CultureTech

Social media minions, if you haven’t done so yet, take a second to update your Snapchat.

Snapchat has become a legendary app. It encompasses everything involving sharing bits and pieces of your day with your friends and followers. Organizations have partnered with Snapchat to promote their events through a live feed, and this platform has essentially moved the spotlight from teenagers sending each other random photos, to involving companies creating corporate business deals. It has, in a sense, become revolutionary – it has forced companies and event planners to take a step back and promote their brand through a new medium.

Personally, Snapchat has taken part in my life since its early days. This is the application where I just may send my best friend selfies looking like a sleep-deprived- coffee-binging-alien as I study, holding a large coffee beside my colossal marketing textbook, or smiling through my cucumber green-facial mask-smothered face. It’s where I will send you snaps of scrumptious meals, fabulous weather, and must-go-to-events.

This is also the application where I have to plug my iPhone into my speakers in order to send you a selfie video of me singing to a song that I do not come close to qualifying as a worthy cover artist.

As may know, Snapchat has just released the latest version of the app on February 18, 2015.The new update has left users in a pool of joy – including me. Users can now let their smartphone play music from iTunes, Spotify, and Sound Cloud while recording videos. Before this update users had to use Mindie, an application that allowed music to play simultaneously. Snapchat shutdown Mindie just before the release of this new update. Extra efforts are no longer necessary for vivid video snaps.

I think their latest update, 9.2.0, puts into function a feature that should have been installed as a part of the app from the beginning. However, apparently this feature wasn’t on everyone’s mind. Instagram, Vine, and iPhone’s default camera also neglected to include music playing while recording. I applaud Snapchat for steering themselves ahead of the game. As for “bug fixes and improvements to make Snapchat faster” thanks Snapchat, those are always welcome, too.

I’m excited about this new update – it not only satisfies the demands of current users but it also makes social media life easier. In addition to their latest feature, I can’t neglect to mention the highly talked about “discover” feature. This was last month’s update which – I’m sure you’ve heard by now, is a screen of twelve media icons that serve as news platforms in that particular sector be it fashion, food, travel, sports, politics, etc. These editions or stories are available to the user for 24 hours and they come in multiple mediums like video, text, and photo to fully engage the viewer. Perhaps this is a great way to create a sort of liaison between a disengaged younger audience and paying more attention to the news.

Do you think that Snapchat hit or miss, here? Sometimes I wonder whether or not companies should stick to what they know. It’s interesting to recognize interest in expansion and the implementation of ideas, but I don’t know if I can see Snapchat as a news provider. Personally, I prefer sticking to more traditional resources. What are your thoughts?

Image: Pexels

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

We met up with Shavanna Miller, the Co-Founder and CEO of Bloompop, earlier this fall in a coffee shop in the middle of bustling downtown Washington, D.C. Having grown up in the area, Shavanna knew the in’s and out’s of the metropolitan streets and kindly helped point lost passerbys in the right direction. It’s no wonder that she now runs an online marketplace that connects consumers with the best local florists across the country (think ‘Etsy for flowers’) – she is a natural community builder. Apart from providing beautiful flowers and an incredibly easy and enjoyable browsing and purchasing experience, Bloompop’s true success is in helping small businesses and consumers build a stronger community network.

Shavanna graciously shares her career trajectory, how she stays organized, and why she ultimately decided to come back to D.C. after having lived in so many great cities. This entrepreneur is making the world a better place one bouquet at a time, and we’re so excited to share her interview and introduce the face behind the flowers.

Name: Shavanna Miller
Occupation: Co-Founder/CEO, Bloompop
Age: 29
Education: The German School of Washington D.C.,B.S. in Environmental Science and Film Studies from Columbia University, London School of Economics and Political Science
Follow Shavanna: Facebook | Twitter |LinkedIn
Follow Bloompop: Bloompop | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Shavanna Miller: One thing I’ve tried to do is always say yes to opportunities. Whenever I’ve had to make a decision on something that could be important – whether its deciding to take a new job, making a leap into entrepreneurship, taking on additional work for a committee, or even helping someone else out – I’ve never regretted taking those opportunities – even if not everything pans out. There are a few times I’ve regretted not taking them for some reason or another, and that kind of regret is much worse. So my definition of Seizing Your Youth would be to act rationally about the opportunities you might take, but to ultimately take those opportunities, especially early on.

CJ: You studied film and environmental science at Columbia University – How did you decide what to study?

SM: Those were two topics I really loved on a personal level. For a while I thought that I was going to be working in film so a lot of my internships in school were related to that. I worked at a production company and an agency for actors. Those experiences were very fun and I still have many friends working in that industry. But somewhere along the lines I realized it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do. The environmental side of things was a personal interest that I’ve always had. When I was growing up I raised and bred aquarium fish. My parent’s basement was filled with aquariums; I think I had 30 aquariums or so when I left for college. That was a lot of fun and it was how I learned about basic genetics, water quality, etc. I probably started that in the fifth grade and it’s something I hope to get back to when I have the space again.

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CJ: What did you do after you finished studying at the London School of Economics and Political science?

SM: When I finished graduate school I went back to New York. I started my career at Meetup, which was a great introduction to both the startup and tech worlds. It was smaller then than it is now, so I really had a chance to interact with every department. Eventually I left Meetup to go to Rosetta Stone in Washington, D.C., which was a fantastic experience as well and is also a great company. I was promoted there to ultimately be the head of web sales for the US consumer side of the business. I was responsible for a huge part of the company’s global annual sales – definitely a big, exciting thing to have on your shoulders. I had an amazing team there and we did everything from social marketing, to managing email and paid search platforms, to working with affiliates, you name it – basically anything related to digital sales. I managed a team of seven people who each had their own specializations. We were a very young, fun team and I loved the company.

CJ: What tools do you use daily to keep yourself organized?

SM: My sister is also an entrepreneur – she’s the CEO and co-founder of Kabinet based in New York – and the two of us have an ongoing debate about how we manage our time, and what tools we use. There are so many tools out there you can use, and I feel like you can have as many apps as there are people since everyone manages things differently. I’ve tried a million of them, but honestly I always end up coming back to a notepad and pen. I keep trying to figure out how to modernize this classic method with technology. I heard about a partnership between Moleskin and Livescribe recently which sounds like it could be exactly right for me. And of course I also use google calendar for meetings so it can sync to my phone, but for actual tasks I always come back to paper and pen To-Do lists. Old school.

CJ: What made you decide to come back to D.C. where you grew up after living in a couple of different cities?

SM: I actually came back to D.C. because of the Rosetta Stone opportunity. I wasn’t necessarily looking for a job here, but it came up and it was an exciting opportunity. So it was almost a coincidence that I grew up here, but it’s great being around my parents again and being back in this city.

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CJ: Where did you get the inspiration for Bloompop?

SM: I’m someone who has always personally loved flowers, and what I discovered as I looked into this space was that it’s a really outdated industry in more aspects than I’d initially realized. I knew that the experience for consumers was really terrible, but it was shocking to discover how detrimental it is to the florists themselves. Local florists will often work with a mega-network like 1800flowers etc, but they don’t get to create any of their own designs, have no creativity in the process, and to add insult to injury often barely make money off of those orders. I’ve actually spoken with many who literally lose money on filling orders for the big flower behemoths. It was an industry ripe for disruption. I decided to take my experience in digital sales and tech, combine it with my love for flowers, and tackle this outdated industry with better quality products, better tools for both florists and consumers, and modern tech and marketing experiences.

CJ: What has been the greatest success since having started Bloompop?

SM: Definitely putting my team together. Matt, my co-founder and CTO, for example, is brilliant and also somebody who is such a perfect cultural fit with the company. The two of us get along amazingly and I’m finding that that’s incredibly important. We all spend so much time together, so being able to find the right people – on both a personal and professional level – has been one of my biggest successes. It was a very deliberate thing in finding them and building our team; it wasn’t something I took lightly.

bloompop launch

CJ: Can you please tell me a bit about your past experience with The Craft Factory?

SM: I’ve always been into DIY projects. Craft factory was something I started when I was back at Meetup. It was a group that came together every month and worked on a project together. I think that DIY is a stress reliever for me because at Bloompop so much of my day-to-day is digital – from web sales and marketing to product work – it’s very much sitting front of a laptop. DIY is a nice way to do something with your hands.

CJ: You also have an Etsy shop called HudsonScout – can you please tell us more about that?

SM: I’ve been an Etsy seller for several years now – it’s great because it has really helped in my understanding of the supply side of an online marketplace. Which obviously comes in handy now with Bloompop. My shop on etsy sells first birthday candles. I actually started HudsonScout by selling candles in every number, but what I eventually saw was that nearly 95% of orders were for First Birthday candles. So now that’s really what the whole focus is.

CJ: Although you’re a young company, has Bloompop hired interns before?

SM: We had two interns last summer but none currently. I feel like hiring interns at such a small company can have a huge impact – it’s a combination of figuring out what they can be doing that really has an impact and also providing them with a valuable experience. We want interns who will be excited about Bloompop and become serious contributing members of the team.

CJ: What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?

SM: Become friends with professors at CU’s business school.

Image: Courtesy of Bloompop

Shavanna Miller Qs

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

As an entrepreneur, it can be difficult to find useful resources to help grow your business. Many days are full of trial and error and spent thinking, what can I do to make my business successful? This is where Irving Torres steps in. As founder of Young and CEO, Irving empowers entrepreneurs  and provides free resources and tools to help entrepreneurs succeed and make their dreams a reality. When you sign up for the Young and CEO newsletter, you receive lots of information about books to be reading, smart articles from around the web, and tools that will help you advance.

Irving is passionate about helping others succeed, and he goes above and beyond to answer a question or provide more information. Start-up life is nothing new to Irving as he was heavily involved in starting organizations and businesses in college. For those interested in starting a business, club, or organization – in or out of school – Irving shares the lessons he learned and what he experienced along the way. From balancing school and business to taking the time to travel and explore and always being hungry for knowledge and information, Irving is seizing his youth and making the most of every minute of every day. When there’s a lot to see, do, and accomplish, there’s no time to waste.

Name: Irving Torres
Age: 23
Education: B.A. in Media Studies from Pomona College
Follow: Twitter / Young And CEO / Irving Torres

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”? 

Irving Torres: To me seizing your youth is all about realizing that no matter who you are, you can take everything that has been given to you and modify it, break it down, and create new things for other people to use. As Steve Jobs famously said, “When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you will never be the same again”.  This is what ‘seizing your youth’ means to me. Realizing that you have more power than you thought possible and realizing that you are in the driver’s seat of your life and not the standards set by the people of the world.

CJ: You attended Pomona College and majored in Media Studies. How did you determine what to study?

IT: It was a pretty tough decision that’s for sure. I have always been a curious mind so I was undecided for a few years. I took everything from Chemistry to Psychology, Calculus, and Economics. I loved learning different skills and making friends in various disciplines. I finally settled on Media Studies after I took an intro to Digital Media course and fell in love with the intersection of technology, media, music, film, and art. Even with Media Studies I was all over the place and took a bit of film history, art, drawing, graphic design, advanced film, and theory.

I finished off my senior year by taking two Entrepreneurship courses and that’s when it all came together for me. I realized that I was a creative, a maker. I had accumulated a whole arsenal of tools to use in creating something like a business. It was thanks to all of this exploring that I landed with Media Studies and I couldn’t have been happier. My advice for current college students is to not be afraid to explore outside of your comfort zones. It was in the process of nearly failing microeconomics that I learned what I was truly passionate about.

CJ: When you were in college, you founded Pomona Ventures, which inspires students to take risks and tackle real world problems. How did you go about raising capital for this organization?  

IT: The journey was a tough one for sure. We were met with many obstacles because there had never been an entrepreneurship organization on campus so administration had no guidelines or funding set aside for us. We had to think creatively. Nevertheless, we were aware of a few advantages we had. 1. We were college students and we knew that we could get away with a lot. Mentors would (in theory) flock to us and alumni would be supportive because we were still young. 2. We did extensive research on entrepreneurship courses and programs at other college campuses (we wanted to be able to explain how far behind we were). 3. I was pretty darn good at talking to people and maintaining professional relationships (known in the business world as ‘networking’) as well as marketing.

Based on these strengths, we first partnered up with the alumni gifts department to be able to tap into the alumni network directly without interference. They wanted to get alumni in Silicon Valley involved in the college once more and we wanted donors and mentors so it was a win-win for us both. We then drafted up an entire program proposal complete with events, competitions, budgets, and info graphics. My roommate did most of the work on that one. I then coded a website, designed a logo, put the messaging together, and got a ‘pitch deck’ type of presentation together to make sure we were clear on everything. We then interviewed a few first-years who were interested in joining the team because we knew that we wanted to keep this going beyond our graduation the following year.

At this point it was show time. During all of this chaos we were able to set up a meeting with a dozen prominent Pomona College alumni involved in entrepreneurship. Pomona paid for the executive team to fly up to San Jose and have dinner with them. Our goal was to get them interested enough for them to give donations and/or get involved. We walked into that restaurant with spiral bound proposals for each alumni, awesome energy, and incredible passion that we had about this idea to help others discover entrepreneurship and receive resources and support.  The dinner was well over four hours and we managed to convince them that we were up to the challenge. The alumni started to pledge on the spot and a few weeks later we had a sizable amount of funding in the bank. The whole process took about three months but the funding was crucial in throwing events and educating the student population.

CJ: Any tips for starting an organization while balancing school?

IT: Just do it. College is the best time to try something new. The risk of starting a business is little to none and there is a ton of support from professors, family, and friends. My first business in college was DJ-ing. It wasn’t a big deal but I was getting paid pretty well for three hour gigs at different college events and off campus events. More importantly however was the fact that I was having a blast! I think that in the past people had to choose between college or business but with the advances in technology and the increase in resources it is now possible to do both and excel.

Make sure to be flexible about whatever you build (pivoting when needed is crucial) and also make sure to fail fast if necessary. It’s better to realize something is not going as planned and quitting while it’s early in order to learn as much as possible and create something else. Use the anonymity of the Internet to test ideas and products without spending a dime. I’d suggest reading The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. There might be times when you feel stressed because of the workload you have. I’ve dealt with that. I had an on-campus job as an R.A., worked on my business, and was a full-time student. My advice? Make sure to keep your calendar well organized and make sure you set some time aside to go to the gym, eat healthy (not rushed), and to take a breather. These things help out a ton and can boost up your mental state if done regularly. Lastly, don’t be afraid to delegate tasks. This is something I struggled with because I was a perfectionist but I learned to work with my teams (work, school, & business) in order to balance my workload and still be successful.

CJ: After graduating from college you founded Young and CEO, an entrepreneurship organization that supercharges entrepreneurs with free resources and powerful tools. What inspired you to start Young and CEO?

IT: To answer this I have to go back a little and tell you how I got to be where I am. My whole life I was taught to pursue a certain path and check different boxes in order to be successful. As a first generation Chicano there were two paths in my mind. One path led to an easy life of conformity where I would amount to nothing and probably stay in the same neighborhood and father children at a young age. The other path was one of hard work and dedication but it included education and ‘success’. I could be someone. I picked the latter. With my eye set on the prize I put my foot forward and became a 4.0 student, captain of the lacrosse team, member of the honor society, and eventually got a full ride to a university of my choice thanks to the Gates Millennium Scholarship through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Once I started college I followed this arbitrary path to ‘success’ and continued off checking boxes. I finished all of my college general requirements by my first year, became a manager at my on-campus job, got a wonderful girlfriend, and began to think about my ‘career’. All good so far. It was around this time that I was introduced to entrepreneurship. I had never even heard of that word. It took me a while to realize it was pretty much the same thing as business but with a sexier ring to it and more about us as generation-y. It was an interesting and fascinating world for me.

Pomona College paid for a trip for me to attend an entrepreneurship summit in New York City with the Kairos Society. It was on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during one of the events that it hit me. Here I was, the Chicano kid from the urban sprawl in San Diego on the New York Stock Exchange trade floor having drinks with mentors like the CEO of Cisco and the founder of Electronic Arts. Everyone there was around my age and they were creating things, solving problems, and having an awesome time doing it. This was what I wanted to do, I realized. Why is this not a viable career path? Why was it that I had to find this organization to meet people who pushed me to create something and solve global problems? Why had it taken me 20 years to learn about entrepreneurship and more importantly that I, Irving Torres from City Heights and son of a single mother, could create something to change the world for the better. I had checked off all the boxes up to this point. I had taken the Myers-Briggs test, I had been to the career center, I was attending one of the best institutions in the world.

Everyone told me to get a career in teaching, higher education, or management consulting. These were safe bets and had stable salaries.  No one had told me I could change the very fabric of what we accept as a life. Don’t get me wrong, I knew I could but no one had ever sat me down and said, “Hey look, someone else created the ‘path’ to ‘success’ you are on. This whole, ‘go to school, go to college, get a good job, and start a family’, you don’t have to follow this. You can create your own path”. The important thing I know is that you have the power to do as you please. It was with this mentality that I decided to help others discover this very thing. I believe the world would be a better place if people at the very least realized this.

I think that the world we live in is full of problems but we also have a ton of incredibly intelligent and passionate people. With Young And CEO I send out a monthly newsletter full of info on events like the Kairos Society, Starting Bloc, the Thiel Fellowship and more so that others can discover the power within. I include a book summary and review every month on powerful books that could change the very way you think and solve problems. I also write articles and send tools, news, and send any resources that could help entrepreneurs succeed. I want the young entrepreneurs (and the old) out there to realize the potential they have in changing the world.

CJ: You are the Creative Director at Young and CEO. What does your role as Creative Director entail?

IT: I run the day-to-day operations and work on delivering the best content via our monthly newsletters. This means I am always digesting books, content, and networking with others to grow our organization. I embrace my creativity and unconventional methods of doing business hence the title. The thing that drives me the most however is the ability to connect with and help other entrepreneurs around the world.

I’ve personally connected with a few of these entrepreneurs and it’s amazing to see what they are up to. I met Collette, a female racer who is doing some great work in the bay and inspiring women to get involved in entrepreneurship.  Fabio is an Italian entrepreneur who is starting a crowd-funding site for students and has built a great team. I’ve also connected with Jason, an entrepreneur here in the U.S. who sold his last name to a tech start-up and just recently released a book. Meeting other innovators is the best way to learn new things and the best way to collaborate. This is why I am trying so hard to create this entrepreneurship community.

CJ: When starting Young and CEO, what skills did you have that were useful, and what do you wish you had known before taking the leap?

IT: A lot of the skills I learned on my own throughout the years were extremely helpful when launching Young And CEO. I picked up graphic design my freshman year of college and had been operating a small logo design business for random organizations and school clubs. This helps me have a good sense of design when it comes to my website, newsletters, and logos. I also learned photography, videography, web design, and business from several courses I attended, blogs I frequented, and books I read. All of these allowed me to do 100% of the stuff in-house and with great ease.

The legal aspect of launching an LLC I learned on the job when I hired a lawyer to help me incorporate the business. The experiences in launching organizations in college were very helpful but definitely not the same. I made a few mistakes but they helped me learn a ton. Going into it with little preparation was actually the best thing I have ever done because it allowed the business to evolve along with me.

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CJ: You were a Growth Hacker at Strikingly. What does it mean to be a Growth Hacker?

IT: A Growth Hacker is the new VP of Marketing at tech companies. During the rise of tech start-ups in Silicon Valley, founders had to find creative and efficient ways to catch up to the big companies. There was little to no capital to spend and a huge market to reach so many started ‘hacking’ the system. The founders of Hotmail for example, found that adding a signature with a link to sign up for their service at the bottom of every e-mail in circulation would allow them to advertise and grow their service organically (it worked).

Some start-ups created viral videos and gained an enormous following for little to no cost. Big companies started to realize that a lot of these little guys were growing at alarming rates because start-ups had Growth Hackers (a mixture of computer coder, marketer, and entrepreneur). This is what I am and it allows me to use my entire arsenal of weapons to help Strikingly succeed. I basically focus on reaching as many potential users out there in the most creative ways possible. It is an exhilarating thing to do.

CJ: You are currently writing a book. What is your book about, and what does your book writing process look like?

IT: The book I am writing is a collection of stories that will help entrepreneurs realize the power within. I’m including experiences, things I’ve heard from travelling and living on the Vegas strip for a few months, and amazing stories I have learned. After reading a ton of great books like Think Like A Freak and David and Goliath I found that stories are the most effective and entertaining way to teach. I don’t really have a set process. I write when I feel inspired and I think this is the best way to go about because I want every single page to be passionate, honest, and raw. Stay tuned for more information via my monthly newsletter.

CJ: Between working, traveling, writing, and maintaining a social life, how do you manage your time?  

IT: I’ve become really good at prioritizing tasks and getting ‘in the zone’. I usually keep a running list of to-dos and keep a log of my goals. Getting in ‘the zone’ takes practice but I can speed up the process by a mix of different activities. I like to stay active, I’m always hydrating, and I try to eat healthy. By consistently doing this I have no problem sitting down for hours a day and hashing out work while listening to some good music.

CJ: What does a day in your life look like?

IT: The great thing about my life at this point is that every day is really different.You will probably find me mountain biking around, at a meet-up, reading a book, or exploring some new part of the world.Right now I am at Strikingly in Shanghai so I usually work and play at the office and then I head out for some good food or to explore the city.

CJ: What advice do you have for teenagers and young adults interested in being entrepreneurs?

IT: Read a lot of good books, tinker with technology, and get a good education so that you can get a good feel of how the world works and then go for it. Don’t hold back.Try something new and ask for guidance and mentorship but don’t let others dictate what you do. Remember that you are in charge. Take this time to experiment with business and use all of the tools that many of us entrepreneurs didn’t have available. I didn’t get on-line until I was in middle school.

CJ: When you aren’t growth hacking and growing Young and CEO, how do you like to spend your time?

IT: I like to be spontaneous. Sometimes I go out with no agenda and find something to do.  I definitely read a ton and watch TED talks it feeds my knowledge thirstiness. I go biking or running, and I like to go out with friends. One big hobby of mine is photography. I was actually considering getting into commercial or travel photography at some point and who knows? I just might.

CJ: What motivates you?

IT: I think the drive to create something good for this world and inspire others to do the same is my main source of motivation. I really do believe that the world would be a better place with innovation. Just recently I saw how a man created a trash collecting water wheel in Baltimore and placed it in the inner harbor. This water-powered machine picks up tons of trash every month. Without his idea this wouldn’t have been possible and all it took was the courage to believe that he could make a difference.

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

IT: I don’t think I would. I feel very happy with the path I took and I think the butterfly effect might just ruin something. If I had to I would remind myself to make time to get to know people, never forget where I came from, and to under promise and over deliver.

Irving Torres Qs

Images by Irving Torres