Summer Entrepreneurial Experiences

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The Last Week

Friday, August 12, 2016 10:14 am

My internship at Flywheel has ended, and looking back on my 9-week experience (which flew by!!) I feel accomplished and more knowledgeable in the field of entrepreneurial management as well as marketing. During the first half of the internship, my responsibilities seemed like menial tasks, but when the manager left for a new job and I was faced with the job of running the show until a new manager was hired, I was grateful for those menial tasks because they really gave me a better understanding of the company so that I was ready to assume bigger roles.

For the second half of the internship, I was in charge of several things, but the main one was handling all of the marketing strategies for Flywheel. This included updating the website landing pages, writing and publishing blog posts about current Flywheel events, posting on every social media platform (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn) strategically and creatively, and engaging with the Triad community by contacting leaders in the community to spread the word about Flywheel – all while staying in the actual coworking space every day to man the front desk, answer the phone, help any of the 100+ Flywheel members that had questions, keep the kitchen clean, give tours to potential new members, and more.

For some of these responsibilities, I excelled and found a lot of success. For others, things definitely could have gone better. As far as being knowledgeable about the space and answering questions fully and thoroughly, things went very well. I feel as if I did a really good job of connecting with the Flywheel members as well as external individuals and companies that utilized the space. I did my best to learn every members’ name and a little bit about them so that I could greet them when I saw them and check up on how their company/project/startup was doing. On the other hand, I found challenges in the more administrative roles. I did all that I could with the information that I had learned to take care of invoices and managing member information, but working with new technologies to handle sending invoices was a challenge for me.

My biggest takeaway from this experience was learning how to work with people instead of things. Flywheel isn’t a company that sells merchandise to customers, it sells memberships to individuals looking to enhance their work life environment. As a service business, I learned that catering to the needs and desires of members was the priority. Learning how to “sell” the idea of a coworking space as a service as opposed to selling a product was something that I had never done before, but I really enjoyed learning how to be successful at Flywheel. I do not take for granted for one moment all that I learned at Flywheel this summer, from marketing techniques to entrepreneurial management to customer service and more.

Week 7: Coming to a Close

Monday, August 1, 2016 9:59 am

As my internship is coming to a close within the next week, I realize how much I have learned about leadership, especially with regards to entrepreneurial management. There have been several ups and downs, but I feel like I have already gained so much experience working with a company that is entrepreneurial in nature. Coming into the internship, I pretty much knew what my roles were going to be and what to expect. Little did I know that my supervisor would change careers halfway through my internship and I would have to assume a managerial role while in a transitional state. Adapting to these changes wasn’t easy, but with the help of an awesome team, everything turned out just fine.

A few things I learned about myself as an entrepreneur…

1. Creativity is an invaluable asset. At the beginning of my internship at Flywheel, I was mostly just going through the motions as I got more accustomed to my position. As I felt more comfortable with the other staff members and gained confidence, I started to suggest unique ideas to implement in the space, such as ideas for social events, ways to boost marketing in a creative manner, and methods to keep track of member activity. Creativity knows no bounds, and I believe that every company needs creative minds offering new ideas to continuously improve upon the business model.
2. Organizational skills are vital to succeed. There’s over 100 members at Flywheel, many of whom contact me on a daily basis with requests and information. Writing everything down and ensuring that each and every detail is noted kept me alive this summer. Being completely obsessed with small details helped me immensely during this summer.
3. Entrepreneurship is a team sport. Regardless of how good an idea may be, that idea will most likely only come to fruition with the help of a diverse set of brainpower. Getting input from several colleagues about an idea, accepting constructive criticism, and taking into account different suggestions for how to successfully implement an idea is the only way to really do well in the world of entrepreneurship. Each and every person has a unique background and skill set, which I learned entrepreneurs must use to their advantage. Getting advice about an idea doesn’t make it any less yours. It just makes it that much better.

Week 6: Overcoming Barriers

Monday, July 18, 2016 10:43 am

One of the biggest challenges that Flywheel faces is reaching out to potential new members to join our community. Flywheel is great at keeping a network, and when our members spread the word about the space or recommend us to a colleague, we get steady business. However, reaching out to members of the Winston-Salem community who do not know anyone that has tried out Flywheel is a bigger barrier to overcome. We continuously work with our marketing agency partner and further develop strategies to reach a wider audience in an effort to expand our member community. Flywheel staff members are constantly coming up with new ways to market our business, whether it be via social media, ads, flyers, or word of mouth. We take into consideration what our target consumer needs, which is usually either a place to get away from working at home or a network of support for a startup idea or entrepreneurial venture.

Our competition comes in various forms, but usually the alternative to deciding to sign up for a membership at a coworking space is either working from home or bouncing around coffee shops that offer free WiFi. Although it can be hard to convince a potential new member to spend $100+ per month to join Flywheel, they are usually swayed when comparing our quiet, encouraging, collaborative space that has a lot to offer against a noisy coffee shop or a home where the laundry is piling up and the dog is begging for belly rubs.

In order to keep current members coming back and to attract new members to the space, we must keep up with our marketing strategies, communicate effectively, and respond to the needs and desires of the community. To execute these tactics effectively and efficiently, the Flywheel staff must work together to ensure all is running smoothly and that we are overcoming each and every barrier that we face as a team.

Week 5 – The Culture of Coworking

Monday, July 11, 2016 10:36 am

Flywheel is a non-traditional office space, so the way things are done around here is also non-traditional. Here, we like to say that everything is always on the move – whether it be people, spaces or ideas. For Flywheel staff and the administration of the company, this means that we are very flexible and love to take into consideration numerous opinions and pieces of advice. Being a coworking space means that we have the privilege of working with professionals from several different backgrounds and fields of study. So when it comes time to make a decision, we have experts in just about every field to consult. If we need marketing/advertising advice, there’s members and partners that can help us out. If we need law advice, there’s attorneys that can help us out. If we need financial advice, there’s people for that too! And so on…

Here, although our members do work individually on a regular basis, we are still a team. Our staff works together on just about everything, and we don’t move forward without input from all team players, but we also love to include Flywheel members on that team. Feedback from members is something that we really cherish, and we strive to be able to satisfy the needs and wants of each unique member to the best of our ability.

The nature of a coworking space allows for a very encouraging environment – one in which we build each other up and give constructive criticism when needed. I have never seen any sense of competition between members or employees, but I see encouragement every single day that I’m here. Even though failure is hard to face, it is refreshing that we face failure as a team. A failed venture is not the fault of one employee or member, but we take the fault as a team. Just as every opinion is valued in the decision-making process, every opinion also matters when those decisions fail.

Ultimately, working in a coworking space is an experience unlike any other. As I get to experience a truly team-orientated staff and am exposed to professionals from extremely diverse backgrounds, I am learning a lot not just about professional careers and skills but also about myself and my particular role on a team.

Week 4: Halfway There

Tuesday, June 28, 2016 9:01 am

As I am now halfway into my internship at Flywheel, I am comfortable in my position. I feel like I know what I am doing successfully, I know what I like and don’t like, and I have a plan for moving forward. However, there’s going to be a pretty big change for myself and the other interns within the coming weeks. Our community manager, Lauren, who is our go-to contact for everything Flywheel, is moving on to a different job in Charlotte. What that means for us is that now, while the owners of Flywheel look into hiring someone new and training them, the interns are going to take over several additional roles. This means that our days will be much busier and our responsibilities will be much broader. Instead of speaking with members, answering their questions, then sending them to Lauren to make sure everything is all set, we will be seeing it through until the end and finalizing memberships and more, taking on more of a managerial role at Flywheel until a new community manager is ready to take over.

For me, this change is intimidating. Up until this point, I have been getting more and more comfortable with Flywheel, but not having that source of backup in Lauren in case I have a question is quite daunting. Nevertheless, I think this is going to be an exceptional learning experience for my career path. Not only will I have to assume much more responsibility, but I will also learn how to admit that I do not know the answer to everything and how to relay that message to members and potential new members. In addition, the interns are going to have to work in much closer contact so that we can serve as a source of support for each other. This change will also force me into new fields of study, specifically I will be taking on the role of running all social media for Flywheel, including the website, blog posts, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. As a marketing major, I believe that assuming the social media role and working closely with Wildfire Marketing will help me to understand several marketing concepts and further my knowledge of the marketing field.

I believe that the change at Flywheel Coworking, although bittersweet for our manager Lauren, will be confusing and hard at times, but also a great learning opportunity for the interns, owners, members, and Flywheel at large. Since Flywheel’s member community is so diverse, supportive, generous, and interactive, I foresee change being handled well, and I look forward to taking on new roles and sharing those experiences.

Week 3 – The Beginnings and Beyond

Tuesday, June 21, 2016 9:42 am

June 30, 2014, almost two years ago, was the day that Flywheel opened its doors. The journey to that opening day, the masterminds behind the venture, and the inspirations that they drew from include a diverse set of ideas and actions on the part of several investors.
Flywheel was founded by three partner companies – Workplace Strategies Inc., Storr Office Environments, and Wildfire, LLC. Peter Marsh, vice president of Workplace Strategies, saw that coworking is a national trend that’s taking hold, especially in urban markets, so he wanted to bring this concept to life in Winston-Salem in order to create “a knowledge-sharing environment driven by innovation, not just a place for people to work.” Peter, along with his wife Alicia Hardin, president of Workplace Strategies, joined forces with Brad Bennett, co-founder of Wildfire Marketing, and Storr Office Environments (based out of Greensboro) in order to start Flywheel.
I talked with Peter today to ask him about where he drew his inspirations for starting Flywheel. He told me that coming from an architectural firm, he wanted to learn more about coworking spaces. He said, “We decided to do it to learn, and boy, have we learned.” Over the course of the past two years, Flywheel has seen triumph as well as faced barriers. They’ve had events that have been wildly successful as well as events that only had a few people show up. Since Flywheel itself is a startup, however, it’s OK to see what doesn’t work before you can really tell what does work. Flywheel has ultimately learned that the events that have success have a vital entrepreneurial concept, they are innovative in nature, and they feature speakers or subjects that intrigue the audience and stimulate creative thoughts and ideas.
Flywheel has been extremely fortunate to be able to work with its founding partner companies, as they provide constant support, encouragement, and advice that progresses Flywheel’s success. Wildfire Marketing, in particular, provides Flywheel with marketing strategies that they hope will continue the growth of the company. These marketing strategies are still being put into place currently, as Wildfire has advised Flywheel to focus on social media and blogging in order to target a younger generation of up-and-coming entrepreneurs and young professionals with an eye for innovation. In a continually changing society, Flywheel must adjust to changes in order to satisfy its target consumers. Here, they like to say, “at Flywheel, everything’ always on the move- be it people, spaces or ideas.” Flywheel has truly embraced the culture of change and hopes that by keeping up with society and sticking to its foundations of being truly innovative, they will continue to find success in their coworking space.

Week 2: What is Flyhweel?

Monday, June 13, 2016 11:26 am

Flyhweel is a coworking space in the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter in downtown Winston-Salem. If you don’t know what a coworking space is, it is a style of work that involves open office space for independent work and collaboration between members who are not all employed by the same company. Flywheel’s members include entrepreneurs, small business owners, non-profit organization leaders, freelancers, marketers, designers, and many more. Flyhweel promotes creativity through its non-traditional and non-competitive nature. From shared desk space to a basketball court that doubles as a meeting room, the space encourages individuals to think in an innovative manner and have fun while they’re doing so.

This summer, I am on a team of three interns who are all interested in new business development and startups, although our individual skill sets and projects differ. Madison, Emily, and myself are a versatile group that always gathers to discuss decisions and ideas with our community manager, Lauren, before going forward with them. Flyhweel is a perfect place to learn more about those interests, as many of our members are involved in startup projects. One particular project that Flyhweel is sponsoring is the New Ventures Accelerator, where there are several teams working over a two-month span to develop their new venture, whether it be an app, business, or service. Being around the individuals involved in the New Ventures Accelerator is great exposure to this sector of entrepreneurship, and I really enjoy being behind-the-scenes of these startups.

As an intern, I am working in several areas at Flyhweel, which means that I get to see a little bit of everything. Some of my responsibilities include attending events with guest speakers and writing blog posts, further developing Flyhweel’s social media presence, getting to know members and helping them brainstorm new ideas, and promoting Flywheel to potential new members via marketing strategies and strategic communication. Furthermore, I have been working on extensive research on coworking spaces as an evolving concept, looking at other coworking spaces across the country as well as internationally. The research has enabled me to further my knowledge about coworking at large, as well as provide a comparison and contrast between Flyhweel and other coworking spaces, especially with regards to our marketing strategies. The research has provided the team of interns with a basis for how to improve Flyhweel, as it is itself a startup which has been up and running for just under two years and is always looking for ways to improve.

Ultimately, Flyhweel is providing me with an extensive network of professionals who I can talk to about their individual career paths as well as my own. Each member has a unique story, as they all come from different professional backgrounds. In addition, I often get to work side-by-side of the founding partners of Flywheel. I believe that this is a very significant aspect of my internship which allows me to see everything from the very top to the bottom of the company. Needless to say, I’ve been having a great time so far and I have already learned so much about entrepreneurship, business, and more!

Week 1: Taking on a New Role

Sunday, June 5, 2016 5:59 pm

During my first semester of my sophomore year at Wake Forest University, I signed up for ESE 101: Creativity and Innovation in the hopes of pursuing a minor in Entrepreneurship and Social Enterprise. Little did I know, I would be spending the semester broadening my creative capabilities and learning to think in ways that I never anticipated, all thanks to Professor Jan Detter. Students at WFU that have spent some time around the ESE department know that Jan is a spunky, wise, creative, and mind-provoking woman with a passion for encouraging students to think outside of the box to find innovative solutions to the situations that we are put into. A major aspect of Jan’s class is getting students off of the Wake Forest campus, which she refers to as the “bubble,” and emersing ourselves into the Winston-Salem community. I had several “field trips” in this class, and one of those trips is what brought me to discover Flywheel Coworking. Jan introduced her class to Flywheel by inviting us to attend a fireside chat put on by Flywheel featuring Dr. Tony Atala, who does quite innovative work in his field, regenerative medicine. I enjoyed the discussion with Dr. Atala, but I was very intrigued by Flywheel as a company – their collaborative environment that encourages small business owners, freelancers, entrepreneurs, and many more to work together in a positive atmosphere impressed me.

After accepting a position as a summer intern at Flywheel, I didn’t really know what to expect. Like any new venture, I was quite anxious to take on this new role. However, after getting to know my boss and colleagues as well as being exposed to the relaxed and exciting Flywheel co-working space, I am excited to begin my two months here. As an intern, I will tackle responsibilities such as providing tours to potential new members interested in the space, helping on the communications front – particularly improving social media presence and working on marketing tactics, serving as a host during events that are held at Flywheel, ensuring that the guests feel welcome and informed, and constantly looking for opportunities for improvement, as Flywheel is still a startup itself and is always seeking ways to do things better.

During this experience, I expect to learn a lot about the world of entrepreneurship, what it takes to start a business, the importance of collaboration, and how to analyze data in such a way to market to potential members via social media, signage, etc. More importantly, however, I hope to learn a lot more about myself – my talents, strengths, weaknesses, and passions. I hope to connect with several other aspiring entrepreneurs and learn in an interactive way that will better prepare me for both my college education as well as my professional career.

 

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