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Challenge: Back to School

"PIVOT!" - how teen entrepreneurs are pivoting during COVID

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There’s a great GIF that has been circling for years that comes from the show FRIENDS. Ross, Chandler, and Rachel are trying to move a couch up a staircase. As they struggle Ross continues to yell “PIVOT!” I’ve seen the scene many times and each time it makes me lol. As this GIF resurfaced during COVID, it definitely hit a little different. UWoxfRewGCc7-SnMQ2MaBzTP7m3-eAovzAy7c57HZybJGZwT8sY8nanQO048FJ8hBPU7HIvG9AhKPUJSY3cEZxU-BmQugT58OOrjbkhxwActttkNtv_p_xS4HNCdbnJ50h2HT0BG

Over 180 days ago I came out of a 10-day tech-free retreat to the news of COVID. I was in NYC and updates were coming in by the hour and it was clear “business as usual” was no longer an option, so thus began the first of many business pivots.

I’m not the only founder who has been forced to pivot. Many of my friends run companies or non-profits and we have commiserated and celebrated over these months. That’s the thing about pivoting. Some lead to great progress and lucrative success, others make you face-palm and surrender to calling out yet again (perhaps with more desperation), “pivot!”.

Recently I connected with two teen entrepreneurs in the Whatever It Takes program to hear how their organizations have been doing and how they have been pivoting during this time.

First up is Emma W., founder of The Sweet Project (age 14). She launched her organization during COVID, but had to pivot pretty quickly when she found out that her goal of lifting people’s spirits during this time through baked goods, was no longer an option. Emma had originally planned to include homemade baked goods along with the masks and notes to people in homeless shelters. However, after talking with a few shelters, it was evident that baked goods were not what was needed, and given the safety precautions they were implementing due to the coronavirus, there was no way they could accept the food items and still ensure the safety of the residents. Simultaneously, she learned that the masks she wanted to provide were more expensive than she had originally anticipated. So, she changed her plan. She shared with me, “I decided to no longer include the goods in the packages, but rather to sell baked goods to friends and family to help raise money to fund the masks and notes. In addition to that, I prioritized buying masks in larger quantities to reduce the price, while ensuring that the quality was something I was willing to wear myself.” Personalized Mask Bags

Personalized Mask Bags Made By Emma W.

Since this pivot, Emma has made $1300 through bake sales and donated 500 masks total, 250 each to Covenant House New York and Win NYC. I asked her if she ever just wanted to give-up, her response was, “Honestly, yes, but my favorite motto for when things get tough is that even though the waves may be rocky, there is always land on the other side. This quote reminds me that even though things can get really tough, and there may still be an ocean of issues to work through, I will always overcome them to reach my goal. Whatever the problem, I can get through it and come out even stronger on the other side.”

Nikhil R., founder of Daily Disinfect (age 14) built his organization in response to COVID. The focus is on selling kits that provide the basic essentials (1 sanitizing spray, 1 hand sanitizer bottle, 3 towelettes, and 2 masks) that help people stay safe during COVID-19. By purchasing a kit you are not only keeping yourself safe, but others as well. fC9yRCOa0E7aHoccqYGnOuO5V2mMGPhABOkSnWYRjUaR0QhO6f2MjJQ2VN65XV9QrzobOFosohVW32eDBFjuGMQWeSAdgAo7qp0MaFR-DirtaMhLAKh7pRlHgBGrqw3e3CVuv4xv

Nikhil Delivering Donation $ To Computers 2 Kids

Nikhil had to implement a pivot right away when he found out that the people he was hoping to help - hospital staff and schools, already had sanitization providers. He shared with me that it was important to not be, “too dependent on one category of customers and to be flexible in exploring my options. After being forced to pivot due to COVID, I thought about how I could make this kit for anyone to use. What’s one thing that people use in their daily lives? Cars. So I decided to make my kits in a box that was convenient to store in a little cubby in your car.”

Since launching in June, Nikhil has sold 47 kits and has been able to donate part of the profits to Computer 2 kids ($255). (see picture) This cause means a lot to him because he understands that since schools are going online many people do not have electronic devices to learn effectively (over 1 million in California). Nikhil wants to make sure that everyone can get the proper education they need to set themselves up for their future.

When I asked him if he ever gets overwhelmed with running Daily Disinfect and going to school, he said his motto is “heart over size.” Which means to him “that no matter how challenging the problem may seem, if you have heart and passion in whatever you do, you can achieve great things.” You can order your own kit by contacting nikrajgopal@icloud.com, or via dm on Instagram @daily_disinfect , each one costs $6.

COVID or not we will all continue to pivot because ultimately the market changes and that means so do the ways we serve our customers. Personally, I hope the rapidity of the pivots slows down a bit, but more than that I hope all of you out there take a moment to acknowledge your own resilience, grit, and fortitude during this time.

You’ve got this.

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