Working in a startup is anything but linear as each day ahead can present a dynamic event for your company. And, more often than not, it may seem as though for every answer gained, two more questions spring up. Fortunately for Quest University student, Katie Verigin — the marketing and community engagement intern at Awake Labs— her unique combination of liberal arts education and entrepreneurial acumen has given her critical thinking and problem solving skills as well as comfortability when facing issues with incomplete information. Read on to discover the role she played at Awake Labs and how she thrived in the face of the unknown.
As a student, what are the top reasons you were attracted to entrepreneurship and particularly, social entrepreneurship?
I’m attracted to entrepreneurship because I have such a huge, wide range of interests and it was a career path that lets you learn a bit of everything— it’s all about navigating the unknown and problem solving.
I discovered more about social entrepreneurship when I went to Kenya with Sauder Social Entrepreneurship where we taught people how to start businesses. It turns out that so many things have social impact, making it really easy to frame your business to focus on the impact rather than the profit. I’m interested in social impact businesses because it’s a model for systematic change that’s actually scalable. So many non-profits do amazing work but can’t grow because they don’t have the means to— social business changes that.
What is your biggest win to date?
The biggest win was helping raise $37,261 on our Indiegogo campaign and getting 104 people to preorder the product. It was an intense 60 days of learning on the go and it validated our work that these 104 people believed in our product and were willing to put forward money today to help us build it.
What’s the toughest challenge you’ve faced to date?
I think the toughest challenge for me was being put into a role where I was the intern, but also the director of marketing. Making sure I was taking the right steps and not straying from our goals was a big challenge and a learning curve, from the beginning of the summer to the end. I was designing content for the Indiegogo page, writing blogs, doing PR, coordinating with backers, doing outreach, and conducting analysis to see what was actually working. It was a bit overwhelming but an equally great learning opportunity.
Seeking out external advice through my network was definitely a key to mitigating the imposter syndrome. Sitting down with people who’ve worked in a similar role over coffee and asking them what steps they usually take was really helpful. It was great for validating my approach and it made it a lot easier to stick to the game plan.
Your turn – give a piece of advice for someone in your shoes next year wanting to be an intern at the iHub.
I go to school with people who are dreamers with amazing ideas and they sometimes don’t see the value they can provide to the business world when the reality is that the skills we learn— how to think critically and work with incomplete information— run in complete parallel. Knowing that we’re never going to have all the answers and learning how to thrive amongst ambiguity is key. It’s easy to get frustrated and to feel like you’re not prepared— if you can flip that on its head and get over the initial fear of making mistakes, you’ll be surprised by what you can do. Also, don’t be afraid to challenge your entrepreneurs and push back if you believe in something. There will a lot of time where you’re wrong and that’s totally okay, it’s part of the process.
Interview conducted and written by: Amanda Bamford (Coast Capital Savings Innovation Hub Marketing Intern)