As part of our In This Together DC email series, today’s update will share with you details about ongoing FastStartDC activities.
Very fortunately for FastStartDC, the move to a virtual service offering was one we were able to transition to seamlessly. Our intake module, IdeaEngine, has been offered online as a module-based DC Connect course since 2016 and we require all FastStartDC student participants to complete it as a starting block. Upon completion, they become eligible to receive one-on-one coaching with our staff and faculty team, as well as peer-to-peer support from our talented Work Study team, who operate as an internal marketing agency to develop graphics as well as web and AV assets to support our student businesses. The coaching we do collectively occurs by appointment (as it always has) with the only difference being that we now work exclusively through video conference, phone, and as student entrepreneurs often prefer… sometimes even via text! A lot can be said with emojis, it turns out.
Additionally, of our five program streams – E-SHOP (ecommerce), Maker2Market (artisan products) Food Foundry (natural products), FastTECH (technology), and SHIFT (social enterprise) – we have always had our strongest numbers (75 per cent of student participants) in the E-SHOP program stream. This is the digital training we offer to help students build online stores through Shopify, our strategic Learning Programs Partner and an international leader in commerce platform technology. Our students receive one year of free access to the Shopify platform, allowing them to start, grow, and manage an online business at no cost, and in current times, ecommerce has never been more important for small business operations.
The toughest part of the shift for us has been the temporary loss of our state-of-the-art studio, makerspace and our 360insights Entrepreneurship Centre. Our collaborative space is one where beautiful creative collisions occur. Imagine the conversation at a table where a mechanical engineering student, graphic design student and marketing student are brainstorming about business ideas! This organic, entrepreneurial magic is very difficult to conjure in a virtual world, but we are continuing to collaborate and connect with our students this summer through the establishment of online office hours. In this open, digital space, any student entrepreneur or EnactusDC team member who wants to brainstorm, get some creative advice, or simply touch base and feel the community glow, is welcome to join.
These unique times have allowed us to use our entrepreneurial thinking and create opportunities, pivot in how we operate and think creatively about solutions. It’s been a real test and it continues to present us with new challenges, but it’s the reason we are building a fully online service offering in DC Connect, which will become a fantastic and inclusive resource for all DC students to leverage should they be limited from engaging in-person with our team members. We’re also discovering new tools and resources that can support our student entrepreneurs (when the luxury of a studio and photographer, for instance, are not an option for much-needed website product images). We’re growth hacking to make our students and ourselves more resourceful, nimble and creative. We’re scaling back, in order to scale up – and the future looks bright.
Manager, Entrepreneurship Services