John MacBeth, CEO of TryCycle talks with the Ottawa Business Journal in their Changemakers series, celebrating entrepreneurs who are making a difference.

Providing a platform that allows people to talk to someone anonymously about shared challenges is proving a successful business model for Ottawa-based TryCycle.

With more than 10,000 conversations lasting an average of 23.5 minutes in its first 12 months, TryCycle’s Talking Stick has become the platform that many of Canada’s Indigenous communities turn to for culture-based support.

Conceived during the pandemic, the goal of Talking Stick was to encourage Canada’s Indigenous peoples to talk about and raise awareness of the importance of vaccination. Data soon revealed that users were discussing other urgent issues, such as domestic violence, isolation and substance use.

“It has been overwhelming,” says TryCycle co-founder and CEO John MacBeth. “The greatest discovery of my business life is that connection is everything. That is the sole real goal of Talking Stick. It’s just to provide a safe environment for a person to feel connected.

Since its inception, more than 120,000 messages have been exchanged on the Talking Stick platform. Talking Stick is designed for a rural and remote Indigenous demographic, MacBeth says, adding that he had to be careful to build trust with the people he was hoping the platform would serve.

“The trust between peer and guest is what’s driving this, the empathy and compassion of the peer. We worked with chief and council at the provincial level, at the tribal council level and at the community level and we asked them to help us to recruit, because what we wanted to do is recruit as many people from every community so that every community could be represented on the platform,” MacBeth says.

As a result, Talking Stick has representation in 58 of Saskatchewan’s 74 Indigenous communities, for example.

The company is also working to launch a similar support model for Canadian veterans called The Burns Way, a judgment-free, confidential space where veterans can connect with peer advocates who share their experiences.  

By Melanie Coulson, Ottawa Business Journal. To read the full story, we encourage you to visit: Ottawa Changemakers: Talking Stick lets Indigenous communities discuss shared challenges | Oct 31, 2023