“Share Yourself” – Life As a Student Entrepreneur
The following post is from Brendan Barbato ’17, founder of Shelfie, a spring 2016 hatchery business.
Hi, my name is Brendan Barbato and I am a junior concentrating in entrepreneurship. Since my early childhood I have had an obsession with acquiring knowledge, building things, and taking products and enhancing them. Some of these things include: LEGO’s, investing on my own since I was roughly 12 years old, and my current venture, Shelfie.
Shelfie, Inc., which stands for “Share Yourself,” is currently in the beta stage. The company is essentially an interactive, social platform where brands (business, charities, etc.) can create value, as well as enhance their brand by directly marketing to their customers through fun and exciting photo contests! I started this around June of 2015 and hope to launch before the summer of 2016.
Being the only member of my team at Babson College, it has certainly been a unique experience. Almost all of our communication is done virtually. Our team consist of students from: Brown University, Harvard College, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Also, we just brought on a UMASS Amherst graduate who works at Oracle. The team is expected to grow as we approach the launch stage. We use a communication system called “Slack,” hold 1-2 meeting per week on Google Hangouts, as well as use a progress tracking system called “Todoist.”
Working together virtually is definitely possible, but poses many challenges. First, it is much easier to be productive when meeting in person, where teams can focus and all be on the same page at once. Second, you want to make sure you do not micromanage, but it can be difficult at times to know how much progress has been made. Thirdly, building strong relationships among team members, especially when some have never met face-to-face, can hinder commitment and motivation.
Working with a virtual team has been great, but nothing beats face-to-face interaction. There are many instances, such as outsourcing development in other countries, where virtually communicative environments thrive.
One of the most important things you can do as an entrepreneur, someone who is intellectually curious, or anyone looking to produce results by acting and not just thinking, should surround themselves with like minded people who are ambitious and supportive. At Babson, organizations such as eTower, a community of those full of entrepreneurially spirit, or the Butler Venture Accelerator Program, are more than helpful at providing the aforementioned environment through a plethora of resources and people who want you to succeed.
Lastly, I want to talk a bit about the internal struggles of starting a business. As a type 1 diabetic who has missed well over 100 days of high school, I have encountered numerous obstacles and roadblocks. It is important that you focus on your health before anything else. If you cannot function, you cannot build a successful business. On top of this, find something you are passionate about doing and use that to fuel your action. Not everyone is going to agree with you, and that is fine, but do not let it discourage you. For me, I have been inspired to work with charities, to specifically help eliminate inefficiencies and allow for more of donations to be given for the cause and research. Eventually I would like to get into bio-technology and have many ideas I believe are feasible, but currently am too busy to start.
Building on this, make sure you are realistic about your goals and seek as much feedback as you possibly can. Being a dreamer is not a bad thing, but may drive you insane and stress you out once you find that your goal lacks feasibility. In few, if any, instances, the path to success is a straight line. It is typically a series of mistakes, where those who learn from them, are not discouraged, and work towards solutions either through feedback or iterations, prosper.
Feedback is one of the most important interactions you can pursue – in any development stage of your business. Either through iterations of your product, how people feel about the market you plan to enter, or the way you present your product. You may think you have the best product in the world – and you might – but you have to convince consumers that you truly do.
Furthermore, I hope that you find this advice helpful and are able to utilize it. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions – about any field of interest, not just bio technology or technology. I can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org