Now that my internship has come to an end, I’ve been reflecting a lot upon what I’ve accomplished, what I’ve learned, and how to implement this into my future endeavours.
Seeing first hand a lot of the challenges that have been faced with Driftour, I realize how important in depth research will be if I ever want to found a startup. Val has come to the conclusion that Tallahassee simply cannot sustain Driftour and its model. The consumer base along with a small business/startup culture that is just starting bloom is not enough to give Driftour the network it needs to survive.
Applying this to my own life, I have begun to do research in order to see if GirlCab (the social enterprise I created in Bruce’s class) could survive. GirlCab is an exclusively female ride-sharing app, similar to Uber. What makes GirlCab different is the fact that it would totally female riders and drivers, and revenue and reach would be used to combat human trafficking- specifically the sex trafficking of women and children. I now know how extremely important location is when trying to build a business. Originally, I wanted to base GirlCab in New Delhi, India- however I have taken a step back and realized while the need is there, the consumer power simply is not. I will be moving to South Korea in the fall to research the need/market in Seoul while working as an English teacher.
Driftour helped to inspire this big move in my life and really put in the leg work that comes before the business. I need to remember the 5 stages in Design Thinking that I learned from Professor Manciagli: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test. Right now I think I’m still in the define/ideate phase and I need to make sure I’m being thorough and taking the steps I need to take to point me in the right direction.
Val decided to let Harrison and I be responsible for pitching Driftour to a few local businesses in hopes of gaining some new business partners to host immersions for our subscribers. Well, it did not quite go as planned.
Harrison and I met at Lucky Goat to go over our pitch one afternoon. We practiced and practiced because we wanted to make sure we did a good job representing Drifour for Val. Pulling up to our first location we were nervous and going over in our heads any possible questions we could be asked by the business owners.
At our first location, we were unable to talk to the owner but did our best to sell our package to the kind employee who was willing to listen. She seemed to be very excited about the idea and what Driftour has to offer and said she would pass along our pamphlet to the owner. A week passed by with no email or call. I followed up and one had any idea what Driftour was and they said they were not interested.
At the second location, we were happy to hear that the owner was on site! However, he does not like ‘solicitors’ so we would not be able to interrupt his busy day.
But like Harrison said in his blog post, sometimes you learn more from hearing no. While we wanted to bring good news to Val, and we wanted to feel like our pitches were persuasive and successful, we did not walk away empty handed.
In the world of startups and social entrepreneurship, one of the most important things to learn is to handle the word “no”. Because you’re gonna hear it a lot. It is so important to not let the word “no” discourage you, but to maybe take a step back and say “How can I be doing this better?”. And sometimes you just have to believe in your idea and yourself enough to think ‘they have the right to their opinion, but they’re wrong- I’m gonna keep going’.
So the semester has just reached the halfway point and things with Driftour have been great! We have been able to partner with some great Tallahassee business, like Axios Lifestyle Spa and War Horse, to plan what we call “Immersions” for our subscribers. I have accompanied Driftour on two immersions so far and got to learn how to do some glass blowing at Magnolia Glass Studio and made smoothies at Axios!
One thing that I really love about Driftour is how it connects people with the small businesses around Tallahassee. During the immersions, our subscribers get to meet the owners, hear the stories behind the businesses, and really identify with each business’s mission. When an immersion is over, the attendees have a greater appreciation for small businesses and the participating businesses hopefully have gained new life long customers. Being the daughter of a small business owner, I really see the value in this.
Aside from all the fun activities, I have been working mostly on marketing and social media for Driftour. Exposure and customer education are two of our biggest challenges, and our goal is to grow our subscription base. Unfortunately, I have had a few trips to the hospital this semester, but I am hopping back on the horse. This week I am trying to the learn the art of Facebook Ads, which has been a lot more challenging than I thought- but hopefully by the end of this semester I will be a social media guru.
I was really excited that I got the opportunity to do the SEI Internship program a second time around. After heckling Mr. Manciagli for another class to take, he suggested I try out a different internship. I decided to go for something totally different than my first office administration like internship with INIE and pursue a position with Driftour and amazing founder Val Rodriguez. Many in the SEI community know Val, but this was the first time I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with her.
Driftour is in its beginning stages and still overcoming a lot of operating challenges. I’m really excited for the opportunity to work with a start-up and see the decision-making and thought process behind overcoming the various and numerous obstacles that so many start-ups face. If you don’t know what Driftour is, I highly recommend visiting the website and checking out the different subscriptions available. In the short time I’ve been working with Driftour, I’ve gotten to know Tallahassee and all it has to offer better than I have in the past 3 years living here.
With the year coming to an end there are a lot of things on INIE’s plate. We have been working on preliminary planning for the NESI conference in March and I have been able to meet the board and sit in on some meetings which has been a really cool experience! NESI stands for Nonprofit Enterprise and Social Innovation summit and the goal is to bring leaders from all different sectors to create an event that’s really positive for all who attend. There are different tracks with different workshops to cater to everyone’s needs and wants. That’s primarily what we’re working on at INIE right now- figuring the tracks and workshops that will give the most to those who attend. It’s difficult because there is so many amazing ideas that have been brought to the table, it makes this decision process tough. However, I will not be there for all the planning for this conference as my internship is coming to an end in December. I do plan on volunteering for this event and I’m really excited to see how it comes together.
Tonight was the night of the event I had been working on for E-month- the Social Entrepreneurship meetup. And I think it went really well! There was a great turnout from the people who are already involved in Social Entrepreneurship as well as those who want to get involved. It was nice to see so many FSU students there as well. Representatives from DOMI, Redeye, Commu, and more made this a really great networking opportunity for them. We had food and great conversation! I was afraid it might be awkward because there was no facilitation, however, I was proven wrong. Everyone was engaged and overall I feel the event was a success. There were a couple things I would’ve changed if I could do it again.
- Contact more Social Enterprises in area (and hound them to come)
- Introduce INIE and some of the amazing people we had in the room at the beginning of the meetup
- Have some note cards with questions for some of the more timid people in the room
- Have a couple interactive and optional activities (perhaps a big poster posing a question with some markers for people to write their answers)
As many of you know, the month of November in the Tallahassee- Leon County area is E-month (entrepreneurship month). The past couple weeks at INIE I have been working on our engagement in this. I have been attending meetings with my mentor who is on the E-month board at the Office of Economic Vitality. It has been really interesting to see the engagement between all the partners. Everyone is working together to further the presence, value, and recognition of entrepreneurship in the community while also furthering their own organizations interests. I can see benefit across the board. INIE recognizes the importance of nonprofits and social enterprises being a part of this, to help close the gap between the sectors for profit, nonprofit, and socially innovative businesses. My mentor has put me in charge of a Social Entrepreneurship Meetup event that will be held in our space. It will be a mixer event where people have the opportunity to converse and connect with others in the community with similar goals and mindsets. I have been working on contacting local social enterprises to attend as well as students who have genuine interest in this field. So if any of you reading this would be interested in this event, it’s Monday Nov 7th, from 5:30-7. Come out! It will be a great time!