Summer Entrepreneurial Experiences

During June 2014...

Week 5

Monday, June 30, 2014 9:36 pm

This week I’m going to stick to the prompt a bit more as I haven’t done anything revolutionary in the past week. I’ve just done a lot more research on sponsors and sent out press releases and emails to various businesses in the area. Nothing too exciting.

The culture of the company is pretty laid back. There are three directors, a managing director, producing director and artistic director. However, the managing and producing directors completely run the show. They generally make decisions between themselves and inform everyone else of what is going to happen. People work in “teams” for each show and each part of the show that they are involved with in the way that theatres usually work. There are the cast, crew, directors and managers, and then me! The intern. I only work with the producing director and he gives me projects each week to work on. It’s a little hard to keep in touch with him because he also works in the shop, building and designing sets, but this allows me to take responsibility and have freedom to work in and around my own schedule.

Tomorrow I’ll be manning a table at the Children’s Museum as the rock band for our next show is going to be playing and trying to gather some interest. Hope everyone is having a great summer!

-Nina O.

Week 6

Monday, June 30, 2014 1:59 pm

Competition is a significant challenge that EquityZen faces, as there are several other companies, both small and large, that are aiming to provide liquidity solutions for shareholders of private companies. In order to overcome this hurdle, it is necessary to differentiate oneself from others. EquityZen is setting itself apart from its competition by usinga derivative structure that transfer the economics underlying the shares without transferring legal ownership of the shares. In effect, this process is very company-friendly, since there is no transfer of control rights to strangers. EquityZen’s bigger competitors, including Sharespost and SecondMarket, are not treating the share transfers this way, meaning that EquityZen has a possible competitive edge that can be of great help in the long term. Since the secondary market for private stocks is changing constantly because of the JOBS Act, it will be interesting to see how viable this differentiation is.




Week 4: Where I’m at so far

Saturday, June 28, 2014 12:47 am

My time at so far has been very insightful. Whether it has been working with artists or working in marketing, I would say that I have already learned quite a bit through the experience. Recently, we’ve been looking at the best ways to promote and market our platform. We have been compiling data on which tech and music blogs have the highest rates of traffic while also finding out the cost to advertise on these sites. From there we found a ratio of reach-to-cost and will execute our marketing approach based off the sites that have the best ratio. Trying to transition artists to our platform have continued to be difficult, as commonly artists view our conversation as more of a sales pitch rather than a mutually beneficial relationship. This entire process has showed me how difficult it is to get someone to lean off of such a monopolized market, such as music distribution (iTunes), while transitioning to something that is more innovative or developing. I truly believe that our platform and technology is superior to our competitors, but I’ve realized that people simply are afraid to leave the publicly accepted and accustomed to path. By the end, I would like to see more and more artists transitioning over to our platform. Additionally, we are also beginning to offer our platform to a number of Shopify store owners, as we believe our customer information platform would be highly-desired by ecommerce based retailers. By the end of the summer, I hope to gain more experience in marketing and data analysis, while also at developingrelationships with other entrepreneurs that our company’s founder, Ryan, knows. Some of the best experiences at work have come from group conference calls with other tech start-ups or entrepreneurs, and by the end of the summer I’d like to make contact and network through them as well.

Week 6

Thursday, June 26, 2014 6:26 pm

Week 6: What are the biggest challenges that face this company or organization, and how are they handling them? Who are the key competitors?

Working to educate people on the true crimes of prostitution is a huge challenge at TSW. It’s difficult to be working with an issue so many people don’t know exist. Many people think of human trafficking as a foreign conflict, one that doesn’t happen in the US but maybe in the Philippines or in Thailand. So many US citizens don’t even realizethatmodern day slavery is happening right now…in their own backyards. Most trafficked girls are forced into having sex 20-30 times a day and aren’t allowed to return to their pimp until they have met quota. Some girls work 7 days a week. The “lucky” ones tend to work 5-6 days a week. If you add up the amount of paid rape these girls are having, you will realize the horrors behind the false accusations. And I keep saying girls because that is what the average age of induction into prostitution is today: 11-13 years old. Nine times out of ten, a runaway will be picked up off the street by a pimp or human trafficker within theirfirst 48 hours away from home. These are just a few of the nightmare statistics regarding human trafficking. A major struggle of TSW is finding the balance between exposing these statistics and offering resourceful ways to help. People shut down if they hear too much bad news at one time. They separate themselves from the issue and put it in a place where dark and depressing things are compartmentalized to not be dealt with directly. This is why TSW advocates hope. As a Christian based NPO, we work towards shedding light on the many ways to combat human trafficking, and expose themany fights that are already blazing of whichyou can become a part.If this is a cause that has caught your attention or pulled at your heart strings like it did mine,please visit our website at andexplore!

Week 2 | LLC to EIN to GnuCash

Thursday, June 26, 2014 9:35 am

Research is incredibly interdisciplinary–I’ve conducted research for my classes, for my economics projects, for my mobile application development platforms.

And now, I’ve been researching how to properly establish and legalize a business entity.

Swimming through throngs of legalese is difficult, but I’ve learned how to fend for myself. My co-founder and I have agreed to establish Ivory Informatics as an limited liability company–hence, Ivory Informatics L.L.C.–with reasons two-fold:

(1) We want our company to stand as an independent legal entity, much like a corporation, in case we really mess something up and get sued. This really shouldn’t occur for our company’s purposes. Hopefully.

(2) We elected to choose a taxation route that follows the taxation methods of a partnership, in that the company itself isn’t directly taxed. Rather, profits that are “passed through” to the members are taxed as personal income.

This form of legal governance should give us enough initial mobility and safety to grow in the early stages.


After identifying the most suitable entity to establish as, we needed to actually file. This required digesting more extensive legalese insofar as I learned to draft an Articles of Organization and an Operating Agreement, two fundamental documents needed for establishing ventures in the state of North Carolina. We paid $125.00 to file through the North Carolina Secretary of State’s Corporations Division, and our application is now pending approval. If all proceeds smoothly, our organization will be a limited liability company with full license to profit from business operations in North Carolina.

When all is filed and complete, our objectives will shift to researching EIN–social numbers for companies, essentially–and establishing an employer identification numbers in order to set up a bank checking account for our business.


I digress to the, fun-for-math-people-like-me, stigmatized-for-you, world of financial accounting. I’ve recently come across an open source software that handles basic accounting needs (general ledgers, journals, accounts), constructs financial statements (income statements, balance sheets, statements of changes in equity, cash flow statements), and even constructs and stores invoices. It’s called GnuCash, and the best feature is that it’s completely free!

This week has quite evidently been packed with logistics. More to come soon.

Thanks for reading!


Finally understanding the small print,


Week Four: More Marketing, Fantastic Endeavour and Closing Five Row

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 5:57 pm

Last week I finally settled into a groove. Fantastic Endeavour opened at a local library and performed for a very…. unresponsive crowd. However, the energy was up and the actors felt great about the first run.We closedFive Row at Reynolda House and the last show was sold out. I got a lot better at welcoming people, taking tickets and convincing people to sign up for the email list- no small feat. I also had a couple meetings with my boss to discuss how the second half of the internship would go and we planned more marketing projects. Then, in celebration of closingFive Row, we had a pool party at one of our sponsor’s houses.

It looks like our matching campaign is dead in the water, as most banks have been declining to support us. My next task is getting the word out to as many local businesses as I can think of to sponsor us or to buy ad space in our programs. I made a list of more than 65 local businesses who we think would be good to reach out to and my next task is to try to connect us with local TV stations and perhaps have them do a feature on the company. I have already connected us with Camel City Dispatch and hope we will have a feature on our next two shows on their online blog.

I am most proud of being able to adapt in this quickly changing environment. Often, I’ve had to do things at a moment’s notice and that has been a little difficult. And sometimes my boss is so busy with creating sets, strike, and planning for such a small theatre that he has to delegate tasks to me without fully telling me how they should be executed and it is up to me to find that out. This is definitely helping me grow and become much more comfortable with business phone calls and emails. I hope that by the end of the internship I will be able to know how to help a small business, like Peppercorn Children’s Theatre, learn how to attract sponsors and keep them, as well as learn how to juggle and balance all that goes into managing a small nonprofit, started and run by friends.


-Nina O.

The Power of Thank You

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 12:13 pm

Camp Wings is only possible through the help and investment from our donors and supporters. Through an online donation model we were able to raise funds to offset the expenses that are associated with camp. Our donors are an extremely valuable part of our organization. In the past, we have not always done a great job in following up in a timely manner to our donors. This year, we have made it a priority to follow up at least 2 weeks after camp toensure that our donors feel valued and are informed of the success of our Camp Wings program. This week is being spent writing handwriting notes, printing Thank You collages, stuffing envelopes and mailing them to our many investHers.While this is somewhat of a tedious task, it is necessary. Thankfully,I have compiled all of our donors into one place which makes it easier to prepare and send off material. I recognize the power of ‘thank you’ when it comes to a small, start up non-profit organization. While our donors are not million dollar givers, it is important to be faithful to the donors that you do have.

While it is easy to think that the power is in the dollar, the power is actuallyin the ‘thank you.’ It tugs at the heart to keep on giving.

Organic isn’t perfect

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 11:47 am

Since evolving into a 35 billion dollar industry, the term organic originated in the 1960’s as a petite countercultural movement against the chemical intensive growing practices of agribusiness and war efforts in Southeast Asia (the same corporations-Monsanto and Dow, that manufactured pesticides also made napalm and Agent Orange). Back in these early days, the term was used to describe everything industrial agriculture was not; it was a holistic approach to food production that represented the “natural” way to grow food.


Walking down the aisles of the grocery store and seeing five different variations and four different brands of each product, that organic seal is incredibly valuable – take chicken for example, it’s not uncommon to see all-natural, free-range, organic, cage-free, vegetarian-fed, etc.. sold by 4 different companies – Tyson, Purdue, Nature’s Promise, store-brand, etc.. but as soon as you see that organic certification, you know that the chicken you’re holding was never given antibiotics and was fed a diet free of ingredients produced with synthetic pesticides. And yet, what you may not know is that organic chicken was most likely raised breast to breast with 30,000 other chickens in a 10,000 square foot concrete building. In essence, organic food is not necessarily humane, sustainable, safe, or healthy.


For example, cows are ruminants whose bodies are designed to eat grass and as a result should be raised on pasture. However, large scale organic beef production entails of thousands of cows packed into a concrete building being fed an unnatural health diminishing and environmentally destructive diet of organic silage (fermented corn) (for more information on environmental implications,click here). On the other hand, grass fed beef contains five times as many omega-3 fatty acids, about twice as much CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid), and contains less overall fat than grain-fed beef. Omega-3’s lower risk for heart disease, decrease inflammation, and reduce symptoms of ADHD while CLA is associated with reduced body fat and some other beneficial effects[1]. So yes, that organic beef isn’t produced from a cow given antibiotics or was it fed non-organic corn, but I have a feeling you care a little more about the implications of the food you eat.


Source: Smith, G.C. "Dietary supplementation of vitamin E to cattle to improve shelf life and case life of beef for domestic and international markets." Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523-1171

In addition to carrying little legitimacy in terms of being a responsible form of food production, the organic certification is a lengthy and expensive process that many smaller farmers simply can’t afford. In fact, many small-scale farmers vehemently oppose the term and actively choose not to pursue the certification because of its watered down meaning. Melynda Naples is the owner of Deerfield Farm, a dairy farm in Durham, CT, and although she treats her cows like her children, feeds the cows an almost exclusively grass based diet, and makes the extra effort to use sustainable production practices, she chooses not to become certified organic. When asked about this decision, Melynda said, “We don’t need to pay an exorbitant fee eachyear to the government so they can tell us that what we’re doing is good.” In reality, the process of becoming certified organic has become painstakingly frustrating and unmanageably expensive for many responsible small farms that are far more “organic” than their industrial counterparts who can afford to buy the certification.

Happy Kids, Happy Cows at Deerfield Farm

It’s this harsh reality that makes me cringe a little bit when people ask if all of the products on our Fresh Food Network are organic. This is theprecise reason whythe local food movement has gained such popularity-instead of relying on an imperfect term, you have the power to know your farmer and learn firsthand whether or not he/she is abiding by humane, sustainable, and safe standards. Over the course of the summer I’m going to be writing a series of posts that break down what responsible food production looks like for each type of food so you know what to look for and what questions to ask your farmer, stay tuned!


Week 5

Tuesday, June 24, 2014 1:21 pm

The culture at EquityZen is similar to that of many other start-ups: fast-paced, yet laid back, with a “get work done” mentality. In other words, the environment is very quick moving with the objective of being as efficient as possible, but is not stressful at all as the office culture is very relaxed. Similar to other organizations, executive decisions are made by the co-founders. However, for smaller projects, I was fortunate to have been given the opportunity to have a significant input, which affected the ultimate decisions of these tasks. In terms of the working environment, everyone works independently and in teams. I believe that this combination is optimal as it allows individuals to think independently while having the ability to collaborate and put ideas together when working with others.

EquityZen recently completed one year of business, which called for a celebration. This celebration consisted of an informal barbecue at the apartment of one of my colleagues. This celebration was not only fun, but also a great source of motivation as it demonstrated that so much (both good and bad) can happen in one year. I’m looking forward to seeing what next week brings!


Week 4!

Monday, June 23, 2014 8:50 pm

People always told me that internships help you figure out what you don’t want to do more so than help you find your dream job. I never really believed this but there are certain aspects of my internship and day-to-day tasks that are helping me narrow down what I don’t want to do in my professional future. I’ve never been in an office environment before and now I’m sitting in an office Monday-Friday, 9-5pm. I always thought I didn’t want a “9-5″ job but after working here for almost a month, I realized I really like the structure. I love coming to work at the same time everyday, leaving the same time everyday, and coming back to my apartment and not having to think about work. Although my experience as an unpaid intern is probably different from the paid employees at the nonprofit, my internship supervisors tell me they try not to work/answer emails once they come home after work. I also realized that I want a collaborative work environment. Within this nonprofit, everyone is running their own individual projects and there are not many group meetings or discussions (usually only once a week). For the most part, everyone sits in their cubicle and attends to tasks by themselves. I think I want a more interactive and team-oriented work culture in the future. I am so grateful to be learning so much and can’t wait for the second half of my internship!

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