Summer Entrepreneurial Experiences

During May 2017...

Neighbor Week 2

Monday, May 29, 2017 4:43 pm

Or project has reached a major mile stone last week, as we have started the software development process. Our core development team is based in Romania and is a four-person team with developers specialized in mobile development, database and backend development, front end development, etc. In addition to the core team in Romania, do we also have an engagement team based here in North Carolina. This team consist of engagement and UI/UX specialists.

When we started this company, we weren’t aware of the additional attention that we need for all legal issues. Due to this we have now contract lawyers for tax/accounting, business and IP. Since my partner and I are not US citizens we needed to an immigration lawyer to the mix.

The last core part of our team I haven’t mentioned yet is a designer in Berlin. She is currently designing our corporate identity which is everything from a logo, font type, colors, etc. In addition to a designer in Berlin, is this also the place where our investor is based.

Philipp and my tasks on an operational stand point is to manage out our team and especially make sure they have always what they need to be able to perform at their best. I would consider this part more the operational aspect. Additionally, to the operational part, obviously, we are also working very hard to find markets and deal with potential clients and partners.

The last two weeks we have spent most of our time on deciding what parts of our vision will end up in a MVP and how quickly do we want this developed and where are we going to test it. We finalized on a 3-phase project structure. We are planning on having a beta version released in mid-July a are currently in negotiation with potential test markets. The second release will be in mid-August and we are planning to do a full launch at two or three locations at the same time. Lastly, we are planning on finishing the third phase in mid-September. This release will bring many additional features.

The following week will be crucial as we have schedule meetings with core strategic partners, which outcomes can change the direction of the company significantly.

Week 3 at P.S. Snacks

Monday, May 29, 2017 9:19 am

This week, I was helping with the production/operations of the cookie dough, doing demos, and preparing for what was needed to be done in preparation for my boss leaving the country for the next two weeks.

On Wednesday and Thursday, which are my typical days helping with production, we managed to crank out 6 batches of cookie dough. This is all in preparation for supplies needed for demos and if new online orders come through. Also, in the next couple weeks we will be sending our cookie dough to social influencers so that they can advertise our product through their various social media channels which will increase our exposure and brand awareness.

On Tuesday, I spent a couple of hours at a Whole Foods in the D.C. area where I sampled our three flavors of dough to the shoppers that were there during the time window. For every customer, there’s a specific “pitch” to give them, stressing the key values of the P.S. Snacks company such as indulging with a clean conscience and that you can eat it completely raw! Through this pitch I also explain the ingredients that make up the dough, different ways you can use it, and the health benefits of it. I also answered a variety of questions that were specific to certain consumers lifestyle’s and diets. Demoing is not only a great way to sell dough and to create brand awareness but also a way to gather information about the type of consumers we are attracting. At this demo in particular, we reached the family and male segments the most. This is an interesting observation because normally the male segments aren’t as interested in the cookie dough, which is one marketing element we have been working on. Demoing is a great way to put a face to the cookie dough and explain in-person why the cookie dough is such an amazing product.

Lastly this week, we prepared for Nikki’s absence for the next couple of weeks since she will be traveling. For the upcoming weeks, I will be in charge of posting and other activity on her Instagram and we also discussed various plans of action in case new online orders came in.

I’m enjoying the multiple different tasks that I have here at P.S. Snacks, it allows me to see multiple areas of a start-up business and how they are all important for success!

How the Nation’s Highest Court is Helping Startups

Friday, May 26, 2017 2:20 pm

This summer I will be working on three of my own ventures, all with unique intellectual property (IP) claims. I believe that IP protection is critical to innovation. Without protection of ideas, individuals cannot reap the full benefits of their inventions and subsequently focus less on research and development. The complex systems of IP and patent law have fascinated me ever since we filed our first patent on our EZ Cork technology. EZ Cork (operating as Simpull Cork) is an integrated loop system in synthetic cork which allows a consumer to open a wine bottle without the use of external tools and for the original cork to be placed back into the bottle and reused. Now that we are in the thick of the patenting process, I am trying to learn as much as I can about the US patent system. Recently The Supreme Court handed down a ruling that will affect all of us with IP claims, so I wanted to share.

Background

The Supreme Court recently ruled on TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods which began as a simple patent infringement suit, but quickly took national significance as it called into question where cases like these could be tried. Until the Supreme Court’s ruling this week, patent lawsuits could be heard all across the country, giving companies the opportunity to seek out courts where the odds were tilted in their favor. This led to a kind of clustering, where a handful of federal courts became responsible for deciding a huge number of patent cases. One major example is the Eastern District of Texas, which is notorious both for hearing a lot of patent infringement cases and also for handing accusers big wins.

What Does It Means to Us

This ruling is a big deal, particularly for small companies. The court voted unanimously to say that patent lawsuits should be tried where the defending company is based, rather than in a court of the plaintiff’s choosing. Legal analysts say this decision could shift a huge number of cases away from “plaintiff-friendly” districts and toward more “neutral” venues where a defending company stands a better chance of fending off a suit.

Startups often worry about being sued by firms that simply hold a lot of patents, but don’t use them to manufacture any goods. These are called “nonpracticing entities,” or “patent trolls,” because their main source of revenue comes from suing companies for infringement and hoping they settle, rather than using their patents to create things. Trolls lose if the company it’s targeting calls its bluff — if it takes the nonpracticing entity to court and wins. This becomes more likely, analysts say, if patent cases can be heard in venues other than the ones that trolls prefer. If startups can spend less time and money on frivolous lawsuits, they can reinvest those resources into further innovation.

Neighbor Week 1

Wednesday, May 24, 2017 1:28 pm

I am going to work on my own venture this summer. The product I am creating is “Neighbor”, a peer2peer delivery platform on top of a mobile ordering system. So, what does that mean:

Mobile Ordering

Students, Faculty and Stuff can use the Neighbor application to order on-campus food services more conveniently. After a quick sign-up users can choose from all available campus stores. Once decided on a store the user can select different menu items and can place an order for pick-up. Payment is processed within the Neighbor application (accepting all major credit cards as well as all meal plan currency). After placing an order the user receives an order ID. This ID needs to be presented at the store to receive the order.

Delivery

Peer2peer delivery builds on top of the mobile ordering systems. Every community member with a certified @schoolname.edu e-mail address is eligible to fulfill orders. We are developing an algorithm that matches users with relevant orders for delivery. The system allows to leverage the excess capacity of daily on-campus commutes of students, faculty and stuff. Users can earn points that can be applied to future orders.

Neighbor differentiates its self mostly due its user experience, by providing a fun, social and food centric solution for its users. Besides a basic select a store, choose items and pay, Neighbor has a fun interface that prompts users constantly new meal combinations and options. This leads to a “tinder” like experience for food – you don’t want it swipe left, you want it swipe right and you will be right at check-out. In addition, we are already developing social components where users can take a picture of via the app ordered food and can share it will all their friends. Users can now, also with a single swipe, order what their friends have ordered.

My responsibility is about everything. From starting the company, acquiring the right partners, selling to universities, managing the development team and talking care of daily operations. I am doing this venture together with a fellow deacon, Philipp Wendler.

Throughout this summer, the goal is to finish development, strengthen investor relationships to hopefully have a successful round of funding in late August and sign deals with a couple of places to start operating in August.

I am based in Winston Salem. Here is also our engagement development team, however, the core developers are sitting in Romania. Philipp is currently in Europe and is analyzing and evaluating possible market entry options in that region.

RLM Associates Week 2

Monday, May 22, 2017 12:10 pm

RLM Associates and the related companies and start-ups are all very friendly and very family-oriented places. They allow for a lot of flexibility and everyone is casual and welcoming. Within this group, I work with CEO Bob Mikals to help link and coordinate between the many sections of the companies to ensure that movement forward is quick and simple.

This week at RLM-Associates we focused primarily and moving forward with the tasks we started last week. We started by setting up a study that is volunteer-based to begin data collection for the third book in the “Forks in the Road” book series. This included buying a domain and setting up the necessary components for the website, including emails and content. Additionally, it included the communications needed to set the site up originally as well as any adjustments that were needed. In terms of content, the study guidelines, rules, directions, and information formats all had to be drafted and then edited. We’re hoping to have the website up and running by next week with all of the wanted corrections and additions. I also created a simulation for the estimated cost of this study based on the number of participants and their level of involvement.

Additionally, for one of the books in the series we were hoping to have some research done. For this we created a profile of what areas of research were needed and which format would be most helpful to have the information turned in in. This was all written up and will be given to the necessary individuals by early next week.

Finally, the final touches were added to the first and second book in the series. First, we added to the website an introduction that was created and focused on the target audience for the books. We also created a description for the books for both the website as well as to accompany the online sales format. Additionally, I went through and registered the ISBN numbers so that they were linked to these titles and series specifically on a universal level. The final revisions were made to the novels themselves. First, I went through and changed all of the noted edits from the last editor. To finish things up I went through and formatted everything. Each book was formatted and edited to match a format that was given by the publishing company. This included changes to the margins, font size, headers, page numbers, as so on. I then went through and counted the spaces between each chapter and each paragraph and so on to make sure they were 100% uniform.

Next week were hoping to add the cover to this final format and launch the necessary marketing campaigns that go with these novels. We will also launch the related crowd funding projects. I’m excited to see this first project come together and am hoping to have it nearly finished by the end of next week.

Week 2

Sunday, May 21, 2017 5:07 pm

This week was cool because at the end of the week I got to be a part of two events that we were sampling product at. During the first four days of the week, I also worked on reaching out to social media influencers that could advertise our product on their Instagram accounts or their blogs. I sent out emails to over 100 people and was going to send out more but the initial response was so unexpectedly overwhelming! I had no idea how quickly they would all respond and that they all wanted to try the cookie dough! We also ordered special gifts just for the influencers to send to them once we send them dough to make it a personalized gift. I’m hoping to start sending product to them in the coming weeks.

On Friday and Sunday, I participated in two tastings. On Friday, the marketing manager and I went to an event called “Daybreaker” where a huge amount of people gathered on the Kennedy Center rooftop at 6am for yoga followed by a dance party with a DJ from 7:30am to 9am. We got there around 7:30am and by the time we got there all of our donated product had already been eaten and we got very positive feedback from all the participants. It was a very cool event that I’ve never heard of but it was fun dancing on a rooftop with a view of the monuments at 7:30 in the morning!

On Sunday, I went to a SoulCycle studio in the district by myself to do a sampling for three separate classes. Some of the riders had already tried our cookie dough in the past, and many were eager to try it for the first time. It was a great experience meeting new people and customers as well as the staff that was working at SoulCycle. Doing samplings at places that have similar values as our brand is nice because more people are interested in our product and like it.

I really enjoy collaborating with other events and companies to increase our exposure to different target markets and I’m very quickly realizing that that’s something I would love to do in a future career. Working and meeting with different people is a great way to network while also getting feedback on the product.

Week 1 at RLM Associates

Tuesday, May 16, 2017 5:45 pm

This summer I will be interning with RLM Associates. RLM Associates is a consulting firm based near Cleveland, Ohio. It specializes in the business consulting of start-up companies. I will be working most closely with a software company who is in the development and funding stage. I will also be working with Krumor, a company which produces and sells thermocouples at an industrial level, MySmartPath, another software package company, and Forks In The Road, a book series. My tasks this summer will involve all of these companies and will include objectives such as editing and publishing the first book in the “Forks In The Road” series and crowdfunding for various innovation projects. I will be working directly under CEO Robert Mikals. Each morning I report to him and fill him in on any progress that was made and then work through anything else that has come up. Around 12:00 Mr. Mikals leaves the office and I continue with the tasks I am given.

Until June I am the only intern that is working with all of these companies, so it was a busy first week. Mr. Mikals started Monday off by introducing me to all of the companies and where they were in terms of patents, marketing, development, and funding. From there he had my create a timeline for each company of all the things that were needed in order to get them from the stage they were at to being launched and actively selling products. After this I began working through each of these tasks in order to have them completed by the end of May.

For Krumor this week I went through and determined which permanent positions were needed and which internship positions were needed. From there I created a profile for each position and formalized this. The final step was to put all of the information into the formats that each advertising company preferred and then send them out. So far responses are at a satisfactory number but we’re wanting to give it another 15-20 days before we make final decisions.

For Forks In The Road book series, I went through and bought the domain that was wanted to create a website. From there I contacted a web-designer who was able to create the site and get it up and running by Thursday. Additionally, I researched and picked the self-publishing avenue that we will use for each book in the series and then bought the needed universal ISBN numbers.

Finally, I set up a marketing plan that included crowdfunding for each company in which it was needed. This also included the making of multimedia for a couple of the campaigns. I outsourced the artistic work and am excited to see what the first versions look like this coming week.

Next week I’ll have to combine all the media outlets we set up with the artistic work and a few other elements to finalize crowd sourcing campaigns, websites, and media coverage.

Week 1 at P.S. Snacks

Saturday, May 13, 2017 3:24 pm

The start-up that I’m interning for for the next eight weeks is P.S. Snacks, formerly known as Slender Seven. Founded by a Wake Forest alum, Nikki Azzara, P.S. Snacks sells healthy, eggless, gluten free, and vegan raw cookie dough that’s actually good for you because it’s bean-based. Currently, P.S. Snacks is producing and selling three flavors of cookie dough: chocolate chip, peanut butter (both of which are chickpea based), and fudge brownie (which is black bean based) around the D.C. area and online. Last summer, I helped Nikki with the rebranding of her company, but this summer her company is in a completely different stage. My main tasks this summer are going to be to help with production, conduct in-store and out of store demos of the product, and increase the social media presence and exposure of the brand.

Starting on Monday, I met with Nikki to discuss the main objectives and tasks I will have during my time as an intern for her company. Additionally, I went to the production area that we have designated to us at Union Kitchen, a food incubator, to help the operations/production manager scoop and seal the dough so that is was ready for sale.

The rest of the week I was also spending most of my time during the first half of the day with the production of the cookie dough which involved batching out the ingredients, blending them together, scooping them into the packaging, and finally sealing them and packing them in boxes for delivery. One of the goals that Nikki and our operations/production manager hope to accomplish in the near future is to find a co-packer that will take on these responsibilities. This means that they will be able to manufacture our product so that we don’t have to produce it on such a small scale. As exposure and interest for P.S. Snacks is growing, this will be vital to ensuring that we can complete all of our orders for dough.

Another task I worked on a lot this week was reaching out to companies such as Lululemon and SoulCycle to collaborate on tasting events. Though I’m still going to be doing demos at Whole Foods, we are also trying to collaborate with companies that share similar lifestyles and have the same target market that we do. I set future dates with two Soul Cycle studios and one Lululemon store, with hopefully more to follow in the upcoming weeks.

Lastly, throughout the week, I put together a spreadsheet of media outlets and celebrities we could reach out to that share similar values as the P.S. Snack company to increase our exposure and to get more people to try our dough and spread awareness about it.

For the next 8 weeks, my main tasks will be collaborating with other brands and increasing awareness of P.S. Snacks via many channels. I’m excited for what’s to come during this internship and all the skills I will acquire!

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