Summer Entrepreneurial Experiences

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Week 5: Culture of NBA

Tuesday, July 19, 2016 10:44 am

This summer, working with No Bad Apple has been an amazing way for me to combine my own interests of community organizing and food justice with entrepreneurship and creative development. The culture at NBA is certainly very inwardly and community focused. Each week during our team meetings, the discussion constantly focuses on how our customers are perceiving our efforts and whether or not they are getting the most out of our services. As a company with a business model dependent on convenience, our team is always discussing what we could change, what should be implemented, and what we should stop doing. These questions are typically introduced by Jake, the owner of the company, in our weekly meetings based on observations he has made or feedback he has heard from our customers. Then, Moriah and I offer our thoughts individually and a group discussion follows. Initially, I was a little unsure about how much I was able to contribute to these conversations. Based only on the number of hours put into NBA each week, one could say that I fall at the bottom of the totem pole. Knowing this, I often felt that I was not involved in enough of the process to have any real idea about what should change or what was possible. Fortunately, Jake intentionally sought out my opinion on many occasions. Sometimes he would ask me a question and want my opinion from the perspective of a customer. Other times, he would utilize my observation of the work that he and Moriah were doing to help formulate his own opinion. The end result of this was a general atmosphere in which each member of the team had an equal say in each discussion while simultaneously recognizing and respecting the unique perspective that we each bring to the table.

In addition to our group discussions, each member of our team relies on the other two in order to complete their work each week. While we work separately to complete our reports and paperwork, there are many instances in which I need information from Moriah’s report to do my own. This dependence on one another helps motivate us to complete our work on time. It also has allowed for many improvements on the ways in which we do our work. For example, the way I was organizing one of the tables on my report made sense to me, but Jake noted that he struggled to follow the information. Based on feedback such as this, we have all been able to improve the quality of our work from week to week.

Week 4- Goals Analysis

Wednesday, July 13, 2016 9:57 am

It’s hard to believe how fast this summer is passing by. It wasn’t until I got an email asking me to compare the mid-pilot survey with the initial responses that I even realized it had been four weeks. As a part of our pilot this summer at No Bad Apple, we informed our customers that we would be in frequent contact with them. It was important for us to recognize that what we were asking of our customers was not typical of most businesses, especially a business that prides itself on making life more convenient for its customers. But in the interest of learning what needed to improve, we now have several different survey responses to compare in order to gauge how much we are really improving the lives of those who use No Bad Apple. My first interest in No Bad Apple was not necessarily in gaining entrepreneurial knowledge, but in doing work around food justice and food literacy. Looking for strategies to support local farming (and therefore NOT support big agro companies that have to ship food across the country at huge environmental costs) I wanted to see how a for-profit business could work to fill the gap between the average grocery shopper and the farmers market. Analyzing the responses from those who have been with us this summer, I was looking for any significant changes around how they value where the food they buy comes from and how much food they throw out each week, as well as more practical changes such as how much time they spend planning and preparing their meals each week. Honestly I was slightly disappointed with the results. This is partially due to the fact that the survey sample size was only half the size of the original sample. But also, any reported changes were minimal, if in the desired direction at all. This is just a prediction, but I have a feeling that if the sample size were the same during each survey there would be no significant difference in any areas stated earlier. This, coupled with the fact that we have been struggling to retain customers from week to week, has been frustrating. Talking with my teammates about this, we found comfort in the fact that this pilot size is intentionally small. Also, it is hard to expect that each customer comes back each week considering that many families are going on vacation and are either not here to pick up food or would not want to order fresh food when they are going to leave town. And in regards to the survey results, Jake and Moriah asked people that they already knew to be a part of the pilot in order to feel more comfortable asking them to be in more consistent contact with NBA, but where this may skew the data is that these individuals were already more knowledgeable of the very issues around food that we are hoping to increase awareness. So despite not seeing the clear results that I was hoping for, I have found the silver lining and am looking forward to analyzing the surveys at the end of the pilot.

How NBA Got its Start

Monday, July 11, 2016 10:46 am

No Bad Apple was first implemented by Jake at Wake last fall. Born out of a desire to support local farmers and make healthy, sustainable food options more available to students and faculty, No Bad Apple attracted many customers and student workers and volunteers. Most of the work at the beginning of the planning and organizing process was centered around constructing a website and building relationships with farmers. It had to be determined what produce items were available each week and in what quantity, and on top of that Jake had the added responsibility of ensuring that No Bad Apple was purchasing from each partner farm relatively equally in order to ensure that each was supported. The next challenge was to ensure that a large number of customers were shopping at No Bad Apple. While this is obviously an important factor for any business that hopes to make money, No Bad Apple had a particular pressure to open its doors with a significant number of customers in order to ensure that produce could be purchased at wholesale prices. Part of the mission of NBA is to change the way in which people view the food they buy and eat. One big misconception is that food from the farmers market is more expensive than at the grocery store, which is often not true. However, if NBA had to sell food that it bought at market price and then mark it up again to cover the time it took to build the website, pick up the food, have it packaged and ready for pickup on campus, and to make a profit, it would be unattractive to buyers. This was the focus of NBA in its first months. After shutting down for the spring semester, this summer pilot is now focused on ensuring that the best products and meal kits are available for students and faculty are exciting and successful. This is why we are in constant communication with our customers this summer to get feedback about they may not have shopped on some weeks, why they bought differed products, and how much easier shopping with NBA has made their experience with cooking.

Week 2: The Team

Wednesday, July 6, 2016 11:29 am

There are three of us on the No Bad Apple team. Jake, the founder of the company, does most of the behind the scene work. He knows everything there is to know about finances, payment, and website management. Moriah, the full-time intern, does most of the heavy lifting. She plans out the menu, communicates directly with our partner farms, prepares packages for customers, and is there when customers pick up their orders. After all of this happens, I analyze the sales data from the week and prepare a report on customer retention, item success, and customer feedback. Other than this main responsibility, I rotate around the different tasks and help out wherever I can. This has been a great learning experience because I really get to see each side of the business.

Because each of us operate in different spheres of the organization, we all depend on each other to get our work done. Moriah couldn’t make a successful meal option if my report on the success of the meals the week before isn’t finished, and if she doesn’t get that finished then Jake cannot finalize the website for the week and sales could not take place. This dependence on one another has resulted in a set of challenges, but in overcoming them we have become a stronger and more successful team. With each of us devoting different lengths of time each week to No Bad Apple, there was some initial confusion about who could finish various tasks. This, coupled with the different preferred methods of communication that each of us have, was something that we had to discuss unpack as a team in order to learn from our early mistakes. I am grateful to not only have the opportunity to learn so much about what goes into running a business, but also to be a part of a small team and learn techniques for enhancing our level of communication and collaboration.

No Bad Apple: Week 1

Wednesday, June 29, 2016 12:48 pm

As I arrived back at Wake, I wasn’t sure what to expect. This summer I have the incredible opportunity to not only work for No Bad Apple, a company which makes healthy, sustainable, locally grown food available to students and faculty, but also for a non-profit organization in Winston-Salem. During my first week I have already realized that these simultaneous experiences will allow me to grow in many ways. While there are clear differences that one might expect, the similarities have been the most shocking. Any organization, for-profit or not, cannot operate if it is not well organized and aware of its funding and work limitations. Yes, work at the non-profit can feel more specifically directed at addressing a social issues and in this sense may feel more rewarding on a day-to-day basis, but the work that I will be doing with No Bad Apple is also helping local farmers, increasing access to food with a smaller carbon footprint, and giving individuals healthier food options. I am curious to see how this will affect my motivation in the work that I do. At No Bad Apple I will be doing mostly food prep and creating and analyzing reports on customer retention and product sales, work that is obviously important and will give valuable insight in how well we are doing as a company and the ways in which we can make shopping with us a more enjoyable experience for our customers. This work is very different from what I will be doing at my non-profit, which will involve more community outreach and working directly with clients. This wide variety of tasks and projects will certainly give me perspective into my potential career choices, as well as the type of organizations that I wish to become involved with as I grow up. As of now I have mostly done training activities and gotten to know the team, but I cannot wait to be more involved with the work and learn how I can make a positive difference for the business.

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