Ellie Zimmerman helps pave the way for young people to connect and receive hands-on volunteering experience with nonprofits, demonstrating that it's never too early to follow your passion. Now a high school, Ellie started her thriving nonprofit organization 4-Good interns at age 16 from his own frustration of not being able to get a realistic internship for a high school schedule.
Ellie grew up in Purchase, New York with an admiration for photography and an interest in learning graphic design. But putting his skills to good use outside of school was a challenge. After a first year, she applied for internships at local nonprofit organizations. “I spent hours browsing a maze of online marketplaces without anything showing up,” she says. Ellie also reached out to local businesses, all of which needed prior work experience and at least a year of college. She knew that she was facing obstacles that had little to do with her abilities or her desire to work. The Boys & Girls Club of America offered her a job, but she had to turn it down because her parents were unable to drive her every day.
That year, Ellie participated in a hiking program in the Owyhee Mountains with 25 students from across the country. Talking to her peers about her struggles to get an internship, she discovered that she was not alone. “Grace, an aspiring filmmaker from Atlanta, and Troy, a talented illustrator from California, both struggled to find the experience they needed to create portfolios. Others shared their frustration with trying to find volunteer opportunities that fit their high school schedules. Almost everyone in the group shared similar anecdotes. "
Ellie had a blistering moment and was determined to find a solution. She interviewed several local charities to understand their technology needs. “In each case, digital projects were piling up for lack of adequate resources. From managing social media accounts to organizing photo libraries and updating websites, these common needs were ideal projects for tech savvy teen volunteers.
Ellie's mission was to bridge this gap by creating a platform connecting nonprofits and goal-oriented businesses with high school interns.. For several months, she worked on plans to get 4-Good interns off the ground. The $ 400 this resourceful teenager won in a social entrepreneurship pitching competition covered the cost of filing for nonprofit status and she was on her way.
Ellie provides an annual grant of $ 120,000 to Google to cover the costs of the web server and online marketing. After launching “Virtual Internships for Teens” and “Volunteer Website Designer” commercials, traffic to the website exploded.
“Students usually find our website through Google or word of mouth. To become a volunteer, they complete a Google form listing their skills / interests, completing two essays, and providing a copy of their student ID, which we use to verify their age. Answers are tagged by skill and uploaded to a master spreadsheet. Once accepted, each volunteer joins our Slack channel where they can access volunteer opportunities. "
Non-profit organizations can post positions on 4-Good's interns website or by emailing one of their volunteer nonprofit coordinators. “Our volunteers support a variety of causes with national and local organizations including the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation, Learning Ally and Points of Light, She's My Daughter, ENGin and Volunteer New York. Most importantly, we work with dozens of student-led organizations that depend on our volunteers, helping young change makers turn their dreams into reality.
What started as an idea two years ago has exceeded Ellie's expectations. Today, Interns 4-Good reaches 8,000 talented volunteers from international high schools and 180 non-profit partners. “We receive around 100 new applications every day. By offering virtual service options that are flexible and offer a real world experience, volunteering takes on a new meaning. "
Being one of the few platforms for virtual volunteers, 4-Good interns saw an increase in applications when COVID-19 hit. Homebound high school students lacking extracurricular activities and in-person social interactions created a sense of urgency for the nonprofit. Ellie did everything solo and knew she needed help. Fortunately, the platform she created gave her access to already approved volunteers. Through a mass call-to-action email, she hired 18 teens to volunteer for the company. With this added support, Ellie quickly expanded her services to help the many children, parents and teachers struggling with the transition to distance learning. During these difficult times, she was amazed to see the community she built rise to the challenge.
Creating lesson plans for teachers who are struggling to engage their students online was the first job Ellie and her team tackled. Within three weeks, the 4-Good YouTube Interns The channel offered more than 150 videos on topics ranging from space to the UN model to the stock market. "Our volunteers now offer free virtual homework help to high school and middle school students, as well as tech support for parents and teachers who are struggling to navigate unfamiliar platforms such as Zoom and Google Classroom."
While many high school students are planning a holiday break before their freshman year of college, Ellie is planning the expansion of Interns 4-Good. Its strategy includes volunteers who transport the organization to their college communities as they did to their respective high schools. “As our partnerships develop, we will soon be able to offer interns not only volunteer internship opportunities, but also paid internships in companies with social missions. Over the next year, I hope to transform our platform into an app that will facilitate the onboarding process for volunteers and organizations. The app will also serve as an online community for young volunteers to share information about their experiences and spread the spirit of volunteering among their peers.
The biggest problem founders and small business owners have is that they’re experts in their field and novices in what it really takes to effectively run a . That’s what usually trips them up, sooner or later.
Don’t let that happen to you. Admit that you don’t know what you don’t know about business, starting with these 15 tips guaranteed to help keep you and your company out of hot water. Some are straightforward, others are counterintuitive, but they’re all true. And some day they’ll save your butt.
Always make sure there is and will be enough cash in the bank. Period. The most common business-failure mode, hands down, is running out of cash. If you know you’ve got a cash flow or liquidity problem coming up, fix it now. You can’t fire bad employees fast enough. You just can’t. Just make sure you know they’re the problem, not you ( see next tip ).
The problem is probably you. When I was a young directeur, my company sent us all to a week of quality training where the most important concept we learned was that 90 percent of all problems are management problems. When things aren’t going well, the first place to look for answers is in the mirror.
Take care of your stars. This goes for every company, big and small. The cost of losing a vedette employee is enormous, yet précurseurs rarely take the time to ensure their top performers are properly motivated, challenged, and compensated. Your people are not your kids, your personal assistants, or your shrink. If you use and abuse them that way, you will come to regret it. Capiche ?
Learn to say ' yes ' and ' no ' a lot. The two most important words owners and founders have at their disposal are “yes” and “no. ” Learn to say them a lot. And that means being decisive. The most important reason to focus – to be clear on what your company does – is to be clear on all the things it doesn’t do.
It boggles my mind how little most entrepreneurs value their customers when, not only are their feedback and input among the most critical information they will ever learn, but their repeat business is the easiest to get. Learn two words : meritocracy and nepotism. The first is how you run an organization – by recognizing, rewarding, and compensating based solely on ability and achievement. The deuxième is how you don’t run an organization – by playing favorites and being biased.
Know when and when not to be translucide. Transparency is as detrimental at some times as it is beneficial at others. There are times to share openly and times to zip it. You need to know when and with whom to do one versus the other. It comes with experience.
Trust your gut. This phrase is often repeated but rarely understood. It means that your own instincts are an extremely valuable decision-making tool. Too often we end up saying in retrospect and with regret, “Damn, I knew that was a bad idea. ” But the key is to know how to access your instincts. Just sit, be quiet, and listen to yourself.
Protect and defend your intellectual property. Most of you don’t know the difference between a copyright, trademark, trade secret, and patent. That’s not acceptable. If you don’t protect and defend your IP, you will lose your only competitive advantage.
Learn to read and write effective agreements. You know the expression “good fences make good neighbors ? ” It’s the same in . The more effective your agreements are, the better your business relationships will be.
Far too many entrepreneurs run their business like an extension of their personal finances. Bad idea. Very bad idea. Construct the right entity and keep it separate from your personal life. Know your finances inside and out. If you don’t know your revenues, expenses, capital requirements, profits ( gross and net ), debt, cash flow, and effective tax rate – among other things – you’re asking for trouble. Big trouble.
You don’t know what you don’t know. Humility is a powerful trait for précurseurs, and that goes for new business owners, veteran CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and everyone in between. More times than not, you will come to regret thinking you knew all the answers. Behind every failed company are dysfunctional, delusional, or incompetent précurseurs. The irony is, none of them had the slightest idea that was true at the time. Even sadder, most of them still don’t. Don’t end up like one of them.
For every success you have in growing your market share, another or other businesses will inevitably lose ground. Here are 11 quick and easy tips to gain a competitive advantage over your rivals and insulate yourself from the threat of new entrants in the market.
Of course, we all want to spark growth and increase revenue. But the way you do this in a sustainable way is to focus instead on the building of a loyal database of avid fans. Content digital, paired with optimized website forms and éclairé courier automation follow-up is critical to success. This approach builds trust by giving away free value before asking for someone’s hard-earned money. Not an spécialiste in creating optimized lead generation pages on a website ? No worries, use a trusted tool like Leadpages to make it happen.
Like it or not, folks out there aren’t searching for your brand, they’re just looking to solve a problem or find a particular type of product ( unless you run Starbucks or Adidas ! ) Don’t list all the benefits your product brings. Focus on the solutions. Explain to the customer in simple, straightforward terms how or why your product can help them or assist in the attainment of their goals. Consider FedEx’s iconic slogan : When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight. This was a clear example of addressing widely-spread anxiety about the reliability of delivery services. Run through some market research to profile your target customer. How does your product or service – and your delivery and and price point – solve other people’s problems and make their lives easier or more pleasurable ?
Dropping prices doesn’t necessarily raise sales, for instance ( though it will definitely squeeze margins ). If you position yourself as a de haute gamme brand, then your customers aren’t necessarily value-driven in the first place, and cutting prices could even tarnish your brand. Consider this case study from Robert Cialdini’s seminal book ‘Influence : The Psychology of Persuasion’ : a jeweller sold out of turquoise jewelry after accidentally doubling, instead of halving, the price. The inflated price tag lent the product an unwarranted cachet ! If you are a de haute gamme brand, there are ways to optimize your pricing without lowering prices. For example, offer the quality-conscious customer an ‘exclusive’ benefit that your rivals do not or cannot provide. If you are at the value-driven end of the market, on the other hand, don’t assume slashing prices means incurring a loss. Low pricing can help you rapidly onboard a heap of new customers who may also buy other items in your shop and return again. Context also counts for a lot with pricing. The best way to sell a $5, 000 watch, for instance, could be by putting it next to a $10, 000 watch. Think strategically when it comes to deciding any price point.
Yes, it sounds obvious, but it’s so very important ! Whether consciously or not, people are more likely to buy a product if they like the sales assistant who’s attending to them. While the employee’s personality obviously has no bearing on the price or your product’s ability to serve their needs is irrelevant. Friendly customer-facing équipe will always attract more sales. Be rigorous in hiring people who are genuinely cheerful, friendly and outgoing. Make sure your training program teaches them to adopt a consistently friendly approach that puts customers at ease and feel like a priority.
Say you’re a bricks-and-mortar store and you’re getting a rush of customers as closing time approaches… why not close up an hour later ? While this may cause disgruntlement among staff, solve this issue by getting creative with rosters. Monitor customer footfall throughout the day and week to identify your busiest periods, and équipe people accordingly. You can also reduce headcount during quieter periods to offset the higher costs and longer working hours created by your extended opening hours. It’s a win-win !
Even in the web age, some customers will always prefer to contact you by phone rather than fax or Facebook. While many online companies with tight margins eschew manned phone lines altogether, it’s worth giving customers the option of having a voice-to-voice conversation with your brand. By all means, slash the time and cost spent responding to queries by funnelling customers to standardized, pre-existing responses on your webpage ( i. e., FAQs ). But if their query isn’t listed in the drop-down menu of FAQs, then don’t make them click more than once more to find your phone number. Put it front and center on your digitale page, particularly if you’re a retail offering. ‘Live chat’ bots are an inexpensive way of offering real-time communication, too.
Why not give your happy customers a voucher with their purchase to redeem on your products and services ? If they love what you do already, they’re only going to love you more for this. It’s good for you because : It guarantees they will return to your store again. People hate to waste freebies ! When they return to your store to redeem their voucher, they may buy other items, too. If your business operates online, then the freebie could be strategically timed to coincide with a special sale. Oh, and guess what ? Chances are customers who have received vouchers or freebies won’t stay quiet about it either, so you could enjoy some positive buzz on social media.
Local businesses can arguably connect with their unique communities with much greater authority than any global chain. A local retailer, hair salon or gardening company can sponsor a kid’s sports team and offer deep discounts for OAPs at the same time. Some cinemas feature special ‘sensory’ screenings where parents can bring kids with autism ( who would normally be overwhelmed by busy, noisy environments ) to enjoy a movie in a relaxed, stress-free atmosphere. This reflects well on them and also guarantees them a loyal customer niche. Whatever you choose to do to support your community, make sure it authentically fits with your brand offering and journey to date.
Social media is a great medium through which to build a solid relationship with customers – just don’t forget what ‘social’ actually means ! Soul-less corporate shop-talk won’t work on Twitter. Try to give your brand some ‘personality’ when you write updates or posts. This can bring its own risks, oui. But if you get it right, the benefits can be immense. Develop a tone of voice that aligns well with your brand identity. Seek to inform, help, entertain or amuse. And most importantly – given the dire PR consequences – don’t patronize, try too hard to be funny, or tweet after a few alcoholic drinks !
Sometimes it’s better to be a master of one discipline than a jack of all trades. Admittedly, multiple revenue streams do spread your risk : if one falters, others can take up the slack. Nevertheless, consumers often associate ‘specialists’ with higher quality products or services than generalists. And with good reason, too : specialists typically invest all their resources into perfecting a single product or service. So what should you specialize in ? to state the obvious, it should be something in which you excel. You could also pick something with rising or recession-proof demand which is resilient to technological change in which you possess a competitive advantage over your rivals or where there’s an obvious gap in your local market. Own it, whatever you do.
Don’t ever get too satisfied with your business. You can always improve – and improve you must ! Don’t get me wrong : without the odd moment of smug satisfaction, what’s the point ? Do relish in the successful launch of a game-changing product or take pleasure in positive customer feedback. But don’t let your customers hear you banging on about it time after time ! Be alert to the common element that has led to the downfall of countless hitherto thriving brands : complacency. Imaginative, nimble and innovative start-ups often do better than big market précurseurs that just got lazy. You may be the disruptive innovator today, but tomorrow you could be the complacent market leader with a tired model. So try to be humble and always strive to improve. Seek inspiration from other entrepreneurs, from books and from seminars. The moment you think ‘mission accomplished’ is the same moment you become vulnerable to being usurped.
There are lots of ways in which you can improve your business, and not all of them are complicated ! Try out the above tips or integrate them with your existing strategies, and let me know how you go in the comments below. Guest Author : Faye Ferris is responsible for the day-to-day management of the Dynamis APAC Pty Ltd offices in Sydney. She develops the DYNAMIS ne change pas of brands and their expansion into the Asia Pacific region as well as BusinessesForSale. com, FranchiseSales. com and PropertySales. com. If you have an interest in partnering up with Faye or advertising on any of these websites in the APAC territories, please do not hesitate to contact her on faye@businessesforsale. com.