careers. Players drop into a virtual Rippleverse of mini-games where they solve real-world STEM problems alongside our diverse characters. Many groups are underrepresented in STEM. Our goal is to help these students gain confidence in these subjects and increase their awareness of potential career opportunities. We believe STEM is for EVERYONE.
How did you come about the fact that this is the problem you wanted to solve?
Sabrina: It was easy! We were one of the only women in a Formula Student team of 40 males and we experienced first-hand the impact of the lack of diversity and female representation in the team. When Mallory and I started discussing ideas for a business, we knew it had to involve promoting women in STEM as we are both passionate about this mission.
Mallory: Once we started down this path, we found that many young people are not given the knowledge or resources they need to understand how important STEM careers are. That is why we opened up our mission to include promoting STEM to ALL students.
How did your journey in Formula Student influence your venture into entrepreneurship?
Mallory: Managing a Formula Student team is pretty good practice for running a company. Similar to the team, your resources both in people power and finances are limited. You need to be disciplined in where you spend your time and money. You may also need to get creative in where you source funding from. You will likely have a team of people who are all working on different parts of your project. You need to keep them all on track and working towards a common goal. Getting people passionate about the mission and the work you’re doing is an important part of Formula Student and running a business.
Sabrina: Being a Team Manager at Ryerson Formula Racing gave me the experience and the skills that have contributed to building our company, such as organization, communication, teamwork and project management. Most importantly, it taught me not to shy away from any tasks presented to me and to work with teammates to face all the challenges we encountered together since we are all working towards the same goal.
What are your views on the future of the industry you are currently working in?
Sabrina: There is an increasing need for effective and engaging educational tools. Educators are looking to breathe new life into old lessons, especially as classrooms transition to remote learning due to Covid-19. I see many opportunities to innovate the way STEM concepts and careers are taught in the classrooms and at home.
Mallory: Game-based learning is a growing industry and there is a clear need to promote diversity in STEM. In our increasingly digitized world, game-based learning and learning through play have become a regular part of the classroom. There is also an increasing talent gap especially for STEM skills. This is what makes me optimistic about the future of our industry and where we are situated.
Are there any pros and cons you could share on being a female entrepreneur in this decade?
Mallory: Running a business is a highly rewarding and challenging experience. The primary pros and cons are fairly universal for entrepreneurs regardless of their gender. The main pros are that it’s fun and you get to work on something you are passionate about. It’s also highly creative and you’ll find that there are many ways to solve the problems you are facing as a business owner. The main cons are that it can be risky and there is no guarantee that you will succeed. It is possible that you may encounter some additional challenges if you are a woman. They shouldn’t be the reason you don’t pursue entrepreneurship. The only person that can get in the way of your dreams is you.
Sabrina: I firmly believe that there hasn’t been a better time to become an entrepreneur than now! This is a very exciting and rewarding path for everyone who decides to become an entrepreneur. We all encounter challenges along the way that impacts us all regardless of gender or background.
What has been the most important decision that you have made, that has contributed to your self-growth?
Mallory: There is no single important decision I can pinpoint that contributed to my self-growth.
Sabrina: Same here!
Mallory: Every day, I wake up and work towards being a better version of myself. Continuous improvement is important to me and there is no task I will not attempt at least once. I embrace the challenge of learning new topics and skills, even if it feels difficult when I start on something new.
Sabrina: I believe that self-growth is achieved when we make multiple decisions every day and remain consistent
with our actions.
What has been the most difficult aspect about building a brand from scratch?
Sabrina: The most difficult thing about building a brand from scratch is that we have to work really hard to develop new relationships, expand our network and build a respectable reputation for our target audience.
Mallory: You will be pulled in a million directions and you need to be disciplined in where you spend your time and resources. There will be a lot of noise and you need to simplify and prioritize. The two most important actions you can take are building your product and getting it in front of your users. This challenge becomes a lot easier when you surround yourself with a good team who are invested in your mission.
What are your personal aspirations?
Mallory: I have many! Several years ago I wrote down a list of goals that I wanted to achieve and the age at which I wanted to achieve them. They include one day writing a book, designing and growing my own forest from scratch, and learning Spanish to name a few. I am extremely optimistic about the future and I evaluate and reassess these goals for myself at least once a year. Part of our company mission is to inspire young people to consider STEM. As part of that, one of my more recent aspirations is to become a better role model for young people. I’m still working on exactly what that looks like and am looking forward to giving myself some measurable targets for this goal in the near future!
What is your definition of success?
Mallory: Success to me is that I’m optimistic about the future, I’m excited about what I’m doing, and I have the resources I need to keep doing it. Success has no end goal for me. It is the ongoing journey of self-improvement and growth. I define success for our company in a similar way. When our team is optimistic, enjoying what they are working on, and have the resources they need to thrive, we’ve won. Another important success factor for our company is our impact on the community. In ten years, if our products have made a measurable difference among young people in their pursuit of STEM, that is what success looks like to me. If we continue to play a meaningful role in combating inequality and inspiring underrepresented students to pursue a career in STEM, then our company is doing what we set out to do.
Sabrina: Success for me means contributing to diversity and equal opportunity in STEM fields. When an equal amount of girls and young women are entering the STEM fields and staying in them! When young girls are given the same equal opportunities to learn, explore, play and discover STEM without prejudice, bias or stereotypes forced into them.
Any advice you would like to provide to aspiring female entrepreneurs?
Mallory: If you want to start your own business, do it! Work on something you are passionate about, find a great co-founder, talk to your users, and get to work! You may fail doing something you don’t like so you might as well risk failing at something you love.
Sabrina: Go for it! Reach out to your network and talk to people who are also entrepreneurs. Consider having a fellow female co-founder and most importantly, get building and creating your product as soon as possible! – it will help with your learning and refining your idea!
Learn more about Ripple Studios:
- Website: ripplestudiosinc.com
- Twitter: twitter.com/rippleverse
- Instagram: instagram.com/rippleverse
- Facebook: facebook.com/Rippleverse
- Linkedin: linkedin.com/company/ripple-studios
- Online Store: redbubble.com/people/Ripple-Studios
- Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/RippleStudios?fan_landing=true
- FundRazr: https://fundrazr.com/RippleStudios?ref=ab_5ANJte_ab_1DtsI8N8jCs1DtsI8N8jCs
This interview may have been edited for grammar. Since the interviews were collected separately, there have been structural edits made to enable integration. The interview has been collected and collated by Renita D’Souza. For concerns or queries, you may write to email@example.com.