We have decided as a team that the 2nd annual North Florida VegFest will be our target market for our micro social enterprise venture this semester. I think this will be an excellent opportunity to expand RedEye’s customer base as well as generate significant profits to help support the social causes that are aligned with the core principles of this local social enterprise coffee shop. By representing RedEye and selling their organic and responsibly sourced products at this event that is expected to draw a crowd of over 3,000 people throughout the day, we have the opportunity to build a greater positive presence for RedEye in the Tallahassee community and potentially create many repeat customers for the business in the future.
Fortunately we have not run into any major challenges up to this point, thanks in large part to the hard work of previous RedEye interns who obtained virtually every necessary permit and certification to legally operate as a mobile vendor in Tallahassee. The application process for becoming a vendor at VegFest was fairly straightforward and simple and the event staff that we shared brief correspondence with seems genuinely excited to have us there, so it has been pretty smooth sailing so far and I am getting excited to see how successful we will actually be at the event. .
Last weekend I had the privilege of joining two gentlemen named Scott and Allen on the truck to serve complimentary coffee at the 3rd Annual Justin Sisson Memorial 5k race. The event brought out a decent crowd of FSU ROTC students, locals, and active military personnel and veterans as it commemorated the life of Florida State alumni Justin Sisson who lost his life in battle in Afghanistan. Florida State University president John Thrasher was also there and came to get a cup of coffee from the truck. It was a great learning experience and I got a good feel for how the coffee truck runs. I have volunteered to drive the truck to the VegFest on March 20th so I will be doing a driving training session soon, which I am really looking forward to.
Last week, I learned that Frenchtown will be obtaining a new Dollar General store in the neighborhood. My initial reaction to this news was, why a dollar general store and why not a Winn-Dixie or Publix instead? I feel as though placing a Dollar General store in a community that lacks access to healthful and fresh produce is harming the community by keeping the residents constricted to an area of convenient stores. For example, when the Frenchtown residents shop at the Dollar General in their neighborhood they will most likely have access to cheap junk food and products that will not benefit their health. With limited options, many people living in food deserts get meals from fast-food restaurants and convenient stores. This is where I feel the Planners of the community food systems fails, because by placing another convenient store in Frenchtown is just suppressing the community to stay a food desert.
Even though the alternative food venues such as farmers market, community gardens, and farm-to-school programs are increasingly playing a greater role in promoting access to healthful foods. What does building a Dollar General store adjacent to a thriving farmers market say to the Frenchtown community? I think it says a lot! It is frustrating to see a community trying to come together for a good cause and then see it overpowered or reminded that money is king. At least with the alternative food venues the money is generated within the community longer than shopping at Dollar General. All in all, maybe the attraction of the new Dollar General store will bring in more traffic flow for the Frenchtown Farmers Market.
This Spring 2016, I am fortunate enough to once again participate in the Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation internship program. After having a spectacular experience last semester with the Frenchtown Heritage Marketplace where I was able to reach out to my community, organize local events, and network with passionate local social entrepreneurs involved in the environmental justice and sustainability movements, I knew I had to recreate the experience in a whole new way.
This semester I have the privilege of interning with Micah Widen and Domi Station, the one and only startup incubator in Tallahassee, Fl. My first assignment so far has been to conduct market research for the Jim Moran Institute 2016 Innolevation Challenge first place winner, Unhoused Humanity.
Though this experience has just begun I am excited to be exposed to all the various projects and ideas that are currently working under the Domi roof. I definitely forsee me getting out of my comfort zone and doing things that stretch my skills beyond boundaries. But hey, if you’re not growing you’re dying, right? Excited to the things ahead. Will keep you posted!
Domi Station is by far the coolest office space I have ever worked in. I drink free coffee from a NASA mug and meet new people every time I am here. This is heaven for an extrovert like myself. I was not sure what to expect when I first arrived to Domi Station. Micah, the CEO and I sat down and I learned about his background and the vision behind Domi. And what a vision that is! I, too shared my background and interest in being a part of this internship. My role right now at Domi is helping start the new innovation crawl initiative. We want to get a group of students, young professionals, and mentors to travel across Europe and learn how other parts of the world approach innovation. It is an exciting new project and I am happy to be a part of it.
I have also had the chance to help with a couple of events here at domi. NASA, Kennedy Space Center branch came to present on the new technology businesses can try out. How cool is that?! I got to talk with people interested in this field and learn more about what they do. One man, (I will call him The Rev), shared a story about a little boy who had gotten his leg severely burned and was not supposed to be able to walk again. He went on to get a full ride track scholarship to George Mason University. That little boy, was The Rev. He shared how he wanted to make his story a children’s book story to share all around the world, including Latin America. After learning I speak Spanish, The Rev asked if I would help translate once he got his project off the ground. Umm.. of course!
Just today a woman came in to drop off flyers for a city event happening on Friday. She told me she had ideas too. I asked her to share with me, and after she was done hesitating (for fear of me taking her idea) she told me about a tiny house project thy’re working on at her federal office. I told her about Unhoused Humanity, a non-profit that works within Domi that help the homeless get off the street. She came back about an hour later and was able to connect with Ramon, the founder of the organization. Boom. Partnership.
Domi serves as a space for opportunity. There is nowhere better to network, and share vision. You can do it formally, in a conference room, or over free beer during happy hour on a Friday. I love coming in and not knowing what opportunities the day will hold. Maybe I will take the trash out and make coffee today. Maybe I will meet someone who has been to space. Either way, it is a great time and I am learning a ton. The people that work here are dedicated, have great energy, and positive attitudes.
I’m liking it here.
My experience with the RedEye Coffee internship has been fantastic thus far. It is a real privilege to be able to learn from a business that is focused on having a positive social impact. After learning what a social enterprise is from several social entrepreneurship classes I have taken, I can see that this is the type of business that the contemporary world needs. Through social entrepreneurship classes, as well as this internship, I have learned about the importance of the triple bottom line that successful social businesses implement in their practice: People, Planet, and Profits.
This internship provides us with several skills that are beneficial to our future and our future social businesses. Through the mentoring of Mark McNees, founder of RedEye Coffee, We learn how to properly communicate with each other and come up with our own plans to run the coffee truck and make a profit. Mark taught us how to properly make a pro-forma for the events of our choosing, which allows us to estimate profits before we go out and do business. I have had the pleasure to help run the coffee truck at a 5k run located at the Young Actors Theatre last weekend, which was a great and fun opportunity to learn how to work at the coffee truck in a busy environment.
I look forward to continue working with Mark McNees and my team to make the best out of our experience with the RedEye internship. We will continue to learn how to create our own business plans and figure out how to make them feasible.
I’ve been in this program called MuniMod for about a month now. The goal of this program is to work as a team to come up with and develop a way to improve municipal governments and their various processes across all of Florida. John, the instructor, has brought in several officials and government staff from various municipalities to talk to us about everything from how municipalities function and technical IT work to what problems they face and how they are trying to reach out to their constituents.
From all of this, our team has come up with three ideas:
1. Social media platform to help cities and their citizens communicate.
2. Utility drones used for spraying for mosquitoes or other helpful applications to reduce required labor.
3. Search tool for organizing and finding information in massive government databases.
Of these, my favorite is the social media platform. I think the drones pose too many legal barriers to be viable, and I find the search tool kind of boring. The social media platform could be difficult to get off the ground if we can’t get enough public interest, but it wouldn’t take too much work to develop the product and sell it city by city. That being said, we are working as a team, and whatever we end up going with, I will put my full support behind.
We’re about to be getting into the stage where we’re mostly finished listening, and it’s time to really get some work in on the project. I think we are doing well so far, but we need to do a lot of field research to find out which ideas are viable and what direction we should go.
My experience with the Frenchtown Farmer’s Market is going very well! The Program Director, Michelle Gomez, is a great mentor and positive influence to be around. She has laid out a great foundation and outline for me, which is very comprehensive for me to follow through with. The internship is structured in a way where I have enough time and resource to complete each task and make the deadlines.
The Frenchtown Heritage Marketplace is working to revive and restore Frenchtown’s culture of commerce and community so important to the fabric of this Capital City.Frenchtown Heritage Marketplace is the only farmers market in the Capital City area to offer centralized EBT access. Use your SNAP benefits (formerly “food stamps”) here! The market is also the ONLY place that can double SNAP dollars on the purchase of fresh produce, live plants and local honey. The grocery store, the dollar store, not even Walmart can do that for you. It’s easy! Stop by the market and ask us how it works.
I feel as though this internship is already teaching me great networking skills as I help prepare for the farmer’s market. For example, right now we are posting flyers and getting the word out about our first vendor information session. In order to have a successful farmer’s market we need about eight vendors, but we are aiming for ten to fifteen vendors. The type of vendors that we are looking for are farmer’s how sell fresh produce, eggs, milk, meat, and seafood. We are looking for vendors who make prepared foods, hand crafted jewelry, artists, and etc. However, of course are main focus is on the farmers with the fresh produce.