Social Science Scholar: Entrepreneurship and Activism

I spent my summer working as a brand ambassador for the social media app SuperShe, working with my family to start a small business, and acting as a member of the activism committee of Florida State University’s Progress Party.

SuperShe is a social media app that was created with the purpose of being a safe place for women to interact with each other, give each other advice, and learn new skills. It is the number one app for intersectional feminism in the Apple Appstore and it serves as a wonderful community for fostering female empowerment and overall wellness. As a brand ambassador for SuperShe, my responsibilities revolve solely around marketing. In this position, I frequently make posts on social media and send out messages privately to encourage new members to join the app. Aside from the responsibilities delegated to me by the app’s managers, I chose to take the initiative to pursue issue advocacy on the app. The app focuses on connecting women from around the world, but feminism is at the intersection of many different issues like LGBTQIA+ rights and racial inequality. 2020 has been a year rife with conflict, I wanted to start a dialogue about some of the issues we were facing in our communities, our hopes for progress, and ultimately to shed light on ways that we could contribute to positive changes in our communities.

Apart from my work as a brand ambassador, I also spent most of my summer helping to establish my family’s business. My family’s business is called Sereme Naturals, and it is a passion project of my mother. While we do make a variety of products our focus is on hair care, which my mother holds close to her heart due to our Haitian culture and the importance that hair plays in our identities. My job within the business is to act as the mediator between our company and the other businesses we work with, as well as filling out the documents for the government offices that we have to register with. In this position, I frequently emailed the businesses we partnered with for manufacturing our products and producing our label. To a lesser extent, I also contributed to product and label designing as well as managing purchases for the business. Lastly, I helped set up the website for our business, contributing to web design as well as ensuring the website had shopping capability for customer convenience.

The last project that I participated in was the establishment of the Progress Party. This position required less from me due to the voluntary nature of student organizations but, in order to get more involved with the community on campus, I applied for a position in the activism committee to pursue environmental action on campus. While FSU does officially have the organization Sustainable Campus to pursue environmental action on campus, that organization does not have the support necessary to foster major sustainable changes on campus. The environmental subcommittee was made with the intention to support the preexisting environmental organizations on campus with representation from student government senators in the Progress Party. My position in this committee requires me to go to meetings, where we brainstorm ideas for making changes on campus, and then getting in touch with organizations and individuals that could help us make these ideas a reality.

These projects presented me with a lot of challenges. For instance, because of my general lack of experience with starting a business and designing websites, I had to do a lot of research before we made significant progress. Much of this research revolved around how to register the business with the correct government entities and registering a unique fictitious business name with the state. We wanted to ensure that every part of our business was up to standard. Another challenge that I faced revolves around the plethora of issues created by the pandemic. Due to COVID-19, in-person contact has become limited, and we have been adhering strictly to social distancing guidelines in order to protect ourselves and our customers. Overcoming this issue required us to take leaps in marketing our website online and through the network of customers that we already have. The economic crisis stemming from the pandemic has also proved to be challenging, especially as a small business. To combat the rising production costs of third-party manufacturers, we have decided to manufacture our own products, which will save us time and money.

The challenges I faced with SuperShe, while prevalent, were more easily handled. As a campus ambassador, the people I would be referring the app to are primarily the peers in my clubs and organizations. With COVID restrictions in place on campus, meetings now take place online, which has pushed my marketing strategy onto social media. While less impactful than face-to-face conversation, it did allow me to overcome my struggles with marketing.

The Progress Party faced similar challenges in communication. Canvasing for the party on campus was significantly harder when most students chose to stay indoors earlier in the semester. While we did market the Progress Party on social media, we made less of an impact than the preexisting parties, and thus did not gain as many seats in the student government. While this will not prevent us from pursuing the issues our party was founded on, it has become an obstacle we hope to conquer in the coming semesters.  

When I started my summer project, I did so with the knowledge that I wanted to focus on work on my listening skills, my adaptability, and help to empower others to work for themselves, and everything I did this summer came with a deeper understanding of these skills. Active listening fosters a better understanding of complex situations and helps in the construction of good relationships with team members. Listening to the needs of others is the best way to tackle issues and knowing that helped me pursue activism Through SuperShe and the Progress Party. In both these spaces, we remained open to dialogue on the issues we faced in our communities and ways we could tackle these issues. With open discourse came a sense of community, and this allowed us to stand as a united front on both platforms. The tumultuous environment created by this summer taught me a great deal about adaptability.

This summer, many of the plans I had in place went awry. Overcoming these struggles was less about perfect planning, and more about trial and error, quick thinking, and taking measured steps to solve problems. When we came across an issue establishing Sereme Naturals, we took our failures in stride and worked to get back on track. Whether it was being unable to order ingredients that were in short supply or negotiating with our partners, there was always this sense that even if things were not working the way we wanted, we had to keep try. Sometimes this meant finding alternatives ingredients and making something new, and we even had to cut ties with some of our partners. Despite all this, we now understand our own capabilities and are more willing to adapt and take chances when necessary.

Lastly, I learned the importance of empowering others to work for themselves and the collective to meet future challenges. All of the projects that I participated in this summer started from small beginnings. In terms of social media platforms, SuperShe is still in its very early stages, with less than a hundred reviews in the Appstore. On one side, the message that the app is promoting is an inspiring one, but it is easy to lose sight of the progress that is being made in the presence of tech giants. Similarly,, issues of advocacy are not easily pursued in small communities and requires a lot of commitment. Moreover, establishing a political party on campus requires commitment from the whole party. This commitment often came in the form of attending meetings, helping edit the draft of the party constitution, and just being willing to take on positions that require extra work. These commitments paired with the disadvantages we would face competing with the more established parties on campus could be daunting. However, the need for empowerment was most obvious working for Sereme Naturals. The haircare market is highly saturated, and starting a business requires extreme commitments of time and money. In all of these cases, I found that empowering others to work for themselves not only helps to unite our communities of like-minded individuals, but it also helped us to overcome the challenges that we were facing. 

My summer projects were meaningful and impactful in ways that are hard to describe. I learned the intricacies of starting a business. As a result, I now have the basic skill required to read legalese, register with government offices, and negotiate terms with other businesses. These are skills that will last me a lifetime and make me an asset to other small businesses. The skills I learned with web design will be useful for future projects that I plan to pursue while an undergraduate, as I hope to help establish an undergraduate law review journal at FSU. This experience has also shown me the importance of building a strong sense of community when pursuing any project. In each project, the people I worked with and I were united by our shared beliefs and willingness to empower each other to chase a common purpose. Without this unity, none of the projects I worked on would have done as well as they did. Because circumstances forced me to be more adaptable to challenges, I encountered setbacks and small victories, which encouraged me to work harder and appreciate the work that I was given the opportunity to do this summer. Going forward, I plan to use these skills in pursuit of issue advocacy in its many different forms, whether that be as a lawyer, a volunteer with non-profit organizations, or just working with members of my community. This experience has opened my eyes to the variety of ways that I can make positive changes and revealed to me my potential as a leader.  

Faitherly is a 2020 Social Science Scholar currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in political science at Florida State University. Faitherly is also a Campus Ambassador at SuperShe. You can learn more about Faitherly here.

The feature image is from Pexels.

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