Lemaire Stewart, Co-Founder of Goodfynd, a mobile web application, migrated to New York City from Jamaica when he was just five years old. As a kid, Lemaire was always aware of the types of things that interested him. His self awareness allowed him to direct his focus on math, science and P.E. in high school. His love for technology surfaced in the early ’90s when Lemaire’s father gifted him his first ever computer. It was worth about $2,500 at the time, and Lemaire spent the majority of his time tinkering with, breaking, and consequently, fixing the computer. His parents took note of his love for technology and started using it as an incentive for good behavior. When good behavior was lacking on Lemaire’s part, his parents would take away key components of the computer (the mouse or the keyboard, for example), thinking it would hinder Lemaire from using the device.
This is where Lemaire’s entrepreneurial journey begins: despite having key components removed from his first-ever prized possession, Lemaire quickly learned to navigate the computer without them. Lemaire’s early “quick to pivot” mindset initiated his entrepreneurial journey, although he never thought of himself as an entrepreneur. “Today I can say that I am an entrepreneur, but back then, I didn’t think about it at all. It was just the kind of person I was, to seek different opportunities.” Lemaire recalls. “I was always the kind of kid who knew how to plan ahead.”
In fact, Lemaire remained unaware of the concept of entrepreneurship until 2006, when Facebook became widely available. He solely thought of his projects as a way to devise and apply ideas with potential into lucrative monetary value. While in school, Lemaire took part in remunerative projects that allowed him to self-sustain, such as purchasing sneakers from a Nike outlet and reselling them on eBay at a higher margin, or discovering a niche in purchasing PS3s and reselling them overseas where the devices were not available.
The College Experience
As Lemaire began to unknowingly immerse himself in entrepreneurial pursuits, he started taking courses at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VT), where he was first introduced to computer programming. A coding class required for his degree was one of a few barriers standing between Lemaire and his success now as a technical Co-Founder – Lemaire actually dropped out of the course five times throughout his four years at VT.
Lost in the foreignness of programming languages, Lemaire struggled with the idea of getting through the course. On his fifth attempt, he teamed up with some friends to get through it together. And, he was successful – two and a half years later, Lemaire passed the class with an A, giving him the confidence and will power he’d need to one day build an app for his own company.
125K in Student Loans
In 2009, Lemaire graduated with his degree in electrical and computer engineering; he then went on to earn his masters in software engineering from George Mason University. Time spent in school wasn’t easy for Lemaire, though, and he acquired car loans and credit card debt after having to leave his job to focus on his degrees. That dept, paired with student loans, left Lemaire graduating with $125,000 in loans to repay. Never one to run away from a challenge, though, Lemaire designed a three-year plan to pay off his loans. Lemaire recalls being the type of person to always plan ahead. “If there’s a formula or equation, and you know it, it will never fail,” Lemaire mentions. He calculated keeping just $7,000 – $10,000 of his income to himself each year after his loan payments were made. Looking back, Lemaire remembers it being tight, but also that the sum was more than he had had in a year throughout his lifetime. “Along the way, there were emergencies that you can’t plan for, but it worked out,” Lemaire says. And it really did work out: in January of 2020, Lemaire was able to confidently quit his job and self sustain.
Lemaire proved his ability to quickly adapt to uncertainty and find quick solutions to barriers at a very young age with the hours he spent on his childhood computer, and he carried that growth mindset through the challenges that college and post-grad debt brought, as well. “With Goodfynd, I thought about it as college, figuring out the customer base, and used a step by step thought process,” Lemaire remarks on how his life experiences contribute to the entrepreneur he is today.
Goodfynd, a mobile web application founded by Lemaire and his Co-Founder Kyle Miller, exists to connect nearby food trucks to their local customers, offering order-ahead options for consumers and search options for food truck vendors looking for places to operate. After graduating and becoming debt-free, Lemaire was interested in pursuing something entrepreneurial, as he had all his life, but didn’t know where to begin. He ended up meeting his Co-Founder, Kyle, who was building the food truck concept but needed a technical partner to help him bring it to life. Since then, Lemaire and Kyle have been bringing food truck owners and local food enthusiasts together through Goodfynd.
Lemaire and Kyle successfully completed the 2019 Spring Impact Accelerator program through SEED SPOT last year, which guided them in increasing Goodfynd’s proven traction and measuring its impact on local communities and small businesses around the DC-Maryland-Virginia region.