I remember clearly the first time I met Jim Moss. It was four years ago in the now-defunct Little Bean Café across from The Communitech Hub. He was pitching his idea, Smile Epidemic, to the KW Awesome Foundation, of which I was a member.

I thought spreading gratitude by sharing what made you happy that day was a wicked idea. It was a practice we did at my house growing up, and I’ve always been a firm believer in the power of happy.

That night, he walked away the winner of the pitch completion, with $1,000 in a paper bag.

Little did I know how far that small bit of money, mixed with the Moss family’s work ethic and drive, would go.

I log on to Plasticity — the Smile Epidemic 2.0 — at work every day. The platform has the same simple premise Smile Epidemic did a few years ago: you can make people happier by having them measure their daily mood, and by emphasizing positive thinking.

This is more than just a feel-good tool. A happier employee leads to higher job-satisfaction level and lower medical bills.

People are beginning to take note about the business of happiness. The Mosses (and an adorable pup) graced the cover of the January 2016 Canadian Business, where they were declared Innovators of the Year for 2015.

It seems simple — happier people are better workers. That is part of the plan, says Jen Moss, co-founder and chief marketing officer at Plasticity Labs.

“You don’t need to overcomplicate it — customers want to be happy,” Moss said. “If you make your staff happier, your customers will be happier.”

As I look forward to 2016, I’ve set some personal goals that I hope will make for a happier year. These include getting up earlier in the morning, eating breakfast daily, and completing a push-up challenge.

I asked some local tech people to share their goals for making 2016 a happy year.

What are you looking forward to in 2016? What is this year about for you?

  • “This year is about us being afforded the opportunity to focus on the mission and give a billion people the tools to live a happier and healthier and higher-performing life. That’s what I love about this year.” Jen Moss, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer at Plasticity.
  • “My goals involve scheduling fewer meetings and blocking off more time to spend with my team. We spent our first four months [at the Hub] planting seeds. So, those seeds are now starting to turn into a plethora of projects. Now we have to deliver on those projects, which should allow us to delight our customers and realize some of our startup relationships that we’ve been fostering over the last four months.” Brian Zubert, Director, Thomson Reuters Labs – Waterloo Region.
  • “I don’t set resolutions – but I do like to use the New Year to set some goals and give myself a plan on how to achieve them. In 2016, I want to read at least 24 books – two a month – and I want to attend more local arts events. Also, just like every year, I plan on writing that novel.” Alex Kinsella, SME Account Manager, Communitech.
  • “I want to work less in the evening, but it’s probably not going to happen because it’s too much fun.” Andrew Matlock, CEO, Industry Corp.
  • “We shipped a lot of product in 2015 and now I want to focus on fostering a deeper sense of community. I want to make sure people are happy with the experience. It let’s me sleep better at night when I know people are happy.” Ryan van Stralen, Marketing and Community Relations, Palette Gear.

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It’s a new year and a great time to start working on those goals. I see and hear that . . . Getting ready to launch your own passion project? Spend the weekend with Microsoft at the Communitech Hub (151 Charles St. W., Suite 100, Kitchener) for the Microsoft Startup Bootcamp. The three-day seminar starts at 9 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 8, and takes attendees through training and coaching. Microsoft has condensed its award-winning Ventures Accelerator into the three-day program. The weekend is free, and up to two people per startup may enroll . . . If you want to work on your dancing, head down to THEMUSEUM (10 King. St. W., Kitchener) for the Havana Club Rum Tasting & Salsa Dance Lesson night next Wednesday, Jan. 13 at 7 p.m. You’ll be led through a tasting of authentic Cuban rums, and then learn how to dance the night away. Your $22.12 ticket covers admission to The Havana Dialogues exhibition on now . . . Expand your cooking repertoire with a Household China and Gifts cooking class (300 King St. N., Waterloo). Join Chef Winston Lewis on Friday, Jan. 15 for “Winter Soups are Coming.” Recipes range from traditional borscht to butternut squash. The event starts at 6 p.m. and costs $65.

Photo: Happiness <3 by Mike Rastiello is licensed under CC BY 2.0.