search cancel

Swapping Skills To Make Bootstrapping Easier: Interview With Luke Jenkins, Founder Of OweYaa

Time and money. Without one or the other, bootstrapping a startup can be a slow-going, tedious affair. Sure it’s satisfying to learn as you go and to build something all on your own, but there’s something to be said for doing what you do best and having skilled help take care of tasks outside your expertise. OweYaa has a friendly model to make doing so possible.



OweYaa is a platform where users complete tasks for one another. Finishing a tasks earns users “favors,” which they in turn can use to have something done for them. It’s an I’ll scratch your back and you scratch mine system with interchangeable scratchers. The early focus is on recruiting members with different skills valuable in the startup community.




Looking to build on initial enthusiasm, OweYaa has turned to Indiegogo in hopes of raising $25,000 to expand the team, develop the site, and increase marketing. Founder Luke Jenkins tells us more:


What’s your company about? What do you do? Who are your customers?

OweYaa is an online platform where users do favors for one another. Set up like a traditional small services and products marketplace, users complete projects for one another earning a bartering credit called “favors” that allows them to post onsite the projects and tasks they need completed. We cater to customers who value their skills and are involved in projects that require skill sets outside of theirs. Members of the startup community – graphics, audio-visual, business advice, writing, and more – are individuals who find OweYaa useful and relevant to them.


What’s the greatest thing about your company/website? Why is it better than the competition?

OweYaa takes a classic bartering concept and puts it in terms that everyone understands. We feel that by covering the bartering process, the familiar act of doing another person a favor, individuals will engage and understand the process more. This all makes the process of bartering easier, more fun, and much more engaging. By building a community that has the sole goal of helping one another complete projects, OweYaa brings value to each user that engages with the site.


How’d you come up with the name for your company?

I am northern boy from Wisconsin. Because of this I enjoy the saying “oh-yaa.”( little drawn out and a deep north touch to it.) I also frequently use the saying “Hey, I owe ya one.” This entire saying sums up OweYaa. People do favors for another on the merit that the users of the site owe them one for helping them out. Meaning, when you complete a favor you earn a favor and thereby are owed a favor back from someone on the site.




OweYaa Founder, Luke Jenkins



What was your first computer? How old were you when you first got on the world wide web?

I got my first computer from my grandpa right around 11-12 years old. It was a present one of the family members got him and he never used it. I then took it apart for some reason, and then took my grandma’s computer apart to fix my grandpa’s. It was a debacle for awhile. But I soon realized computers were more useful when they weren’t scattered across my basement floor.


What time do you usually start work each day? How many hours a day do you usually work?

I am a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point, so I start everyday at 6:30 a.m. Then, it’s solid class, work on OweYaa, Division 1 hockey practice from 3-6, and then homework, and work on OweYaa from about 11-11:30 every night.


When’s the last time you went on vacation and where did you go?

My last trip that I would qualify as a vacation was to Corpus Christi, Texas, on spring break last year to see my girlfriend. She is a nursing major at Texas-A&M, Corpus Christi.


What’s the very first thing you do at work every day?

My work place is where I live as well, so the very first thing I do is get a good breakfast in the mess hall, slam some coffee, and get ready for another day of work. Other than that… checking emails and organizing everything I need to do for the day.


When do your best ideas come to you?

The 5-10 minutes before I fall asleep at night. This is where I thought of OweYaa and nearly every idea that gets written down in my little book. Some good idea-spinning happens after 4-5 beer (after all, I am from Wisconsin). Especially when you’re drinking in the company of awesome thinkers; that’s when things get really interesting.






How many people did you start the company with and how many people work for you now?

I started the company with just myself. I hired on an outsourced programming team, because I new I would never be able to code the entire site with my schedule. I now have another partner named Jackson who invested in the product and is our operations guy. Christine Prichard, who was my host mom when I played junior A hockey in Texas, is our content manager and blog writer. She basically makes sure we sound legit.


A lot of people have big ideas. What gave you the confidence to actually go after yours?

I have always felt disconnected from the reality that things might not work out. Since I was little, I always started projects without any concern for failing. Like taking my grandpa’s computer apart. I never worried about it never working again, even when I fried the mother board and it was smoking everywhere. I knew there was another way of making it work again. That way was taking my grandma’s computer apart.


Remember the early days of starting up? Describe the struggles you went through.

I am still in the early days of starting up, so they are really fresh in my mind. By far, my biggest hurdle is building a team. I have gotten a lot of great feedback on the concept and the purpose of the site, so I know our success is all connected to execution. Therefore, I need a team, a GREAT team, and getting there is much harder than I ever expected.


How do you handle frustration? What has been your biggest professional frustration?

I just work harder. Being at West Point, there are a lot of daily challenges that set you up to fail in order for you to learn to overcome them. The only way I have found to overcome a challenge is get a lower stance and keep your feet moving. As long as you work harder, work smarter, there is nothing that can frustrate you to a point of failure. The biggest professional frustration for me is breaking into networks. I love to network and connect with people, and I can get frustrated by getting overlooked.


What’s your office environment like? Do you listen to music? Watch movies? Play video games?

My personal shop (aka my desk in MacArthur Barracks) is all about keeping an up-beat positive environment. I listen to music and watch movies to relax, but am always doing something when doing either of those. For our team, I continually check in and ask them for their inputs, advice, how they are doing in general. Our team is our family, so its treated as such.






How do you picture your company in 5 years?

I see an awesome community and marketplace where young guys like myself who are creating their own startups can go and get their logo made, or a promotional video, or get some great legal advice – all from using, say, their programming skills as a method of payment. I see all these incredible skills each individual has and just think to myself, what could we really create if those were all brought to one place? So where will we be? The only picture I focus on is making the difference for one person who needs a project completed.


Who or what inspires YOU? Role models? Quotes? Running? Video games? Snack food?

As far as role models, there are obviously some great people throughout history you look at and go wow. People like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and a variety of others. But by far my biggest influence is my father. A rural insurance agent, he works harder than anyone I know and has provided me every opportunity I could ask for. He has taught me nothing is out of reach, and he was always the first to tell me to get up when I fell down. My philosophy on life comes directly from being raised by him, and it’s the things he instilled in me that keep me working towards my goals.


How’d you fund this venture?

We’ve been all self-funded so far. Family and friends getting behind us. We are definitely looking for some VC money, as we really want to get operations set up in NYC and really begin to connect and engage with the startup community we built OweYaa for.


Got any great bootstrapping tips for the lean startups out there?

Passion. Everyone in their life wants to find something they can truly believe in and get behind. So you want to get support from your friends and family? Be passionate. Show them that you won’t accept failure, show them all you can do is think, live, breath this idea you have. Give them something to really believe in and you’ll get the support you need.


What other advice do you have for other entrepreneurs struggling to get started?

Don’t stop. Work harder, work longer. Take different angles at the problem, be smart and creative. And if all else fails, if that wall is too high to climb, grab your sledge hammer and break that thing down.


What would you do if you had a year off and $500,000 to spend (on something other than work)?

I’d probably go back to my little hometown of River Falls, Wisconsin, and do everything I could to build up the hockey program there. Hockey has led to every opportunity I have had in my life, and I would love to see the sport give those same opportunities to kids in a rural town in Wisconsin.






Do you consider yourself a successful entrepreneur? If not, what’ll make you feel successful?

I do consider myself successful. I don’t have big numbers or a product that is known in every household, but over the last year I have taken an idea that only existed in the air and built something. I have done this while managing the other challenges of going to West Point, and I have done everything to this point as best as I possibly could. You don’t need a metric to tell you that.


Top 5 mobile apps you’re in love with and why?

  1. Twitter
  3. StreamNightlife (my first project, deals and specials app for Wisconsin colleges)
  4. Apple email client (on it all the time)
  5. FlyQ by AOPA (I am a private pilot, so its great to get airport information)


Number 1 country you’ve always wanted to visit but haven’t yet? (And why that country?)

Italy, and all the Mediterranean boarding countries. I want to see Venice and Rome and just see the awesomeness humans have put together over the years.


Three people (other than you) we should follow on Twitter and why?

  1. @counselorholley – this is a lady I am helping to build her vision for a great SAT/ACT education course – to help students do better on these tests and get into the schools they want. She is full of passion for this and is a great educator.
  2. @billgates – he does a lot of great stuff with his foundation and is doing an awesome job at giving back.
  3. @amy_r6 – this is my girlfriend, and if you tweet something ridiculous at her she will get all embarrassed and shy and it’s the cutest damn thing.


Where else should our readers find you online?


Photo Credits


Author : Keith Liles

Keith Liles is a freelance writer who loves travel, music, wine, hiking, poetry, and just about everything. He practices saying "yes" to life vigorously, rehearsing for the phone call when he's asked to tour with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Follow Keith on Twitter @KPLiles.

Share This Post On