Written by Rachel Caffey, 10th grader at eStem Public Carter School
With the approach of High School Startup Weekend being launched, the organizers and students of Noble Impact at eStem PCS took the opportunity to interview different professionals involved in entrepreneurship locally and globally.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. Emily Reeves, who was kind enough to take some time to meet with me, to talk about her entrepreneurial background and her Startup Weekend experience. Ms. Reeves is the Director of Digital Innovation and Insight Planning at Stone Ward, and has worked with the advertising company in downtown Little Rock for more than a decade.
From what I knew about entrepreneurship, I perceived her to be an entrepreneur. But I thought I would ask her how she viewed herself in that role. I was a little taken aback by her answer.
“Would you consider yourself an entrepreneur and what are your connections to entrepreneurship in Little Rock, Arkansas?”
“I would’ve never thought of myself as an entrepreneur before a year ago. I participated in my first Startup Weekend in Little Rock in April of last year, and that was my first exposure to the community, to the whole idea of a Startup.
Since then, I’ve met a lot of people, and have been involved in a lot of programs and projects that are going on in the community. It just invigorates me and gives me a sense of energy.”
Ms. Reeves explained how she felt about her relation to entrepreneurship:
“Now, I still don’t think of myself as an entrepreneur, even though I did start a business, which I have since exited. But I think of myself more as an intrapreneur, and taking those principles of entrepreneurship and applying them within the company where I work now, because I’ve been here for 13 years.”
Ms. Reeves explained that she felt she understood the way, in which Stone Ward’s company functioned, because of her experience with the company over the years.
“We’re always trying to be innovative and think of new and different ways to approach problems we’re trying to solve for our clients. I think that taking those entrepreneurship ideas and philosophies, and applying them into a business which is already established is a very valuable thing to add to businesses with an entrepreneurial mind set.”
Ms. Reeves was a mentor at the Northwest Arkansas Startup Weekend back in November of 2013. A small group of my classmates went and took part as well. After hearing a lot of different things from my peers, I wanted her point-of-view about High School students participating in this event.
“It’s quite different I think, because from a High School student perspective you’re not limited by your experiences, right?
So, many of us that have been in the workforce come to the table and we’re jaded a little bit, right? [Like] ‘Ah, that can’t really happen’ or ‘we’ll never get that off the ground.’
You know, kind of that sense of we’re not sure if it’s really going to happen. Whereas High School students can bring their very open minds into Startup Weekend and college students too. The less experience you have in the workforce, I think the more open-mindedness you bring to the table.
I also think it was interesting to see the High School group at the Northwest Arkansas Startup Weekend come in as a pre-formed team that is used to working together, have an idea that they were ready, and seeing their passion, that they can work together all night long.
So, most of the time when a Startup Weekend happens it’s strangers, you know? Meeting people and thinking that idea is interesting and adding what you can from a certain perspective-from your unique perspective to the team.
It’s a different dynamic, I think, for sure. But there are also a lot of similarities as well. So I think it’s one of those things…that’s a good experience. And, I’m glad I got to see the two side by side to understand a little bit better how High School works a little bit differently than the working adult [laughs] coming in.”
I brought up the event of High School Startup Weekend launching in April, and I asked Ms. Reeves if she thought a High School Startup would be beneficial to High School students. It was quite intriguing to hear her opinion on the event and what it would mean for the students.
“Traditionally, students haven’t been exposed to a business environment, so you think about your ideas in an almost unrealistic setting. Whereas, Startup Weekend forces you to think about really what you’re trying to achieve, who your target audience is, what it is that you’re going to tell them that makes your product better than others, and how are you going to make money doing it? How are you going to sustain your organization financially, whether it’s through donations, fundraising, product sales or service subscriptions?
I think it’s interesting that there is stuff sometimes you don’t even learn in college, just depending on what your degree is in and what you’re focusing on. But, it’s real world thinking that’s important for everybody to know.
So, I think it’s a great opportunity to be exposed to it that early, and then realize those ideas you have are achievable when you apply this model to think through it. Whereas, before you might just say ‘Oh, I have this really cool idea,’ but you’re never going to do it, because it seems like a huge obstacle to even try to attack that. Once you have that Lean Canvas model to work through, you can see how it might be possible and sustainable.”