If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it is that when you’re working with a small business, you certainly learn a lot. Naturally inquisitive, Sonia Sidhu— a recent graduate of the UBC Sauder School of Business’ BCom program— has channeled her interest in social ventures and skillfully stepped up to a responsibility-heavy role as Shanti Uganda’s marketing intern. Read on to discover how she has revitalized communications at Shanti and to gain from the many lessons she has learned.
As a student, what are the top reasons you were attracted to entrepreneurship and particularly, social entrepreneurship?
I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset. I would describe that way of thinking as anybody who isn’t going to accept the way everything is without questioning it. It’s anyone who would challenge the status quo within any industry, whether you’re a social entrepreneur or a regular entrepreneur. You don’t have to be the one starting the business either, since the mindset between an intrapreneur and an entrepreneur is the same; it’s about creating a new way of doing things. I come from a family of a lot of entrepreneurs so just being surrounded by that environment influenced me a lot. I’ve always asked questions and wanted to know more about it.
Around my third year, I took part in a case competition that introduced the idea of socially-minded business to me and I’ve been hooked ever since. I thought it was really cool— people starting businesses that are actually going to help something or someone.
What is your biggest win to date?
Revamping the website has been the biggest win for me in addition to changing the way Shanti communicates online to their audience through their social media channels, newsletters, and blogs. Bringing them up to speed with the way things are moving in the not-for-profit space has been huge because people often trust organizations based on their presence online and if they’re showing their impact well.
Since it’s very trust based, we’re trying to pump up our newsletters, communications on our website, and ease of access to all that. Just making it more seamless and making the user experience really enjoyable so that people stay on the site for as long as possible.
What is the toughest challenge you’ve faced to date?
The on-going challenge is juggling all the different deliverables. Between the sales portion of selling Shanti products, the online communications portion, going for a few grants, and trying to recruit people for our intern program and our training retreats in Uganda.
Shanti is in a bit of a transition; the business model is shifting— we’re planning on focusing our resources on the midwifery training and the maternal health aspects of Shanti in the long run— so right now we are trying to balance that with the other short-term deliverables that we have to maintain. It’s about getting Shanti to where it’s going to be in one, five, and ten years from now.
Your turn— give a piece of advice for someone in your shoes next year wanting to be an intern at the iHub.
First of all, apply, just do it— you have nothing to lose. Second of all, you have everything to gain, truly, because the iHub is a really cool space; it’s a cool opportunity.
The people here, entrepreneurs and interns, are passionate about making their business successful and driving forward some sort of change in the world. We’re all very like-minded and in it— being a part of a cohort of interns is amazing.
Don’t go for this internship if you want to slack off— go for it if you actually want to achieve something. Things need to happen on the fly; it’s not like you push forward an initiative and it comes four months later. It’s a mindset of “I want and need to do this so I am doing this right now.” It’s a challenge for some people— it’s not for everybody but I think if you have the ability to take that challenge of not getting a lot of direction, you’ll be rewarded with a lot of opportunity to step up to the plate and sit side-by-side with a founder and bounce ideas off them and have your ideas respected and valued.