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The Men Behind the Pin

Ben Silbermann and Evan Sharp are the two masterminds behind Pinterest. They wanted a way for people to be able to show collections of things they were interested in in some sort of interactive way. Pinterest is a form of social media where people can search pictures, craft ideas, cooking ideas, beauty trends, and much more. The unique thing about Pinterest, though, is that posts, called “pins,” can be saved and organized in different boards. When someone finds something they want to keep, they can save it to an existing board or create a new board. Boards are just like folders and are unique to the creator. They have a name and hold all of the pins the user puts in to them. Then, if they are looking for a new hair style, they can go to their “hair” board, find the pin they want, and show it to their hairstylist to try to recreate on them. Pinterest is useful because pins can be saved and the user can look at them months later. All the time we find tricks and pictures online that we perceive as interesting and want to save, but a few weeks, even days, later, we forget what it was or where we found it. Pinterest takes the struggle of losing the ideas away because the pins are organized and easy to go back to months later. It also allows users to connect with friends and family. If the boards are public, users can become friends on Pinterest and then look through one another’s boards to see if there’s anything in them they may want to save on their own board. People like Pinterest because it is a way for them to escape. They search things that make them happy and save the pins to look at later. They can fantasize about DIY projects they want to do and new makeup trends they want to try. It is a way for people to connect with one another and see what others are interested in. There is no slander or harassment capability, it is just there to relax, have fun, and see what makes those around us happy. These men created a new, fun way to share interesting ideas and tricks all in one place.

Natalie Webb: A True GCC Entrepreneur

Last May, Natalie Webb graduated from Grove City College with a degree in entrepreneurship. After she graduated, she began working on launching her own business and app, which she designed for her elevator pitch her senior year. Her business model was born out of a problem which she had experienced in her grade school days, and she knew many other people experienced as well.

          As a homeschooler, Natalie and her family had to buy all of their books themselves, and as there was no curated or organized way to buy used book, they usually ended up buying these books new from publishers, which got very expensive. However, Natalie noticed that after he finished with a book, it just stayed on her bookshelf until it either was given away to a family friend or sold at a significantly reduced price at a yard sale. Natalie considered how wasteful this was, both on the buying end and the reselling end because there was no organized platform for homeschoolers to interact with each other in this manner. Out of this pain came her idea of Hoot Book Revival, which is an app and website on which homeschoolers can resell their books and buy used books from other homeschooling families at a reduced cost. This benefits both the buyer and the seller, because people looking to buy books can get them much cheaper than they can new books, and people looking to sell books can sell them for more than they could at a yard sale.

Since her graduation last May, Natalie has been working to get this web platform active. She hired a company to design her website and has gotten guest writers to post on her blog. She has spent the last few months spreading the word about her company to homeschooling families and educators and talking to different publishers and co-ops about her business. While the cite is currently active, it is pretty light on content, so Natalie is focusing her attention on adding content and marketing for her business to possible clients.

          When I asked Natalie about how this business came about and what need it was filling, she said, “I suppose the core of the business idea was identifying an underrepresented group, and how their market needs weren’t being addressed, because the business pitch itself is pretty simple.” Natalie’s website allows the customer to buy and sell books, as well as collaborate with other homeschoolers on which lesson plans and books are best. Hoot Book Revival also has an option where people can post their books and let Hoot do all the work in finding people to sell them to, making the customer experience more enjoyable and less labor intensive.

Ultimately, Natalie’s business is incredibly innovative not because she came up with the idea of reselling books, but rather because she found a niche market and is catering to them in a new, technologically advanced way, and allowing them to simply post their books and have her company do the rest of the work for them. It is pretty neat to see such awesome innovation coming out of our own Grove City College.

High School Philanthropy – Jack Kim, Benelab

Entrepreneurial development: At this point, Jack is in his early twenties and has used his skills in creating computer software to create a number of successful online programs. The first of these which was profitable for him came at the age of 14: he called it Twigoogle, a search engine specifically targeting fans of the well-known Twilight series which made money through advertising. More notably however, was his development of a program know as Benelab a few years later at the age of seventeen. Benelab focused on the problem of the inaccessibility or lack of ease of philanthropy in modern day life. This software sought to solve this problem. Benelab is a search engine which generates donations from online traffic. Anyone who uses the search engine is therefore being philanthropic because all of the revenue generated from people using it goes directly to charity.

Among Kim’s most notable characteristics is his ambition: he started off his Benelab project with a budget of only $1,500 dollars and a goal of raising $100,000. He was also unique in his implementation of his adult policy- stating that only kids could work on the program along with him. He started off with a number of failed search engines, and eventually he refined his craft and was successful. I respect greatly the fact that someone so young can be focused on philanthropy as well. It was a successful idea because many people would like to be philanthropic, but often wont go out of their way. With this solution, people can conveniently be so without any money coming out of their pockets, they lose only the convenience of using a different search engine. Jack has really shown the importance of finding a niche in which you work best and enjoy working, and one in which there exists room for continued innovation- Jack has since founded a number of similar programs whether for profit or charity. He is also insightful in his revelations that,all he is doing is putting a bunch of small parts [or ideas] together to make one big product nothing is from scratch He goes on to say that this is no different from any other product in the world, even a search engine is the result of a number of small parts coming together to create a whole.

Here is a link to the video where Jack gives a Ted Talk on his discovery of what he calls the incredible world of entrepreneurship –  https://youtu.be/r1L91sVbN64

David Karp – Millenial Entrepreneur & Founder of Tumblr

David Karp is the young millennial who founded the popular microblogging and social networking website Tumblr in 2007. Growing up in New York City, he started learning HTML and designing websites for businesses at the young age of 11 years old. Karp never earned a high school diploma, and worried that this fact and his young age would hinder his career and people would not view him as legitimate. As August 2017 records report, Tumblr hosts over 360 million blogs, and has approximately 555 million visitors each month.

 

Karp began his career as an intern under Fred Seibert at his company, where he built its first blogging platform and was in charge of editing their internet video network. He later started working for a company called UrbanBaby, an online parenting forum up until 2006. Shortly after, Karp jumpstarted his very own software consulting company, Davidville. A year later, Karp and his partner Marco Arment began working on the microblogging website known as Tumblr. Right away Tumblr raised $750,000, and by 2011 had raised about $80 million. In 2011, Tumblr received about $125 million from investors and the money was used to begin advertising and promotion.

 

In 2009, Karp was named Best Young Tech Entrepreneur by BusinessWeek and in 2010 was reffered as, “one of the top 35 innovators in the world before the age of 35” by the MIT Technology Review TR35. Also in 2010, Tumblr was named as a finalist in Lead411’s New York City Hot 125. Tumblr is now used by several celebrities and was the first blogging post to host former President Obama’s blog.

 

There is so much we can learn from Karp’s story and success, one being that you should NEVER step down and let your young age discourage you!

Scott’s Cheap Flights – Save Hundreds on International Travel

Scott Keyes loves travel. In 2016, he traveled to thirteen countries, and yet only had to pay for taxes. Taking advantage of credit card points and frequent flier miles, he accrued enough points to take the trip virtually free. He combined his skill with credit cards with his knack for finding cheap flights and made possible a flight many can only dream of.

His 2016 trip isn’t the only one he has taken, and it did not take long for his travel prowess to catch the attention of his friends and coworkers. As more and more of them requested that he keep them up to date with deals on flights, he slowly transitioned to a newsletter service and then to a full-fledged for-profit business. His website, Scott’s Cheap Flights, does not sell flights but rather sends daily emails with information on deals that cut down hundreds of dollars on international flights.

In a way, it seems like the business fell into Keyes’ lap. However, the success of such a business seems so easily accomplished only because there was both passion for travel savings and a need for people to take cheaper trips. This business flows from what Keyes was already doing, and doing well. His drive to find good deals and love of travel made him both suited for and willing to run his website. Also, the fact that the business started with people he knew means that demand for his service was high. If the individuals in one’s small personal sphere have interest in your business, then it is highly likely that there is interest in the national realm. Keyes found a niche where what he was good at and ready to do met what other people asked for or wanted.

What make Scott’s Cheap Flights so unique is that everything is done manually. Scott himself as well as a few other employees manually surf websites searching for great sales and errors that result in lower ticket prices. No algorithm exists that can find the deals as well as Keyes and his team does. Finding deals online is more of an art than a science, and has not been developing for very long, as the online market has not existed very long. Although increasingly more people are developing skills with credit cards and deals, Keyes was both talented and ready enough to make one of the initial moves on a fairly open market.

In this service, Keyes mixes his passion with a problem. According to his website, “Scott searches for flights all day every day because he has no life.” He could apply what he already did to an area that other people asked for, and now his business serves more than 530,000 people. Scott’s Cheap Flights displays innovation not in software or technology but rather using what one already knows how to do.

The Rent the Runway Revolution: How Two Women Changed the Fashion Industry for Good

In 2009, two young women attending Harvard Business School met for their weekly coffee and business brainstorming session. Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss both knew they wanted to start a business together, but for many months they brainstormed ideas which never seemed to stick. However, on this particular afternoon, Jennifer Hyman mentioned to Fleiss that her sister would be attending a wedding next weekend, but had nothing to wear. She voiced the frustration shared by women across America, that it is difficult to justify spending hundreds of dollars on a dress you only wear a few times. As she said this, she came up with a business idea which would solve this problem and revolutionize the market of high end women’s fashion.

Jenny Fleiss (left) and Jennifer Hyman (right)

Hyman and Fleiss conceptualized a business model where they would partner with different well-known, high-end designers from around the world and rent these designer dresses out to women for a few days for a fraction of the cost of buying one of these dresses. These two young women started out by buying dresses in their own sizes and going around to different college campuses on the weekends of big events and putting up flyers and sending out emails announcing that the female students could rent these designer dresses for a reduced price and simply return them after the event. With each campus these two went to, their business model proved very popular, and with each event, they continued to refine and adjust their model until they landed on the current business model of Rent the Runway. Since 2009, Rent the Runway has grown from a few designer dresses advertised through flyers on college campuses into a $15 million corporation with an extremely user friendly app and a variety of supplementary services.

One things which makes Hyman and Fleiss stand out as unique in the world of innovation and entrepreneurship is their approach to founding a startup. While many young entrepreneurs look for a problem in their field of study or expertise which they can construct a solution for, Hyman and Fleiss started with a problem they simply observed, despite their lack of knowledge in the fields of fashion or technology.  However, by recording customer reactions to their product and collecting customer testimonials, these young women were able to get the designers on board and soon had enough funding to hire people with expertise in analytics, technology, fashion, and customer relations in order to create the best business possible.

Even eight years removed from its founding, Rent the Runway is an incredible company to watch innovate and expand. Because of the founders’ passion for giving women the opportunity to have that “Cinderella experience” and look elegant, extravagant, confident or professional for an affordable price, the company continues to grow its inventory, expand it market, and offer additional services, such as makeup and jewelry tips depending on the dress or outfit you rent.

Hyman and Fleiss at the opening of their first store

Hyman and Fleiss have also sought to optimize the customer experience by offering free shipping and dry cleaning, along with spending a great deal of time and money on analytics. This has allowed them to find what colors and styles customers prefer, along with how long customers like rentals to last so that they can give the customer the best, most convenient experience possible. Rent the Runway is constantly offering new features, different dresses, and featuring a variety of both well-known and new designers, which keeps their business in a constant state of growth and expansion.

Hyman and Fleiss are truly inspiring to all young women looking to be entrepreneurs. They actively thought about problems, and rather than waiting for funds or investors to back their idea, they eagerly engaged their clientele, pivoted based on the feedback they received, and then sought out investors and designers with confidence in their product and the data and testimonies to back it up. These two women are constantly pursuing excellence, passionate about their product and their clients, and dedicated to inspiring future women entrepreneurs.

 

Kutoa.com – Feeding the Hungry Made Easy

Kutoa’s birth was pretty simple, actually – Joey Grassia saw a problem, and he used the resources he had to create a solution. I’ll explain.

In 2007, Grassia was struck by the severe malnutrition and sickness he witnessed when he traveled to South Asia. A few years after that, he had a health scare of his own, due to his diet filled with additives and preservatives. In marrying these two problems he encountered, he came up with a solution for both. Kutoa (Swahili “to give”) is a website that sells gluten free, sans GMO health bars with no added sugar or preservatives. The best part? For each bar sold, one is given to a hungry child. Having just started Kutoa in 2010, Grassia has already driven it to deliver 1 million meals to children in need.

One thing that Grassia has been very intentional in doing is inviting the consumer not just to buy a health bar, but to be a part of this global change. Kutoa.com connects with its consumers through its blog, which can be found on kutoa.com. The blog highlights various individuals, organizations, and schools in the community that are doing their part in fighting hunger both locally and around the world. Scrolling through the reviews for their health bars (among which you can find Chocolate Espresso Bean, Blueberry Almond, and Cherry Cashew), it is obvious that Kutoa’s consumers are ecstatic about finding a health bar that is truly healthy, and being able to make a tangible difference in an easy way.

Perhaps one of the most driving factors in Kutoa’s success has been Grassia’s mindset towards entrepreneurship. He believes that someone doesn’t need to have loads of experience in the business world to make an impact. He or shes just needs have to have an experience. Grassia’s happened to include a life-changing trip and a new diet. In the “Our Story” page of Kutoa.com, Grassia challenges his audience to take a look at the experiences they’ve had, and figure out how we can turn those into ideas that will improve our lives and others’. “Please,” he writes, “always remember that each of us have the power to make a difference.”

https://kutoa.com/

Pit It! Pinterest.

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There is an online platform that many individuals, particularly millennials, enjoy. Well, often it’s a procrastination mechanism, at least it is for me. Pinterest allows you to save links to various sites including (but not limited to) retail sites and blogs. “Pins”, as they are called, are categorized and browse-able. With one simple click on the image, your computer, tablet or smartphone immediately links to the site from which the picture was pinned. This allows a user to collect and share others ideas, styles, thoughts, quotes, travels and just about anything you could think to take a snap shot of. I have certainly found myself spending a lot of time on this virtual creativity board.

Ben Silberman, born in 1982, co-founded the virtual pin-board known as Pinterest. Silberman is an internet entrepreneur and acts as the CEO of Pinterest. Silberman is quite the accomplished man. He participated in a prestigious high school research program at MIT, and he later graduated from Yale with his undergraduate degree. Silberman worked at Google in the online advertising group, until he started creating his own apps. Silberman said he thought of Pinterest because he has always liked to collect things. Now, with Pinterest, we can all collect ideas!

Ideas at Your Fingertips

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In March of 2009, Ben Silbermann, Evan Sharp, and Paul Sciarra founded Pinterest, a catalog of ideas and inspiration. Originally, no one understood the concept but one day, after a program called “Pin It Forward” was started, users suddenly began to realize what they could do with such a powerful interface as Pinterest. Since then, Pinterest became so popular that it had 17 million users in 2012, compared to the 5,000 users it started with.  It has since grown beyond expectations and is used in thirty languages around the world.

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Today, Pinterest is global site that is used for everything from recipes, to clothing inspiration, to home improvements, or even funny pet videos. Although it may seem counterintuitive, they hope to inspire users with their mission and encourage them to get out and do things. Although Ben Silbermann, Evan Sharp, and Paul Sciarra may have felt as though they did not know what they were doing as they were designing Pinterest, they have created an international phenomenon that remains fruitful and popular today.

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It’s Really Quite Pinteresting

Co-founded in 2010, Pinterest is a relatively new company that revolutionized the discovery aspect of social media. With 176 million registered users, it’s clear that millennial founders Ben Silbermann, Evan Sharp, and Paul Sciarra (aka Cold Brew Labs) had a stellar idea in the concept of Pinterest.

Pinterest is a visually-driven website that allows users to collect and sort ideas, articles, pictures, and other inspirations. Every “pin” is a photo, and if you like what you see, you can double click to see the pin’s origin or click the repin button to save it to one of your boards. It’s like a virtual scrapbook or file folder- but beautifully designed and much simpler. Additionally, users can add their own content to the site to share their own ideas and work.

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This wildly successful site was the phoenix that rose out of the founder’s previous app failure, Tote. Part of the reason Tote failed was people hadn’t really begun shopping through apps yet; the main way people used the app was to send product images to themselves. They were image collecting. The recognition of this behavioral trend was the key for Cold Brew Labs’ next innovation. They took this new insight and transferred it over to the web to avoid one of the big potholes Tote had, and voila, Pinterest was born. Its monstrous success is a testament to what can happen when failure is looked at as a learning experience rather than defeat.

Although some have call Pinterest’s CEO somewhat “socially awkward,” it’s clear that his creation is a work of social genius.

[Read more about Pinterest’s origins on Business Insider!]