Tag Archives: startups

Oct22

Startup Tips From Techweek NYC

Aspiring entrepreneurs, digital media specialists, investors and all-around tech lovers gathered at 82 Mercer Street on October 17th for Techweek, the first to launch in New York City (it was originally founded in Chicago in 2011). This NYC edition was full of summits, workshops, the LAUNCH startup competition and fashion tech runway show.

It was great to see so many passionate people following their dreams and who are eager to become their own bosses—many of them students or recent graduates. So this was definitely an event to take notes if you’re thinking of starting your own company, not to mention a great opportunity to network like crazy. Here’s a quick list of some of the key points that I learned from spending the day surrounded by such innovative and inspirational people with contagious entrepreneurial spirits.

1. Collaborate.

A great way to get your company out there is to work with other like-minded businesses. Whether that may be through some special cross-promotions or creative partnerships, there are so many different ways to do this. Think outside the box. This is how you can set yourself apart. An awesome example of a company coming up with cool collaborations is  Warby Parker, the affordable and stylish eyewear company that also helps others (for every pair that is sold, a pair is given to someone in need). One of their most popular collaborations was with the Man of Steel movie franchise, bringing the iconic Clark Kent-style frames to life. They’ve also teamed up with Ghostly, The Standard Hotel, and Pencils of Promise just to name a few. Through these projects, they’ve been able to put themselves on the map and are becoming a go-to eyewear destination, both online and off.

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Tim Riley, Director of Online Experience at Warby Parker

2. Be open.

I think the best way to thrive in such an innovative environment is to have an open mind. Sure, you have this fantastic idea, but always remember that things can change quickly. Zack O’Malley Greenburg of Forbes said it best during his panel on making it in New York City, “Don’t get married to your idea, be open to redesign.” He wrote Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went From Street Corner to Corner Office, a book that takes a look into how the hip hop mogul took the business world by storm. Great ideas take time to develop and sometimes you have to go through quite a journey before reaching the final product—Jay-Z is no exception. Having an open mind makes this process much smoother.

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Kelly Reid (left) interviews Zack O’Malley Greenburg (right)

3. Build up a strong team.

Yes, you want to be independent, but everyone could use a solid support system. When starting up your own company, there’s a lot of planning (and stress) that goes into it, so it’s important to put together a reliable team of people you can depend on to help follow through with your vision. The co-founders of Hukkster, Erica Bell and Katie Finnegan, agree that “when you start your own thing, it’s constant pounding the pavement. When you have a team, it’s nice to have people helping you along the way.” Hukkster is a shopping app that aims to help customers find the best deals. They formed their team from a network they created and got references of people who would be fitting for the company.

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Hukkster co-founders Erica Bell (centre) and Katie Finnegan (right)

For more info on Techweek, be sure to visit www.techweek.com

Oct08

Success Story: Landing The Job

I’m sure all of you have goals of getting hired after completing an internship. For many students in such a competitive industry, it’s hard to do. But this passionate and hardworking graduate managed to go from a Style Guru intern to Social Media Director at CollegeFashionista. Meet Sammy Luterbach and find out how she did it.

 

Sammy1Tell us a bit about yourself.

Growing up, I always knew I wanted to move to New York City and work in fashion. To skip over a lot of blood, sweat and tears and make a long story short, I did just that. Along the way, I discovered my love for cats, leopard print, and legal pads.

How did you first land your internship with CollegeFashionista?

Before I started school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I made a day trip to the city with friends to try to find a job. A boutique I wanted to work at wasn’t hiring, but one of the employees there wrote for CollegeFashionista. She asked to take my friend’s photo for the site, and I was immediately intrigued. I asked her about CollegeFashionista and checked it out the second I was near a computer (pre-iPhone; yikes!).

After finding out this was an online internship I could be a part of, I emailed Amy Levin, founder of CollegeFashionista, directly asking how I could get involved. We set up a phone interview, and the rest is history. I became a Style Guru one month after the site was launched four years ago.

What attracted you to this company?

I love fashion, and I love writing, so the fact that CollegeFashionista combined both initially attracted me to the company. The longer I worked and the more CollegeFashionista expanded though, I loved that I didn’t have to be in New York City to feel connected to the industry. By interning for CollegeFashionista, I could be in college in the middle of Wisconsin, work from my apartment and be a part of a fashion movement with other people like me.

What skills did you learn during your internship?

I always like writing, but CollegeFashionista helped me explore more of a journalistic approach. Although I’m not a strong photographer, I definitely learned more about photography and became better throughout the years. Most importantly for me, I learned all about social media. I specifically remember the conversation years ago where Amy convinced me to sign up for Twitter! On top of that, I improved my leadership skills, developed more of a business mind and even did some event planning. Through everything I did with CollegeFashionista, I gained confidence and a voice.

How long did you intern with CollegeFashionista?

Almost four years! I began in September of 2009 as a Style Guru and worked continuously until I moved to New York and started working for the company this past July.

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What was the most valuable thing you took from your internship experience?

Be genuine. There are so many people who will be catty, competitive and show-offy to fight to the top, but that will only get them so far. Hard work and passion will get you to where you need to be. Also, never expect that you think you know it all. Before CollegeFashionista, I thought I wanted to be a designer! This internship helped me learn otherwise.

How did you turn your internship into a job?

Turning my internship into a job at CollegeFashionista wasn’t something I planned for, although I definitely dreamed about it! I was the first employee to be hired by the Levin family, so I didn’t have anyone to emulate. I just fully dedicated myself to CollegeFashionista and always asked for more work. I tried to go above and beyond what was asked of me. I became an important part of the team through my work and passion for the company.

What role do you have within the company now?

I am the Social Media Director and Editorial Assistant. I manage all of CollegeFashionista’s social media platforms, operate the newsletter, help with special features on the website and work with the Head Style Gurus to spread the word about CollegeFashionista on campuses all over. Plus, there are always extra projects that come up on a daily basis depending on what’s happening in the office and on the site!

Give us one word to describe your workplace environment.

Dynamic. Everyday is different in the office, but it’s always fast-paced and full of energy. We work extremely hard but also manage to find the time for candy breaks and fun music.

What advice do you have for other interns?

Be genuine, work really hard and always say yes – you’ll figure out how to get it all done.

Oct03

Sharing Wisdom: Starting Up Your Startup

Many students have dreams of working for the biggest companies in the world, while others hope to become their own bosses and turn their business ideas into companies of their own. And in today’s society, it’s more doable than ever before with the incredible growth of the innovative startup world. There are tons of great ideas floating around out there and the hardest part is often getting them off the ground and up-and-running.

We asked five startup company founders for some words of advice from their own experiences that will hopefully be that extra push you need to bring your ideas to life.

 

Aime-Designer-Monica-MeiMonica Mei, Founder of Aime Luxury, The Shop Society and WhatImWear.In (@AimeLuxury)

“Entrepreneurs have strong spirits. It’s not only about your educational background or your area of expertise; it’s about having a good idea AND the hustle needed to succeed. It’s also about surrounding yourself with the right people – your team, mentors and collaborators will be your support system to see it through. Starting your own company is a rough yet rewarding road to travel on.”

 

Alex Kolodkin, Founder of Set Scouter c23756

(@AlexKolodkin)

“Find your drive and find a mentor. Let their experiences guide you and your passion propel you.”

 

 

 

julieJulie Smithson, COO of SmithsonMartin (@SmithsonMartin)

“Yes! You have something great but don’t think that someone will drop a cheque on the table right there for you.  If accepted into the community, you have to work for your raise and learn the steps to be a start up company. ”

 

 

 

Brennan McEachran, CEO and Founder of HitSend Inc. (@i_am_brennan)Brennan

“Tip 1: Get a great team – Working at a startup is tough. There are good days and there are bad days. Going through all of that alone isn’t something most people can do. Find a team of people to go through the roller coaster with you. When you’re having a bad day they’ll carry you through it. It’s needed.

Tip 2: Focus on Customers – Get your product in the hands of your customers as early as possible. Learn from them where your app falls short and where it’s doing fine. Focus your efforts on solving pain point for your customers — just remember to take feedback with a smile and a grain of salt. Don’t forget to stick with your vision (sometimes early customers can take you off course).

Tip 3: Revenue – As much as the startup world loves to talk about investing, the truth is revenues are far more important. The companies that are able to grow large without revenue are the exception not the rule. The rule is: cash is king. Keep an eye on your cash and you’ll be able to ride through the bumps… then when investors do show up you don’t have to give them your entire company!”

 

0d20992Noura Sakkijha, Co-Founder of Mejuri (@Mejuri)

“Having a great team and knowledgeable mentors make a big difference. You have to make sure that you are looking at things from different perspectives and having a strong support structure makes it ten times easier. There are so many experienced advisers who are willing to help young entrepreneurs so do not be scared to ask for help.”

 

 

Jul25

Get Inspired

It can be hard to see the bigger picture when you’re trying trying to balance a hectic class schedule with job hunting, but sometimes all you need is a little push and proof that hard work goes a long way.

We took to YouTube to find some words of wisdom that will hopefully inspire you to get you up on your feet and take on the world.

My personal favorite it the message from Kid President — what a great kid. Time to get out there and tackle those goals and achieve those dreams!

Jul09

Career Path Interview: Founder/Creative Director Amy Levin

Interested in fashion? Want to start your own company? Get inspired by this young entrepreneur who took her career in her own hands and has worked hard to get to where she is today.

AmyLevin7Amy Levin is the Founder and Creative Director of CollegeFashionista.com. A Chicago native, she launched the website in 2009 after a semester abroad in London, where the growing importance of street style inspired her to create a community for fashion, photography and self expression amongst the college demographic. Originally serving only Indiana University’s campus, the site quickly spread to other colleges across the globe. Under Amy’s leadership, CollegeFashionista maintains an international presence with 500+ new articles posted a week and regular partners including Rebecca Minkoff, Shopbop and American Eagle Outfitters, to name a few.

A 2013 NYC Fashion Fellow, Levin has served as a seminar leader at Teen Vogue’s Fashion University and a guest lecturer at college campuses across the United States. Amy attended Indiana University and received a Bachelor of Arts in merchandising and business marketing. She is 26 years old and currently resides in New York City.

What specifically motivated you to go this direction in your career?

During my senior year of college, I felt completely disconnected from the fashion industry and wanted a way to feel connected, work on my writing skills and showcase inspirational fashion I was seeing around my campus. I realized there wasn’t a platform that focused specifically on college students and CollegeFashionista was born.

What type of activities, appointments and meetings do you have during a typical week?

My workdays are definitely a little hectic — throughout a typical day, I am in and out of the office going to meetings all over Manhattan. If I’m not on the go, I am usually on phone calls with brand partners, checking in with my employees to ensure the business is flowing properly.

Tell us about an unpleasant work experience that resulted in an invaluable career lesson.

When I first launched CollegeFashionista, it would inevitably crash and have hiccups. I remember thinking the entire company is lost. All our editorial features are gone. Clearly this wasn’t the case and I learned how to troubleshoot tech issues and to surround myself with programmers who were savvy and able to get any issues resolved as quickly as possible.Screen Shot 2012-09-08 at 4.30.37 PM

What piece of advice do you wish you followed earlier in your career?

I wish I knew how to manage my time effectively, prioritize, and not to take anything too seriously. I take my job very seriously but I also know that it is important to have fun while doing it and that at the end of the day everything will get done.

What tips can you offer a recent graduate that is preparing to interview for an entry-level position? 

It is very important to do your research of the company before going in for the interview. Know what the company is currently working on and know what you can do to make them stronger. Don’t let the interviewer tell you what you can do for them, you need to take initiative and let the company know that you have something to offer.

Who has inspired you as a mentor during your career and what was the most valuable lesson you learned from them?

I have had a series of incredible mentors who had allowed me to bounce ideas around and have really helped shaped my business. I think it’s important to find people who believe in you and have experience in an aspect of your business in which you may feel weak. I found five different mentors who all have various expertise and have been soundboards to me over the past three years.

If you had an opportunity to broadcast a special “thank you” to anyone via this interview, who would it be and what would you like us to say?

My family. I could not have started CollegeFashionista without them. Being an entrepreneur, there have been so many highs and lows and they have been the unconditional support group through every single aspect. They are truly amazing and I feel lucky for them everyday.

What books would you recommend for talent in your industry?

  • Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh
  • By Invitation Only by Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson
  • Pour Your Heart Into It by Howard Schultz and Dori jones
  • Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
  • Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
Jun18

Startup Spotlight: RocketHub

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Anyone can be an entrepreneur these days. All you need is a great idea, motivation, and a strong support system. With companies such as RocketHub, Kickstarter and Indiegogo out there providing a platform for crowdsourced funding, any idea can be made into a reality.

Brian Meece, ukulele player

We chatted with RocketHub CEO Brian Meece, who gave insight into the story behind his company, some exciting projects and advice for budding creative entrepreneurs.

About Brian:

He plays a mean ukulele and is the CEO of RocketHub, one of the world’s top crowdfunding platforms. He has lectured on crowdsourced funding at SXSW, TEDxBrooklyn, Columbia University, Makers Faire, among other colleges, conferences and institutions. His goal? To teach entrepreneurs how to leverage the crowd for funding their endeavors.

Where did the idea for RocketHub come from?

My background before RocketHub was in creative media.  I went to undergrad for film and have been playing in bands since high school.  As a creative, I recognized a pattern that was popping up with many of my colleagues using their communities to fund projects.  In the late 1990’s, I heard about Darren Aronofsky using the crowdfunding model to raise $60,000 from his community to make the movie Pi.  That blew my mind.

Crowdfunding was already starting to happen in the world of art, but I wanted to bring it into the mainstream and to new verticals.  So, in 2009 we launched RocketHub, and in the last 3 years we’ve seen massive growth of the crowdfunding movement.  RocketHub is a world leader in the space – and we’re proud of that.

What are some recent exciting developments at RocketHub?

In conjunction with A&E, RocketHub just launched Project Startup in April.  A&E reached out to us last summer – and right away I enjoyed connecting with their team.  A&E’s perspective was all about adding value to the RocketHub community. They did this by addressing the two key needs our project leaders have: the first one being how to raise more money, and the second being how to get the word out for their ideas.  These two components are at the core of the A&E partnership.  This partnership is historic in scope and elevates the RocketHub platform to a whole new level.

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What will Project Startup offer creative entrepreneurs?

Project Startup takes the stories of our project leaders and dials them into A&E’s wide audience.  Our project leader’s now have a chance to be showcased across A&E’s multitude of platforms – over 100 million TV sets, web access, live events, as well as A&E’s magazine.  In addition to exposing project leaders to a wide audience, A&E is also giving funds to crowdfunding projects on RocketHub.

Is there any particular advice you’d give creative grads who are looking to launch their first ever crowdfunding campaign?

Crowdfunding is an online event that harnesses a community for funding, awareness and feedback. This event has a beginning, a middle and end to it. It’s very different from the standard ecommerce play where you open up a store and sell stuff online. And it’s different from a donation play where there’s an online tip jar. Crowdfunding is very much an event that galvanizes communities to participate within a very specific amount of time.

The way our platform works is that a project leader comes to RocketHub, uploads the title of their project and what they’re looking to do. And they’ll typically have a pitch video talking about themselves, their passion for the project, and a detailed project description. Then, they’ll set a goal amount – what they’re looking to raise along with rewards they can give back to funders.

The three core components we find successful projects have are:

  • An awesome mission spearheaded by awesome people;
  • An audience of core supporters
  • Cool “goods” to offer in exchange for the financial contribution

Those three things together are the “secret sauce” for successful campaigns.

To succeed a project needs to sell the experience. This funding model is about the relationship that these funders have with the person spearheading the project. It’s about the relationship that those fuelers have with this person and that they have with each other – their ability to connect and communicate. It’s really about how communities participate with the funding, how they connect with the campaigner and the other funders and what they get back in exchange for the financial contribution. It’s a very different phenomenon from just going to the store and buying something. It’s very impactful when done correctly. I encourage folks to check out the “Success School” on RocketHub to learn more.

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Have you interned before?

While I have not formally interned, I have made a point early on to be around folks I could learn from – and I’ve benefited from their advice. Coming into any organization with an attitude of “how can I add value?” mindset can generate an offering of opportunities.

So take Brian’s advice: get out there and make it happen!

May16

Grow Your Business By Creating An Internship Program

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Any size company, even a solo entrepreneur can benefit from creating and launching a quality internship program. The benefits quickly outweigh the initial time investment it takes to create a quality internship program. As an entrepreneur, you will want to customize the program specifically to your business needs.

There are many details to consider when structuring an internship program. Internship programs can be paid, unpaid, for-credit or a combination of different structures. Some companies differentiate their internship programs by providing stipends, completion bonuses and other unique perks but pay alone does not make a quality internship program.

All internship programs should have learning components or learning exercises. Any project or assignment that will teach the intern a new skill and/or allow them to shadow someone performing their job can be considered a learning exercise. Ultimately, learning exercises should add new skills to the intern’s resume and give them a better understanding of their industry. For example, if an intern works virtually part of the time then a learning exercise with written instructions for the intern would be beneficial. In addition, a few moments shadowing someone completing the required task before working virtually could assist in the learning experience.

So what actually goes into a quality internship program? CreativeInterns.com recommends including at least these components:

An internship program mission and objectives

  • Provides direction, goals and outlines other specifics about facilitating the internship program

A formal written program including

  • A recruiting plan to develop talent pipeline relations
  • An intern manual or welcome packet
  • Job descriptions with learning exercises
  • Agreements with internship program expectations
  • Time logs & other academic credit considerations

A support structure

  • Identify one person to be the internship manager/coordinator, solo entrepreneurs usually do this on their own

A formal internship program process

  • On-boarding (orientation), assessments and exit interviews (off-boarding)

Continued development and improvement of the program

  • Evaluations should be completed about the interns, managers and internship program

Adherence to legal considerations for unpaid interns

  • See the Department of Labor requirements here

At CreativeInterns.com, we have seen several start-ups create engaging and robust internship programs that benefit both the intern and business. On the other hand, if you are winging it, then you might encounter a few challenges including but not limited to:

  • You can’t find interns that want to be part of your internship program
  • Interns accept your internship program offer but don’t perform to your expectations or they leave before the internship period is complete
  • You feel like you don’t have the time to train, manage and delegate to your interns
  • Interns do not seem engaged in activities that can build your brand in a positive manner

One solution to creating a quality internship program is to utilize a system that walks you through the process, step-by-step. CreativeInterns.com created a tool for specifically for this purpose called the Quickstart Internship System. The system allows event the smallest of companies to create and launch an internship program in a matter of hours after completing the step-by-step exercises. In addition, Marc Scoleri, Co-Founder of CreativeInterns.com will provide a 60 minute consultation for any company that uses the Quickstart Internship System. Internship programs created with the Quickstart Internship System can help you business realize the following benefits:

  1. Low or no cost labor
  2. Increase productivity
  3. Give back to the community
  4. Interns bring a fresh perspective and enthusiasm to your team
  5. Interns can bring a continuous flow of ideas into your organization
  6. Employers can boost internal morale by hiring interns
  7. Employers can increase workforce diversity by utilizing interns
  8. Interns are a great resource for projects and can fill the gap during peak workloads
  9. Employers find interns to be great public relations agents or brand ambassadors; students can have a very positive effect on future recruiting and hiring efforts
  10. Offering internships enables organizations to develop strong ties with local colleges

As you can see there are many benefits to having a quality internship program. Once you create and launch your program it will be important to be flexible with the entire process. Working with interns that are still in school will require flexible schedules but if you decide to pay an hourly wage and open your program to graduates too, then you will widen the net of prospective candidates. Either way, helping the next generation of talent grow and develop is a reward in itself. Interested in starting an internship program? Feel free to contact us for assistance in creating a quality internship program.