Summer Entrepreneurial Experiences

During July 2017...

Higher Art Galleries week #6

Monday, July 24, 2017 11:10 pm

Right now, Higher Art Galleries’ main goal is to organize and prepare ourselves to operate as a business while Brooke and Alexandra juggle careers in NYC and while I finish out senior year back at Wake Forest.

Our most pressing business that needs to get done before I move back to Winston this year is reincorporating in the state of New York and redrafting artist contracts. In the winter, we had filed for an LLC of “Higher Art Gallery” before realizing that all the social media handles and websites to that name were taken, so we quickly changed the name to “Higher Art Galleries.” However, because our LLC was “Higher Art Gallery,” writing and receiving checks became an issue. Long story short, we have decided the best way to fix this problem is reincorporating in New York. I plan to move to New York after graduation, and Brooke and Zanny already live there, so it definitely makes sense.

In addition, now that our business model has changed, and we commission our artists instead of simply showcasing their work, we need to create new/updated legal documents for our artists to sign. We are working with the Wake Forest Law Department on those documents, who have been extremely helpful.

Next week Brooke, Zanny, and I hope to complete all things on the legal front so that we can start uploading Wake Forest inspired art for purchase!

WeWork Update #4

Wednesday, July 19, 2017 1:03 pm

WeWork has been named the 5th most valuable startup in the world! Last week, our CEO called an all-employee meeting to announce some major changes/news. On the morning of the meeting, I had never seen the office so packed, everyone was excited and there was a buzz all around the office – camera crews and sound equipment everywhere, people packed together closer than on the subway, and the executive team up at the front giving the crowd very welcoming positive smiles. I felt like I was at an Apple Keynote or a ted talk. CEO Adam Neumann took the stage and made 3 major announcements:

The first announcement was that we had received additional funding from the Japanese firm SoftBank which raised our valuation to $20 billion! My team, enterprise sales, were influential in this investment as our sales numbers have grown exponentially since the beginning of the year. We’ve shown investors that WeWork is not only a small business workspace solution, but the premier global workspace partner for enterprise companies. Our little team feels like a startup within a startup – we’ve nearly doubled in size since I started a few months ago. We’ve seen unprecedented success and exceeded all of our goals – paving the way for many more exciting months to come for the company.

Although not specifically covered in the presentation, this announcement was very exciting because a $20 billion valuation places us right on the heels of companies like Uber and Airbnb and equivalent to Peter Thiel’s Palantir as the fifth most valuable startup company in the world. WeWork is a really interesting company, because while tech-based startups typically see these high valuations because of how easy it is to scale technology, we have received the same type of valuation as a real estate/services company. The future is very very bright for this company, and more people (and investors) are beginning to catch on.

The second major announcement was that we will be expanding our operations in Japan. As mentioned in the link above, WeWork plans on using some of SoftBank’s investment to expand operations in Japan and open as many as 20 new buildings in Tokyo. This is very exciting news because Japan presents the company with all new opportunities similar to those in London and New York where we have seen great success. Also, I believe that the WeWork team can make a significant impact on the toxic Japanese workplace culture. Members of the Japanese government have even recognized that there are serious issues with the way people work in Japan, and I think that WeWork’s focus on community and collaboration will fix a lot of these issues.

The third and final announcement was that WeWork has a new COO and refined organizational structure. This was perhaps the least exciting, but most interesting portion of the presentation. It’s amazing how many moving parts this company has created over the last 2-3 years or so, and at times things can get a little unorganized. By solidifying our internal structure, the company will run more efficiently. With the necessary leaders in place, we can operate with a clearer vision and eliminate redundancies throughout the company.

I’ve had an incredible few weeks here at WeWork, and have learned so much — especially from events like the meeting last week. I’ve also seen some personal success at work as I got my internship extended for an extra couple of weeks! I’m excited to spend some more time in New York and help out the team as we continue to grow and exceed our goals.

UpDog Kombucha- Week 5

Monday, July 17, 2017 7:26 pm

After weeks of work, the new UpDog Kombucha website is finally launched! You can now check out updogkombucha.com to see the final product, learn a little more about kombucha, and purchase our merchandise. It’s been so nice to have a project that I can actually see the results of and I’m really proud of how the site turned out.

Now that this project is done, I’m turning my attention to discovering new places to sell the kombucha including expanding out towards the Raleigh/Durham area. At first I assumed we would just go out there and look around for some yoga studios, but quickly learned that a lot more thought goes into choosing locations to contact. For starters, I had to go through the different class schedules to see which studios were busier and had more offerings, as more classes means more potential consumers. After compiling a list of potential buyers, I learned the basic pitch we use for first time interactions with businesses. I now have a better handle on all the pricing, installation, and promoting that goes along with getting the kombucha into a new location!

Another valuable part of this internship has been getting to know the Winston-Salem food and beverage community a little bit better. From interactions with the other farmers at the weekly markets to conversations with local vendors and businesses during deliveries, I’ve gotten to hear bits of wisdom from a multitude of sources and learn things that I’d never even thought about before. It’s given me a great look into different ways people run their respective businesses while also letting me see parts of the city I hadn’t seen prior to this internship.

I look forward to getting to do even more my last few weeks here and hope to have good news of further expansion coming soon!

Neighbor 5

Monday, July 17, 2017 8:00 am

Our development will be finished by the end of this week. This means that in a couple of days we will have a working iOS application, web POS & menu management system and a working communication with printers in stores and restaurant.

This is a core milestone because I finally have a working product and cost will be reduced since the development team was the most expensive cost pool in the past.

Obviously, with the finished product it is time to push into market. This step has been delayed since I am still negotiating with the meal plan providers for universities and have been running into some issues with the caterers. Some core players have very recently focused on developing there own mobile ordering application in house. These developments have shifted my attention slightly to alternative markets like smaller cities and communities that currently have no other mobile options and have a density of restaurants and offices in one area – downtown Winston Salem (4th street) might be an option. I am currently in the process of defining potential test cases within these spaces.

Lastly, I have started to look for potential additional team members. I will have this coming week some an interview with a interest candidate in NYC. I am further planning on looking in the Winston Salem area and maybe recruiting from Wake Forest itself.

Higher Art Galleries week #5

Friday, July 14, 2017 12:30 pm

Over the past few weeks, the Higher Art Galleries Team has been having in person and Skype meetings with mentors and experts in our field. In addition, we have been conducting customer discovery interviews.

As a result, we have pivoted slightly yet again. Our product is still art and our customer base is still the same, but the type of art we will be selling is more specific to the university itself.

Our best selling pieces are pieces that exhibit affinity to Wake Forest. Therefore, we have decided to do more of what is selling more. It is not our job to decide what our customers what. It is our job to give our customers what they want, so that is exactly what we will do.

Through our entrepreneurial studies, Brooke, Zanny, and I have learned that a simple and seamless business has the greatest probability for success. We want to streamline our platform and deliver a simple product through a simple platform that gives the customer exactly what they want.

This week we are in the midst of drafting new contracts and reworking our website. The business model is changing slightly, since we are now commissioning artists instead of simply selling their work.

In other news, we are very pleased with the results and accountability of our new printing partner in Brooklyn, NY.

Stay tuned for next week!

Week 8 at P.S. Snacks

Tuesday, July 11, 2017 12:02 am

I think that my experience as a marketing intern for P.S. Snacks for the past eight weeks was a success. Throughout these eight weeks, I conducted demos in local health food stores to build brand awareness, was the brand ambassador at events in the Washington, D.C. area, and networked with other influencers/healthy lifestyle promoters to increase our presence on social media.

The aspect that I think was the most successful was attending events in the city where we would be sampling our dough. These events were successful because usually it was geared toward marketing segments that we are targeting. Additionally, these events usually had other start-up food ventures which made it a great opportunity to network and collaborate with others. One thing that could’ve gone better was reaching out to social media influencers. Many of the influencers we reached out to did end up vocalizing their support for our brand which increased our presence on social media, however, many influencers have a media fee for sponsored posts that we were not able to provide since all of our funds are going towards production and getting into new stores. In the future, I think it would be important to find more local influencers that would guarantee a post on their social media platforms, so that we don’t waste time or money.

My biggest takeaway from this experience is that starting your own venture takes patience and that it is not a 9 to 5 job. Nikki and I were constantly responding to correspondence from other contacts around the clock since we had to be on the ball in order to move forward with P.S. Snacks. Though it can be a good thing that you are your own boss, it also increases the pressure since it is your business/product/idea and it is up to you whether it succeeds or fails. I think the career path of an entrepreneur is unique as well as all consuming since it is your labor of love and can become your life. I think all these things can be good if you are passionate about your product, message, and have clear goals set for the future.

UpDog Kombucha- Week 4

Wednesday, July 5, 2017 9:47 am

One of the major components of my job is to work at farmers’ markets each Saturday morning at which I sell and promote the product to the local community, These markets have truly become an invaluable experience in terms of learning how to deal with customers, both the satisfied and the unsatisfied, and how to successfully pitch the product, especially those who have never heard of kombucha and might be reluctant to try.

 

Each Saturday, the UpDog team wakes up early to pack up for four different markets in Charlotte, Davidson, Winston-Salem, and Greensboro. From there everyone heads out to their respective locations to unpack and set up a booth showcasing UpDog before the first customers to the markets arrive. Now that I’ve had a few markets under my belt, I’ve started to recognize and get to know the other farmers who do the same thing each week and it’s shown me the true community that exists between these vendors who see each other week in and week out.

 

After setting up, tapping the kegs, and arranging the booth to look nice, I wait for the first people of the day to come up and ask for a refill, ask if our product is for dogs, or just say “what’s UpDog?” and wait for me to get the joke. These hours spent at the markets have taught me to be patient in sales and figure out how to pitch to different audiences. Some people are drawn in by the health benefits, while others have just heard it’s a trendy thing to try and want to hear about where else kombucha may be sold. Even though the questions become repetitive, it is important to answer each potential client’s question fully and clearly because at the end of the day, a lot of people are genuinely curious about what kombucha truly is.

 

Finding new people and locations to carry the kombucha is an important part of expanding the business and these markets are a great place to find potential buyers. Each sale helps to spread the word and the brand just a little farther and each week I get at least one person who comes up because they heard about it from a friend/cousin/colleague etc.

 

While the early wake ups on the weekend can be hard, working at these markets has become one of the best parts of my internship experience. It takes the skills I’ve been working on in sales, marketing, and customer service, and combines it in a fun and meaningful way, plus the free strawberries from the vendors next door don’t hurt at all.

 

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