Maria used our consulting services to build a successful business model for Social Services with anti-poverty and culture of peace principles for under-served communities in NYC.
For 3 months, Maria’s idea, The Bridge, went through the 11th Annual cycle of the SmartPitch Challenge hosted by the City University of New York (CUNY). EOTO World was a partner with CUNY Institute of Virtual Enterprise, to influence student entrepreneurs to the apply basic human rights and culture of peace principles into their business models.
We asked Maria a series of questions about lessons learned:
- What motivated you to participate in the SmartPitch Challenge? “I always wanted to participate in a business competition and I wanted to see how realistic my idea was. I knew with this competition I would be able to bounce my idea off of experienced, business savvy people.I have worked in the field of child welfare for the past five years and I had started a blog to publish resources that I found for social service staff called “On the Spot”. I received a great response from staff at my agency who told me they wanted more. While I was doing this I was being mentored by consultant Rae Linefsky who suggested maybe I could turn my blog of resources into a business. At first I didn’t take the idea seriously, but after some thought, I figured what could I lose? One of my friends told me about the smart pitch competition and I jumped right in.”
- Describe what you did. How did you start?
“When I first started the competition I had no idea where to start. I started by detailing what I thought the problem was and getting feedback on it. The feedback I received was that my problem and solution was not clear; I knew my issue was that social services staff struggle to locate and connect their clients to resources, but I needed to communicate that to an audience.
The next step for me was to really identify who my target audience was and get more specific about which agencies I would target for providing resources.”
- Did you have any shift(s) in perspective about your enterprise throughout the program?
“Yes, I actually had several shifts in my perspective. In the beginning, I thought the competition was going to be a very simple process and I have all the information I need to make this a viable business. When our 30 second pitch was due, I must have worked 30 hours on it; I realized how much work putting together a business is. Putting together a business is time consuming and sometimes you don’t get the results that you want.
Before the 2nd milestone was due, I realized that I didn’t understand what an enterprise was and what the components in a business plan were. I then worked with one of the mentors and finally got a solid understanding of what I needed to do. I felt like people were able to understand my idea better because I was able to explain it to them better in person than on paper. As mentors started to validate my idea, I gained confidence.
Other shifts in my perspective were about realizing that just because my business was about helping people, that did not mean that people would automatically invest in it. I struggled with how to make my idea and product clear so that other people would be able to understand it and see the value in it like I did. In the end, the product has to be valuable. The person investing wants to see that it is effective and that you are credible. My thinking went from a social worker to an entrepreneur.”
- Each mentee had an opportunity to reach out to mentors. Who did you reach out to and why?
“I emailed all of the mentors just to see what kind of feedback I would get. Some responded and some didn’t. About 10 mentors actively corresponded with me throughout the stages of the competition.”
- How were you impacted through your mentor relationship with EOTO World?
“The mentor relationship with EOTO World enabled me to see my business in a realistic perspective. I was also given the encouragement and support I needed to believe in my idea. EOTO World enabled me to look at my idea and be realistic about the prices I was charging and the product I was selling. Even more, I developed a long term relationship with a mentor that is committed to helping me make my business a reality.”
- Can you identify tenants of human rights in the way your enterprise is being shaped externally and/or internally?
“The idea of helping to eradicate povery is helping to shape my enterprise. I believe that if people connect to the right opportunities it will help to get them out of poverty and create a better life. Often social service staff do not have the information for the right kinds of services to connect their clients to within New York City. My website is the bridge that connects staff to the resources that they can refer their clients to.”
- Can you identify tenants of a culture of peace in the way your enterprise is being shaped externally and/or internally?
“The tenant of a culture of peace that I use to shape my enterprise is the development of community. Often, in order for communities to be developed people need to know about the resources within them. My website will help connect people to the community resources that they need which will in turn help the community flourish.”
- Now that the competition is over, what’s next for you?
“Now that the competition is over I will continue to work with about three of the mentors that guided me during the compeition to continue to work on my business.”