Startland News’ Startup Road Trip series explores innovative and unusual ideas that are succeeding in startup hubs across rural America and the Midwest outside of metro Kansas City. This series is made possible by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which is leading a nationwide collaborative effort to identify and remove barriers, large and small, to the creation of new businesses.

MOBERLY, Missouri— Anna Haney wants to know what people hate most about work. Not really.

“The more makers I meet and the more people I talk to, my favorite question to ask is, ‘What sucks about your job? ‘” Haney said. “And then I just listen, because they’re gonna tell me everything that sucks about their job.”

Once she knows the pain points of each department in an organization, Haney and her two co-founders at Noviqu set to work ; create custom safety, training and compliance software solutions that help manufacturers digitize their paper-based processes.

In fact, said Haney, Noviqu’s inspiration – a member of the NMotion Growth Accelerator inaugural cohort – was born from hearing managers complain about each other.

“The idea for Noviqu was born out of a conversation about nothing but bitching about work,” she said. “Literally five different managers throwing a bitch party together in front of two totally random software developer strangers to let them know how shitty their lives are.”

Haney is energized by the prospect of solving these issues and improving workers’ day-to-day experiences on the job, she said.

“You take this journey with them,” Haney said. “What you find in common with all of these conversations – and it’s across all industries, not just manufacturing – is, ‘I spend so much of my time and my brain doing work that has no purpose. importance. “”

“I would hate that too,” she continued. “As a human being, your brain is used to solving problems. It doesn’t solve problems, and it doesn’t exercise your brain. There is so much more a person can do to bring value to this business than sitting in front of an Excel spreadsheet.

Austin Gardner, Anna Haney and Chad Haney, Noviqu

Founding family

Noviqu was officially founded in 2017, although the concept dates back to 2014, when Haney and her co-founder (and now husband) Chad launched Tin Can Technologies in Colombia.

It was there that they found Noviqu’s third co-founder, Austin Gardner, who is also the company’s CTO. Gardner joined Tin Can Technologies in 2015 as an intern with, in his words, “no real programming experience.”

At the time, Gardner was studying computer science at Columbia College and his most recent job was at Bass Pro Shops. He applied after seeing the internship position in his university’s job bulletin.

Despite his lack of experience, Haney said, it was immediately apparent that Gardner would be a valuable asset.

“Austin has worked with us on every project I’ve ever professionally built to this point, and he’s a phenomenal human being,” Haney said. “He came straight out of college to work with us and then went on with us forever because honestly I could never let him go. He’s way too valuable as a software developer and as a co- founder.

Gardner said Noviqu’s three co-founders operate like family, which became especially true once Chad and Anna got married.

“They joke that they would love to adopt me if they could,” Gardner said.

2022 NMotion Growth Accelerator Cohort Founders Mingle at Recent Announcement Event; photo courtesy of Scott Henderson, NMotion

From Moberly to NMotion

Although the company’s roots are in Colombia, this emphasis on family has led Noviqu to operate near Moberly, a town of approximately 15,000 people located 35 miles north of the college town in central Missouri. .

The Haneys moved to Moberly to be closer to Chad’s two teenage daughters, at least until they graduated from high school. After that, Anna said, the couple plan to buy a motorhome and travel for a few years with their youngest daughter, who is now 7.

“We wanted to make sure we were there for them as they grew,” Haney said. “It’s not enough to have the older kids for 20-30% of their teenage years, so we moved to Moberly to be able to have the kids 50/50. I would say it was totally worth it. »

Even so, Haney knows that Moberly isn’t exactly the typical environment for a startup, which is one of the reasons she asked Noviqu to participate in the Omaha-based 12-week NMotion Accelerator.

“Part of the idea and part of the benefits of going through a program like NMotion is to put myself and our business back into an ecosystem where we have good people around us who understand what we’re going through,” said Haney.

“Because even though we know a few small business owners in our town, there’s nothing like the startup grind and startup process that you don’t get in a traditional small business,” he said. -she adds.

Haney said the Noviqu team had other specific reasons for joining the acceleration program. First, they wanted to solidify and grow the sales process, and second, it provided a great opportunity to be matched with mentors who can provide ongoing guidance.

Anna Haney, Noviqu at the 2018 Kansas City Techstars Demo Day

“We have to do something better”

During the three-month accelerator, Gardner said, he mostly “maintained strength” on the tech side at Moberly as Anna heads to Omaha. Chad Haney is no longer involved in day-to-day operations.

The trio took part in the Kansas City Techstars Accelerator in 2018, but Anna said they weren’t quite ready to move on then.

After what Haney described as a few years of “letting it go” after the pandemic, Noviqu refocused its mission and now works with 10 clients on a recurring basis, with plans to expand.

In the meantime, the Haneys have found a gym in Moberly where they now train. Fitness provided a spark to get them — and Noviqu — back on track, Anna Haney said, noting that in work, fitness and life “the pain is where your growth is.”

Ultimately, she said, Noviqu’s goal is to help other like-minded businesses grow, in part by allowing managers to be less overwhelmed with menial tasks.

“It just takes the right person in the right mindset to say, ‘OK, we’re not going to do this BS status quo anymore. We have to do something better,” she said. “These are the companies I try to find, because they are Noviqu’s biggest customers, and that’s where the value of any business is going to be added.”

“If you can find someone who cares about you enough to make your life better or to make it easier,” Haney continued, “then you know you’re building something that works and you know you’re growing.”

This story is possible thanks to the support of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundationa private, non-partisan foundation that works with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create unusual solutions and empower people to shape their future and succeed.

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