Tag Archives: entrepreneurship

Reflections from Buenos Aires

I have so much blogging to catch up on! These last 2 weeks have been a blur – first a trip to Buenos Aires, then Anuprit and Geoff’s birthdays, and now the Chilean National Independence Day, dieciocho. All while trying to get work done for our October Gym-Pact pilot!  Needless to say, 24 hours a day have not been enough.  But Buenos Aires was such an experience that I need to at least write out my impressions, if I can’t get across everything I saw over the 7 days there.  The city has given me more perspective on Latin America, Chile and my own experiences.

Upon arriving in Buenos Aires, my first impression was, of course, of the differences from Santiago.  Cafes on every corner, greenspace, a restaurant culture, unique crafts being sold in markets, architecture, blue (smog-free) sky, and most of all, an overwhelming sense of scale and grandeur from a city that prides itself in its culture and past.  All these things I had been craving in Santiago, and experiencing them all at once was sensory overload but not in an unpleasant way.  We spent the first day just walking and taking it in.  There were those spontaneous surprises around every corner – street musicians, 2×1 café con leche, a public garden, 3-story high graffiti art – that made Buenos Aires seem endlessly large and ripe for exploring.

Buenos Aires had a distinctly Italian flair – from the accent of the Spanish to the cappuccinos to the tricky cap driver who tried to charge us $140 USD for a 140 peso ride.  But it was also different in that it wasn’t solely focused on a grand past, but also looking to its future.  This we saw in the beautiful Palermo Valle where Argentina’s startup scene convenes.  The Argentinians are naturally more entrepreneurial (maybe because they are more willing to argue?), but most of them also have a deep respect for the Chileans when it comes to business, despite the natural neighborly rivalry.  One Argentinian entrepreneur told me that the Argentines are better at starting businesses but the Chileans are better at growing them.  This statement didn’t surprise me at all.

Given their complementary strengths – Chile with its orderly, business-friendly government, fervent anti-corruption (fought with a mountain of paper receipts), straight-forward people, and safe, easy-to-live-in capital, and Argentina with its creative, artistic spirit and rich culture – I am surprised the two neighbors don’t work together more often.   Indeed, many Chileans I spoke to have never even been to Argentina, and vice versa.  This is a tragic loss of opportunity that can very easily be remedied.  I don’t pretend to be an expert on Chile-Argentina relations, and I am sure there are many historical and cultural reasons for the rivalry, but still, going forward, I think there is always opportunity when different strengths come together.

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First week in Santiago!

So I promised a lot of people that I’d post pictures and stories of Santiago.  After a week without regular access to email – the silence from lack of iPhone alerts was both irking and oddly peaceful – I’m back online, almost back on track with life, and have some time to post first impressions.

At the Start-Up Chile officeAfter making it off the plane with over 150 lbs of luggage each, Geoff and I made it to Giselle’s house, then to the Start-Up Chile office.  Imagine 140 entrepreneurs crammed into one floor of a high-rise – craziness abound and wireless internet strains under the burden.  But it’s been great to meet everyone!  We’re from all over the globe with companies as diverse as apartment renting, sanitation tech, photoshare and us – fitness.

Meanwhile, at Giselle’s house, we have been getting an awesome dose of Chilean hospitality.  From Sr. Huerta’s antics with the heirloom riding cape to Pache, the cutest and possibly tiniest dog in the world, to delicious fresh meals prepared by Carmen, we’ve felt right at home in our new country.

Sr Huerta's heirloom riding capePache the cute tiny dog

Yumm, Peruvian food

Meanwhile, we also took two hikes to see a panoramic view of Santiago – one near Lo Barnechea in the suburbs and one with the Start-Up Chile crowd up Cerro San Cristobal, the Central Park of Santiago.  The views were stunning, despite the pretty terrible smog.

Jumping for joy against the AndesGeoff finds Hamlet the skullAndes, beautiful AndesVirgin Mary atop San CristobalSantiago sky view from San Cristobal  So overall, not a bad week.  Spanish is improving all around thanks to the difficult real estate market. Can’t wait to move into our SWEET apartment this week and add some pictures.  What can you rent for $550 per month in Santiago?  Get ready to be jealous Boston and NYC folks 🙂

Tory Johnson’s Spark & Hustle Conference

This past Saturday, I was able to spend the day with Tory Johnson, ABC Good Morning America workplace contributor and female entrepreneur extraordinaire, and the amazing women (and men!) of the Boston Spark & Hustle conference.  As the Q&A Keynote on Saturday morning, I was able to share some of my experience as the founder of Styleta and Gym-Pact.  I was pretty nervous the night before, since it was my first time being a conference keynote, but Tory was amazing at guiding me with the questions.  The audience questions were also fun to answer and gave me some great ideas for both startups!

I stayed the rest of the day to listen to the other speakers and definitely learned a ton.  Here are some great tips I learned.

From Dan Schawbel, personal branding guru:

  • Update those online profiles – yes I mean Facebook too!  I’ve seen plenty of FB profiles of recent grads that still seem to say they are students.  For me, I definitely need to do some work on my FB and LinkedIn.
  • Leverage small successes to get bigger ones, especially in media features.  Got covered or wrote for a local newspaper?  Put it in your bio and keep adding to it.  I’m going to update by bio to include media mentions!
  • What to read: Mashable and ReadWriteWeb
From Christina Perkett on media:
  • Have 3 soundbites rehearsed that you must share with reporter no matter what questions they ask.  Good advice that I wish I had heard before my interviews!
  • PitchEngine – social press releases
  • Always say thank you to the reporter, and offer additional content to build the relationship
  • People have different preferred communication methods – if they’re not responding to emails or calls, try Twitter, FB or texting.
From Vicki Donlan on turning contacts to cash:
  • Break that mental barrier between personal and business contacts, and don’t be afraid of telling people what you do for a living!
  • Become an expert, the go-to person on a specific topic
  • Listen for people’s needs and give before you get
Got other tips?  I’d love to hear them!

Turning Your Idea into a Business: My Guest Post on Lindsey Pollak’s Next Generation Blog!

I wanted to repost this because I love Lindsey’s blog and thought this info might be interesting to some of you!  Check out the real blog post here.

I’m so honored to be invited as a guest author for Lindsey’s blog!  I’m the founder and CEO of a student-run fashion nonprofit called Styleta, which collects and sells designer clothing donations online – a virtual Goodwill meets Gilt Groupe. For all of you women who are thinking about blazing your own path as an entrepreneur, here are some tips to help turn your idea into a business.

  • Research:
    Always begin by researching your idea and the competitive playing field.  A simple Google search (i.e. “designer clothing donation”, in Styleta’s case) can give you a brief snapshot of how many other companies are pursuing similar ideas and who they are.  Start keeping a list of these competitors and some of the key metrics that you are interested in, such as annual revenue, target demographic, etc.  It’s also useful to set up a Google Alert for keywords related to your startup idea – for me, I track “clothing donation” to see daily updates in the industry.  Don’t panic if there are a few other companies in your industry!  No competitors may be a sign that the idea doesn’t have enough value while 50 competitors may mean an overcrowded market.
  • Test:
    Next, you want to test out your startup concept, ideally with the customer demographic you are targeting to see if the idea has legs.  In starting a nonprofit, my job was easier because there was no need to protect the idea.  I spoke to as many people as I could in all the industries in which Styleta would operate – retailers and boutiques for clothing donations, individuals about online shopping, and charities on partnerships.  With a for-profit startup, it is wise to be more discreet, especially if there are no high barriers to entry.  However, you can still create surveys, mock website designs, and even trial websites to test with trusted advisers — sometimes under the protection of a Non-Disclosure Agreement.  One of my favorite resources is Weebly.com, a drag-and-click site to easily create functional websites.
  • Get Legal:
    If you feel ready to continue pursuing your business, it is time to incorporate your company.  There are huge debates in the entrepreneurship community about whether to form a C corporation (the big guys like Coca-cola and Microsoft are all C corp’s), an S corporation (similar to C corps but with tax and reporting advantages for small businesses), or a limited liability company (LLC).  I won’t go into the details here –there are tax and reporting benefits to all three and entrepreneurs debate over the merits of each form – but I suggest you research the pros and cons and decide on the right fit for your business.  There are many firms who can help you incorporate, or you can fill out your own paperwork.  However, do apply for a federal employee identification number (EIN) so that you can apply for a business bank account.
  • Find the Money:
    Getting the startup capital to fund your idea is tough.  Nonprofit or for-profit, you will probably pitch to numerous donors/investors before getting a yes.  My best suggestion is to begin tapping into your networks, whether from family, work or college alumni network, and keep in touch with supporters.  Someone who isn’t in a position to invest may still be a valuable mentor and ally.

Good luck, and best wishes on the success of your startup!