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Enhancing Education Through Collaboration

By Joél-Léhi Organista

I was born in Mexico City, Mexico, but raised in Salt Lake City, Utah; I spent over a decade leading in educational justice issues across the country. I am currently the youngest elected official in Utah serving as a School Board Member in the Salt Lake School District and have been named as one of Utah’s 20 in their 20s by Utah Business. I earned a bachelor’s degree in Social Justice Pedagogy from the University of Utah (U), a master’s degree from Columbia University in Sociology and Education and am working towards a second master’s degree at the U’s Business School in Business Creation.

Machitia helps K-12 educators, with a deep passion to improve their pedagogy, by providing a centralized web application to create, collaborate, and share lesson plans, so they can transform their teaching to be more culturally responsive and trauma informed.

How did you come up with the idea for Machitia?

I am part of the Education for Liberation Network, which is a network of educators that are organizers. There, I have served on the board of directors for over a decade. I currently serve as their national president. During a board meeting in 2018, we were discussing how we were updating our website, but we were not continuing a feature where people use to upload files to share with others. I suggested that we actually have a full platform just for our members that are educators to create, collaborate, and share best practices. They shared how we as an organization don’t have the resources and money to do that, but one of the board members jokingly said to me, “Why don’t you build it though?”  I took it seriously though and moved forward to build Machitia. I then took an elective course about EdTech during my last semester of my first master’s degree at Columbia University, in order to explore how I can actually do it.

Did you start the venture alone?

I started my venture alone, however, I did have people that believe in me that have helped along the way. There are lots of people from the Education for Liberation Network board that are advisors for Machitia. The majority of them have a doctorate degree and are the leading thought leaders in their field of research and subject matter. 

How did you manage uncertainty in early stages of business? Were you ready to pivot if needed? Did you keep it a very leanMVP?

We are still technically in early stages of our business. I am not a technical founder and had limited business knowledge at the start. I now am finishing my second master’s degree, this time in business creation and entrepreneurship. We are very lean and “scrappy”. I grew up low income and learned how to stretch all resources I have. I always knew the idea and product would not only work but also have high demand. Just like many startups, it takes patience to build the first MVP to validate that.

What advice would you give to other founders just starting to build a company?

Continue to share your idea, so you get feedback on it. Learn to adjust your pitch and never lose your passion for the great idea you have. Do your best to find people that are supportive and learn to find team members that can be just as passionate about your idea as you are.

Have you ever failed at anything? If so, how did you handle it and what did you learn?

I have applied to various opportunities and did not get them. I didn’t get accepted the first time I applied to an ivy league school. I didn’t get accepted the first time I applied to give a TED talk. It took 4 years to finally give one. I didn’t get accepted the first time I applied to the Master of Business Creation. I constantly now apply for grants for my startup and don’t get them. I learn every time I apply and ask for feedback if it’s possible. This has all helped me learn patience but to always show up 100% and be brave. All these “failures” have prepared me to run for office and win this year. I am currently Utah’s youngest elected official. 

How are your hours spread throughout the week? Have you had to set any boundaries around time?

I learned since high school how to organize my time. I have used my calendar app for over a decade which makes it now second nature to set boundaries around time. I run my startup full time. I do volunteer as the national board president for the Education for Liberation Network. My elected official responsibilities are also prioritized. I play Super Smash Bros. and play music on the piano and organ to rest. 

Is it possible to build a successful company without burning out or damaging other parts of your life (family, health, etc.)?

Yes, you can balance your life as an entrepreneur. It takes discipline and learning from mistakes. I’ve learned how to be flexible. Being flexible has helped me not “break” but bend to the learning opportunities I am presented with. 

How has COVID-19 challenged you as an entrepreneur and how are you overcoming those challenges?

I think this pandemic was a blessing and a curse. It forced me to think about all aspects of my life while working on my startup. It has also made it even harder to be successful in launching. However, it’s been the perfect combination to build the right foundation for what this company needs for scaling and being sustainable.  

Has your business made you happier and more fulfilled in life, compared to how you felt before starting it?

I feel like my business has helped me grow in ways I didn’t know before I could before. Being present and doing whatever I do 100% and authentically is what makes me happy and full of joy.  

What impact do you want to have? Is your startup objective"getting rich" or "changing the world"? Is control or success more important?

Machitia is going to change the education field. Just image even one generation of teachers that have a community of support, training in the best practices that are culturally responsive and trauma informed. Imagine all the transformative learning experiences each child will have throughout their schooling from early childhood to high school graduation! Just image that! 

Continue to follow Joél-Léhi Organista through his social media:

LinkedIn: Joél-Léhi Organista

Twitter: @jlorganista

Instagram: @jlorganista

Machitia Website: http://www.machitia.com/

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