So far, my experience at The Apprenticeship Center (TAC) has been very different from any other internship I’ve done. I am so grateful to have found a truly socially entrepreneurial organization. TAC uses an apprenticeship model to bridge the gap between academic learning and the workplace for students, while also providing mission critical services to nonprofits and small businesses at lower rates. To provide guidance and real industry knowledge, each apprentice receives a Knowledge Navigator who is a current or retired industry professional. TAC has a model that truly creates shared value, benefitting all who are involved. I have the awesome opportunity to serve as a Project Apprentice to work on projects for TACs development.

My experience has been fun but certainly a challenging one so far. I am learning that there is a lot of work behind innovation. Entrepreneurship and innovation are words that get thrown around a lot and can often be glamorized but being innovative is difficult. My assignments are very unique and require a lot of critical thinking, when you are innovating, you don’t have a manual or a guidebook. I am  learning how to research, utilize resources, collaborate, and think critically about the tasks at hand.
One of the goals of the organization is to replicate their model elsewhere. But first the Executive Director who is also my Knowledge Navigator, wants to develop a better infrastructure for the model. So one of my assignments has to do with identifying gaps in the TAC business plan and documenting TACs essential components and processes. I will eventually start drafting an operational model that may potentially be used by other organizations wanting to successfully replicate the model. It is a tough but exciting process as I try to imagine myself as someone trying to recreate TAC in a new place. I think about what I would need to successfully replicate the live learning laboratory that TAC has created. I’m learning that you won’t get results immediately with complex projects, but I believe the work will be worth it when I am able to actually create value for TAC by working towards a real need for the organization.

Red Eye Coffee – Blog Post 2

Entrepreneurship is not easy.

Dalton and I have been working towards getting the mobile café at an event in Tallahassee. But getting our drinks to the community is much harder than the consumer may think. We’ve tried several options: First Friday, Winterfest, and Market Days to name a few. All sound like viable options, but issues such as competition and profit come into play when investing in an event. Essentially, that’s what advertising/selling at an event is – investment. The business is investing however much the event fee is to advertise to the community as well as make a few sales for a profit. If the business does not see that the investment is beneficial, then obviously it will not partake in the venture.

This is the issue we’ve been facing frequently as of late. Not much has changed since my last blog post; we are still facing no’s as well as minimal to negative profit margins when contemplating events. It appears that our greatest challenge continues to be how we cannot seem to find the right opportunity for the mobile café. Hopefully by my next post one of those no’s will be a yes and our struggle will return a fruitful opportunity.

Red Eye Coffee – Blog Post 1

RedEye Coffee is an incredible business that is aware of its environment, community, and international impact. My partner and I have been given the task of taking the mobile café to an event, writing up the business plan and executing our idea. It sounds like everything I’ve ever wanted out of an internship – however, after several weeks, our internship has been nothing short of challenging.

With setbacks such as Hurricane Hermine, deadlines for major Tallahassee events missed, and the insurmountable obstacle of coffee chain monopolies, Dalton and I have had our fill of no’s. However, this will be nothing compared to what we will face as entrepreneurs without the cushion and guidance of an internship. I take each rejection as a lesson and a process of elimination; each no is a step towards that illustrious yes.

I have full confidence that my partner and I will be able to create or attend an event that will be of benefit to RedEye as well as the purposes of our internship by the end of the semester. I don’t expect it to get any easier, but I am sure with Mark’s (RedEye Founder) guidance, we will be able to accomplish something.

Be The Solution – 2

Starting a new business is hard. Don’t ever let anyone lie to you and tell you that with faith, trust, and little pixie dust, all your problems will be solved. Sometimes, you will feel like the entire system is a stacked deck and you’re on the losing side of the table.

That being said, the process of starting a pet treat bakery is not entirely impossible – just extremely tedious. I worked on it for years in Tennessee and never made it to the “next step” – we didn’t make it to the point where we were getting nutritional analyses and registering with the state. However, I’m confident that my personal trials and errors can help steer this new project in the right direction and cut down on wasted time. For instance, I likely won’t indulge my more “creative” side and dabble in upcycled art projects to sell while I should be focusing on the main product.

I’m eager to figure out new ways to start and grow a pet treat business. It started as a weekend hobby and grew into an all consuming passion for me. This internship is offering a more structured approach than the one my mom and I took. While my mom and I were looking at how to generate funds as quickly as possible, we weren’t focused on the sustainability of the project. We both knew that our experience with pet treats had an expiration date that coincided with my dorm move-in date.

This time, I’m breaking down costs. I’m looking at the most efficient ways to produce as many treats as possible, while ensuring that these processes are still cost-effective. I’m thinking about how much it would cost to create my home kitchen and supply all the appliances my mother has collected through the years. All the while, I’m thinking ahead and thinking of ways to expand beyond Scooby Treats’ success.

But mostly, I’m thinking of how much time I’ve spent learning about commercial pet feed laws and regulations. If there is ever a question on Jeopardy about what is required on a pet treat label, I’m buzzing in first:
“I’ll take Pet Treats for $400, Alex.”
“Crude fat and crude proteins are examples of these requirements.”
“What are pet treat label requirements in the state of Florida?”

A Nonprofit for Nonprofits

In 2008 my mom went on a trip to Vietnam, and it changed her life.

She went with her best friend as support during the adoption of her son. They spent a week at the orphanage, getting to know her new son and going through the proper rituals and procedures so that she could take him home to be a part of her family. But not only did they fall in love with the little boy, they fell in love with all of the kids. My mom wanted to bring them all home, but she knew my dad probably wouldn’t be too happy about that. So she promised them she’d come back the next year, and she did. And the year after that and the year after that.

She felt really inspired by the children and this prompted her found Big Big World- a nonprofit to support these children and help them pursue an education after high school which they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. I have seen the difference that she had made in the lives of these kids and how much they have grown and succeeded just because they have some people who believe in them. This is the reason the nonprofit sector is something I have always held close to my heart.

However, I also saw all the obstacles and struggles my mom has faced over the years. Founding and running a successful nonprofit is not easy, and seeing my mom have such a hard time when all she wanted to do was make a difference was sad to see.

So, when I heard about the opportunity to intern for the Institute for Nonprofit Innovation and Excellence I was very excited. INIE is a nonprofit fro nonprofits. Our whole goal is to provide the resources to local nonprofits they need to succeed. There is space to rent so organizations who don’t have offices can come and have a professional workspace. We host many workshops on topics geared to helping nonprofits get on their feet, thrive, and prosper.

So far I have met so many amazing people. The executive director, Jessica, is an inspiring and passionate woman and I love getting to work closely with her everyday. I have been working on our event rental system and getting that organized so we can provide the best possible service to our clients. I have also been working on organizing a Social Entrepreneurship Meetup that we are hosting in our office to try and help those interested in social innovation have a forum to network and speak about their interests. There are a lot of neat projects coming up and I am so excited to be helping a nonprofit who’s goal is to help others work and grow and better our community!


RedEye Fall 16′

To say that our internship this semester has been thus far unsuccessful, or maybe less severe; rocky, would seem fitting. So far, my group has had nothing but struggle. However despite one of our members (our group started out with only 3 members) dropping out and having no success finding a suitable venue for our mobile cafe; I could hardly classify our efforts in this stage of our internship as unfruitful.

Our goal for this internship is to run the RedEye mobile cafe for a day, because of this we  have been tasked with constructing a full business plan around the event we choose to bring our cafe to. This in itself is easily handled by the powerful minds of myself and my partner, and I know that we both walked into this expecting to just go out, spend a few hours of time and have our whole semester planned. However we have faced a powerful, and at this stage, seemingly unmovable force; getting a plan denied, getting a NO! This is why I cannot call our internship up to this point unsuccessful. Receiving a no is not in itself a lesson, but how you handle that denial is where the real experience and learning comes in. How you execute a plan after being told no, is truly how an entrepreneur shows the cloth they were cut from; do you simply say ok, and throw in the towel, or do you regroup and make your plan better and more unstoppable than ever?

This is where my group is at now, we have not had a single plan “work out”, whether it be for logistical reasons, timing, coffee monopolies, cost of attendance, I could go on and on. And thankfully, despite our lack of results, our mentor Mark Mcneese, has not stepped in to take over. Now to some that would be frustrating, but when you are an entrepreneur, nothing is handed to you- you have to claw your way to success. The struggle is what makes success so worth it, the harder you work, the better success tastes.

I am definitely excited to see where this internship goes, I think RedEye has an incredible amount of resources that as interns, we can tap in to. It would be fantastic if we could create some large amount of benefit for Mark and his business, and I think we absolutely will, but I am even more excited for the lessons I will learn on the way.


Be The Solution – 1

I’ve been rescuing animals since I was seven years old. My Rottweiler, Scooby, came into my life when I was seven. Looking back, all the signs that he’d been abused are clear – he’d flinch when you’d touch him, he feared strange men, he’d have nightmares and wake himself up whimpering. Yet, despite his personal trauma, Scooby was the best dog ever. He stopped a man from breaking into our house, he cuddled on my bed through thunderstorms, and he would always trot right beside me when I’d explore the woods near my house.

Losing Scooby was like losing a sibling – I cried for a week and I still have his ID tag on my keychain. But through that loss, I found inspiration to help animals like him – animals that deserve a second chance. I spent my entire high school career volunteering in animal shelters and clinics – fostering, fundraising, and facilitating adoptions.

Our dog treat business started as a spur of the moment fundraising idea. The clinic I was volunteering at had a booth reserved at the Apple Festival, but no one knew what to do with it. So, my mom and I made some dog treats to sell, with proceeds going to the clinic’s Trap-Neuter-Release fund. The idea only grew from there… Until I moved to Tallahassee. It’s hard to run a business when you aren’t there. So, my treats have been on hiatus. That’s where Be The Solution comes in.

For those of you who don’t know, BTS is a non-profit in Tallahassee that provides spay/neuter vouchers to the community. Higher access to spay/neuter in a community means less animals are euthanized in shelters, because there’s no overcrowding. By spaying one stray cat, you’re keeping dozens upon dozens of kittens from being picked up and then euthanized. By spaying one dog, you’re keeping kennel space open to accommodate a chocolate lab who is always digging out of his fence. Sterilizing animals ensures animal shelters are shelters rather than a rest stop on the way to the landfill.

BTS has The Fix Thrift Store as a means to generate funds to support the vouchers, but they want to begin producing pet treats do further fund their cause. As their intern, I’ve been learning the regulations for selling pet treats in Florida, as well as contacting other bakeries to learn from their successes and mistakes. With this information, I’ll formulate a business plan and timeline, as well as experiment with treat recipes using locally sourced ingredients. From there, hopefully, BTS will be able to get the bakery’s feet on the ground and continue to support their mission.

I’m really excited to see what this semester holds for me!