At the Webster Groves Bread Company, I sat near the door sipping my tea ignoring the bustle around me as I waited to meet him. We had originally scheduled our meeting for the week prior, but something came up and Jake had to reschedule. His email to me began like this:
When he walked in, he lit up like he was greeting an old friend.
Chasing the Dollar Vs. Pursuing Happiness
Once we were settled in, he with his Red Eye (large coffee with an extra shot of espresso) and me with my tea, he began telling me about his company, IDWIL. An acronym for I Do What I Love, it is a website to help people determine what career path to choose. “The whole point of IDWIL is to get away from identifying yourself by your job title. It’s more about who you are.” After all, according to a Gallup poll, 70% of Americans are unhappy with their jobs, so why would we want that to define us?
Here’s how it works. You begin by taking an assessment that will draw out what motivates you, what your passions are. This is different from most personal surveys that focus on your aptitude. Next, the site directs you to videos of individuals talking about their jobs and why they love them. The featured jobs span the gamut from a Chinese medical practitioner to an airman. The videos that you are shown are chosen based on your answers to the assessment. Similar to Pandora, users have the ability to up-vote or down-vote videos, making the software more intelligent about your interests.
Jake’s wife was a big part of the reason he developed IDWIL. She had always made good grades, worked hard, and eventually climbed the corporate ladder. But after a conversation with a friend who was a speech pathologist, she realized that if she had known about this career, her life would have been different. Discussing this, they decided they did not want their 2 young daughters to just fall into a job. When his contract as a graphic designer for the Air Force expired, he had plenty of time, so Jake began speaking at schools. “You can always chase the dollar, but later in our adult lives we realize it’s more about pursuing happiness.” Jake wants kids to realize this sooner.
Mascoutah, Massage, and Mix Tapes
Not all software geniuses come from Silicon Valley, some of them are bred in Mascoutah, Illinois like Jake. But, Jake and his wife’s plans were bigger, so they moved into the suburbs of St. Louis… right behind an elementary school. “Which is cute when you’re a young couple buying a house, like ‘oh children laughing and playing’ and then you live there and you’re like, ‘ooohh, yeaahhhh, children don’t laugh and play they just scream for no reason.’”
After partying his way out of an 18 credit hour semester at Eastern Illinois University, including AP calculus and physics, he went back home to do some soul searching. That was when he found massage.
Hold on a minute. How did he go from studying engineering to learning massage therapy at Midwest Institute? “To be honest, it was how I flirted with girls back in the day…” Don’t worry, it wasn’t just that. “My neighbor in college worked with a chiropractor as a massage therapist and I became fascinated with the science behind it. I’ve always kind of straddled the line between science and new-agey stuff, so I have no problem learning about Chi-gong and energy healing. But, I also like to have the validity of understanding the insertion points of this muscle. So I have that balance between analytical and creative.”
Visibly more animated, he went on to tell me how the school asked him to stick around as staff, and he enjoyed teaching so much that he went back to school at SIUE and completed a degree in education. At the same time Jake realized he had almost enough credits for a graphic design degree, so he graduated with that degree, as well.
The Past Informs the Present
Jake told me, “I see a lot of things coming up from my past where I’m like, ‘well duh, that makes sense.’” He followed this up by explaining that every year of high school he won the award for biggest flirt. One way that he showed his interest in a girl? Mix tapes. “I really enjoyed that it allowed me to communicate with someone on a deeper level than just the superficial. So, in order for me to make a mix tape that you would enjoy I’d have to get to know you well enough, so there’s that thought.” He felt like he benefited because he got to introduce people to new music and it made him seem like the “go to guy” for finding cool stuff.
Fast forward a few years and Jake became the guy people went to when they wanted an awesome app. Initially he and a friend just created a document where they listed the best apps for people, but they ended up taking that one step further and created an app called Favorite. Favorite lets you list your 5 favorite apps and when you sync with Facebook, your friends can see your list. Although he thinks Favorite still has potential, they had sunk some money into it and decided to cut their losses.
Being an entrepreneur in the tech space is a lifestyle and one that Jake embraces. He hopes to make IDWIL successful so he can be an example to his daughters and more importantly, so they grow up and do what they love.
He chugged the last few drops of his coffee and we both stood up to say goodbye, but not before I asked his favorite thing about STL. His answer? “Oh gosh, to be corny it’s where my family and all my roots are and number two is toasted ravioli.”