The Upstream Design Lab
Updated: Aug 27, 2019
It’s getting hot in here, and Upstream Design Lab feels the heat. We have three big updates:
1) We were notified this week that we are finalists for the New York Startup! competition in collaboration with the New York Public Library and will pitch to the judges in late July for a chance to win 15K in prize money. If you are a start-up, New York City has an impressive amount of resources to support you and the New York Public Library, SBDC, SCORE, & more will be your champions if you seek out their help.
2) Upstream is also fortunate enough to be participating in an Incubator with Teachable to test out if Upstream’s content and on-site training can create value for schools beyond the Bronx through online courses.
3) We were selected by ASCD to present at the Empower 2020 conference in March in
LA to share our work and resources. We are also building relationships with local schools and school leaders, and are creating value for educators at all levels through our free content delivered through email (you can subscribe here).
On a macro level, things are going well. But the day-to-day is an ongoing challenge. Managing my own self-doubt and anxiety could be a full-time job. I struggle with perfectionism, “the-next-shiny-thing syndrome,” and paralysis-by-analysis. Not to mention, that building a social venture from the ground up is exhausting and often full of ambiguity. In many ways, having a specific job title with clear hours, clear salary, and clear job description is WAY more appealing than entrepreneurial pursuits.
But alas, I keep working at this because at my core I know that my own stubborn commitment to this grand experiment will result in learning that I can take with me to whichever future I pursue, whether it be entrepreneurial or a traditionally more defined “job.” Here are four of the ways I stay afloat that may help other entrepreneurs do the same:
1. Start creating value for others right now. Think about the problems your start-up solves and which people might benefit most, then start helping them. Create videos on
Youtube. Post images on Pinterest and Instagram. Start answering questions on Quora. Before you make the ‘thing,’ you need to build the things that are going to teach you what to make, and that will come from serving the people you hope to serve, and then learning from them.
2. Find mentor businesses. These are businesses that are similar in size/scope/geography/industry & more to the one you want to create. While I was creating a business plan, I needed to forecast costs, revenue, and more. When I was asked what’s your revenue target? I didn’t even know what a reasonable answer would be. In order to base my projections and my aspirations in financial realism I used
Reference USA, a database at the SIBL. You can do various searches where you filter for specific characteristics, and then have access to all of their historical financial information. I found ‘mentor businesses’ both to follow and learn from, and also to use their financials for realistic projections. This also helps me stay motivated during day to day struggles. Since I know other businesses have accomplished what I am trying to do, I know it can be done. If they can do it, why can’t I?
3. Pursue Opportunities & Form Alliances: Apply to incubators, accelerators, competitions, training programs, and more. If you create a profile in Gust you can find opportunities that match your start-up. Join meetup groups, online communities, and attend local events through Eventbrite. Start aligning you and your start-up with people and organizations that share your interests and ideally your goals. When I applied to
Communitas America, I had no idea what that would be like. But I did it, and it was a wonderful experience. They helped me and continue to help me, and now I want to help them and help others similar to me (hence this post).
4. Set measurable time-bound goals and set benchmarks. Part of my business model requires that I make multiple connections with school leaders and educators on Linked In. I only had 700 connections or so when I began in June. So I set out to reach 3,000 connections by the end of the summer, and set my daily goal at 100 invitations to connect. I’m at 2,700 to date and am on target to surpass my goal by the end of summer. Having this measurable, time-bound goal, is a way for me to push the business forward (even indirectly) and gives me concrete action items to complete every day. This helps me find small successes to celebrate and manage the ambiguity.
Stacy McCoy Prime
Founder & President of Upstream Design Lab