Summer 2016 Entrepreneurial Experiences

During June 2016...

Week Four: Time Flies, Almost Halfway

Wednesday, June 29, 2016 3:28 pm

Azione continues to exceed my expectations, and reaffirm my passion for PR. I am now extremely confident in my responsibilities and projects, both daily and long-term, and have gained valuable insight into the industry. I have grown accustomed to the fast-paced environment and enjoy the variety of tasks I am assigned each day. Rather than being assigned to specific accounts, I am exposed too all of them, and enjoy taking part in brainstorms for pitches. I continue to build media contact lists, conduct media placement clipping and reporting, and monitor current events and trends related to clients. Long-term, I have been working on competitive set research for a variety of our clients that will ultimately help elevate their place in the market. Recently, I was assigned a new task that involves media monitoring for all of our clients first thing in the morning, as well as reaching out to our LA Team to highlight any media outreach and coverage as a result. This is a huge responsibility as I must identify outlets that include our clients’ brands and send it to the appropriate account heads before they finalize it and send to the clients.

Perhaps most exciting, this week I was involved in my first off-site project. One of our new clients is opening a trendy Japanese restaurant in Chelsea mid-July. I took part in supervising a photo shoot of the restaurant/food dishes prepared by a former Top Chef contestant. This was an incredible experience as I acted as the buffer between our client and the media (and was ultimately able to taste test the delicious food!). Next steps include monitoring listings and making sure opening night runs smoothly. We are currently in the process of organizing a celebrity seating and the appropriate entertainment for the restaurant opening night.

I was surprised to be given so many responsibilities equivalent to any other team member, but am proud that my work is making a real impact on the company. I feel truly honored to be part of a company that supports other start up brands and entrepreneurs with a unique background story, and look forward to continuing to learn what else PR has to offer.

No Bad Apple: Week 1

Wednesday, June 29, 2016 12:48 pm

As I arrived back at Wake, I wasn’t sure what to expect. This summer I have the incredible opportunity to not only work for No Bad Apple, a company which makes healthy, sustainable, locally grown food available to students and faculty, but also for a non-profit organization in Winston-Salem. During my first week I have already realized that these simultaneous experiences will allow me to grow in many ways. While there are clear differences that one might expect, the similarities have been the most shocking. Any organization, for-profit or not, cannot operate if it is not well organized and aware of its funding and work limitations. Yes, work at the non-profit can feel more specifically directed at addressing a social issues and in this sense may feel more rewarding on a day-to-day basis, but the work that I will be doing with No Bad Apple is also helping local farmers, increasing access to food with a smaller carbon footprint, and giving individuals healthier food options. I am curious to see how this will affect my motivation in the work that I do. At No Bad Apple I will be doing mostly food prep and creating and analyzing reports on customer retention and product sales, work that is obviously important and will give valuable insight in how well we are doing as a company and the ways in which we can make shopping with us a more enjoyable experience for our customers. This work is very different from what I will be doing at my non-profit, which will involve more community outreach and working directly with clients. This wide variety of tasks and projects will certainly give me perspective into my potential career choices, as well as the type of organizations that I wish to become involved with as I grow up. As of now I have mostly done training activities and gotten to know the team, but I cannot wait to be more involved with the work and learn how I can make a positive difference for the business.

Week 4: Halfway There

Tuesday, June 28, 2016 9:01 am

As I am now halfway into my internship at Flywheel, I am comfortable in my position. I feel like I know what I am doing successfully, I know what I like and don’t like, and I have a plan for moving forward. However, there’s going to be a pretty big change for myself and the other interns within the coming weeks. Our community manager, Lauren, who is our go-to contact for everything Flywheel, is moving on to a different job in Charlotte. What that means for us is that now, while the owners of Flywheel look into hiring someone new and training them, the interns are going to take over several additional roles. This means that our days will be much busier and our responsibilities will be much broader. Instead of speaking with members, answering their questions, then sending them to Lauren to make sure everything is all set, we will be seeing it through until the end and finalizing memberships and more, taking on more of a managerial role at Flywheel until a new community manager is ready to take over.

For me, this change is intimidating. Up until this point, I have been getting more and more comfortable with Flywheel, but not having that source of backup in Lauren in case I have a question is quite daunting. Nevertheless, I think this is going to be an exceptional learning experience for my career path. Not only will I have to assume much more responsibility, but I will also learn how to admit that I do not know the answer to everything and how to relay that message to members and potential new members. In addition, the interns are going to have to work in much closer contact so that we can serve as a source of support for each other. This change will also force me into new fields of study, specifically I will be taking on the role of running all social media for Flywheel, including the website, blog posts, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. As a marketing major, I believe that assuming the social media role and working closely with Wildfire Marketing will help me to understand several marketing concepts and further my knowledge of the marketing field.

I believe that the change at Flywheel Coworking, although bittersweet for our manager Lauren, will be confusing and hard at times, but also a great learning opportunity for the interns, owners, members, and Flywheel at large. Since Flywheel’s member community is so diverse, supportive, generous, and interactive, I foresee change being handled well, and I look forward to taking on new roles and sharing those experiences.

Slender Seven – Week Two

Monday, June 27, 2016 5:48 pm

This week at Slender Seven, a lot of time was spent looking at our product as a consumer would. From doing demos, I’ve learned that without education, our product can be a little bit tough to sell. Even with our in-store help and explanation of the benefits of the cookie dough, some customers are still hesitant to even take a sample. So, as we began looking at the potential new packaging, we had to focus in on exactly which unique aspects of the product need to be more clearly advertised on the containers. Taking our competitive analyses from the previous week, we looked for what we, as consumers, would want to hear. What makes Slender Seven different? As someone who has a gluten intolerance, I know that if a product doesn’t outright advertise that it is “Gluten Free”, I generally don’t buy it. The same idea also goes for vegan and peanut free. These are key selling points that people look for that we concluded should be played up on the packaging. Also, though Nikki intentionally created her recipe to be egg-free, some consumers still have trouble understanding that our doughs are meant to be eaten raw. Therefore, we took into account that “Eat it raw!” also needs to be prominent on our packaging.

We also took a lot of time this week to ask ourselves what makes us different from an investor’s perspective. Hours were spent doing research on our competitors. Along with the other interns, I made charts to compare various aspects of our cookie dough to the rival products on the market. How many calories per serving? Fat? Carbs? Sugar? You would be surprised how much sugar there is in a serving of Cookie Dough CafĂ©’s edible cookie dough or even in a KIND bar. Next, I made a list of each competitor’s yearly revenue and made strength and weakness columns to assess their products as compared to our own. While these things are beneficial for us to know for marketing purposes, the statistics will also be put to good use in our pitch deck and thus help us attract investors.

With the relaunch approaching, we are working hard to ensure that everything about our product is the best it can be. We are looking into High Pressure Processing so that the product lasts longer on the shelves. We call the stores on a daily basis to ensure that they are consistently reordering. We are working to make the packaging different, eye-catching and educational. We need to attract investors in order to raise more capital and expand the company into more stores in more regions. There is a lot to be done, but every step we take in the right direction brings the whole team a sense of pride and gratification.

Week Three: Loopey Laces

Monday, June 27, 2016 12:08 am

The idea for Loopey Laces spurred quite naturally from the social climate at Wake Forest. In the fall of 2015, Tommy Worcester and Tim Collis were both junior finance majors who noticed an opening in the footwear fashion market. Their initial idea was actually pretty different from the product they sell now: socks that could be worn with Sperry Topsiders, one of the most common types of shoes found around campus on any given day. Yet logistical issues ultimately led to the failure of this idea and, fortunately, the birth of an even better and more original one: custom shoelaces designed to be worn with Chuck Taylors (another facet of the WFU footwear fashion market). Their target consumer was the sorority woman, based both on the custom of wearing color-coordinated converse sneakers decorated with Greek letters and the potential profitability of such a market.

With the great help of the Center for Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship at Wake Forest, the two CEOs were able to acquire the licensing necessary to turn Worcester’s shoelace designs into a tangible and desirable product. They started with our own campus, suffering the cold as they manned tables of merchandise during Panhellenic Bid Day in January of 2016. Very quickly afterwards, the pair expanded the company into e-commerce and began carrying the letters of large chapters not found at Wake. The goal was that Chucks donning Loopey Laces would be worn far outside the Wake bubble, to tailgates and sorority occasions even at schools not so typically known for Greek distinguished footwear.

Since then, the small start-up has been rapidly expanding. Through extensive advertising, a brand ambassador program, and connections made at trade shows and national sorority conventions, Loopey Laces has now been sold in several states and at many universities across the country. At least one sorority has even purchased laces to be sold at their official store. Yet what has been even more exciting has been the transition into collegiate laces, made possible by a partnership with Glass U, another start-up best know for their collegiate sunglasses. This partnership has allowed the company to work around the high up front cost and long wait time of licensing collegiate apparel. They are now around 18 months ahead of schedule on this new collection. Yet since Loopey Laces is still a very small company with few employees, this new project will mean far less focus on the sorority collection. In anticipation of that, the LL team has been front-loading much of the leg work in advertising and making personal connections for the sorority laces (as well as the bracelets and sticky wallets that have recently become available for pre-order). It will be a big struggle for the company come fall, when the CEOs start their senior year and will have to divide their focus between the company and their school work, but much of the foundation for future sales and re-orders will be laid by that point.

 

Week 4: Close to Halfway

Sunday, June 26, 2016 5:26 pm

My time so far at Fulton & Roark has been an amazing learning experience. Whether it’s learning how a start-up business is run or learning how to correctly meet margins on a product; I have already grown significantly. I could not be more happy about this learning process and hope to learn even more especially on the sales side of the business. Looking back at my four weeks, I have accomplished a significant amount and can’t wait to see how some of my internship long projects pan out.

A quick update on those projects:

The website conversion from Squarespace to Shopify was one of the first larger projects that I embarked on and it’s almost done. I researched and was the one handling the entire project and I am excited to see it finish through, hopefully by the end of the next week. What makes this website conversion so great for F&R is the ability to expand its audience and E-commerce abilities. Once the new website is live, we will be instituting more analytics, and more website additions, like a very popularly requested subscription service. With much of the world becoming enamored in subscription services, having F&R join the club could significantly improve our E-Commerce impact.

The next larger project I’ve been working on has been the new product release of a scented candle. This is something I’ve been spending a significant amount of time on and am most proud about. To have an in hand product to show what I did this summer for my internship is awesome. Then for it to generate sales for the company makes it even more exciting. We have the design, fragrance, and materials down and hope to have a finished prototype done by the first week in July. This is just in time for the Atlanta trade show which we are going to a week later. Here, we will display the candle and hope to garner interest and pre-sales. If received well, we will go through and do the first round of orders. I am so excited to be heading this for F&R!

Looking back on the four weeks, I’ve learned how ready and prepared I have gotten for an opportunity like this. Wake has definitely played a major part in this preparation. Going into the internship, I was concerned if I could handle the projects and expectations placed upon me. I learned that I am quite capable of working for them and I am even excelling, I feel. The internship has been awesome and I have certainly gained immense experience because of it. A lot of that experience has also come through being in meetings or conversations with the owners and business partners, just listening, which has nicely complemented what I have been doing as I can take that knowledge and make it actionable. I’m excited to see what the rest of my internship holds for me, what challenges I come up against, and how I overcome them.

TapInfluence – Week 1

Saturday, June 25, 2016 11:30 pm

As I arrived in Boulder, I had no expectations for what I was going to be doing as a Marketing Operations intern for TapInfluence. TapInfluence is the leader for “influencer marketing”. Influencer Marketing is the hottest trend in marketing. Brands (companies) are connecting with influencers (like bloggers and insta-famous people) to develop content, videos, pictures, etc. for a marketing campaign. In doing so, influencers are able to create authentic and reliable marketing campaigns for companies by leveraging their audience and personal brand. TapInfluence has developed a software automation platform for companies to find influencers and create successful marketing campaigns. In a recent study, it was proven that influencer marketing gives you 11x more ROI over all digital media. Essentially, influencer marketing is no joke and will result in more sales.

On my first day, I was thrown into a day of meetings which (although tiring) were helpful in updating me on the current state of the marketing team and the company as a whole. As Q2 comes to a close, the company is looking to enter a “sprint”. Our CEO defines this company sprint as a whole-team effort to, in sum, achieve the impossible by the end of the year. Everyone needs to step up there game in order for TapInfluence to remain as the leading influencer marketing company, a sector TapInfluence created themselves. Given I don’t have a strong background in marketing, I have been a sponge by learning everything and anything marketing through many meetings, training sessions, and 1:1’s. Being involved with and experiencing this company “sprint” will be an incredible insight into how a start up will succeed.

My main project throughout this internship will be to create an attribution model, which I will be building in HubSpot. Creating an attribution model will allow the marketing team to track almost every action and engagement someone has with TapInfluence, whether that be visiting the website, opening an email, downloading an eBook, or clicking one of our online advertisements. By tracking these actions, I will be able to see which marketing efforts are effective and which ones are a waste of money. The marketing team will the be able to analyze the data collected on engagements with TapInfluence and strategize which efforts should be invested in more. Bottom line, this model will help us more efficiently and effectively find companies that are qualified and interested in using TapInfluence’s platform and taking part in the influencer marketing revolution.

 

Week 3 : Slender Seven

Saturday, June 25, 2016 1:36 pm

Slender Seven was started as food blog by Nikki during her years at Wake Forest to promote simple and gluten-free recipes. After taking a few entrepreneur classes, she realized that some of the recipes had major potential in an unsaturated market–so, Slender Seven was created! Currently, there are 2 flavors of her healthy and eggless cookie dough in Whole Foods in the surrounding D.C., Maryland, and Virginia areas, as well as other organic chains. The cookie dough itself was created one day when Nikki tricked her sister into eating a dessert that was bean based, and her sister couldn’t even tell the difference! Immediately, Nikki knew she had a very successful product in her hands. The gluten-free and organic food industries are growing at an alarming rate, which gives me confidence in the future success of Slender Seven.

The biggest problem with the brand right now is that the products (the dough) and the story (Slender Seven) don’t align. During the in store demos, we are constantly trying to unite the product with the brand of Slender Seven. Given this major trouble the past few months, Nikki decided to do a major rebrand and is working with a branding agency in North Carolina. This past week, we got the first round of new names and packaging and worked on changing designs, wording, coloring, and other aspects of brand in order to ensure that the products will be marketed the best they can be for the relaunch (currently scheduled for 9/1/16)

Not surprisingly, a relaunch costs a lot of money–which we lack. So, a major task this week was perfecting predicted profit and loss financial statements, as well as the pitch deck and business plan so that we can show them to potential investors. This upcoming week, Nikki and I are traveling to New York for the summer fancy food show. Here, will will network for new investors, as well as talk to distributors that sell the ingredients we use in our dough to see if there is a way to find it for cheaper than what we are using now. I am curious to talk to other companies there who have already made it in the food industry, and hear them talk about how they went about expansion and growth.

Week three: Finding our path

Friday, June 24, 2016 11:04 pm

Thus far, the process of executing our plans for EZ Cork has not always been a list of clear objectives, but rather, as with any uncharted territory, of finding our path. The greatest “growing pain”, so to speak, has often been in determining what our next steps should be. Just because we have an end goal in mind of our idea of a successful company, doesn’t mean we necessarily know the best avenue by which to achieve it. While the abundance of advice we have received from various friends and mentors has been invaluable, to say the least, at the end of the day it is still our company and the tough decisions aren’t going to make themselves.

In many ways, we must do things differently from more established firms or companies, simply because we are still in the early stages of development. One of our objectives this summer, to continue with consumer research, provides a prime example. In order to catch the eye of wine distribution companies whom we ultimately want to do business with, we must not only be able to demonstrate the enthusiasm of the everyday consumer for our product- we must also be able to quantify it. Put simply, we know that people like our solution, but how do we prove it? I think one of the greatest surprises for us up to this point is the complexity of it all. We’ve learned to navigate the legality of protecting our venture- through patenting, trademarking, and the like, and yet the more we learn, the more complex it becomes. Learning more about our industry has been a very enlightening experience, one which makes us realize just how much there is to know.

Setting Deadlines. Adding Constraints. Learning the new things.

Friday, June 24, 2016 5:18 pm

This week our team decided to do something different about our approach to tasks. We set a hard deadline to launch something soon. By doing so, there is something that we can work towards as well as something to motivate us.

When working in a startup, there is a lot of self-motivation that is needed on a day-to-day basis. One proven way to motivate a team is to set a deadline that everyone hustles to meet. We would like to launch a product soon, so we went ahead and set the deadline. This is a relatively short and quick deadline that will lead us to rush to push something out.

Another interesting thing that we have done recently is impose constraints. We understand that humans are most creative in solving problems when operating under the most difficult constraints. It is there where we can really attack the problem head on rather than working on the trivial stuff.

Lastly, to stay relevant in Silicon Valley, the whole team must be good with learning new things on the fly. We are improving our technical expertise to be able to push out better and more advanced products. Learning is a huge part of the startup game.

One of the more difficult things to learn is user behavior. We could spend weeks creating a product that we think the user is going to love, only to realize that we completely missed the target. It is important to continuously consult the user with your product and understand their input on it, as they are ultimately the ones that will be advocating for your good or service.

In the end, what really gets you through the startup life is perseverance and curiosity.

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