Summer Entrepreneurial Experiences

During June 2015...

A Day in the Life

Tuesday, June 30, 2015 5:45 pm

My day starts promptly at 4:30 AM. There is no need for an alarm clock here in the DR, thanks to the lovely gang of roosters who hang outside my window. Since its impossible to get back to sleep once my bird friends decide to give me a wakeup call, I typically roll of out bed (drenched in sweat from a 90 degree, no AC kind of night), grab my sneakers, and head out for a quick run. Back in the States, I love running. I’m one of those freaks who can enjoy 10 miles before class or break a six minute mile without breaking a sweat.Here on the island, not so much. Considering I’ve resorted to sprinting down the boardwalk while crying hysterically in terror as stray dogs chase after me, morning runs have quickly turned from my daily dose of therapy to my very own personal nightmare. The fact that pedestrians have ZERO right of way or that I live on top of a monstrous hill does not help my case either. If I wasn’t habitually ingesting my body weight in rice and pina coladas, I probably would skip exercise entirely; but, alas, at least I’m building character.

After my pathetic excuse for a run, I head straight to the shower to check whether or not my house has running water that day. It’s very hit or miss in the Dominican, so the answer is often no and I must opt for the handy shower bucket or half a pack of baby wipes in order to rinse off. My host mom, Sara, is a phenomenal cook and she has declared it her mission from God to put some meat on my shrimpy frame so breakfast usually consists of a delicious spread of coffee, fruit, a homemade smoothie, and three grilled cheese sandwiches.

I usually get to the office just in time for the 8:00 AM morning meeting—although I could not tell you in the least what is discussed. I naively thought I would come into this internship and quickly pick up Spanish out of pure necessity and immersion. Unfortunately, over a month has gone by and that has not been my experience. Progress is slow with a capital S. I developed a habit of rotating a response of “no comprendo” “no entiendo” or simply “Que???” after every question thrown my way that isn’t “Como estas?” My Connecticut accent is probably the sorriest thing you have ever heard speaking Dominican Spanish because nobody ever has the slightest clue what I’m saying. Even when I know I am talking 100% grammatically correct, Dominicans never understand a word coming out of my mouth. You cannot imagine how discouraging it is to carefully plan out a simple statement only to be met with the response of “no hablo ingles.” It takes every ounce of self-control my body has to not lurch forward and scream “I’M NOT SPEAKING ENGLISH!!”

After the morning meeting, I head out to conduct my interviews in the field. (I discussed this practice & its impact on me in great detail in my previous blog post) I’m typically back in the office around 2:00 PM, just in time for lunch. My coworkers cook a communal meal, which, unfortunately for me, limits my vegetarian options to a line-backer portion of plain rice and, if I’m really lucky, a side of beans. After turning myself into a rice dumpling, the remainder of my day is spent using my photos and interviews to create written stories and marketing material for Esperanza to use in attracting donors. Thankfully, I get to do all my writing in English, which makes my job a lot easier. I genuinely love the work I’m doing and the organization I work for, so I’m never bored gathering or creating content. I’m really excited about the fusion between a financially-based company and the more creative/writing-intensive aspects of my job. It’s made me think a lot about my future and different career opportunities I might be able to apply my accounting degree towards.

After work, I like to treat myself to an ice-cream cone and sit on the pier while taking in the gorgeous Caribbean scenery. The blue waters, the white sand, the lush green coconut trees—it never gets old. I end my day with another fantastic (usually fried) meal prepared by Sara and an episode of Caso Cerrado (think Latina Judge Judy meets Dr. Phil meets Divorce Court). My host family has two kids around my age, but we’ve long since exhausted all 3 possible conversations I’m capable of conducting in Spanish so after an episode or two I usually retire to my room. Since I have no Wifi and little electricity, I spend a couple chapters holed up in my mosquito net with a flashlight and Atlas Shrugged before passing out from exhaustion—at 8:30 pm.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015 3:01 pm

NanoMedica is unusual in that the culture is unlike anything I have ever seen. There isn’t a hierarchy of power in the company. The president checks the lab manager, but the lab manager also checks the president. The dynamic is also very interesting adding interns, because interns are expected to check the lab manager, and the president as well. This creates an environment where there are no titles, and collaborations can be made without any limitations. Because Roger has set up his business in this manner, everything from failures to successes are shared and evaluated as a team. This makes the working environment free of stress from the other team members. And because the company is so small, individual work is almost required, but the work is still centered on the team.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015 2:49 pm

Over the past few weeks, a lot has changed. I came into this internship thinking I would be working on one project, but to my surprise, my research advisor has called an audible, and now, I am working on a completely different project! Although, I was very surprised, the skills and techniques I have learned so far, are much more suitable for this new project. One thing for which I am the most proud is running an experiment in the lab on my own. This experiment involved multiple steps, multiple hours of incubation, and hours of analysis. This experiment ultimately failed, however, I in my failure, I learned so much. Now, I am running analysis for each step to determine where there was a mistake. By the end of my experience, I hope to learn how to execute experiments to obtain concrete data that can be used to answer a predetermined question. By the way, it took me over 9 hours to complete the experiment, and although it failed, those were probably the most enjoyable 9 hours I have experienced so far.

Collaboration is the Name of the Gamed

Tuesday, June 30, 2015 2:36 pm

NanoMedica is a very interesting company. Although, NanoMedica is a fairly small company, it seems as though NanoMedica has it’s hands in so many other companies that are both large and small. The president of NanoMedica is Dr. Roger Cubicciotti. Roger is the most interesting man I may have ever met. His brain moves in so many directions at any given second that many times I have to catch myself from staring with my mouth open! In talking with Roger, I found out that NanoMedica had a humble beginning. Roger first conceived the company in his garage, where often he conducted his experiments. Roger had his formal training in Medicinal related research, and he was inspired by nanotechnology, and how he could incorporate his ever so growing ideas and plans into a business model. He has made his business into a reputable one that seeks to better medicine through nanotechnology. Roger has done amazing things with this business. He has tackled growing pains, by collaboration through mutual benefit. NanoMedica is located in Biotech Place in the Deora Lab. NanoMedica through collaboration works on specific projects for Dr. Deora, who provides NanoMedica with much needed lab space; a mutually beneficial collaboration. Roger is always collaborating and networking his business.

Looking to Expand?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015 9:00 am
Patriotic cake pops!

Patriotic cake pops!

My very first dummy cake, now on display at the bakery!


Ice cream worth it in this summer heat!

Ice cream sammies…so worth it in this summer heat!

Chelsea Tart's brightly colored dummy cake.

Chelsea Tart’s brightly colored dummy cake.

Last week's newlyweds dropped by to deliver a special thank you to the bakers who made a very special wedding cake!

Last week’s newlyweds dropped by to deliver a special thank you to the bakers who made a very special wedding cake!


Lynn and Chelsea Tart have done it. They have survived nearly two years of storefront success with Tart Sweets and have come far enough to consider the option of expanding the store. While too many customers is a good problem to have, sometimes it can seem a bit overwhelming when the three of us are practically bumping into one another in the limited kitchen space. Hence, the owners’ arrival at the decision that it is simply time to expand.

Moving is never convenient, but in this phase of the growth of their business, it is the obvious choice. Keep your eyes out for a new location with more seating, a wider product offering, and a larger kitchen so that Chelsea and Lynn won’t knock elbows and can really take off the way that they have always envisioned.

Meanwhile, summer weeks have gotten slower since kids are out of school and families are going out of town for vacation. Chelsea and her mother are preparing for the big 4th of July holiday and the bakery is being covered in red, white, and blue from top to bottom.

They have given me the special opportunity to work on some “dummy cakes” for them. These are fake cakes (made from styrofoam so they will not spoil) which are stacked and decorated as a regular cake would be to be placed on display around a bakery. This way, customers can see what the bakers at Tart Sweets are capable of and will be more inclined to purchase custom-designed cake orders.

Keep your eyes peeled for my Monster’s Inc. themed cake coming in next week’s post!




Rinse and Repeat

Monday, June 29, 2015 9:16 pm

You first hear about the scientific method in middle school: question, hypothesis, experiment, conclusion, repeat. However, in most of our minds, the “repeat” part gets left out. Sure they say it’s important, but no 6th grader thinks anything after the bubbling paper mache volcano is very interesting. One of the lessons I’ve learned over the last several weeks is how much repeating in good science their actually is. For example, it occurred more than once that I would run a seemingly simple experiment only to be looking at the data to realize some fatal flaw: some small but consequential variable had not been accounted for or my technique wasn’t quite right. Even with all the knowledge we have in today’s society, the process of trial and error is often forefront in many a scientific endeavor. Even looking into the future, with all due conscience, weeks of “playing with the science” in an effort to determine how best to go about answering a certain question is inevitable. This is not a complaint, but a realization and a new-found appreciation for the common researcher. Not to mention, a shocking realization of how far humanity has progressed over the last century despite this tedious process. Almost mind-boggling really.

Wrap Up

Monday, June 29, 2015 6:35 pm

As I complete last process of my internship, I can barely believe how fast time has gone by. I have missed so many things in the states and I have felt I have been living in a different world for the last month. I learned a lot during my experience here in Nicaragua and I am eager to share when I get back. This past week I gathered all of my research from the my trips to the communities and I began making my presentation. There has been so many loose ends to tie up before I leave. So far based on my observations, there is a potential for a few microbusinesses in the area to grow and expand. Some included a cheese and cream business, boat fabrication business and coconut oil farm. It really is incredible how these mini businesses are so successful without proper energy or equipment. One thing I found particularly interesting in Nicaragua is the accounting structure they have. There, business owner have to keep a written ledger of all sales transactions. It is actually an efficient system because after every transaction they mark down the sale. No need for an outside accountant here. Though in terms of efficiency, many of the money making business tactics are no used, the reality that this is understandable due to the lack of high level education here. In general, I have learned a lot about Nicaraguan business structure and I look forward to my last few days.


Summer with Franky’s Week 3 & 4

Monday, June 29, 2015 5:24 pm

Sorry for missing last week post!

About five years ago, Moria Lawlor’s father, a former Economics professor at Wake Forest, was diagnosed with a rare degenerative disease, Atypical Cerebellar Ataxia. The disease has since affected his motor skills, and over the past five years, he has slowly lost control of both his speech and limbs. Despite the many ups and downs of her father’s courageous battle, Moria has discovered a way to harness her passion in a way that makes a difference in her father’s life and the lives of those who have also been affected by this terrible disease.

The name of her company, Franky’s, also comes from the heart, and is one of many things that make her brand unique. “Franky is a nickname I called my Dad when I was little, when I came to his office, in the Wake Economics Department, after school to do my homework. My dad would sometimes come in pretending to be my student, ‘Franky,’ and I would teach him what I was learning in school.”

For every necklace that Moria sells, 20% of the proceeds are donated to The National Ataxia Foundation. The beauty behind Moria’s line lies in its mission and purpose. Cerebellar Ataxia has greatly affected her father’s mobility, but because of the impact and reach of Franky’s Jewelry, his traveling options have become limitless.

“I like to think that everywhere a Franky’s necklace goes, my Franky is there in spirit, even in spite of his mobility restrictions. So far, he’s “visited” Mexico, NYC, Prague, California, The DR, Switzerland, Portugal, Mardi Gras, the Alamo, and London. I love the idea that even though his mobility has been unfairly taken away, he can now “travel” to more places than he ever thought possible through all of the people who support Franky’s and the cause behind it.”

Franky’s is still a small start-up that has been gaining traction over the summer. Recently, several “Instagram-famous” girls and two boutiques have reached out to us about representing and selling our products. Despite this progress, there is still a lot of base work to accomplish before moving forward like creating the new Franky’s Jewelry website and finding a retail price. These are all kinks Moria and I are solving currently.

Hanky Panky: One of a Kind

Monday, June 29, 2015 2:53 am

To put it bluntly, Hanky Panky is one of a kind and the brand that has been created over the last 30+ years is a unique one. The color and youthfulness that the company brings to their designs separates them from other lingerie companies of the same stature whose main goal is to amp up the “sexiness” of their brand. Another quality that truly sets Hanky Panky apart from is competitors, as well as the majority of companies in the fashion industry, is that all their products are made in the USA. This fact is not only impressive but it is also what defines Hanky Panky as an environmentally conscious organization.

Although the company sees local production as one of their strongest and most important attributes, they must also contend with the challenges that exist as a result of not outsourcing. Being that they produce their products locally, the expenses to the company are significantly higher then they would be should Hanky Panky own high volume producing warehouses in other countries. This is a conscious decision made by the company to promote sustainability, by reducing carbon emissions that result from transportation, and to support healthy and fair working conditions. That being said, this movement does affect the price of and who is able to purchase their lingerie.

The 4811 original rise thong, introduced to the market in 1986, was trademarked “The World’s Most Comfortable Thong” and has been competing with a myriad of knock offs ever since. Although we would like to believe that the quality of and care that goes into a Hanky Panky garment makes it completely worth the price, shoppers who are not always aware of these qualities are likely to seek out a cheaper option. This becomes especially apparent in the case of an identical garment sold by Victoria’s Secret in a 4 for $25 deal when compared to that single matching panty sold by Hanky Panky for $20.

Although this is an issue that Hanky Panky must contend with, it is one that they choose in order to uphold the integrity of their product. By continually promoting domestic production, Hanky Panky not only supports the environment and their workers but also their loyal customers who value and cherish the thoughtfulness of Hanky Panky Lingerie.

Continuously Learning

Sunday, June 28, 2015 10:12 pm
It is now halfway through my internship summer at Handshake in Palo Alto, and I have started to notice how much I have learned in the past four weeks.
When I arrived on the first week, I realized that Handshake writes all its software in a language I had no clue about. However, in the span of four weeks, I have managed to learn the language, Ruby on Rails, and be comfortable following along with the engineering discussions. There were times in the first few weeks where I was completely lost and needed guidance. I was surprised to see how helpful the other engineers were with helping me out, despite how busy they were. They showed me tricks and tools that I would never learn in the classroom, and their reasons for writing certain lines of code were always spot on.
I just wrapped up a month long project creating some internal engineering tools for the company, an now I am moving on to some more business-related aspects like developing partnerships with other companies. That is the beauty of working in startups – your job changes by the week. Some days I will be programming, and others I will be in a business-like position developing partnerships. You learn to wear a lot of different hats and handle different kinds of priorities.
What has surprised me is how quickly a team of 20 employees can build a product that rivals their bigger competitors. When each team member has an essential role in the development of the company, I have noticed that they tend to put more time and effort into their tasks. The engineers and sales teams work Saturdays and Sundays to meet the tight deadlines and high expectations of both the investors as well as customers.
By the end of the summer, I hope to have a clear understanding of where the company is heading and how the growth of the company can truly improve it’s success.
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