#14 Podcast: Creating a hope and love movement with Sophie Kwok

Podcast Transcript

Welcome to Startup Revival, the number one podcast for Christian entrepreneurs, with your hosts Matthew Bell and Rafael Simpson. The world needs more entrepreneurs. Build something.

Matthew Bell:             Hello everyone, this is Matthew Bell. Thanks for tuning in to Startup Revival.

Before we get started, I just want to remind you of a few things. Startup Revival is all about the community. So if you have any feedback or comments or questions you’d like us to address in the podcast, feel free to let us know. You can send us an email at [email protected]. And also, be sure to join the online community. Go to Facebook.com/groups/startuprevival. It’s a great place to meet other entrepreneurs and learn some new and interesting things. Thanks, everyone. Enjoy the podcast.

Everyone, welcome to Startup Revival. This is Matt Bell, cohost and cofounder of Startup Revival, and today as I mentioned I have a very special guest. It is someone who I have mentored, advised, and someone whose company I absolutely believe in. Please meet my good friend, Sophie Kwok.

Sophie Kwok:             Hello. Hi Matt. Thanks so much for having me.

Matthew Bell:             Thanks for joining us. It’s such a privilege to have you. I’m so glad that we’re going to be able to share a little bit about what you’re doing. I am a big fan of Love Intently. But, I want you to be the one to tell us about Love Intently, tell us about yourself. So, say hi to the audience. Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you’re doing.

Sophie Kwok:             Oh, thank you so much. It’s such an honor to be here and I’m so grateful for your mentorship, have definitely been a huge plus [00:01:44] through prayer.

Yeah, a little bit about myself. So I was born and raised in Houston as an only child to both parents who are from Hong Kong. Fun fact: I am the only person in my entire family born in America, to give you a little…

Matthew Bell:             Wow.

Sophie Kwok:             Yeah, like a little background of my family life. But I went to college at Arizona State for interior design with a minor in sustainability, and then moved back to Austin shortly after for a job and worked for a year at a large architecture firm, one of the largest in the world, and then went back to grad school for interaction design and social entrepreneurship, which is what created my company. That’s where the idea of the company came from, and then it formed Love Intently, which is my company now.

We are on a mission to empower couples to build stronger and deeper relationships. But what we found is there’s tons of apps [00:02:46] out there to help us start relationships, but none to really empower people’s faith in them. And in fact, America spends $3 billion every single year on online dating and at the same time we spend $28 billion on divorces, and when we look at what’s out there to help people stay in relationships it’s really just books, courses and counseling, which can be effective, but most people won’t ever seek counseling until they’re at their absolute breaking point. And books and courses, they typically end at a certain point and that information starts to fade over time.

We’re building an app where we get to know you and your partner and give you tangible ways to excel at loving each other day to day. So we take information like how you communicate, how you guys give and receive love, what your personal interests are, and all this data into account and just give you small little ways that you can excel at loving each other day to day.

Matthew Bell:             Well, that is awesome. So guys, if you didn’t catch the name, I want to make sure you catch it right now. Sophie’s company is Love Intently. So that’s loveintently.com, right? That’s your website, correct?

Sophie Kwok:             Yes, that is correct.

Matthew Bell:             Yeah. So you can check out loveintently.com. They’re in beta, they’re in building mode right now, but this is a very, very worthwhile business. So I want you, Sophie, if you could to just share a little bit more about that problem that you’re trying to solve because for me, when I look for entrepreneurs and I look for tech companies and startups that I want to work with and help, I’m looking for solution-oriented companies, companies that have identified a problem that you’re looking to solve. So if you can just share with us for the audience, I think it’s really interesting that you’re going after this huge, huge opportunity that no one has really tried, at least that I’m aware of, to address with elegant technology solutions. You’re going after keeping relationships intact. You’re going after helping people stay married as opposed to choosing other options when things get rough. So tell us a little bit more about the problem and tell us how Love Intently is trying to solve that.

Sophie Kwok:             Yeah, absolutely. What we’ve found is we’re never really taught how to be in relationships with people unless your parents or people in your life actively go out of their way to teach you, and with the high rate of divorce, I mean we’re still at 50% roughly—it deviates from year to year but we’re about at 50% still—and with that people are coming from a lot of broken families and it’s really hard to learn. We’re just not taught from early age. If you look at our educational system, at no point are we taking classes on empathy or taking classes on how to build more effective communication or conflict resolution. And so, but what we do really hammer on is having the right answers and always having the right answers and always just seeking validation in areas that aren’t ultimately fulfilling.

And relationships research shows time and time again are the most important parts of our lives, and in fact Harvard did a research study on men over a [00:06:12] period of 80 years and they followed 236 men and they ranged from all different economic levels, and what they found was that at the age of 50 the number one thing that predicted whether or not they would be healthy at the age of 80 was not their cholesterol levels or anything that they could quantitatively take on their bodies but how satisfied they were in their relationships. And they said that when they started this study that nobody really looked at emotional intelligence or any of that data on their relationships—they just took it for the research purposes—but then over time they saw time and time again it was [00:06:56] the people that lived were the most satisfied in their relationships.        And so when we look at the world and everything that’s happening to the [00:07:02] if we never empower people to build stronger and deeper relationships we’re going to continue to see a lot of these major issues that are out there.

Matthew Bell:             That’s interesting. So I love how you have such a handle on your vision for your product and the problem you’re trying to solve. That is very obvious. You’re passionate about what you’re doing. And so just if you could cast a little vision for us, what’s your vision for the company? If we were to look 10 years ahead, what has Love Intently achieved or what has Love Intently done or what has Love Intently become? So just think a little bit further ahead, what’s that broader vision that you’re looking to hopefully achieve through your business?

Sophie Kwok:             Absolutely. So Love Intently is so much more than just an app. In fact, I envision us to become a movement of hope and love because what I’ve found in our generation is I’ve had so many heartbreaking conversations with people who just don’t believe in love or marriage anymore, and time and time again I’ll have these conversations [00:08:04] with people who genuinely want deep and strong relationships, they just have no idea how. And so I just envision us to become a movement of hope and love and just building the digital tools for healthy relationships. Because when you think about it, we calculate how many hours we sleep and we have an app that tells us to drink more water or what time we should be going to bed or how many steps we’re taking, so why don’t we have anything out there that empowers us to love the people in our life a bit better?       And so what I really envision for us is, one, to be a leader in emotional intelligence and especially when applying it to tech. And I think when the tech first started a lot of it was really hard to use and pretty unintuitive, but at the core of us we’re about people and about empowering stronger relationships to create a better world.

Matthew Bell:             That’s awesome. I love that. I want to shift gears a little bit. I want to talk about you as a Christian entrepreneur. So tell me, so you’re a woman founder, actually you and I went through—you were a part of the Div Inc Pre-Accelerator, which is where we met and had the opportunity to just provide insight into your business. I hope I was valuable.

Sophie Kwok:             Yes, you were super-helpful.

Matthew Bell:             But it was a really awesome experience and I was just super-impressed with what you were doing. But you look at woman founder, diverse background, Christian entrepreneur – very different than I think what we think of the typical Silicon Valley entrepreneur looks like. How does being a Christian, how does God in your life set you apart as an entrepreneur and in what you’re doing?

Sophie Kwok:             Yeah, great question. As you mentioned, the startup world is definitely very I would say white-male-dominated and so I am almost the complete opposite of that, and I think the first thing is it enabled me to remember first things first and to really seek first the kingdom, and that verse of seeking first the kingdom and the rest will be given to you I think could not be more true for me and my startup. I think what sets me apart is the way I see success day to day isn’t necessarily just how many things I get done or how well my meetings went, but truly at the heart of what I’m doing and what I live for is how well I love the people in front of me. And so if I go into meetings and even if they went terribly but I went out of my way and people felt loved and cared for [00:10:52] and I knew that, then that day was a success. And so I think it’s just really changed the perspective of what success used to mean to me, and as a believer I think having the Holy Spirit and discernment really empowers me and enables me to take different risks or leaps of faith that I never would have otherwise. And I think if I was not a believer, I really do not think I would have had the courage to start this company without knowing that God was in it and behind me in it.

Matthew Bell:             Wow, that’s awesome. There is a huge revelation that you just dropped on us in that response, which is the way that you view success particularly around I guess your day to day. I think the very common thing is when you’re an entrepreneur, [00:11:44] you’re a tech startup cofounder, it’s, “How much money have you raised? What was your exit valued at? What’s your company valued at? What’s your run rate?” and all these performance-oriented metrics that we’re inundated with, which are very important to the business side of what we’re doing but doesn’t really validate who we are. I think that a more interesting way to think about success which is speaking to me is, “Have you loved the people that God has put in your path today? Have you gone out of your way to do something for someone else?” And really that’s the model that Jesus gave us, which is servant leadership.

Sophie Kwok:             Mm-hmm. Exactly.

Matthew Bell:             So for folks who are listening and you’re looking for a metric for success, I would encourage you to grab hold of what Sophie has just shared with us, which goes beyond money, it goes beyond performance, and it really gets to the matter of connecting with the people that God puts in our path, which is super-awesome to hear you say that.

Sophie Kwok:             Because as a believer, oftentimes there’s this tension in the startup world. I mean, we’re called to go really fast and they’re like, “That’s the only way your startup will succeed,” and all these metrics and performance numbers that you’re supposed to hit so that investor will be interested, and then once you get investors you have to hit other metrics to keep them happy and ultimately be able to raise a Series A, and that goes on and on and it honestly probably will never end. But I think that as believers if we don’t focus on people, then what good is our product? Why are we doing it anyway? And I think ultimately, if we lose sight [00:13:45] of that, then you’re building your company on really shaky ground, and if you can find a way to provide people abundant value, then they will pay for it. I think that’s something that entrepreneurs often forget, is that at the core of it it’s about the customers and the people, and if you can figure out a way to provide abundant value then the rest of it will come.

Matthew Bell:             Yeah, absolutely, build the product that people love and they will use it, and then ultimately they will pay you for it. So I love that thought process. So tell me a little bit about just how you’ve relied on God in your business and maybe perhaps share how God has helped you overcome some obstacles that you may have encountered as an entrepreneur, which we all certainly do.

Sophie Kwok:             I would say that, number one, I think one of the biggest gifts that God gives me through this journey is the people that he brings [00:14:45], but I think aside from that it’s being able to just pray and journal and just dig in early in the morning within every single day, and just realizing that if you’re not growing in your faith and—this is something I had to come to realize, is everything that He calls you to will be because it’ll bring you closer to Him, and I would say that entrepreneurship is the one journey that has brought me closer to Him and every day I lean on him even more. Because there’s a quote out there that says, “Don’t be surprised that if your leaps of faith yesterday are not big enough for today,” and it’s this idea that every day God is going to call you to do the next thing for him.

And I think there’s this, when I was really struggling I think for the first couple of months, several months, when I was debating on whether or not to start this company, [00:15:43] it was a really big thing for me and a book that I read from Erwin McManus, it was called Seizing Your Divine Moment, and what he says is basically that there’s one thing to be clear and it’s that we have a calling in our lives, and the greatest tragedy is not the sins that we commit but the life that we fail to live, and that it’s not enough to just stop doing wrong but be paralyzed when it comes to doing what’s right. And I will say that my faith [00:16:13] is a root of that that enabled me to take things into action because if I were up to my own devices I would just be in fear the whole time. And every day with being a fresh startup, so taking new risks, you are making decisions based off of things that you do not know if they will work for sure. You’re testing everything. And so I think being able to root it and ground it in God has really enabled me to just be able to take those steps and believe in myself and not [00:16:45] fall to my own devices.

Matthew Bell:             That’s awesome. Yeah, we’ve talked about it before on the show, which is I don’t know how people are entrepreneurs without being Christians because without the support of biblical Scripture and God’s promise and just being able to go to your Heavenly Father, your Creator, in prayer during those times of need when anything happens—we can’t predict what any day will look like when you’re an entrepreneur—and without that faith framework in your life I just don’t know how some people do it. So I am totally with you on that. That is exactly how I feel about it as well.

So moving on as we wrap this up here, we typically like to leave the audience with a piece of practical advice, something to get them thinking, something that they can use, something that they can put in practice. So, to the Christian entrepreneurs who are listening, to the entrepreneurs who already identify as entrepreneurs, and to the folks who may be listening and have an idea and have never started a company before but they are hearing more and more that it’s a possibility for their lives and now they’re interested and they have some cool ideas, what is your number one piece of advice to someone who is thinking about starting a company?

Sophie Kwok:             Ooh, this is a hard one, but one quote that really stuck with me when I was in between taking that leap of faith to start or not is by Mother Teresa, and she said, “Don’t wait for a leader. Do it alone, person to person.” And that really resonates with me because there’s this idea that if you change no one around you can stay the same, and that’s what I found with even the heart of Love Intently. It started because I was desiring a deeper relationship with my parents and other people in my life and just found myself struggling. But when I decided to change, when I decided to make loving them first more important than being right, it changed everything. And I think that’s true of the life that we live every single day, is if, one, we can find out how to just do it for the person next to us before we try to do it to the millions of people around us, then that’s when real-world change happens. And if we can figure out how to really be the change that we want to see in the world, then that’s when change will really happen because the work that we can do within us is just as important if not more important than the work that God does through us.

Matthew Bell:             Amen. I love it. Well, Sophie, I so appreciate you. Thank you for joining us. Folks, for those of you who are listening, Sophie Kwok from Love Intently, you can check out Love Intently at loveintently.com, sign up for her betas, if she’s running another one. I don’t know. But sign up for her email list, follow her on Instagram. She’s got an awesome Instagram. It’ll inspire you daily. And look out for Love Intently. I think it’s something that relationships need and it’s a product that is solving a problem and it’s something that I believe in, and it is something that my wife and I have even tested and we really love. So I’m not only an advocate, I’m a fan and a customer and I love it. So thank you, Sophie. Thank you for joining us.

Sophie Kwok:             Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much. Sign up for our waiting list. We’d love to have all of you. Thank you so much for this time.

Matthew Bell:             Awesome. Everyone, have a blessed week.

That was Startup Revival, brought to you by your hosts Matt Bell and Rafael Simpson. Tune in next week to hear more stories from entrepreneurs and businesspeople to inspire, encourage and motivate you in your business journey. Have a great week.

[00:21:13]

I see success day to day isn't necessarily just how many things I get done or how well my meetings went, but truly at the heart of what I'm doing and what I live for is how well I love the people in front of me.
Sophie Kwok

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