Blending Colors and Genuine Relationships
PROVO, Utah – Aug 23, 2021 – In the process of tie-dying a shirt, all the colors start out separately but eventually blend together, forming interesting patterns and connections. In a similar way, Mikayla Cheng hopes to encourage genuine relationships among students at BYU through her social media app, Tiedye. Although building the app has been challenging, Cheng has received help from several resources, including the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology at the BYU Marriott School of Business.
Encouraging better interpersonal connections has always been important to Cheng, a computer science junior from San Francisco. As a senior in high school, she started the Humans of San Francisco Instagram account, primarily motivated by the desire to hear the stories of the people around her. The account is modeled after other popular pages such as Humans of New York, which share meaningful and thought-provoking stories about local residents.
“Growing up in San Francisco, I always saw interesting people on the street. Those people fascinated me, and I wanted to know more about how these individuals ended up in their current situations,” she says. “I always asked myself those questions, but I never asked others those questions. Finally, one day I was in the city, and I decided to go up to an unhoused man and ask him about his personal story.
“Asking my questions was surprisingly easy,” she adds. “He was willing to talk to me and share his background, even though I was a complete stranger to him. I realized that everyone, no matter where they come from, has their own story, and I can learn from those stories.”
Talking to this man sparked the idea for the Instagram page, where Cheng has profiled more than one hundred individuals and amassed nearly seven thousand followers. “Listening is a powerful way to show others appreciation and love,” she says. “By listening to these people, I formed several genuine connections, even after only speaking to them once.”
Last year, Cheng and her fiancé, Aaron Chan, were brainstorming ideas for apps and landed on the idea of facilitating the formation of genuine relationships between strangers. The duo both felt that social media has the potential to limit people from creating these types of connections. Consequently, they created a social media app called Tiedye, which allows BYU students to interact and form bonds on the basis of shared interests. “Aaron and I love building things that have meaning or value,” says Cheng. “We designed Tiedye to help people find others to truly connect with and form relationships.”
Cheng entered the Tiedye app in the 2021 BYU App Competition hosted by the Rollins Center. The competition awards money to student entrepreneurs to help defray the cost of building their apps. Since Tiedye was one of the winning entries, Cheng and Chan were also invited to participate in the Rollins Center’s 2021 Founders Launchpad that was held over the summer, where entrepreneurs had the opportunity to learn from mentors and improve their products.
“Our launchpad mentors helped us improve our vision and understand how we can tackle challenges with our app,” says Cheng. “Hearing different perspectives about how to improve our app has been a huge benefit—the launchpad is a fantastic example of resources the Rollins Center offers to help students improve their ideas.”
Because the Rollins Center helped her, Cheng hopes to contribute to the center’s resources by designing a coding bootcamp for student entrepreneurs, which will launch in summer 2022. “Right now, Chris Crittenden, the director of the Rollins Center, and I are working on a coding boot camp. Our idea is to give students the tools and knowledge to build their own websites in nine weeks,” she says. “I wanted to join this project because computer science is an important tool in helping people become self-reliant and enhance their businesses or any aspect of their lives, including being able to branch out and form new connections.”
Among all the plans that Cheng’s future holds—including continuing to run the Humans of San Francisco page, expanding and refining the Tiedye platform, and building the coding boot camp for students—she hopes to never lose sight of her goals to foster human connections. “To me, the best part about life is the relationships we form with one another,” she says. “We should never take those connections for granted.”
Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Sarah Calvert