The Business of Biking (Across the Country)

I’m glad to be back on campus, and I’ve brought a little two-wheeled friend with me.

The summer of 2013 was the most exciting one of my life. I traveled with the 4K for Cancer Team Portland on a 70-day, 4,500-mile trip across the country. Our mission was simple: to help raise awareness and support for young adults suffering from cancer. Armed with little more than my trusty bicycle, my sturdy hand pump, and a small black backpack, I set out from Baltimore’s Inner Harbor at 7:30 am on June 2nd, 2013 for the adventure of a lifetime. Our team was filled with cyclists ranging from beginner to expert in ability, and we definitely formed a tight bond during our excursion.

Our team about to depart for Portland.

Our team about to depart for Portland.

However, the trip was a serious business venture. While it may seem to be mainly an athletic endeavor, biking 4,500 miles requires quite a bit of resources. Riders need food, water, spare tubes, bike parts, and other necessities in order to survive, let alone conquer the Rocky Mountains. Today, I want to explain how our team managed to acquire what we needed to embark on our journey. First, a few key points:

  • The Ulman Cancer Fund is a nonprofit organization. Before the ride, each of us needed to raise a minimum of $4,500 in donations before participating in the ride. These donations helped fund scholarships for young adults whose education was interrupted during their treatment.
  • None of us were able to work this summer. Try holding down a job in addition to being on a bike for 10 hours a day: it’s just not happening.
  • We needed to feed 25 people on a daily basis with no food budget.
Our team awarding Philip with a scholarship to help him continue school after his cancer treatment.

Our team awarding Philip with a scholarship to help him continue school after his cancer treatment.

Shelter was taken care of well before the trip started. Members of the team called leg leaders were tasked with calling churches, high schools, and even the occasional vacation home to find free housing for us each night. Believe it or not, people were willing to let us crash on their church floors without paying a cent.

Some hosts even rolled out the welcome mat for us!

Some hosts even rolled out the welcome mat for us!

Food was possibly the most anticipated commodity of the day. Hungry cyclists, whether at a lunch break or ending point, needed food all summer.

  • Breakfast was usually taken care of by our hosts. Church and high school communities were more than willing, for the most part, to provide us with a hearty breakfast before we took off for the day’s ride.
  • Lunch was always a wild card during the day. We had a rotation of 2 people per day who would work the food van and find food donations for everyone on the team by calling and walking into various restaurants along/close to our route. Subway, Chipotle, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and McDonald’s were largely responsible for feeding us this summer.
  • Dinner was usually provided by our hosts, but was every once in a while provided by the food van. Restaurants such as Buffalo Wild Wings, Burger King, and various local pizza places helped us along the way.
That's what it takes to feed 25 people.

That’s what it takes to feed 25 people.

Bike parts were often donated to us on the road as well. Inner tubes became more valuable than gold during the trip, so we were always happy to have a bike shop throw a few our way.

Setting up the donations for these items felt like a full-time job. During the trip itself, people in the food van made sales pitches to almost every restaurant they could and explained our mission plus why 25 adults didn’t have enough money to feed themselves during the day. I definitely practiced skills in sales, public speaking, and resource management during the trip, and I look forward to continuing this education during the coming school year.

Running a Side Business: Quick Tips for Fast Cash

While entrepreneurs are often thought of as being the Mark Zuckerbergs and Bill Gateses of the world, it’s highly unlikely that the average college student will develop the next Windows from the comfort of a dimly lit, poorly heated dorm room. Do you know what is likely? That college kids will want to make money. Thankfully, there are some simple ways to make fast cash that almost any college student can handle.

A homemade batch of chocolates can help pad your wallet!

A homemade batch of chocolates can help pad your wallet!

  • Proofread papers. For better or for worse, many students don’t think twice between writing the first draft of a paper and submitting it for a final grade. These students may not want to put the time into editing their work, but they also may just need a second pair of eyes to look at their pieces. If you’re a decent editor or proofreader, you should offer your services to your friends for a small fee.
  • Chauffeur. If you have a car on campus, consider ferrying people to and from the airport, train station, or bus station at the beginning and end of each semester. If you live in a city, such as Baltimore, then taxi rides from campus to the airport can be fairly pricey. If you can charge a smaller fee than most cabs and cover the money you spend on gasoline, you can turn a tidy profit while providing a useful, cheap service for other students.
  • Make tasty treats. If you have any rudimentary baking or cooking skill, you can make food for your friends and sell it for a hair above your cost. I’ve had particular success learning how to make chocolate truffles and sell them for a 15% profit. People love chocolate, and if you can make desserts or cook dinner for your friends, you have a very marketable skill on campus.

Students need cash, especially considering that tuition is rising much faster than the rate of inflation. Yet, simple skills such as cooking, driving, and helping others as a tutor can literally pay off during the semester. In fact, I can attest to each of these methods at Johns Hopkins University, as I have used them to raise money for the 4K for Cancer, a bike ride across the country to help young adults who are suffering from cancer.

What are your ways of making fast cash?

– David

How To Figure Out Your Future Over Intersession

Johns Hopkins can be an overwhelming place. You try to balance schoolwork with your job with your clubs and your sorority or fraternity. Suddenly you find yourself in your junior year and all of your friends are talking about all of the great things that they are planning to do after they graduate. If you’re anything like me, you have zero idea about what you want to do with your life, and you are insanely jealous of all of your friends who have it all figured out.

But fear no more friends, I’ve found the solution. If you want to start to get a handle on your future, the best thing that you can do is to sign up for the Media and Public Relations in The Big Apple over next intersession. It doesn’t even matter what year you are. This past intersession we had sophomores, juniors, seniors, and even a recent grad or two. Your level of experience doesn’t matter either. While most people in the class had at least taken Principles of Marketing (which is a great class and I recommend it to everyone), there were some that hadn’t and it was absolutely fine!

The class takes up two weeks of intersession and is 1 credit. During the first week, the professor, Leslie Kendrick, invites professionals from the Baltimore area to come and speak to the class. We had speakers from local marketing firms, television, radio, Baltimore Magazine, AOL, and Bloomberg Government. Even though I wasn’t interested in all of the companies represented, it was still really enlightening to learn about industries that I had no previous knowledge of. If I’ve learned anything from my years of trying to “find myself” and “discover what I want to be”, it’s that the majority of jobs that exist in the world are not ones that you have ever heard of before. As a History major, I never would have learned anything about marketing if I hadn’t gone on this trip and taken Principles.

In the Big Apple with Professor Kendrick

In the Big Apple visiting big media, PR, and advertising firms with Professor Kendrick

The second week of class is the trip to New York. In three days, we packed in visits to eight places of business, plus an alumni panel. It was exhausting but 100% worth it.  The networking that I did in New York has already landed interviews with two of the companies.

On Tuesday morning we woke up at 6 AM and dragged ourselves out of bed to put on business attire and schlepped our way to the coach bus waiting for us outside of Mason Hall. From there it was about a 4 hour drive to New York. Our first stop was Fortune Magazine, home of the Fortune 500 list where we spoke to an investigative journalist who told us stories about uncovering the sex scandals of billionaires. Next we went to Bloomberg, where unfortunately we were not greeted by our most famous alumni. An interesting aspect of Bloomberg is that there are no offices. No matter whether you are the new guy or the boss, everyone sits at a cubicle. It’s definitely an environment that would take some getting used to. Our last stop for the day was at Ruder Finn, a PR firm, where we were given a presentation on Citi, one of their clients, by Ally Burton, class of 2010.

Wednesday was the longest day of the trip. We started out at AMC Networks where we played trivia with alum David Epstein, and learned about the strategies behind TV advertising.  Next, we visited Grey Worldwide, the advertising agency behind the famous E*Trade baby, where we were given a hilarious presentation by a creative team and got to speak with alum Melody Nath. After Grey, we headed over to Sesame Workshop where we were greeted by chalk drawings of all of our favorite sesame characters and by a panel of employees who told us all about what goes on behind the scenes, beyond the show itself. That evening we had an alumni panel where we had the opportunity to network with alums working in TV, newspapers, PR, skin care, and online.

Thursday, our last day, we visited Landor and Burson Marsteller, two companies in the same building on Park Avenue. Landor is the branding agency that helped create the Old Spice campaign, and Burson Marsteller is another PR firm. At Landor, I was one of the last students left in the office when the chief marketing officer, Hayes Roth, decided to give us tour of the whole office. Sometimes it pays to linger!

The amazing thing about this class is that everyone we met, both in Baltimore and New York was so eager to help us, and in a world like ours where networking is everything, this is HUGE. Another terrific yet unexpected takeaway from the class was the reassurance that we got from virtually every single person who spoke to us, telling us not to worry about getting the perfect job out of college. One woman said she had 6 different jobs before she found the right one. This knowledge took a lot of pressure off of us, especially the seniors, who were the most anxious of the group (understandably).

So rather than wasting your time getting drunk next intersession, sign up for the Big Apple Trip and help build your future!

– Carter Banker

Business for the Worldy

Companies that look into international markets in order to expand their revenue model can accomplish this through a variety of means. However they must all inevitably interact with business men and women of another culture.

We, as U.S. business people, must read a plethora of literature regarding other cultures in order to maintain good relations with foreign partners. However even with all the knowledge available to us, we could potentially make one fatal mistake which could derail the entire operation. This might be one of the many reasons why 60% of joint ventures fail within 5 years.

As more business is being conducted in China, Forbes and other reliable sources are beginning to create pamphlets and short excerpts on the culture of the Chinese business men. They are not only interesting, but imperative to any up and coming international venture. These kinds of pamphlets exist for many different cultures. As you look around, however, be sure to keep a few main thoughts in mind. When researching another culture, try to learn:

1. How to greet/addresss someone (The Wai seems to be very common in Southeast Asia, especially Thailand)

2. Their hierarchal structure (whether it be social or business related)

3. Their Social conventions (for example, Chinese business men generally expect to be taken out to expensive dinners after a days work, and Thai people generally do not like to be complimented on their shoes)

My advice to all of you looking to either negotiate or go into business with someone from another culture, or even if you are meeting your foreign in-laws for the first time, stay calm, remember your readings, and above all, remain confident. You are all gathered together to move forward amicably.

Your worldy friend,

Sinan Ozdemir

Can Big Things Come in Micro Packages?

Recently, the European Investment Bank (EIB) sealed the deal on an initiative to generate micro finance opportunities in Tunisia. The program, worth approximately 4 million Euros, is aimed at helping young entrepreneurs grow their business endeavors by providing them with small loans. The loans associated with Tunisia’s micro finance are, thanks to the help of the EIB, being channeled to the growing business opportunities that are both in need of the most micro finance support and that can do the most good for the greatest amount of people.

“On the other hand, in countries such as Tunisia, it is increasingly concerned to ensure that micro finance reaches all regions, and particularly the poorer regions of the country which are economically disadvantaged,” writes Peter Taberner of New Europe Online.  Micro financing is an opportunity to bring impoverished people into a better economic state, so many micro financing opportunities are aimed at the poorest parts of the world.

This map shows the percentage of people below the poverty line.
These are the people meant to be assisted by micro finance opportunities.

In the past, micro financing has been successful in countries such a Mexico, as evidenced by a 2008 New York Times article describing the success that the micro finance institution Compartamos has experienced, though the article points out the debate that micro finance success can create. According to the article, micro finance can give the lending institutions more gain than the institutions borrowing the money themselves, therefore missing the true purpose of the micro financing system. Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times is also skeptical of micro finance’s true success (particularly in Africa), meaning that the key to micro finance success seems to lie with the particular government that handles the operation.

In the case of Taberner’s article on the events in Tunisia, the EIB seems confident that its partnership with the Government of Luxembourg Directorate for Development and Cooperation will spur economic activity in the poor section of the world.

What are your thoughts on micro finance? Does it provide economic growth, or is it a way for financial institutions to enjoy greater profits while taking interest payments from borrowers?
– Dave

Inside the Human Rights Campaign (HRC)

What would you think it’s like inside the largest LGBT equality-rights advocacy group in the United States? This semester I have been granted the distinct honor of serving as the Family Project Intern at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. A dream of mine since I began my college career, I was both prideful and humbled as I walked past the glass-walled Equality Forum and through the unassuming doors of 1640 Rhode Island Avenue.

HRC’s Equality Forum

Coming off of a summer volunteer position in the New York offices of The Trevor Project, I was used to the idea of the dynamic workplace filled with snacks and bright-eyed young professionals. Somewhat idealistically, I had anticipated that my transition from one LGBT non-profit to another would be seamless. We’re all fighting for equality, right?

Wrong. Well, yes sure the goal is the same, but the path to getting there couldn’t be any more different.

On my first day I learned that my introductory assignment was to pull some contact information from the HRC Program Database and compile an Excel sheet (which I later imported back into the database). I am working on the Healthcare Equality Index and so as I soon found out, the majority of my tasks include data analysis and interpretation using Excel, and internet research on the various hospitals surveyed. I had been passionate about the Family Project because I thought that I would be “helping people” and “making a difference,” instead, I find myself at a computer making graphs and finding trend lines.

As I spend more time at HRC, I continue to be shocked at the sheer amount of “number crunching” that makes up the average person’s workday. Leading the fight for marriage equality in the United States and setting standards for anti-discrimination practices is great, wonderful even, but I can’t help but wonder if there is another way.

Speaking just as a lowly intern, I don’t believe that I am truly qualified to assess my findings and present any sort of solution. I don’t know how to fix this problem, but more importantly, I don’t know that most people would say that a problem even exists. For some, maybe spending 9-5 sitting next to someone wearing a Love Conquers Hate tshirt is enough to feel motivated, but for me, it is simply not enough. Marriage equality is an issue of sincere importance to me, and even though I am spending half of my semester sitting in the very building where so much of the magic is happening, I feel as far removed as if I was back in Baltimore reading an article about it.

Non-Profits are perceived as, among college students anyway, small offices where you might not be making a lot of money, but the work is noble and you feel like you’re making a difference. You’re a crusader. But while I can’t speak to the pay scale at HRC, and the work certainly is honorable, it’s the feelings that are missing. On some level, non-profits are just as much about writing grants and doing research as they are about fighting for Question Six on the ground in Maryland. It’s the former that gets lost, however, as no one is really interested in publicizing the not-so-glamorous side of these agencies of change.

I suppose that the fatal flaw with my evaluation is that the fight continues on. The office culture is what it is, but such influential work continues to be done. So for now, I’ll humbly say that maybe there is something that I am missing. Maybe I’ll light my own internal fire and figure out how to self-motivate while I sit in the fifth floor intern pod surrounded by bleak walls covered in blue and yellow equals signs.

– Danielle

The Effects of Mobile Technology Marketing in Africa

What are the full opportunities with increasing mobile technology use in emerging markets?

Over the past 10 years, the amount of individuals using cell phones has dramatically increased, even in one of the worlds poorest continents: Africa.  The continent has the fastest growing rate of mobile phone usage in the world, lead by Kenya.

Because many African countries are among the poorest in the world, leading to diminished health and education, several entrepreneurs have created an innovation inspired by the increased use of mobile technology.  As a way of getting their message out there, various organizations have utilized SMS (short messaging service) messaging, or text messaging, as a means of distributing information.

One of these companies, FrontlineSMS: Medic, uses the tagline “text messages save lives,” priding themselves on bridging the gap in access to healthcare on a global scale.  And as studies have shown, SMS technology has indeed lead to increases in the general health for many populations.

Mobile technology is opening an entirely new untapped market for marketing and advertising.  While it is clear that many non-governmental organizations in the health-related field have taken advantage of this technology, the possibilities appear to be endless for other corporations and businesses.  Only time will show us what mobile technology can bring for the marketing world… what do you think the possibilities could be?

– Clint