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From Devon Brooks: Why I Started a Tech Company for Coaching

From Devon Brooks: Why I Started a Tech Company for Coaching

⃗ I was 20 years-old when I started my first company. Unlike most people's first start-ups, it was pretty damn successful.  

We created a new market category and set the business up with foundations that empowered it to eventually grow to over 130 locations. I was still in university, when the business started booming. I was literally catapulted into a leadership position; expanding my business with two co-founders, navigating dynamic and intricate relationships with franchise owners, hiring and scaling teams of peers my age and some 10-2o years my senior.

Coaching was a resource that I leaned on heavily; it asked me to challenge my sense of what leadership was and could be. It made me look at what it was going to take for me to bring the fullness of who I am to the workplace and integrate everything going on in my personal life into that experience.

It made me discard any notion there should be separation of the work self from the self-self. You are who you are no matter where you are showing up. So what are you doing about that? I knew there was another way.

It started in the family.

That stint wasn’t my first foray into receiving coaching (or guidance, as I like to call it). Sure, being brought into the world by a coach meant I grew up around the culture and the industry. And while I didn’t always appreciate ‘coaching conversations’ when I was a teenager, it did give me a solid foundation. Coaching would support me, as life expanded in more directions than I could have imagined.

Was it having a coach as a mom and some pivotal conversations in my early 20s that ignited the fuse behind Sphere? Not quite.

Like most ideas and every single delicious pastry I can think about — it needed to bake.

And it just so happened that it popped at 2:00 a.m. while my family was fast asleep around me and I was clicking away on my laptop working to solve a problem that had been plaguing me and my coaching business.

Out To Mend What Was Broken for Coaches + Interrupting Growth

Five years after starting that business, Blo Blow Dry Bar, my co-founders were negotiating a sale, I was backing out of daily operations, and my calendar was clear for the first time in years. It didn’t last for long; involved with local mentorship programs since the inception of the business, new founders and owners seeking to scale their teams, sales and impact began to reach out. Before I knew it, I had an active coaching business bringing in 80–90% of my income.

That small but thriving business offered me the flow and flexibility to move across the country, fall in love, start (and grow) our family, eventually landing in the trees and mountains of Whistler.

Six months after having our second baby, I started to ramp my practice back up. I was ready to expand my reach and turn it into something meaningful, efficient, effective and engaging from end-to-end. I was keen to connect with clients across the globe. And one question kept cropping up:

‘How are we going to find each other?’

And in doing so, I came up against a handful of hurdles that got my gears turning:

  • How can people seeking guidance find experts that are vetted and approved by some system other than paying their way to the top of search results? Sorry Google, you’re just not good enough. And it’s why the coaching industry is still fuelled by word-of-mouth referrals.
  • Coaching is unapproachable and inconvenient. How can we democratize guidance so it’s available to everyone? Not just C-Suite executives. How can we embrace technology to make it on-demand?
  • The coaching industry is damaged. Coaches call themselves coaches that aren't experienced or trained. Consumers don't know what coaching is (confusing it with mentorship, consulting or therapy). There is a big difference between the difference types of coaching (leadership, life, business, career, wellbeing). In general, there was a tremendous opportunity to not only vet coaches, but steam-line the process to find one that's right for you.
  • Lastly, as a coach, I invested a massive amount of time & money into a handful of tools I stitched together to run a digital practice. I spent 40%–60% of my week learning, optimizing, implementing and managing each…none of which had much concern for the user interface or the client experience. Just saying.

It hit me: there is no consumer platform for the coaching industry.

Sure, there are directories that still require so much work. And old-school coaching consoles and bulky CRMs still exist. And then there are a handful of B2B software players that are method-focused, meaning they are not inclusive of all coaching approaches (and there are a ton of excellent certification & training programs out there).

There wasn’t a way for prospective seekers to find best-fit guides other than those who had paid their way to the top of Google rankings — which didn’t guarantee a match. No marketplace that connected coaches and those seeking coaching seamlessly. Nothing that asked you what areas you want to grow in and where you are stuck — whether it be in your career, wellness, leadership or your personal life and relationships — and then no algorithm to intelligently match you with a sphere of coaches best suited to you.

As a coach, there were zero options when it came to integrating business development, admin and management into one branded experience, and platform. Nothing that took care of finding you clients, scheduling, hosting, invoicing, client charts and conversations in one central place, specifically and intentionally built with clients and coaches in mind.

And what could it mean for the industry if all these features and functions existed in one beautiful end-to-end technology?

The Coaching 1-Stop-Shop

It could hit all the pain points in accessing and delivering a coaching experience. It could be an inclusive and diverse space that welcomes in driven, growth-minded individuals from all walks of life, from all around the world. And not just C-Suites that pay a ridiculous amount for an exclusive, executive coach. Not only that, it would welcome coaching that is not dependent on the thoughts of one author, thought leader or ‘guru’. It could truly be the one-click-wonder for the coaching space.

So I opened my laptop and hashed out what would be the first business plan for Sphere. And since that first draft, to the time I first shared it with my mom, and through seeking investment and beginning to the develop the product and grow a team, things have changed. Some things, at least. But the core tenant and the vision is the same:

To democratize coaching.

To bring the experience of guidance out of the boardroom and into everyday life. To help connect individuals with their potential, and give them an unbiased thinking partner to achieve their goals, take leaps, spark change and play bigger. And, to empower coaches with owning and operating thriving practices where they have the most time possible to do what they love: help people grow.

It’s a whole new experience of checking-in on what I believe about myself as a leader, and how I see leadership. It’s a brand new chapter in living a powerfully integrated life. And it’s a tool, brand and company that I believe in with every cell in my body.

Coaching has and will continue to evolve over time. Its next evolution is harnessing technology, and giving a more global audience access to its power.

And Sphere is here to make that happen. Try it for free.