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Jody Edgar

Friday 2nd June 2023

This article was originally published on Work With Shop as part of the "Humans of the Shopify Ecosystem" interview series. Work With Shop was a project I started in 2022 and closed in August 2023. However, I wanted to keep the interviews online and have therefore repurposed them here.

Jody Edgar — CEO of Sunbowl Systems

For this interview we're heading over the Atlantic to chat with Jody Edgar, CEO of Sunbowl Systems in beautiful Vancouver.


Q: Where are you right now?

Vancouver, British Columbia — Canada

Q: Where are you based?

Vancouver, British Columbia — Canada

Q: When asked, what do you say your job title is?

I’m the founder and CEO, but my job title is whatever the business needs at that moment.

Q: Is there such a thing as a typical day for you?

A typical day starts at 6:30 am. I get up, wash my face and watch some youtube while drinking my coffee. I’m at my desk by 7:30 am. I respond to Slack messages, emails and check out my day. Typically my day is meetings with customers, partners, sales and staff.

I’m usually done by 2:00 pm, and that’s when I have lunch ( breakfast ). After that, it's either time to get in the Studio and film some youtube content or work on the next process to empower the team to be at their best. I am typically done with any hard thinking by 3:00 pm, and it's time to go for a forest walk. Often I don’t get the entire day's list done, so that gets pushed to the next morning.

Q: How did you get started in the Shopify ecosystem?

I found Shopify in 2010/2011, I had just spent six months building a store on Magento, which was a complete disaster. After I presented it to the client, I asked for another shot. I went home, rebuilt the entire thing on Shopify in a weekend and presented it on Monday. They literally said, why didn’t you show this to us on Friday?

The difference was the concept of User Experience. I was immediately drawn to it and realised I could build a business around this platform. Their values aligned with mine, and away we went. I built store number 1000 on Shopify, and I thought at that time that I had already built missed the boat.


Q: Tell us a bit more about your agency

My company is called Sunbowl Systems. We work with small to medium-sized teams. If you have reached the extent of your knowledge, then we’ve got you. If you have reached the capacity of your time, we’ve got you. If you are deciding to go internal or outsource, give us a look.

Sunbowl fills the gaps in your high-performing team. Our unique business model combines the security of fixed quotes with the flexibility of pay-as-you-go.

Q: What are the biggest challenges you face in the agency?

The biggest challenge of any business is scaling. For 20 years, we tried to get paid by the hour to work with hyper transparency about how much the work was costing.

We were too fixated on being accurate we didn't realize that when you charge by the minute/hour, it actually ends up motivating both the staff and the client in opposite ways. Staff members are encouraged to take their time, while clients want to reduce the cost. Even though it saves money in the long run.

Everyone’s experience of an hour is different. We are in the business of expectation management, and this just causes too many bumps in the road.

However, last year we switch to a fixed quote model tracked by a proprietary credit system. This gives the client a fixed price they can work off, and when things change, they can see exactly what the new path will take.

I often compare it to taking a road trip, you want to drive from Vancouver to Calgary, and it will take 120 litres of gas to do it, but along the way, you want to stop in Whistler and then Banff. This wasn’t part of the plan, but it wouldn’t make sense not to see those beautiful places. So, you change course, and you go. We will still get you Calgary, but it might take another 60 litres to do it. You, as the client, understand the change, and we, as the company, can pivot and still provide you with exceptional service, and everyone is aligned. Win-Win. My challenge is sharing this system.

Q: What tools/apps do you use to stay on track and communicate with your clients?

We use Slack for all communications alongside our Sunbowl AI. We use Loom to make sure we capture requests accurately, and Sunbowl AI tracks the credits to make sure everything works as it should. You can’t buy a differential you can only build it.

Q: Value-based pricing or bill by the hour?

Value-based billing supported by a credit tracking system for scope.

Lessons & Learnings

Q: What's the biggest challenge you face in your business/work today?

Honestly, I was so blinded by billing by the hour that it took me 20 years to figure out that I was looking at the problem wrong. Every business I had in the past failed because I didn’t understand value. My biggest challenge is working out what other things in my life that I’m so sure about are based on wrong information.

Q: How do you get "stuff" done? Are you a proponent of a particular productivity method, or do you prefer a "Post It" note on your monitor?

I use a notebook. Write down my list every day, and what doesn’t get done gets re-written the next day. Once you have written the same task 3 or 4 times, it's either time to delete it or do it.

A typical day, I start with 1 or 2 easy wins, then I tackle the hardest one for the day as soon as possible. My brain is better in the morning, so that’s when I do the hard work. I determine what is the hardest thing when I run through my mental checklist, and if I get stuck on an item and can’t think passed it, that is the priority.

Q: What's the one bit of advice you would give someone starting out in the Shopify ecosystem today?

Shopify is just a platform, respect that. Don’t rely on Shopify for your entire livelihood, they have their own plans, and they don’t include you. The community is one of the best you will ever be a part of, but if you fly too close to Shopify on what you are building, you will get burned.

You need to build your own pipeline, customers, offering and value. Of course, you can use Shopify as a way to get started but don’t become reliant on them. They are getting better, but they are focused on the merchant first and the partners second.

Q: How do you approach getting better at your craft, development, leadership etc.?

I spend a lot of time learning. I first start by talking with people about what they do. I often ask about their challenges and how they are currently trying to solve them.

Everyone is solving problems in their own industry, and often those solutions are compatible with your issues, but you would never have thought about it because you are too close to your own work. Cross-pollination is the fuel for innovation.

Q: Please share any influential books, blogs, authors etc., that have helped you in your work life.

  • Every CEO should read “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster” by Bill Gates. This gives us a common language to talk about the biggest issue we currently face.
  • Ask your Developer” - By Jeff Layson, the founder of Twilio, is an excellent book for understanding why you should build, not buy.
  • Creative Inc.” — By Ed Catmull is an excellent book on building beautiful things.


Q: What's the one missing Shopify feature you wish existed?

A head of Partner Communication / Agency liaison.

Q: How do you keep up to date on what's new, what's outdated, or those pesky deprecated API calls that just might break your app?

Let Jody keep you up to date on all things Shopify!

I suggest you subscribe to my youtube channel and let me worry about the how.

Let's Get Technical

Q: What does your personal tech stack look like?

  • Chrome
  • Sunbowl AI
  • iPhone
  • Mac
  • Notion
  • Loom
  • Slack
  • Premier
  • Photoshop
  • OBS
  • Shopify
  • Google Workspace
  • 1password
  • SuperNormal ( Ai notes )
  • Grammerly
  • Tableau
  • SQLPro for MSSQL
  • VS studio

Q: Do you have any funky/cool hardware you'd recommend?

This one seems stupid, but I travel a lot and having an extension cord comes in clutch in so many places.

And Finally

Q: What do you do for fun and relaxation?

Hiking, skiing, mountain biking, brunch. Anything that includes people and being outside.

Q: What's your favourite album/book/magazine/event of 2022?

Hands down, Project Hail Mary, was the best book I read in 2022. So great!

Q: Share three of your favourite Shopify stores (if you have one, please include it)

Honestly, every store we work on has something special. We have worked on over 500+ now, and I can’t pick just one!

Q: Where can people find out more about you?

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