Popy Dimoulas-Graham (BSc) found her calling—but not right away.

After graduating with a Science degree from Waterloo, she completed a Masters in epidemiology and then accepted a job as an outbreak epidemiologist for the federal government. The role sounded exciting, but she found herself spending the majority of her days planted at her desk, eyes glued to her computer screen.

For a people-person like Popy, it was a poor fit. “I was really just looking to interact with more people,” she says. Unsatisfied, Popy turned to volunteering, an activity she had enjoyed all her life and which involved plenty of face-to-face interaction.  

Already deeply engaged with her community as a volunteer, Popy began researching the operations side of the not-for-profits. She discovered something surprising: volunteer managers spend a lot of time at their desks too. In fact, many were drowning in administrative paperwork.

This gave Popy an idea: what if she could create software that made scheduling and hour tracking simpler for charities and volunteers? It would save time and enable them to focus more on the people at the heart of their organizations. Charity Republic was born.

Pivoting to help students and schools

In recent years, Charity Republic expanded its focus from volunteers and charities to students and schools engaged in experiential learning.

“We realized that, for cooperative and experiential learning, teachers and students have a ton of paperwork to do,” says Popy. “So we created software that could auto-generate documents such as government forms and learning plans.”

The new software, Hour Republic, enables students and teachers to track hours and activities in one place, auto-fill government documents, and search a comprehensive database of employers to find placements. Today, it is used by over 70 school districts, universities and colleges.

Incubating at Velocity

Popy Dimoulas-GrahamPopy grew Charity Republic while enrolled in Velocity and says the entrepreneurship program was essential to the company’s success. “We wouldn't be where we are today if it wasn't for the support and mentorship we received through Velocity,” says Popy.

As an expression of her gratitude, Popy signed the Start-Up Pledge, an initiative that invites founders to pledge a portion of their company’s future success to Velocity.

“I think it is important to support other entrepreneurs, because I know how difficult and challenging it can be,” says Popy. “We can’t work in isolation. It takes a village.”  

A lesson for future entrepreneurs

When reflecting on Charity Republic’s success, Popy stresses her willingness to evolve and strike out in new directions.

“Entrepreneurs need to be flexible and pivot when necessary,” says Popy. “You always have to listen to your customers, because ultimately they decide whether they're going to use your product or not.”