UW startup UIntuition puts “u” back in job hunting

Helping students with artistic talent find their niche is what gets Nicole Papp out of bed in the morning.

The co-founder and chief operating officer of UIntuition — a UW startup geared towards matching student freelancers with companies needing their services — said she gets excited seeing students grow and build themselves.

UIntution began in November 2012 from an exercise at a multi-university networking conference for students looking to form and pitch business ideas, Papp said. Papp and co-founders Melissa Morgan and Michal Ulman wanted to address what Morgan sees as a no-win scenario for students.

“Students seem to need money, but in order to get a job they need experience, and in order to get experience they need a job. It’s a vicious circle,” she said.

UIntution pairs students with portfolios in writing, photography, graphic design, systems design, and web design with clients looking for everything from logo design and re-branding to wedding photography. The agency is more than just a matching service for students, performing daily business operations like receiving payments and making income deductions, the service saves students from having to manage the administrative end of running a business. In exchange, the company gets a 20 per cent commission on each job successfully matched.

“We work with the student and client,” Papp said about arranging fees. “It’s [still] well under what clients expect to pay.”

Morgan believes that pricing strategy is part of what draws clients to UIntuition. Clients, especially new start-ups, like being able to access services at a fraction of what they may pay elsewhere, she said. However, that also brings with it an implication the agency is working to overcome.

“The struggle for us, because we represent students, sometimes there [are] negative connotations associated with hiring someone who’s not a ‘professional’,” she said. “The biggest challenge for us was to gain customers’ trust. We seem to have surpassed that.”

Morgan said the company has strived to maintain the high quality and consistency of its work by requesting portfolios and thoroughly interviewing prospective students. This hiring process also helps the company in matching students’ strengths to prospective employers’ needs.

“We want to capitalize on what they’re good at,” Papp said. “If someone is passionate about something it comes out naturally in the quality of what they do.”

Having been in operation for 17 months, UIntuition is now looking to expand. With current connections on almost every campus in Ontario, Morgan said the company is now looking to expand nation-wide.

In addition to the expansion, the company is looking into initiatives to automate their website’s job board, making matching clients to students easier and applying for specific jobs possible, adding an internal project management and networking platform to their system, and starting to help find placements for co-op students.

Those students who use the agency to find co-op, summer, or part-time employment will only be charged a commission of five per cent of their total salary, making UInuition a less expensive alternative to other employment services.

Both Papp and Morgan can boast that they are not only helping other students find meaningful work, but they are recipients of the company’s services.

“I pretty much do everything that we offer,” Morgan said of her skills.

Both women are working on one of the larger projects UIntuition currently offers. Partnering with UW, the company will be helping the chemical engineering department to launch its own alumni publication.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Papp said.