Friday, February 17, 2012

Monetizing Your Expertise: Service-based Start-ups

Moderated by Kandarp Shah, WG '12

Eden Abrahams - Founder, Clear Path Executive Coaching
Doesn't use social media - uses referrals for advertising.

Vanessa Bailey - Founder, Cressida Partners
Only official advertisement she has done was send out a formal launch card at the start.
It's more about your peak

Mona Bijoor - CEO and Founder, Joor
It's about thinking about a gap in the market and then filling it in.

Rick Desal - Co-founder, Dashfire

Nick Shah - Co-founder and CEO, Ampush Media
"Fake it until you make it." - In terms of expertise at the beginning. Sounds about right...


What role does social media play? It can really be influential in exponentiating your positive customer reviews.
My start up is a social media consultancy for environmental organizations so i'm curious as to what role you think social media plays in finding more clients and growing your business.
Mona: Very important! It's important to use the different networks for their different perks. Ex. Twitter for quick conversations to show liveliness, Facebook to highlight members, Tumblr to highlight more in depth stories - more information for members. Many people think they're all the same.
Nick: LinkedIn is extremely important.
Rick: Twitter is a great customer service tool. Bonobos - if you buy a pair of pants and take a picture and share it on Twitter you get 20% off.

You're probably going to start high and you can always lower it. Yeah, good to know, since i just agreed to help a client for free...

What are effective bootstrapping strategies for driving traffic and brand recognition.
-Use you expertise to make some extra money.
-Build an advisory network - ask for mentorship before asking for money
-Use social media :) Build a social brand

What are the hardest things:
-Understanding how to grow and remain efficient and divide your time well.
-Ventures are relatively isolating - it's important to have a sounding board to remember that the hard times are normal.
-Your gut is a really need to work with people that you work well with.

"You can achieve anything in life as long as you don't care who gets the credit for it." That's Rick Desal's favorite quote, and maybe now mine too! 

Fantastic Panel! 

Keynote 3 - Mark Payne, Fahrenheit 212

Mark Payne, Co-founder and President, Fahrenheit 212

Transformational Innovation: The 2 Problem Game

  • Two constituents: end use and company
  • Connected, but totally separate sets of needs
Money and Magic: In hindsight, the obvious answer
Analysis: inventiveness
discipline: disruption
strategy: stratosphere
dotting i's: connecting dots
here to play: who to win
the study: the story
finance: finesse
inside out: outside in
feasibility: stretch 

Goal: to get to a place where 1+1=11

  1. Outcome obsessed culture
  2. Non-hierarchical
  3. Two-problme orientation
  4. End-to-end collaboration 
  5. Two killer apps

"The Wow and the How
  • Bringing ideas to life with high order creative insight, design, sensory experience and storytelling delivers the WOW.
  • Robust strategic, operational, financial, and technical dimensions deliver the HOW."

Case Studies: Money and Magic At Work
Samsung: Parallel Arrays of Commercial and End-User Insights, E.G.

Healthy Profits: The Booming Business of Wellness

"Everyone is interested in getting into shape, and there are plenty of start-ups trying to make that easier. This panel will feature start-ups that get people to eat healthier, exercise more and manage their health needs."
Neda Talebian Funk - Co-founder and CEO, FITIST
Sachin Nanavati - Co-founder, Docphin
Kunal Sehgal - Co-founder and Director of Finance, Pure Fare
Samir Malik - Co-founder, 1DocWay

"Regulation is just a form of change."

My question: What role do you see environmental sustainability play in your business model? 
Anwers: Samir - it's an important part, although 1docway does not use much electricity and has no material product, the company saves customers many driving trips per year, thus reducing the carbon footprint. 
Kunal - It is somewhat important - they follow all regulations and take it into consideration. 
The other two speakers passed on the question. 

Samir Malik was really the standout speaker on this panel! He has some really great ideas and is a fabulously succinct speaker. 
He says that "telemedicine" is an important field for hospitals to get into for capital. 

Veeral Rathod, J. Hilburn

"There is no magic bullet."
Lesson 1: Don't play the odds, you'll never take risks.

Pain Points in the Market for Italian Suits

  • Expensive
  • Men don't like going to stores
  • Men don't know what to wear
Their steps:
  • Quality - at a time when many people were cutting corners with materials - this deceased prices for the luxury goods.
  • Making it easier for men to shop - each shirt is custom made but the price is lower because there is no middle man. 
They currently have 1540 style advisors! Since their founding in 2007, they have raised $20 million!

Lesson #2: Keep and Open Mind - Follow fast and fail fast 
This is easier to do as a startup than when the company gets bigger, but each time you hear a good idea, you need to think about how you can apply it to your company. If it works, that's great, if not, then move on and choose a different idea.

Why Direct Sales?
Actually inspired by Warren Buffett. Direct sales is "the ultimate 'social commerce' model and it's ubiquitous." This is because direct sales can be anywhere. Example - Avon - which realized that many cosmetics companies had distribution issues. Luxury retailers are attached to stores and are limited in distribution. 

"Direct sales = social obligation = transaction"
Low customer lifetime value, but J. Hilburn's goal was to change this and build trust with the customer over time. This creates multiple transactions and a lifetime customer. 

One model they look to is Starbucks - the atmosphere builds longer term customers. 

"Don't chase the paper, chase the dream. Your vision will be the biggest impact on success."

Wow! They don't do any paid advertising! The company is built on referrals. 

Scott Hilton, Quidsi

The first keynote is Scott Hilton, one of the founders of, then with Soap, and now EVP of Operations at Quidsi.

Says that at originally they had very few people in charge of everything so that they could really figure out the most efficient way to get things done.

Natural order profile peaks on Mondays around 6pm and slopes down to the lowest on Saturday. This makes issues for shipping - especially if you want extremely fast shipping.

Product count / Per order cost and fixed capability curve fits in very well with my intro to econ class - excited to show my TA!

The next thing they did to improve efficiency in the warehouse of was replace workers' walking around to find inventory with machines. Inventory pods move around, the laser scans the product and tells the worker which puts them in the correct box. Watching the video of this process is really incredible!

Hilton says that "it's rarely the one great's hundreds of little to medium sized things."

What's his best piece of advice? -You will find your way through the details...don't try to replicate, find new innovations.

What's your next step? -Continuing to add sites.

How does the company decide what category to pursue next? -Strategy groups debates the options and opportunities. Logistics and opportunity are biggest factors.

Wharton Entrepreneurship Conference

I might make up for all the missed posts in my attempt at NaBloPoMo today while I'm at the Wharton Entrepreneurship Conference! The conference is hosted at the Ritz Carlton in Center City Philadelphia and features three keynotes, modules, and panels. You can follow all the action with my tweets (@TheGreen_Blog). And I will also be blogging about each speaker on here!

First speaker up, Scott Hilton, one of the founders of, now EVP of Operations at Quidsi.

I look forward to hearing your comments!

Thursday, February 16, 2012


The latest buzz in Twitter optimization is Twylah. What is it? And where does it's unique name come from? Well, unfortunately I wasn't able to figure out where this interesting name comes from, but at least the TW likely originate from its association with Twitter. 

Twylah essentially creates a profile page out of your Twitter account. It condenses Twitter stories into categories and you can customize the page with your information. Basically it's another profile page to put out there and a place for your tweets to rest once they have been sent out into the vast Twitter world. Most often a tweet will hover for a couple of seconds in a feed and then disappear forever into the deep abyss of billions of tweets, but Twylah captures your tweets for you! 

I see some similarities with, but Twylah is more customizable and seems to really be on the upswing boasting important celebrity members including many in the social media world. 

Here's a link to my new Twylah profile:, to be customized [hopefully] soon. You can follow me on all of my social networks here:

Unfortunately I'm still buried under work and pathetically behind on NaBloPoMo...I'll do my best to complete 29 posts this month, but may just have to admit defeat and try again next month. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The day has finally come! No, not V-Day - I mean, to be serious, not many people actually enjoy Valentine's Day...It's I Love Mountains Day! " is the product of 14 local, state, and regional organizations across Appalachia that are working together to end mountaintop removal coal mining and create a prosperous future for the region." (

I believe the holiday was started in Kentucky - regardless it is now being celebrated across the country, with a big part of that happening on Penn's campus. Today dozens of Penn and Temple students will move their bank accounts from PNC - the world's largest financial supporter of mountain top removal. PNC has a special relationship with Penn and 36 other universities that we are attempting to break up (hehehe)!


Friday, February 10, 2012


I missed yesterday's prompt, but I don't think it would be cheating to write about it today..."Talk about this quote: 'Fate chooses your relations, you choose your friends.'"

First of all, who knew genuineness was a real word! haha. No, but really, I think genuineness is the biggest quality I appreciate in a friend - that they really care about what they are doing, really mean what they say.  What really gets me going about the environment is my genuine passion for it - not that I just want to do "something cool". I love it when people really care about a cause and put all their energy behind it. That excitement is shown in their personality and makes them someone interesting to talk to. I don't have much more on that subject, but I think the quality is relatively self-explanatory.

In other news, my cold is almost gone and good thing because it's going to be a busy weekend! 2 friends visiting, a big gymnastics meet tonight, lots of meetings, and a paper to write and midterm to study for.

~Happy weekend!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Social Media

I am excited to report that tomorrow I will be manning the Twitter account for UPenn Gymnastics! I will be pushing out tweets during the meet for constant coverage. Although I would love to compete, I am excited to help the team out in this way. I'm hoping I can add in a few witty tweets as well since our team loves to be goofy. You can follow UPG @UPennGym. If you want to join in the conversation, just use the hashtag #UPGMeet!

Gooo UPG!!!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Summer Plans

I wasn't finding much inspiration in today's NaBloPoMo prompt - "Do you have a friend who is practically a brother or sister? Tell us about them"...i mean first of all, my environmentalism is somewhat of a joke to most of my friends - and I make a point of keeping in that way. I don't want to take myself so seriously when I'm just hanging out, and I don't want my friends to think I look down on them when they use paper towels or leave the water running. I do occasionally take an opportunity to tell them about a cool environmental fact that I've learned or an event that's going on, but I find that if i were to inundate people constantly with environmental stuff they just wouldn't listen - plus they wouldn't want to be my friend in general. In that sense, I tend to keep my work and friends separate. And thus don't have a way to relate this prompt to my environmental blog.

So, instead, we will work with something else that is on my mind...summer plans!!! The proactive students at Penn have resume critiques, interviews, career fairs, OCR (on campus recruiting), and other plans up the wazoo! Hearing people fret about the summer six months in advance is one way you can tell you're around motivated people. Personally, I started thinking about this summer 3 months ago. And I'm still thinking about it, and still feeling indecisive.

Do I want a serious internship? to try to make enough money to go on a eurotour with friends? an environmental road trip with my mom? WWOOF (work on an organic farm)? What role will gymnastics play? How will this summer potentially help my resume? How burnt out will my brain be by the end of the semester?

Yes, just a few of the questions that go swirling through my head each time I think about impending summer plans. I would really love to go on a long U.S. road trip to visit environmental landmarks including eco-friendly stores, towns, conferences, solar farms, national parks, etc. etc. etc. (visit my pinterest page and you can get a good sense of what I'm envisioning). But who will I do it with? Who wants to visit environmental sites for a month? Who can drive and rent a car (I'm still to young and embarrassingly only have my permit...). 

I have a feeling that I'm going to be quite burnt out by the end of this semester, so maybe WWOOFing and road tripping would be a great stress relief. I also envision blogging and working on my company throughout the trip, and documenting the trip with lots of pictures, videos, and posts. 

This road trip has become a major source of inspiration during my daydreaming sessions in class (whoops, yeah, well it happens to everyone). 
If you have any great suggestions - please let me know!


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I Love Mountains Day

February 14 is not only Valentine's day, but also I Love Mountains Day! Here at UPenn many students will be celebrating by moving their bank accounts from PNC (the biggest financial supporter of mountain top removal, MTR) to the Student Federal Credit Union. We are also thinking of handing out I <3 Mountains valentine's cards on the main walk on campus to raise awareness. 

To learn more about the holiday and MTR, you can visit this site: 

How will you celebrate I Love Mountains Day?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Grama and Nana

Today's prompt for NaBloPoMo is grandparents. I think I forgot to mention in an earlier post that the theme for this month is "relative" - although you've likely figured it out by now. The cold's gotten worse from last night to today, so I'm still in a foggy writing zone - although a few people seemed to identify with the lovely feelings that go along with a cold, so I will attempt another post in this state.

My grama (yes I do know how to spell grandma, this is just what I call her - actually had an English teacher who corrected the spelling in an essay I wrote...anyway...) - she always says that colds are 3 days coming, 3 days staying, and 3 days going. I'm hoping that since this cold came on in a day, it will retain the symmetrical behavior and will leave quickly...not sure if it really works that way.

My mom's mom has always been grama and my dad's mom has always been nana. Both of my grandfathers died before I was born - my mom's dad in a famous airplane crash over the grand canyon when she was 2.

Now, to relate this to the environment. My mom's side of the family has had a house in West Cornwall, CT for generations, and I believe this contributed for my love of nature. I was always excited to escape the humid, smelly, grey city for some fresh air, especially in the summer time. I don't have any cousins my age - actually no first cousins on my mom's side of the family - so I was left to my own devises to find things to interest me. I would play with lizards and catch frogs from the pond - certainly something I wouldn't have gotten a chance to do in the city.

My dad's mother - nana - lived in Queens until recently when she moved into an assisted living house closer to my parents. When her mind was still sharp she was witty and always very sweet. I think the biggest lesson I've learned from her is to maintain continued exercise of my mind and body. I contribute part of her deterioration to her lack of exercise both mentally and physically. She hardly left the house and was convinced that she didn't like exercise, even walking. I know this isn't the most positive lesson to take away from her, but it is an important one and I try to learn things from every situation.

I think that'll be it for today's post. I always appreciate comments and have added a new feature to the blog located on the bottom - if I'm online when you are feel free to chat me!


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Aren't Colds Just the Best?

Well, I was going to write a post about Pinterest, or my recent research on Superfund sites, or maybe on the ways the Superbowl went green this year. But really I just don't have the mental capabilities at the moment for a serious post. I've been fighting off a cold for a while now and it finally caught me. I think it was inevitable...with all these weather changes - one day 65 the next 30... and my roommate and teammates have been sick. Things are going around the campus and I haven't really been sick yet this winter. 

So, this post is basically just a post so that I can continue with NaBloPoMo. It is a good exercise I think - making yourself write even when you don't necessarily feel inspired. Plus there haven't been any NaBlo prompts this weekend - I guess the leader over at Blogher takes the weekends off, which is totally fine but me, I just wish i could do the same. 

Now to tie this into environmentalism? Hmmm, that's a toughie...I should eventually write a post about how the weather has been really crazy this year. I've seen a few articles about the warm temperatures but really not as much as I would expect. I've moved only 2 hours south - NYC to Philly - and this winter is definitely warmer in both places. 

Also contributing to my cold is likely the crazy amount of work I've been trying to fit in. I'm kind of a workaholic...I love taking on projects and once I start I just have to finish them. I've been working on Allan Clout Consulting (a social media consultancy that I started in January 2012) (p.s. we're accepting clients, check out our website and follow us on LinkedIn :) ). I've also been attempting to do some touch ups with Experts' Opinions on Sustainability  - which by the way i would still like to revive later this semester or this summer if possible. I think it has so much potential, I just haven't had the time i'd like to put into it. I've also signed on to help the Green Schools Alliance market and plan this year's Sc3 - Student Climate and Conservation Congress. Oh plus I'm a college student and varsity athlete - sometimes forget about those haha. 

Anyway, enough ranting, or whatever that was, I still have tons of work to finish, and sleep to catch up on. At least I posted, even if it wasn't the most productive post. 

:) Sara
Happy NaBloPoMo!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Politics and Journalism

In Cities and Sustainability class on Wednesday, we heard from two fabulous guest speakers - Josh McNeil, head of the League of Conservation voters on Philadelphia, and Anthony Campisi, a journalist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. They were each charismatic speakers with some great things to say.


  • The average Amercian spends 6 minutes per month thinking about policy! You have sot start where the people and have very little time to influence their opinion on politics. 
  • People don't care just because you do. 
  • There hasn't been one law passed on shale gas in PA because we started campaigning in the wrong way. 
  • Campaigns care about votes, money, and lastly, doing the right thing. 
  • PA has no election rules - $1.6 million of the total $6 million of the governor's campaign came from gas drillers. 
  • People running for political positions are instructed to spend 80-90% of their time on the phone asking people for money. That means politicians only have 10% of their time left for policy!
  • Sustainability is by nature long term, and news is sudden, so it can be very hard to write stories on sustainability. 


  • Philadelphia currently has 2 news papers which is extremely rare. In addition, they are both run by the same company and are possibly consolidating.
  • The inquirer used to have 17 reporters in each suburb - they are now cut back to 1 or 1.5 reporters in each. 
  • The stories he finds interesting are those that are really interesting, regionally significant, or unexpected.

Friday, February 3, 2012

My DP Article

I just I sort of have to put this up here, since it is a significant thing that happened to me lately and that relates to environmentalism. Last week, as a freshman at UPenn, I received my first feature article in the DP - Daily Pennsylvanian. Although I thought the interview went well, I felt like the piece painted me in a weird light. I guess it's a lesson on journalism for the interviewee. Maybe it was the journalist? Anyway, here is the link.

And here's a copy of the online version. (P.S. they spelled my name wrong haha.) If you read it, please take it with a grain of salt.

Freshman Sara Allen (waving) started a firm called Clout Consulting, which will work with nonprofit environmental organizations on social media optimization.

A poster bestrewn with motivational bullet points hangs prominently on the Penn gymnastics team’s corkboard in Hutchinson Gym. The last two bullets read, “Your success will start when you begin to pursue it. Take it.”
Sara Allan has heeded those words.
A first-year environmental studies major, Allan has launched an eco-blog, a website on sustainability and most recently, a social media consulting firm for environmental non-profit organizations.
Allan’s interest in the environment began at an early age. A third-grade trip to the Galapagos Islands sparked an intrigue with her surroundings, and mentorship from a grade school science teacher kindled that flame.
“That trip was really inspiring, just learning about nature,” Allan said. “I’m from New York City, so I didn’t really have that many experiences in a natural environment.”
Despite being surrounded by concrete and asphalt on all sides, Allan actively sought out ways to become an involved environmentalist. Apart from running her high school’s Environmental Club and being the Director of Social Media for the Green Schools Alliance, Allan’s pursuits were largely entrepreneurial.
“I started [The Green Blog] in January of my senior year as an independent project,” she said. “And then I realized that there were like a million environmental blogs and nobody was ever really going to read it.
“The point was to widen my audience from just high school. So I started using social media to advertise my blog.”
Experts’ Opinions on Sustainability, Allan’s second project, emerged from her concern with the lack of unity amongst environmentalist bloggers. According to Allan, the movement would be more successful if there were more group efforts in the environmentalist community. EOS is intended to facilitate such partnerships.
“I asked 10 environmentalist bloggers to collaborate on questions so we could create a real discussion rather than people posting on their blogs and having it be a one-sided thing.”
Her latest undertaking, Clout Consulting, launched during winter break. Several green organizations contacted Allen about helping them with social media outreach, but she was unable to work with the companies individually.
“I got like five internship offers, which I obviously couldn’t take. So I figured if I turned it into a company, I could charge them and take on all of them at the same time,” she explained.
Clout aims to increase organizations’ online following and impact on the sustainability movement.
In addition to managing and operating three different projects, Allan also serves as Ware House Leader for Eco-Reps and heads the political committee of the Penn Environmental Group. Currently, Allan is working on a Green Fund Grant to replace paper towel dispensers on campus with hand dryers.
Other hats she wears include, but are not limited to, gymnast and student.
“She works very hard in the gym, does well with her academics and is very goal-oriented,” Penn gymnastics coach John Ceralde said.
On keeping up with all of her pursuits, Allan said, “You just sort of do it. It’s not as hard as people think — it just takes a bunch of time.”

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Second Semester Classes

this is where i live :)

I am really enthusiastic about my classes this semester, so, instead of doing my homework, I'm going to write a blog post on how interesting they are haha.

Intro to Econ
Intro to Statistics
Intro to Sociology
Cities and Sustainability
Environmental Case Studies

I think the best part about them is their combined importance. I've seen that econ, statistics, and sociology really each play off of each other. Plus, the professors of those classes are fairly interesting, something often hard to come by in an intro level class.

Cities and Sustainability is a 400 level class, which, at Penn, means that it's mainly graduate school students and seniors. It's interesting to be taking a class with people who already have jobs in a similar field, but this also makes it really hard. I don't know about much of the city level policy that we are talking about, so i've taken up so extra research on the topic. The final project will be to create a potential project for the city. Our professor works in the mayor's office, so he really knows what he's doing on this front. Yesterday we had 2 very interesting speakers come in and I will share some of their quotations in my next post.

Environmental Case studies is also interesting, and luckily not as difficult (so far). Each class we have an expert come in and give a presentation on their topic relating to sustainability. We spend much of the semester on a final research project. I'm thinking about doing mine on something about the Superfund project, although I don't have much background on that topic either yet.

I'll end with one quotation that I really like from one of m professors:

" Critical does not mean negative: critical means you have some distance so that you can get a measured assessment of things."

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

"Tell us about your mother"

Wow, second blog post of the day! I'm really catching on with this whole NaBloPoMo. There are daily prompts for the blog posts. Since my blog is so specific, I don't think I will follow them all the time, but I may try to use them for a little inspiration. Today's prompt is "tell us about your mother." I'd rather not get into a whole psychoanalytical discussion about my mom, but I would like to put out there my idea to go on a road trip this summer - with my mom. I've wanted to go on a road trip for a long time now, and having recently felt quite overwhelmed by school and work, I thought this summer would be a great time. First of all, I'm only a freshman in college, so it is not absolutely crucial that I take an internship for the entire summer this year. Add to that the fact that I already have my own company and I could just work on that for the summer. I'm hoping to incorporate blogging, article writing, photography, video, my social media consulting (and a little fun), into the road trip. It would of course be environmentally themed - like pretty much everything else in my life. We would stop at sustainable landmarks, national parks, environmental conferences, anything that looks interesting, really. 

We'll see where this idea goes. For right now it's just something to research when I get ridiculously stressed or worked up about school or gymnastics or anything else. It's a fun project to work on regardless. I've been pinning pictures to a special pinterest board which you can check out here

P.S. I had a great Cities and Sustainability class tonight which reminds me that I need to write 2 more blog posts - one on the classes I'm taking this semester, and one on that great class!


Despite the slightly bizarre sounding name, I've decided to join NaBloPoMo this month! To be honest, I actually hadn't heard about the blogging marathon before - I had only heard about NaNoWriMo - a similar project where contestants attempt to write a novel in a month.

I'm excited about the consistency NaBloPoMo will be give me. I haven't had much time to write lately but will do my best to stay on top of it this month. Some posts may be short, but no matter what I enjoy blogging and always learn something from the process. I've been tweeting a lot more often lately (and would really appreciate a mention, because i just might be slightly obsessed with increasing my Klout score at the moment). I'm hoping NaBloPoMo will let this blog see a bit more traffic as well.

Good luck to everyone else working on it this month!