Imagine sharing a bedroom with 20 strangers. Three years ago, Julia Hiscock began to imagine it after seeing homeless people in Kitchener choosing to sleep on the streets rather than entering a shelter.
As she began to examine this issue, she realized that homeless shelters offer warmth but deprive people of privacy, security and dignity. As she explored the issue further, she discovered that technology had already been developed to solve this problem — individual sleeping pods — but it wasn’t available in Canada. Julia launched MapleKey as a startup to solve this problem.
Julia, who is now a second-year Psychology and Entrepreneurship student at UWaterloo, received a St. Paul's GreenHouse Fellowship for the summer, which she won in this year's Big Ideas Challenge. She spends her days between her Kitchener office/showroom, on campus at GreenHouse, and working from home.
This summer, she is also piloting the use of the pods with One Roof youth shelter in Kitchener, and is working with mentors and local suppliers who are helping her figure out whether she can develop a way to manufacture sleeping pods locally.
"Being part of GreenHouse has already been more beneficial than I could have imagined,” says Julia. “You think you know a lot and then you realize you know very little, and it can be overwhelming. It’s been so helpful to have people who have been through similar processes help me know what to do next.”
Julia also sees wider uses for the pods — from airports to hospitals for staff and visitors, to universities and beyond. She has not slept overnight yet in one of the pods (which measure approximately 8 feet by 5 feet by 4 feet) but has enjoyed a long nap in the comfortable, secure space.
"I never imagined myself here but this business fits me like a glove. I’ve never felt this kind of passion, drive, or motivation. This is where my heart is and I’m going to do what it takes to make it happen.”