Summer Entrepreneurial Experiences

During August 2015...

Promising progress!

Monday, August 24, 2015 12:12 am

So I’ve been sort of slacking on the blog posts, but I figured I can complete the eighth as I continue my work with Minds Renewed into the school year. Currently I am getting settled into my new room on campus, so the past few days have been a little hectic. Earlier in the week my supervisor and I had a conference call with marketing expert Doug Shouse where we went over moving forward with the survey design. He gave us very positive feedback and gave us the thumbs up to go ahead and send the 7 question open-ended survey out to the 30 or so test participants. Mr. Mills then sent this survey out to some of his friends as a test run and to see if they had any additional feedback on how to improve the final survey. So far we have gotten 4 responses which have provided some good commentary on the survey’s pros and cons. We plan on using these responses to tweak the open-ended survey we will be sending out to a larger sample of participants at a later date. This was a short blog post, as I am headed out the door to see some friends I haven’t seen all summer. Yay being back on campus!

Actually Back at Wake

Friday, August 21, 2015 7:03 pm

While I never really felt like I left, I am now back to residing here at Wake Forest. This marks the “end” of my summer of research and thus, as my last post of this project, I would like to close with a brief summary of what I managed to do.

Essentially, my time with Anabaena spp. has led to two observations and one minor experiment. The first observation is the sterotypical “s-curve” of population dynamics fits to the organisms in our, lab-grown environment. The purpose of this was to fine tune further experimentation by determining in what time frame do our cultures reach full density. To test this, I used a device which scans the “optical density” of different cultures overtime. Optical density is related to how much light the culture absorbs — the denser the culture, the more light absorbed. This relates directly to the population density of a culture and thus was scientifically useful. We determined that our cultures reached density in about 5 days.

The second observation was regarding heterocyst frequency. Recall that heterocysts are differentiated cells whose sole function is to produce nitrogen. Based on the initial observation and some other, minor ones, that there may have been an indirect correlation between optical density and heterocyst frequency. It was theorized by my advisor that this may have been a genetic trade off — that the Anabaena could be dense or good at making nitrogen, but not both. Thus, we attempted to determine how heterocyst frequency varied over time and if it appeared hereditary. Samples of each culture were placed on hemocytometers — special microscope slides with grids — and heterocyst vs. vegatative cell counts were performed daily. Sadly, no conclusive results were produced.

The “experiment” was more out of scientific curiosity than need. Since my adviser’s lab is first and foremost a lab dedicated to evolution experimentation with yeast, it was posited that we might use yeast in some way in my research. It was thought that if normal yeast, who are incapable of producing their own nitrogen, could grow on the supplemented supernatant of centrifuged Anabaena cultures, then it would indicate some small amount of produced nitrogen. Thus, I spend about a week attempting to grow yeast in this manner. It was challenging because the yeast maintain a small store of nitrogen from its previous environment after transfer and cultures had to be acclimated over time to eliminate this surplus. This too proved rather inconclusive, likely due to poor design on my part.

So far, that is what I’ve accomplished. The first part of the summer was basically consumed be the development of culture production and maintenance so experimentation came late into the game. However, research is most definitely a marathon, not a sprint. For example, there is data coming out now from long term evolution experiments 20+ years in the making — tens of thousands of generations of organisms like E. coli and yeast and how they change and adapt over time. So really, I’m in no hurry.

I hope that those of you who read these few blurbs enjoyed them as much as I have enjoyed the experience behind them.


Friday, August 21, 2015 4:00 pm

As the summer closes and I reflect over my work thus far with Minds Renewed, I am pleased with all of the progress that has been made. Lucy, myself, and several volunteers have worked tirelessly collecting contact information and emailing thousands of therapists nationwide. While all of the emails have been sent and a good number of responses have been recorded, it is time to design the survey and send it out to the therapists who agreed to take it. As Lucy so thoroughly described in her latest post, the first survey will consist of open-ended questions to give us an idea of the feasibility of MR, as well as how some of the logistics will be worked out, and if it’s an idea that mental health care workers would be interested in. While I myself am not taking part in the design of the survey questions (this is what Lucy, our marketing expert, and Mr. Mills are tackling), I am still working to get the involvement of minority therapists. My latest phone call was very beneficial, as I was given a number of people to contact, as well as organizations to look into. Other than that, most of my work is complete for now. Like Lucy, I will also be sending out surveys and continuing to work during the school year, in an effort to get MR up and rolling. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but I am confident that MR is well on its way and that our efforts this summer, though seemingly endless, have put us a step closer to our end goal.

Week 8

Thursday, August 20, 2015 6:42 pm

I believe that my project turned out well. My time here has been very busy. The students said that they learned a lot during the training.
I ended up creating a Nicaragua-specific medical glossary and made a copy for each of the students. I also made a course pack that we used during the training which ended up being two half-day sessions. I also set up the training in a way that my supervisor will be able to reproduce it.
The best part was that it was a project that I am passionate about. The worst parts were the hours I spent trying to get the formatting exactly right and then the program would crash on you before you had a chance to save it. Or also manually creating all of the course packs and dictionaries was very labor intensive. Printing out every single page, making sure it fit right, so many edits, the printer doesn’t collate so you have to manually organize all of the pages in piles, cutting all of the pages, binding all of the booklets. In the end they turned out nicely though.
Also, I need to work on transitions. I do not have much background in education so when I was giving the training and I knew that we needed to move on to a different topic, I did not know the smoothest way sometimes.
The most exciting thing was actually giving the training at the end of my time. The entire time was a big learning experience. I am glad that I did it.

Shifting the Focus to Survey Design

Sunday, August 16, 2015 9:30 pm

I’ve finally finished sending out all of the emails to the counselors we located through Psychology Today. Since we haven’t been getting as a high of a response rate as had expected, Mr. Mills sent me the link to another organization made up of counselors, therapists, and psychologists who identify with the Christian religion called “Samaritan Institute”. With this new database, you can search Samaritan Institutes by state and view their websites as well as connect with them. To up the amount of participants in our survey, I recorded information for staff members who are a part of these institutes nationwide. The next step will be to reach out to these Christian Counselors and hopefully add to the pool of positive survey participants.

We are almost done with the completion of the first survey (the survey that will provide the framework in helping us to create survey #2). We generated a list of broad, open-ended questions that we will be sending out to a sample of therapists from whom we received positive responses to our email inquiry. So far the list of questions looks like this:

a. Describe a few ways your Christian faith affects your daily life.
b. Describe a few ways your Christian faith impacts your decisions to volunteer your time.
c. Describe a few ways your Christian faith impacts your decisions to support charitable causes.
d. Describe some reasons that serving those impacted with mental illness is important to you.
e. What factors would go into a decision by you to accept a nomination to serve in a volunteer group of Christians dedicated to serving those who are impacted by mental illness?
f. What factors might make you hesitant to accept a nomination for such a group?
g. If asked to nominate others for such a group, about how many names could you easily supply?

We are going to run the questions by Doug Shouse, a marketing specialist, to ensure that we are on the right track and that these questions cover the range of topics we should be inquiring possible future consortium members about. The next step will be creating a survey monkey account and designing this initial survey. There are still plans to conduct an online focus group with possible consortium members which will also be a point of conversation for the meeting with Doug Shouse.

Since we are just starting to design the surveys, it looks like I will be continuing my work with Minds Renewed into the school year. Once we receive the responses from survey #1, I will have to read them all and note similar responses that are seen among participants. This will be time consuming, but will be crucial for designing the second survey and continuing the growth of the organization.

Wah Wah We Wa

Friday, August 14, 2015 10:16 pm

What a summer experience to remember for the ages-from walking in the house on the first time in the house only to find everyone left for Los Angeles, to seeing a company first-hand grow at such an exponential rate, to having the opportunity to continue working during the school year and beyond. It is hard looking back at it all and imagining the dreadful summer that was heading towards me in Washington DC, suit and tie, entry-level position, unpaid, pretty much B-word work in 100+ degree weather. After taking over the customer support team and being one of only three people taking care of hundreds of employers, career services and student requests, it is still a process and will continue to be a process. 15-20 employees trying to meet the demands of 60+ universities and its respective employers and students is a task that seems impossible, because it pretty much is; keeping head above water is an A+ in my book. The best part of it all was just being exposed to so much in so little time; seeing how thousands and thousands of companies we all know today are made; it takes a lot of heart, a lot of guts and a lot of resilient teamwork. Being biking distance from Google, Facebook, Tesla, HP and seeing how those companies operate on a daily basis and how their work culture succeeds is a rare opportunity and it taught me so much about the world that has yet to come. Someone told me that Silicon Valley right now is “like Florence during the Renaissance; it is a movement that will be remembered forever and will shape the future of mankind”. Bold statement, but it is pretty damn accurate.


The most exciting part was just hearing the plans Handshake has for the future. Usually a lot of companies are very close-minded and do not release to their employees, let alone interns, the direction and the investments a company is planning to make. I got to hear it all, and I even got to chime in and give my input on many of the decisions that they make. I never really realized how important a different perspective is to a company, you only see something from one set of eyes. It is absolutely imperative to receive constant quality feedback and you need to see criticism as optimism. Yes there is financial motivation, but there is such a powerfully extrinsic motivation these employees have that they are willing to throw everything on the line and set a new definition for what working hard truly is, and just hoping it all works out in the end. The worst part was….the work. Never been on a computer as much as I was this summer. Don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Time will tell and my brain isn’t mush by the age of 40. If so, we’re all doomed.

Personal Goals

Friday, August 14, 2015 6:12 pm

Hello Internet,

Still waiting on things to happen. Reagents still haven’t all been delivered. Still unsure if I’ve managed to separate my contaminant from the organisms that I want there. I seem to have burnt out the bulb on my microscope and am now just waiting. So, for this week I’ve decided to share a little about the overall goals of this project.

If my design works as intended, it will provide a new source of nitrogen products in a much cleaner fashion. Since nitrogen is so necessary (particularly in agriculture) the hope is that cutting down on these things will help us cut down on the costs of producing these compounds. This is where the real use of this system would lie. Producing nitrogen compounds cheaper would likely make fertilizer more accessible to farmers. This has different effects on the farmer depending on his status in the agricultural world. The more wealthy farmer who can already afford to buy enough fertilizer to maximize crop yields saves a few bucks. He does a small money dance and maybe passes that on to the individuals in his employ, uses it to expand his business, etc. The small farmer, however, might, for the first time, be able to buy enough fertilizer to maximize his yields. With the higher yields, his family can eat a little better and perhaps even the community as a whole can benefit from the increased food production. The smallest farmer, previously unable to afford fertilizer at all except what he can scrape together from his animals, compost, etc., uses fertilizer for the first time and notices a large boost to his normal yield. His family, for once in their life, has enough food to eat. So much, in fact, that he has extra to share with his neighbors. In a few years, the malnutrition in the farmer’s community has been cut in half.

Now, that last part is a little grandiose, but it’s not entirely far-fetched. My research has indicated that there are many place such as regions of sub-Saharan Africa where farmers of all kinds no nothing of modern fertilizer simply because of their low income. It doesn’t take much to connect these low-income, low-yield farms to hunger and malnutrition. If we can provide them with the means to make more food, there’s no telling what can happen. Without fertilizer, crop yields are likely nowhere near where they could be because of the natural growth strategies of plants when it comes to resource allocation.

Again, perhaps that too is a bit of a stretch. However it is almost guaranteed that if the system that I am designing leads to cheaper fertilizer production it will lower the operational costs of farms and increase the global food supply. I’m hoping that this will help a few people. Honestly, that’s the main goal: to help people. That and make a few bucks to go towards my building college debts. That would be nice.

Back in the Forest

Sunday, August 9, 2015 11:38 pm

My first week of being back in North Carolina has been filled with beautiful weather, reuniting with friends, and…you guessed it, sending lots and lots of emails. My work down here is still pretty unstructured in the sense that I check in only weekly with my supervisor to go over updates and report my progress. I do most of the work outside of the Minds Renewed office base and in the comfort of my apartment or a nearby Starbucks. As I said before, sending out the emails to therapist after therapist does get very repetitive and the constant copying and pasting seems like the perfect formula for carpel tunnel syndrome, but the positive responses we’ve been receiving have been very encouraging and (as lame as it sounds) super exciting!

Now that I am back in NC, Mr. Mills gave me the duty of beginning the survey design process. Now that we’ve sent out thousands of emails and have willing participants, it’s time to create a survey that will allow us to gauge how willing and enthusiastic these Christian therapists/counselors/psychologists are about joining the new consortium as well as how feasible the business model for Minds Renewed really is. For example, part of MR’s business model relies on annual financial contributions from active members to fund the organization. We will need to discover, through the survey, what sort of things these members would see as good incentives to join the consortium- whether it be allowing them to advertise their practices through the website, creating a way for them to connect with other likeminded individuals, etc.

The plan is to have an initial survey composed of a few open-ended questions that will steer us in the right direction when creating a main survey. When we receive the answers from survey #1, we will tally similar responses and create survey #2’s questions based off of these common responses. So far, Mr. Mills and I have been brainstorming ideas for the open ended questions. We need the questions to be broad enough to capture enough information for forming the second survey, but also specific enough to get a sense of common opinions regarding the consortium’s aims and business model. I met with my research methods professor from last spring and we bounced a few ideas off of each other. He gave me some overall advice on survey design, as well as helped me tweak and narrow down the list of possible questions I’d generated to share the next time I meet with Mr. Mills. He seemed to think we were headed in the right direction and that our survey would result in very useful information for MR.

On a side note, just the experience of being back at school a month early has been very rewarding. I don’t have an on campus meal plan, so I’m learning how to cook a lot of new dishes. I’m enjoying the Carolina heat as opposed to the lukewarm temperature of a Maine summer. And I’m also glad to be back in the structured mindset of the school year.

Entrepreneurial Management at Swizzler

Friday, August 7, 2015 8:54 pm

Working at a startup this summer has taught me an incredible amount about leadership and entrepreneurial management. To be an effective leader in the entrepreneurial world, one must be organized, flexible, determined, and creative. Swizzler has been so successful in the past year because Jack, Jesse, and Ben all embody those characteristics and manage their business accordingly. The guys keep sales up, events running smoothly, and customer engagement high through superb organization. Their marketing campaigns are well-thought out and their success well recorded through social media analytics and data collection. They make sure to be on time and prepared for the events they attend and cater, solidifying their following in the DC area inside and outside of just the lunch hour. However, another key to their success is being able to be flexible as well as organized.

The guys, just like all small business owners and entrepreneurs, deal with countless problems every day. I would say that another large part of their success is due to the fact that they are organized and disciplined, making schedules and lists, while still leaving room for inevitable bumps in the road and unforeseen issues that they can solve through flexibility and creativity, another key factor in entrepreneurial management. As I mentioned in my last post, it is incredibly important to be creative in all aspects of the business to stand out from the competition in a saturated market like the food truck industry. However, I have also learned that creativity is just as valuable in the management and leadership of an entrepreneurial startup. Because Swizzler is such a new company with not a ton of available funds, the guys used creative means to get us excited about our jobs, rather than just monetary incentives. We explored new restaurants around the city after work, went to events around DC, traded food and made friends with countless other food trucks, and created a bond and sense of camaraderie that I believe was very unique and distinctive from the typical office culture you find in the corporate world. Through creative means, the boys were able to be incredibly effective leaders by making us feel like more than interns or employees, but rather members of the Swizz Family.

Headed to the Store

Friday, August 7, 2015 3:17 pm

At the beginning of the summer I set a deadline for myself to submit Spool to the app store by August 1. I have consistently heard about how Apple has very strict guidelines and that it was not uncommon to be rejected the first time, so I wanted to allow a bit of time to submit again in the case I would be rejected the first time. Well the other day I heard back from Apple, and to my surprise I was accepted. I can now release Spool to the public at any point. That being said, I still have a few final touches I want to finish up before that release and will be working feverishly to get them done before my next deadline – August 15th, the day that I have set for myself as my official launch day. In this case, I am still going to need to resubmit a Spool and get the new version approved. This should not take as long as the first approval process (which was a week), but I hope to finish these final bugs and issues by the end of the weekend/beginning of next week.

After I initially launch, I plan to get some of my immediate friends on board and expose friends/family via social media platforms such as FB, Instagram, and Twitter. In the next week or as the exact launch date becomes apparent, I am going to start planning a launch party during the day of Orientation Weekend to begin to expose Spool to Wake, which is my initial target audience. I have some ideas to get people involved at this party such as a live feed of the best Spools on a projector that people are creating at the party at that moment, enticing people to create funny Spools to get up on the big screen.

Well I better get to work, time’s ticking.

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