Summer 2016 Entrepreneurial Experiences

During July 2016...

A Growing Industry: Moving forward with millennials

Saturday, July 30, 2016 1:51 pm

One of the most common questions we hear regarding our venture is something along the lines of “How did you come up with this idea anyway, as college students?” or, “I didn’t know college kids these days even liked wine!” But they couldn’t be more wrong. We first came up with the idea when watching some of our older peers become frustrated that they couldn’t find a corkscrew, or simply didn’t know how to utilize it properly, and it is because this field has such a potential for improvement that we jumped at the opportunity. People think that this industry is something that doesn’t relate to us, but in fact it does; the millennial generation in recent years has become the largest consumer of wine nationwide, surpassing the baby boomer generation for the first time.

The Wine Market Council, a nonprofit organization consisting mostly of wine producers and distributors, regularly releases new research regarding the industry, and their latest convention held just a few months ago in the spring was entirely devoted to the discussion of growth in millennial consumption. According to the report, millennials have consumed 10% more wine in the past two years alone, as compared to a decrease in other generations. The younger generation also drinks more per occasion, an average of 3.1 glasses per sitting, as compared to 2.4 for generation X and 1.9 for the baby boomers. Because of these trends, the industry has been moving towards using social media to market to their increasingly younger clientele, and many restaurants have been adjusting their availability of mid-range wines sold by the glass. More relevant to us, however, is the fact that this opens up possibilities for innovations in wine packaging, since the younger generation is less set in the traditional corkscrew and more likely to value ease and convenience. As more volume of wine is produced to meet demand, there will be more variation and thus more opportunity for new opening solutions such as ours. The traditional cork has had its day, and all evidence points to the idea that the industry is ripe for a competitor such as EZ Cork.

 

Bootstrapping.

Friday, July 29, 2016 6:40 pm

As a startup, we only have so much cash to work with. Therefore we have to be super frugal and conscious of where we are spending our money. Part of the reason why the company is moving to Los Angeles is because they know that they can find software engineers for cheaper. We work out of shared office spaces and houses because those are much cheaper alternatives to the private office spaces that larger companies have. It is interesting to observe the decisions we make because we are strapped for cash.

When we pick our tools, we often go for the free versions of whatever is out there. Thankfully, since open source software is popular these days, it is not hard to find free software tools to help you run a business.

In addition, the company heavily relies on free intern labor (like myself) to get the hard work done. We have four other MBA interns working the business development team and I myself am working as a full-fledged software engineer to help build the launch product. Without the free intern labor, it would be hard to see how the three full-time founders could get by with the workload and deadlines we have.

In the startup world, all of these frugal measures are called “bootstrapping”, where a company looks to reduce costs in all areas of business. We only spend our limited cash resources when it is absolutely necessary to do so. When we can, we cut corners or find ways to get it done for free. That is part of the fun of being in the startup – trying to achieve big visions with the strongest constraints and limitations imposed on you.

Week 8 : Slender Seven

Friday, July 29, 2016 11:42 am

Today was my last day interning for Slender Seven. The past eight weeks have gone by so fast, and I feel so lucky to have been given the opportunity to intern here! The major project I worked on throughout the summer is the rebrand in order to prepare for the relaunch that has been pushed back to 10/1.

We have our official new brand, P.S. Snacks, which will operate under the Slender Seven LLC. “P.S. This Cookie Dough is Good for You” will be the labeling on the front of the tubs with each flavor having a different contrasting color. Working with the agency and the process of designing a new label could have gone smoother if we engaged in more market research. Not knowing exactly what our target market thinks about the new packaging and flavors could be a negative when we relaunch. In addition, the other interns and I had to continue to promote the Slender Seven brand with recipes and social media. We created blog posts, new recipes, and instagram posts throughout the summer–all of which were very successful.

Since the internship was during a transition time for the company, it was difficult to help expand the company. We met with owners of coffee shops and workout studios in an attempt to create partnerships, but since we are changing the name and packaging so soon Nikki would have to go through this process again after the relaunch. Although I did not personally get to help scale the company, I have created relationships that Nikki can continue to work with after the launch is successful.

I have learned so much from the internship, both about myself and the business world. Nikki showed me the financial side of the company–her accounting system, projected profit and loss statements, and we worked together on a break even analysis. I also worked a lot on brand management, by marketing the product with in-store sampling and social media. I learned how everything you post and share needs to be coherent with the brand itself in order to build the image. And lastly, I learned that when I find something I am passionate about, it doesn’t feel like work! I loved walking into work everyday knowing I was promoting a product that I loved. I know the launch of P.S. Snacks will be successful, and I get wait to see what else is in store for this company.

Week Seven: What Entrepreneurship Means To Me

Thursday, July 28, 2016 2:52 pm

It has been extremely rewarding working in an industry I’m passionate for, as well as being mentored by a woman entrepreneur. I continue to be very impressed by how our CEO balances running a company with having an 8 month-year-old son. While at Azione, I have learned the importance of differentiating your brand from others and attacking each project with a creative mindset. I feel fortunate to be part of a PR agency that does not take the traditional approach but rather looks to create something completely new and innovative for their clients. It has been a great learning experience as an entrepreneur helping Azione transition to the next growth phase of its business. I was able to assist in landing new clients, as well as elevating our existing clients within their respective market places. Throughout my 10 week internship, I have seen our company expand, acquiring a variety of exciting and new clients. Azione has also started interviewing candidates in the hopes of building a bigger and more versatile team.

Perhaps most exciting, this week I sat down with our CEO and she assigned me a project of high priority that must be completed before my end date. It involves compiling media contacts and reaching out to them, asking who is in charge of this year’s Holiday Gift Guide. This contact list is extremely vital to our company and clients as we must pitch the appropriate contact in order for them to include our client’s brands in their “most wanted items” for the upcoming Holidays. I will continue to reach out to Editors and follow up to insure that I produce the best possible list. While it was hard at first to balance this large project with my daily workload, I now designate a few hours a day to working on it and believe I am making great progress.

One of my biggest challenges this week was the departure of my intern supervisor to another company. She was my go-to person for all projects and concerns, and her absence this week was hard to adjust to at first. However, in such a positive and open environment like Azione, I had no trouble connecting with my other team members to stay on track with all projects, tasks, and client requests. Working at Azione has been invaluable to me as both an entrepreneur and aspiring PR exec. I have learned the importance of authenticity, creativity, and not being afraid to take risks or fail. Each mistake and success are equally important to me. As I learn from my mistakes and continue to build upon my successes, I make myself a stronger candidate for the PR industry upon graduation next year.

TapInfluence – Week 5

Thursday, July 28, 2016 12:03 am

I have grown to enjoy the work environment at TapInfluence more and more each day, and being a part of my marketing team has played a key role in that. No team is perfect, but the way our team approaches problems is awesome.

There is undoubtedly a hierarchy within our team, like any other team; however, to remain quick and nimble on projects, we collaborate on a flat structure. One thing that surprised me was how quickly my opinion became valued. Once I gained some credibility and developed an understanding of my role, my input on strategies and decisions were encouraged. Mind you this team is much more experienced and knowledgeable in this field than I am.

There is a lot of communication and collaboration between our team. Planning has become an essential part of meeting deadlines. A lot of collaboration takes place in the planning stage. During this time, we find ourselves visualizing the task at hand by drawing on the whiteboard walls. Every piece of the project is strategically analyzed so that all of the pieces fit together and make sense. Once everyone has identified what piece of the project they are responsible for, we break off back to our standing desks and crank out our work. Communication continues throughout the process; some people need additional help, and others might need to reevaluate their piece of the project and pivot. As our deadlines approach, crunch time sets in, but the work gets done. Our team doubles down when it needs to, and meets those deadlines.

Failure is inevitable, but my team doesn’t look at failures and pout. Failures are opportunities for learning, an area we can improve in going forward. Even since the time I started my internship, each project the team has worked on has been approached constructively, always improving from the past. As a team, we have learned how to optimize this process, increase transparency and collaboration, track progress, and mitigate possible problems that inevitably arise.

Rebranding failures as opportunities for improvement are essential to increasing performance, whether it be personal, for your team/organization, or an important project. The growth I have seen on this team since my first week leaves me with no doubt that we will see increasing success with our upcoming projects.

Week 4: Survey Responses

Monday, July 25, 2016 9:32 pm

Overall, all the therapists for my project have been emailed. We have received 439 positive responses. This has led to a very promising return on the actual surveys taken so far. Seeing all the interest that has accumulated in Minds Renewed through the emails I have sent and the surveys being taken is the part that I am most proud of. I am surprised with the amount of surveys taken because once we went live and started actually sending the survey out the return happened very quickly. So far we have 229 surveys taken which is changing as more people take the survey but it is a very good indication of how these therapists feel about the overall concept of Minds Renewed.
I have learned so far that starting an organization takes a lot of different people coming together to make it happen. This is good because it allows for other people to utilize their strengths for something that they care about. This is good for me in the sense that i like the idea of working with other people who are good at the things I know I am not good at. It also puts the entire process into perspective because it takes a lot longer to start an organization than one would think.

Week 7 : Slender Seven

Monday, July 25, 2016 10:28 am

The past week was crazy at Slender Seven! With Nikki traveling for the majority of the week, there were a lot of additional tasks that needed to be completed. The biggest job we dealt with was inventory and delivery. It was our job to call all the Whole Foods to make sure they had enough dough so that we could do in-store sampling. However, if they did not and ordered more, we had to deliver the dough to the union kitchen distribution sight so it would be sent out within a day or two. Other tasks included blog posts, social media pictures, market research, and preparing for the relaunch.

Week 7 taught me a lot about leadership and entrepreneurial management. It is essential to take initiative to make sure things get done and come up with new tasks for yourself. Since there are not as many eyes on you as there would be in a large corporation, it is imperative to get yourself motivated to make a difference. As a hard-working, determined, and goal-oriented leader, I am starting to see how I could be successful post-graduation working for a start-up. However, I enjoy the structure from a large company and the invaluable mentors and training you get along the way. I would love to work for a large corporation post-graduation, potentially in the CPG, health, wellness, or entertainment industries. After gaining experience in one of these industries then maybe I would switch and either start my own or join a startup.

Slender Seven – Week 6

Sunday, July 24, 2016 8:49 pm

The biggest challenge facing Slender Seven right now is our size. We lack capital, especially compared to our competitors. In terms of other cookie doughs, we are competing against brands such as Immaculate, Eat Pastry and Cookie Dough Café, all of which are larger and more commonly known. Cookie Dough Café especially has a leg up on us as their product was on Shark Tank, earning them a lot of exposure. However, other edible cookie dough products are not our only competition. Given that we advertise our dough to be a healthy snack that can be eaten at any time of the day – and eaten on the go in our grab-n-go 3 oz. containers – we are up against companies with similar products. For example, we compete against Justin’s and their squeezable single-serving nut butters, Chobani yogurt cups, KIND bars and CLIFF bars.

Though this seems like stiff competition, and it is, our product is unique to the market. It isn’t just another edible cookie dough, nor is it just another sugar-filled product that claims to be “healthy” for you. Slender Seven’s cookie dough combines great taste with equally great health benefits. Nearly everyone can eat our product given that it is vegan friendly, gluten free, dairy free, peanut free and soy free. Furthermore, because the product is bean-based as compared to flour-based, it is especially high in protein, fiber and antioxidants. And, despite the fact that it is 100% safe to eat raw, it still bakes into delicious and gooey soft-baked cookies for those customers who would rather eat their cookie dough cooked. Though our company lacks capital, our product is one that is versatile and one of a kind in the market right now. Therefore, we as interns are spending the majority of our time doing marketing, trying to create a buzz around our product while Nikki seeks out investors. We want to inform the general public that a product such as ours, one that is natural and healthy, but satisfies cravings, does exist. Then, the next step once we have enough capital is to make our product readily available to more people in more places!

Week Six: Overcoming Challenges

Sunday, July 24, 2016 8:30 pm

As a boutique PR agency competing against the largest, most well established PR agencies worldwide, Azione must constantly find ways to be innovative, nimble, and establish a strong cliental list. Because the Azione team is extremely small, consisting of 10 people in NYC and 6 people in New York, utilizing our available resources is vital. Fortunately, our co-founders are extremely connected within the industry and have forged an exceptional list of clients over the last few years which has helped establish Azione has a powerhouse in the PR industry. I have been fortunate enough to witness, and assist in the addition of a variety of new clients ranging from fashion, consumer products, and beauty this summer (including one of my favorite clothing brands!).

While my daily responsibilities remain the same, I have become more involved with event planning as well as creating pitches to send out to media that promote our clients’ brands. Having the freedom to create my own pitches is truly a privilege as I enjoy being part of the creative processes, and feel that I am able to make a real impact in generating more exposure for our clients. A few of the pitches I made this week involved “Back To School” clothing ideas that I believe are relevant: “athleisure” and denim on denim. In regard to planning events, I helped Azione with their annual “boss babes” party. This event celebrates our female clients and their success in their respective industry. I helped locate the event space, send invites, and order all the necessary accessories/food/drinks for the night of the event. Once again, I was able to work the door which allowed me to immediately connect with these fabulous women.

This week, I was also able to supervise video and photo-shoots for a few of our clients which was an amazing experience. I interacted directly with the media and was able to form contacts that will be extremely beneficial to my future career. First, I went to the InStyle headquarters where I assisted our client ModelFIT, an exercise boutique, on a Facebook-live event in which they discussed exercise routines you can do at your desk while working. Perhaps most interesting, later in the week I was given complete responsibility to supervise a photo shoot with future Olympians for our client Corkcicle, a water bottle company. It was truly an honor to work with these future Olympians, and that my team had full confidence in me to supervise a photo shoot by myself.

Working for Azione continues to be an incredible experience as each day is different, and I am getting exposed to every side of this exciting business. I have found a real passion for PR, and look forward to my remaining two weeks.

Week Seven: Loopey Laces

Sunday, July 24, 2016 8:26 pm

Turning a product into a genuine brand name takes quite a bit of work; the act of building a company from the ground up requires serious leadership. Yet while there are classes for learning start-up business basics, accounting, marketing, and the like for the entrepreneurial-minded, mastering leadership takes experience and practice. In this regard, every start-up is a bit of an experiment. Loopey Laces is no different.

To some, the start-up environment is appealing because budding leadership seems to mean flexibility in the business model and an overall more creative experience. But this comes at the expense of tried and true expectations, roles, and business methods. Lack of experienced leadership can quickly become a problem when professionalism and employee morale get overlooked; while incessantly working to make sales and expand a new company, sometimes product sales get valued more than the people who do the leg work to make them. And employee satisfaction falls by the wayside. Leaders who make extremely clear that their time is more valuable than that of those supporting their endeavor send a painfully clear message about their company values. While this sort of practice may potentially benefit a company in the short-term, as it means greater revenue when start-up costs are still quite high, it is certainly not sustainable. Leadership must be developed and scaled to fit a growing business just like any other form of capital. Granted, every aspect of an entrepreneurial endeavor is a process and it is not expected of every person to be a perfect visionary, businessman, and leader at all times. The act of being an entrepreneur means taking action without any clearly set examples for guidance. Yet it seems a sad fact that sometimes working for young entrepreneurs means working with them before they’ve truly discovered how to professionally lead a company.

Given this major growing pain, I have realized a bit about my own professional preferences. As a personality trait, I seem to prefer structure and clear objectives to motivate me throughout my daily work. I find that I am at my most productive when working roles are clearly defined and demonstrated through strong leadership that I can adopt myself, rather than tasks simply being delegated in a way that makes them seem undervalued or unimportant. While I enjoy taking part in the crafting of a company from the ground up and being able to look back on how far it has come and the variety of roles I played in shaping it, I am perhaps more suited to join in a bit later in an entrepreneurial endeavor, when leadership has become more fine-tuned and there is a hierarchy beyond just “CEO” and “intern”. This being said, every experience is valuable. Learning what I do not like is just as important to me as learning what I do prefer. And this is important to keep in mind as I wrap up my time interning at Loopey Laces.

Serving Humanity Through the Pursuit of Knowledge

Copyright © 2010 Wake Forest University ~ 1834 Wake Forest Road, Winston-Salem, NC ~ 336.758.5000