Midpoint at VocaliD

Despite getting settled in a little more at VocaliD, my excitement about being here this summer hasn’t changed. It continues to be an interdisciplinary, dynamic environment, and though my central roles haven’t changed much, the details and everyday tasks vary from day to day, making it an always-interesting place to be. For a few weeks now, I have also been joined by another summer intern. The two of us work closely on some tasks and separately on others.

Our crowdfunding campaign ended its initial phase this week, marking a critical point for both the company and my summer. The campaign was largely a success, raising nearly twice as much as the initial goal, bringing in troves of new customers, and solidifying the coming timeline for VocaliD.

The current campaign status, showing our funding percentage.

For most of July, I’ll be doing more or less the same work as before, but applied towards the fulfillment of “perks” bought by customers on Indiegogo.

This week and next, we have a special visitor. Samantha Grimaldo was among the earliest recipients of a VocaliD voice, and an important pioneer in bringing the technology to market. We’re working with her to become more comfortable using her device to speak in public spaces, and documenting the process for a short video piece. Sam, who has much to say, made a few contributions to a new Tumblr page we’ve put up. In the future, the page will become an important place for people like Sam, who can feel very alone, to connect with other users of augmentative communication and share information about having and using a voice from VocaliD. In fact, most of the recipients of pre-orders during our campaign have been children or teenagers. The opportunity for somebody still young to be able to speak with their own voice is a wonderful thing to witness, and part of VocaliD’s service is that as your voice changes with age, the custom voice is updated to match these changes and always sound like you. Most of our past and current customers are young children, and that seems to be the demographic VocaliD most immediately affects. Hopefully the Tumblr page will allow for the sort of connecting between these young people that we hope.

In working on marketing-related things, such as drafting and sending email campaigns, I’ve become privy to just how many businesses today use email marketing as their main method of customer relations. We’ve been using Mailchimp, for example, and now I look at all of my email subscriptions and notice just how many companies use Mailchimp.

Mailchimp's ubiquitous email footer, common in emails we probably all subscribe to.

Email marketing is a staple today, especially for small businesses, and a great thing to have experience with, no matter what sort of business I may find myself in.

As someone who has worked a variety of jobs since early high school, I tend to think not of how work differs from university life, but more the other way around. In studying Linguistics and being exposed to academic publishing and field research, that always seems the more magical, less accessible, somewhat intimidating world that undergrads seem to mean when they talk about the “real world.” Even more daunting is the prospect of leading a life as a composer, which inherently involves connection with the academic world (and a good amount of financial struggle), and can be called “work” only in the loosest sense of the word.

Then again, that sort of thinking only reminds me that there aren’t really any such boundaries. My “world of work” this summer has been at a tech startup with a social mission, driven by donations from interested, generous people, and founded by a professor who underwent something of a STEM learning epiphany after some uplifting research findings. It blurs the lines between business and academia, something I often wish would happen to more of my university peers, and something I predict more of in the future business world.

-David Stiefel ’16

The Small Army of the Advertising World and its Cancer Kicking Pal, Be Bold, Be Bald!

Small Army Logobe-bold-be-bald-logo-no-date

Last week I started working for the advertising agency Small Army and it’s not-for-profit cancer foundation Small Army For A Cause, which runs the Be Bold, Be Bald! cancer fundraiser each October. It is located in the historic Horticultural Hall on Massachusetts Avenue in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston and is right across the street from the famous Symphony Hall, home of the Boston Pops. It is in a beautiful area of Boston, and it is only a short walk away from the Prudential Center, Boylston St., and Newbury St.

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 5.11.32 PM

(https://goo.gl/maps/0CLTW)

Small Army and Small Army For A Cause are some of the most creative businesses I have ever come into contact with. Small Army may be an ad agency, but they actually consider themselves to be “Storytellers for Confident Brands.”

“We consider ourselves professional storytellers but the industry we reside in is called advertising. We don’t believe advertising works anymore and that building campaigns off of key messages is outdated. We believe that when a person receives over 3,000 messages a day that odds are, they’re not paying attention to you.

 We believe that marketing is about sharing stories and creating relationships. It’s about creating a conversation and arming people with the story about you that resonates with them. As a result, they want to share it with their friends.” (http://smallarmy.net/who-we-are/)

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 12.37.25 PM(smallarmy.net)

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 12.37.44 PM(smallarmy.net)

Small Army For A Cause, which runs the national cancer fundraiser Be Bold, Be Bald! each October, is just as creative. Taking place wherever you are, “participants go bald by boldly wearing a bald cap (or very boldly shaving their head) to honor those who bravely fight cancer and raise money to help fight back.  Participants get sponsored for their bold move, and choose the charity they want their proceeds to benefit.” Since it’s creation in 2009, close to 11,000 people have raised approximately $1 million dollars towards cancer awareness and research.  (http://beboldbebald.org/cmspage/5/event-details)

Heading into my first day, I was very excited. I had previously worked with a few people in the office, CEO Jeff Freedman and Jen Giampaolo, last summer as a marketing consultant for Small Army For A Cause’s Be Bold, Be Bald! cancer fundraiser as a part of the JBS Marketing program. With their help along with the help of many Brandeis students and faculty, we established a successful pilot program at the university and raised over $4,000 towards cancer awareness and research. However, this summer I will not only focus on Be Bold, Be Bald!, but I will also focus on many of the advertising agency’s accounts as part of my role as Account Services and Social Media Intern. Some of these accounts include Reebok One, Sage Bank, Blue Hills Bank, Long’s Jewelers, SolidWorks, Direct Tire, GymIt, General Electric, Salonweek, WGBH, Boston Medical Center, and Bugaboo Creek. (Small Army)

I had seen the office a few times before, so I knew how close-knit and friendly the workspace and my fellow coworkers would be. It’s funny though because growing up as a kid during a time when Mad Men was your only source of what ad agencies were like, you would expect a very structured, suit-and-tie workplace that is filled many individual offices and cubicles. You wouldn’t expect a wide-open, quirky workspace filled with a bunch of enthusiastic workers, and not to mention pictures of photo-shopped cat images, crazy memes, and artwork around every corner.

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 3.55.28 PMIMG_3074Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 3.20.37 PMScreen Shot 2015-06-03 at 3.54.39 PM

Small Army – See the Space

Besides the cool office space and work environment, my assignments have been very engaging and interesting. I have worked a lot on the social media, infrastructure, and customer management for Be Bold, Be Bald!, worked with a team to do marketing research for Southern New Hampshire Immediate Care and for the urgent care industry as a whole, and worked with a group to develop a new, innovative website for Blue Hills Bank.   Not only have these assignments been interesting and engaging, but Small Army encourages interns to reach out to members on specific projects in which they might be interested in, join in on client calls, attend internal agency meetings, attend brainstorming sessions for clients, and many more.

I look forward to the rest of my time working at Small Army and hope to transform into one of the many “professional storytellers” at Small Army and Small Army For A Cause.

ISlide: The Final Chapter

whoopie
We had a lot of fun throughout the summer, especially when trying to finish a giant Whoopie Pie (see above via Instagram).

As the hours ticked by on my last day of work at ISlide, I noticed several things running through my mind. The first was relief. I knew that after this day I would be able to go home and see my family and that 45-hour work weeks were a thing of the past (for now at least). The second, however, was sadness. Throughout my time as a summer intern for ISlide, I grew extremely close with my coworkers, my boss, and the company itself, and the day had come where I would be leaving it. I had fallen in love with everything the company stood for, the product, and how we went about our business day in and day out. I started to realize how much I would miss that hot, old, amazing mill. But my time had come to move on and to allow another batch of young, intelligent, hard-working interns to come in and give it everything they had.

slides
Here is a picture of the slides I had made for a CrossFit Gym in Dallas (via Instagram).

During the months that I worked at ISlide, I had tasks and activities that helped me move towards my learning goals everyday. My main job was in sales. I worked day in and day out trying to add accounts for the company and manage the ones that I was able to sign. This task allowed me to build communication skills, confidence on the phone and in emails, and bolstered my Microsoft Office abilities. On top of that, we all worked very closely with Justin (ISlide’s CEO) in meetings where the topics included real world sales and operations reports, cash flow sheets, and investor decks that were used to pitch the company to outside venture capitalists and angel investors. These activities gave me background on all the things I had learned in the classroom and showed me how they are relevant in the business world. My tasks and activities at ISlide boosted my real-world business experience, taught me new skills and techniques, and showed me what it truly takes to run a successful start-up company.

From this point forward I will be looking to build off of my experience at ISlide. When it comes to my time in the classroom at Brandeis, I will use the experience I have gained and the new facets of business that I have learned to put the material into context as to how it could be important in future jobs. I think that this will allow me to focus more because what I am learning will have more meaning. I will also take my experience beyond to levels that reach outside of the classroom. Without a doubt in my mind, I will put to use the skills I learned at ISlide in my future internships, jobs, applications, and in life in general. I want to learn so much more and what I learned this summer will serve as excellent background knowledge for all of my future endeavors. I would love to explore more and more facets of business. I have experienced the start up world and the positions as a sales rep and I loved it. However, I would also like to look into advertising, marketing, and finance. These three things are experiences that I would like to take on in the future so that my knowledge can become as well-rounded as possible.

If I were to advise a future intern at ISlide or one in the sales/business field in general, I would tell them one thing: work hard. Work harder than you think you should. Don’t go into this internship thinking you have good work ethic; look to improve it. When I arrived at ISlide, I thought that I had top-notch work ethic, but then I watched Justin day in and day out. He is so diligent and so passionate and is willing to put in the hours for his company, for his child, so to speak. This rubbed off on me and before I knew it the nine hour days were flying by, I was working on emails when I got home from work, and I was thinking about ISlide all the time. The fact that I pushed myself to new limits when it came to my work ethic allowed me to experience success, and there is no better feeling than when the grind pays off. Here is a link to the website of an MMA apparel brand that I signed. I advise to work your tail off because in the end, it will make it exponentially more rewarding and you will be proud of the body of work you put together.

I loved my time at ISlide and wouldn’t change it for anything. It was an amazing summer, I learned more than I could have ever expected to, and it was a ride that I will never forget. Here is the “Meet the Interns” video that one of my fellow interns made about our summer with ISlide.

-Max Hart

ISlide: The Midpoint

I’m halfway through my time as a summer intern for ISlide and I can’t believe it. It has been over a month and a half and it feels like just yesterday that I was heading back to Waltham on Friday afternoon after completing my first week. I have truly fallen in love with the company and the product and I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here thus far. Working for ISlide has been everything I wanted it to be and more. I have learned skills in multiple different facets of the business world and have started to grasp what it takes to own and run a start-up company. I have been moving towards my learning goals and it’s exciting.

When I first stated my learning goals, I knew I wanted to gain knowledge of the business world and apply skills I had acquired in the classroom. I also wanted to learn more about the world of start-ups. So far I have been working mainly in sales and marketing, but I have had the opportunity to work with operations as well. As a small company, everyone needs to be able to step in and perform if one of the workers is out and I think that I have been able to do that well so far. The broadness of tasks that I have been trusted with has been amazing for getting closer to my learning goals. It has opened doors to how a real world company runs and works and how it does so smoothly. This is something that I never could have learned in a classroom. Our CEO, Justin Kittredge, has been awesome as well. He includes the interns in meetings and values their opinions which is something that you definitely won’t find in many other places. His motivation tactics, work ethic, and dedication to the grind and the company have rubbed off on me and have shown me what it really takes to be successful in an entrepreneurial venture. This is a picture that includes more information on the actual product that we are selling:

ISlide_Mantra_Shoe_Model-Flyer (1)

I have been moving towards my learning goals everyday, all while gaining valuable skills to go along with them.

I have learned a number of new skills while working with ISlide. I will start off in my position as a sales representative. I have learned new selling techniques that have made sealing the deal much easier. I have also learned how to identify more lucrative markets that would be interested in our product. This has done wonders for my ability to add accounts and to bring in customers. This is a link to one of our YouTube videos focusing on our customers and what they have done for ISlide so far. Lastly, I have gained numerous conversational and interpersonal skills. I am extremely comfortable on the phone and feel as though I do a great job in conversations with potential partners. This skill has also been built through working everyday with my co-workers. The interpersonal skills gained by conversing and collaborating with the sales force and other interns will serve me well in the classroom, in group projects, and in future careers. People skills are some of the most important talents to have while working in an office. I have realized what it takes to work as a team and I think that is vital to both the academic and the business world.

Everything that I have learned throughout the first half of the internship has allowed me to achieve a satisfying amount of success. I’m most proud of the fact that I sold more pairs than any one else did in the month of June. I was truly happy to be able to help the company and bring in revenue and I think that speaks to Justin’s motivation techniques. He is very positive and empowering and it felt great to be able to show him that what he was teaching us was working. This is a link to one of the biggest accounts that I have brought in.

The first half of this internship has been amazing. I have learned so much more than I thought I was going to and I have been given the opportunity to make my mark on the company which is all I could have asked for. I even got to meet Mickey Ward!

In a conversation with Justin earlier this week, he asked us what our biggest regret would be if we had to leave on that day. My response was that I would just regret not having more time – more time to learn from such a great mentor, more time to learn the ins and outs of a start-up, and more time to interact with the great people that work at this company. I will definitely be making the most of the rest of my time here at ISlide and I look forward to recapping all the knowledge I have gained!

ISlide USA: The Beginning of the Journey

This summer I will be working for a start-up, athletic footwear company called ISlide USA. Located in Norwood, MA, ISlide specializes in premium, highly customizable slides (athletic flip flops) that are allowing the business to grow every day. There is nothing like our product on the market today and consumers are starting to realize this.

securedownload-3

I located this internship through our baseball team’s Facebook group. The company reached out to our athletic department and our captain put the information in our group. I thought it sounded very interesting, so I went in for an interview and received the position. ISlide has created and sold slides to celebrities and athletes such as Tom Brady, Floyd Mayweather, 2 Chainz, Riff Raff, and many others (view company website). We also have distributed them to the University of New Mexico, Northeastern University, and Southern New Hampshire University. During my internship I will be working mainly on sales, marketing, and generating interest for the company. However, I have been assured that if I find myself interested in any other aspect of the business I can be given the opportunity to learn it and work within it. With the unique corporate structure of ISlide, I will be working directly under CEO Justin Kittredge and the Sales Director which is an amazing opportunity. The company is still in the early stages so the interns here are given responsibilities and access to things that many college students are not. I loved my first week and I am excited to see the person I become by the end of the summer.

Waking up last Monday for my first day of work was nerve-racking. I arrived to the address with no issues, got out of my car, put my back pack on, and headed up the stairs. ISlide USA is located on the fourth floor of an old mill. What is inside is amazing. Worn wood floors and brick walls house the business. Boston sports heroes such as Larry Bird, Bobby Orr, Pedro Martinez, and Mickey Ward are painted on the white wood walls seen throughout the floor plan. There are boxes filled with slides stacked everywhere and a Pop-a-shot basketball game located in the corner. It is truly the most unique business office I have ever seen. While some may think that this space would distract the employees of the company, it actually does the opposite. When it comes right down to it, the mill has a way of bringing all of the members of ISlide closer as well as acting as a highly functional facility. We love this place and are proud to call it home.

After the whirlwind that occurs when meeting everyone and receiving your assignments, Justin told me that I needed to take a song and remix it to make the theme about slides. I was confused but the distraction made the transition much easier. I settled on remixing Sweet Caroline and had to sing my version of the song in front of everyone. It was embarrassing but I got it done; it felt like I had completed a right of passage. After that I got into my job, doing sales. I learned the ropes from my co-workers and began creating my database and contact list. Over the week my lists grew and my email’s sent folder swelled. Finally, towards the end of the week, I made my first sale. Everyone was excited for me and I was pumped. It felt great to do something that helped the company.

So far, I could not be happier with my decision to accept an internship with ISlide. I have only been here for a week and I already feel a true connection with the company, which is rare to find with an internship position. I come to work at 8:30 in the morning and don’t leave until 5:30 but the days don’t feel long, I am still having fun. Going forward my goal is to gain as much knowledge as I can. I want to use this experience to learn about two things I find very interesting, business and entrepreneurship.