Friday, July 28, 2017

Starting a Startup

Have you ever had a great idea that can improve someone’s life? What about a new tool that can save people or businesses time and money? Most startup entrepreneurs have a brilliant idea and Jeff Mason is no exception. Jeff created Groundspeed Analytics to help thousands of business grow their bottom line through automated data pulling processes.

Groundspeed is transforming how the commercial insurance industry operates by taking unstructured information and applying machine learning to collect the information and present it more clearly to customers. This process saves the organization the time it takes to pull all the information themselves or saves them from outsourcing the work to other countries.

Jeff started Groundspeed in early 2016 with angel money, but he needed more money to keep the daily operations running. To try and gain more traction, Jeff traveled around the country pitching his idea to investors. After many pitches, he received more funds to grow his business and is now putting the money to work to gain more clients and further feed Groundspeed’s growth.

Jeff accredits much of his success in his career to being good at networking.

“My career was built on the fact that I was able to walk up to anyone and start a conversation with them.” Said Jeff.

Other attributes such as a high level of experience in the industry, a sales background, and the love of building businesses also helped Jeff get to where he is now. Jeff left his position as Director of Sales and Marketing at Chelsea Rhone, LLC after over 14 years because he wanted to build his business by himself.

“It takes an insane amount of delusion,” said Jeff, “but I wanted to launch something really cool that I owned.

Jeff’s advice for students and professionals interested in starting their own business:

  • Read “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz because it is a good, short read that is in easily digestible sections and has a good amount of humor.
  • If you don’t like something, you’re not going to be as good at it as someone who really loves doing it. Do what you love.
  • Digital engagement is important to success
  • If you’re uncomfortable with talking to people, even if it doesn’t show, to join a group like Toastmasters to become familiar with speaking to the people around you.
  • Understand who your buyer is and what they want. Then use the marketing mix to figure out how to provide great value to your customers
  • Leverage your product to drive greater financial profits for yourself and the customers in your industry.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Entrepreneurial Drive

Joe Nashif and Cash Butler
Being a successful entrepreneur takes a lot of drive, determination, passion and know how, all of which Cash Butler, founder of Clarilegal, and Joe Nashif, CEO of, have.

Cash Butler
Cash started out in the banking industry during college where he managed data centers and ATMs. It was an enjoyable job for Cash because he was allowed to do things within his job to maximize the shareholder equity and it felt entrepreneurial. Cash was then recruited by Steel Point Technology, a document review for large scale legal software as a service startup. Following his time at the startup, Cash was brought in by investors to save their company's operations. Within six months he had successfully done his job and within a year the company was sold for 2 million dollars. Cash then went to work for a large corporation but missed the freedom to be successful at his new job, leading him to create his own business.

“I love to build and grow things that people want and need.” said Cash, “I’m much happier being an entrepreneur. It’s a different world. It’s not easy, but it can be very, very rewarding to build something that is profitable and successful.”

Cash loves the entrepreneurial drive but knows there are bound to be failures.

“You’ve got to figure things out as you go and keep punching until you get there. You learn a lot when you fail. It’s a hard and expensive lesson but it’s good learning experience.” Explained Cash, “Everyone has a different tolerance for the entrepreneurial drive.”

Joe Nashif
Joe Nashif started his entrepreneurial career like many other entrepreneurs, tired of their day job. After graduating from college, Joe worked for GM for more than 15 years doing customer service, product planning and representing dealerships. Joe says he was never really great at his job like some of his coworkers and that he was always looking for something else to do. When online selling first started, Joe was interested. He had no experience in it and it was still a relatively new field so the competition was equal. Joe started his business as a hobbyist, but made a commitment and told people he was online selling. He said if he could have quit, he would have, but he had people believing in him and wanting to see him succeed. Telling people made him more accountable for his online selling business. After hard work and dedication, he was able to quit his job at GM and pursue his business full time.

Joe shared how he decides which products and efforts stay in his business model and which ones he gets rid of.

“It’s a balance of sticking with something, but at the same time, not being married to something that doesn't have any hope. You have to be open minded and remember that most things you try, won't work.” Said Joe. “You’ve got to look at the day to day problems and frustrations, then take a step back and see if the trend line grows to see if your efforts are worth it.”

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Launching Your Career in Digital

So, you want to work in digital? The Center for Digital Engagement can help! The clinic recently had a panel of three guests with extensive digital experiences answer questions from panel moderator Kim Brown and talk with the class about launching their career in digital. Read more about our guest speakers in our Meet the Speaker series. 

Jorel McCree, Chad Wiebesick, and Eric Wortman, sat down with our clinic interns to give them advice on launching their career in digital with the actions they took that led them to their success in digital marketing. 

Jorel said students should treat this internship as a real job because they are learning so much.

“Every time we would have guest speakers, I would be sure to listen to everything they said, and follow up with them.” Said Jorel. “Don’t be afraid to put this experience on your resume, it’s the same experience employers are looking for. You add value when you can do your specialized tasks, but also, know about other information to help the other areas of a business.”

Chad stated that his most successful actions included networking and getting to know people, while also getting them to know him. He said the key to being successful in any industry is passion. 

Chad explained, “Specific skill sets are important; knowing the business platforms can be taught, but being a good story teller, writer and being passionate are harder to teach.”

Eric’s advice on starting a successful career in digital is to have an interest and passion for the job and learn as much as you can where ever you are. 

Eric said, “Talk to the different people in your organization to learn about their role. Larger companies will be more specialized but you can speak their language by knowing a bit about everything.”

  • Participate in internships that give you real world experiences
  • Listen to those who’ve come before you
  • Follow up with the people you meet
  • You have experience, showcase it!
  • Get to know people, but also get them to know you
  • Learn as much as you can about as much as you can
  • Have a passion
  • Practice storytelling and writing

“It seemed like I was having fun, but I was gaining real world experience.” -Jorel McCree

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Meet the Speakers: Launching Your Career in Digital Panel

Meet the speakers of our recent clinic meeting and be sure to check out the meeting recap to hear about their experiences in digital marketing and how they got to where they are today!

Moderator - Kim Brown
Kim Brown attended Eastern Michigan University, where she received a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and English. After graduation in 1999, Kim continued to work at Ensure Technologies as an Account Executive before leaving to co-found Art Showcase Magazine where she was the Director of Sales and Editor. Kim has made her way through the digital marketing sphere as a Senior Account Executive and Media Director at Sensible Vision Inc., Business Development Executive at Cleantech Group, a Client Marketing Representative at JRThompson, Director of Marketing at Busch’s Inc., and is now a Marketing Manager at Duo Security.

Panelist - Jorel McCree
Jorel McCree attended Eastern Michigan University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in Marketing. As a student, Jorel took a class with professor Gibson, which was ultimately the start of the Center for Digital Engagement and Ann Arbor SPARK internship program. Jorel started his digital career as an intern at Ford Motor Credit Company as a Global Digital Marketing Intern and soon became an Account Coordinator at iProspect. Jorel is now the Account Manager of Paid, Search and Social at iProspect. In his spare time, Jorel enjoys volunteering at his local church, playing basketball, and vacationing with his wife, Ciara, and four-year-old, Mackenzie!

Panelist - Chad Wiebesick
Chad Wiebesick attended The University of Michigan, where he received his bachelor’s degree in Psychology. After graduating in 1998, Chad started his digital career as an Online Media Coordinator for Beyond Interactive, a digital advertising agency in Ann Arbor. Chad moved his way through the digital marketing field and even landed as the first-ever Director of Social Media and Interactive Marketing at Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Chad is now the Vice President of Integrated Marketing and Communications at the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. Chad and his wife have a 7-year old black lab mix dog who loves to learn tricks. He can 'play dead' when Chad shoots him with an imaginary gun. Chad also has a black belt in the Korean martial arts Hap Ki Do and has lived on three continents and visited more than 30 countries.

Panelist - Eric Wortman
Eric Wortman attended Eastern Michigan University and received his Bachelor of Business Administration in 2011. As a student, Eric also took the class with professor Gibson, which became the start of the Center for Digital Engagement and Ann Arbor SPARK internship program. Eric started his professional career co-founding a digital marketing startup before moving to agencies, Pure Visibility and iProspect, and is now the Senior Account Manager for Sports and Live Events at Google. Eric says if he’s not in front of a laptop he is making coffee, playing soccer, or taking his dog for a walk.  He is also a proud EMU alum and is always happy to connect with students interested in digital marketing.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Tale of Interns Past

We sat down with four of our previous interns and asked them a few questions about their experiences in the clinic!

How did you become an intern with the Center for Digital Engagement and Ann Arbor SPARK?

Chris: I was getting ready to graduate and didn’t really have anything lined up, job wise. My mom knew of the internship and suggested I apply, so I did.

Andrew: I first heard about the internship when I took Google Ad Words at Eastern and I wanted to complete other Google certifications. I was at an unpaid internship doing social media and content marketing and Bud was convincing me and finally, I gave it a shot. I didn’t know what Content Oro did for the first 3 weeks, but it turned out to be a really great experience.

Ashley: I Don’t remember how I first heard of the internship, but I kept hearing about it. I remember I kept saying Nah, I don't wanna do it, it’s not for me. I went to the info meeting about the internship and I still thought I didn’t want to do it. I was totally against it.  Finally, I applied, and it led me to where I am.

Glori: A professor encouraged me to apply, but I didn't think it was right for me. It was past the deadline when I finally applied. I guess I had something else in mind, I barely had any digital marketing experience and I thought I was underqualified.

What was the biggest challenge you faced working as an intern?

Chris: The biggest challenge I faced was communication between myself and the CEO. It was important for her to communicate her vision so I could produce what she wanted. I didn't know what she wanted so I had to figure it out. Ultimately she told me I saved her company by solving a problem she had with her biggest customer.

Andrew: My biggest challenge was figuring out what Content Oro did. It was hard to explain and it was the main reason I made the successful video. Creating structure was hard. I was in PR and they needed me to do sales, create a process and outreach to customers. It was difficult creating something out of nothing, but I led all sales efforts for Content Oro.

Ashley: My challenge was that I had no idea what was going on. I couldn’t understand my boss’ language. Once I learned the language it was easier. Startups always have challenges: labor, time, tech, etc. If there is something else you can do when the problem is being fixed, do it. Do the things that are going to move you forward.

Glori: I worked with MyFab5 and what they were doing wasn't working, but they kept doing the same thing. Building trust with them was a challenge. I wanted to change the posting times, but I was new and he didn’t trust me. I did research on posting times and asked if I could change posting times for one week to see if I could increase engagement. When I backed it with research and got results, I gained more trust with my boss.

What was the most valuable information you learned while at the internship and what influence did it have on your career?

Chris: Creating the video for Warmilu. I had video experience but it gave me an example I could show of what I would do for a business. I also gained more respect for small companies, not just startups. There are a lot of opportunities for smaller organizations to do a lot of stuff with a variety of skills and projects. Small business owners have a lot of good ideas, but they don’t know how to market them.

Andrew: The most valuable thing I learned, that I still use a lot today is a quote from my boss. “If you ask for money you'll get advice, if you ask for advice you'll get money.” I learned how to curate a way of asking how I can be a better asset to a company. I ask, “how can I become usable for the team.” Don't be afraid to take initiative within your needs. You have to think about limited resources, what would you, as a consumer, want from a company, how do you apply trust and credibility.

Ashley: It sounds so cliche but, work hard and do your best. People do pay attention to that. Enthusiasm leads you to places and gets you noticed. My career started because of this internship. Working hard will get you to the right people and the right places.

Glori: People who know me think I’m good at school and communication. This internship gave me the confidence when it came to jobs. Celebrating little wins and helping your partners was also a big part of what I learned. Supporting your partner helps you both learn, and it creates a great network. I also gained a lot of knowledge about digital and even though I’m an Assistant Account Executive at experiential with event marketing, I can speak to what others are saying in the digital world and comment on digital experiences, which has gained me respect in my position.

To learn more about our previous interns and where they are now, Meet the Speakers!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Meet the Speakers: The Tale of Interns Past

Meet the speakers of our recent clinic meeting and be sure to check out the meeting recap to hear about their experiences in the internship program!

Chris Davis
Chris Davis grew up in Michigan and received a scholarship from Ohio State, where he majored in New Media and Communication Technology and minored in Business. After graduation in 2016, Chris joined the Center for Digital Engagement and Ann Arbor SPARK internship program as a digital marketing specialist for Warmilu, where he created video content to promote various products. Chris is now the Social Media Content Coordinator and Multimedia Designer at Detroit Training Center. Chris considers himself a video game, anime, comic, Disney, and smoothie enthusiast and says his favorite movie this week is Guardians of the Galaxy. He also runs his own Youtube Channel called ThatGuyCD TV where he talks about geek and pop culture.

Andrew Kanitz

Andrew Kanitz attended Eastern Michigan University, where he majored in Public Relations and minored in Business. In 2015, Andrew joined the Center for Digital Engagement and Ann Arbor SPARK internship program as a Digital Marketing Specialist for Content Oro where he curated content and optimized their website for user experience and search engine optimization. Andrew is now an Assistant Data Analyst at Carat. At 22-years-old, Andrew owns his own business and says his idea of a perfect day would be sitting on the shore of Lake Michigan, writing, reading, and working on business ideas.

Ashley McNabb

Ashley McNabb attended Eastern Michigan University, where she received her bachelor's degree in Marketing and Supply Chain Management. After graduation in 2016, Ashley joined the Center for Digital Engagement and Ann Arbor SPARK internship program as a Digital Communication Specialist for MyFab5, now known as BestFoodFeed, where she performed digital and email marketing as well as written communication and customer-relationship management. Ashley is now pursuing an MBA at Eastern Michigan University with a focus in Integrated Marketing Communications while working in Client Services for Chevrolet at iProspect. Along with her current professional roles, Ashley has several personal roles such as puppy mom and ice-cream enthusiast. In her spare time, she enjoys playing on a league volleyball team and says her idea of a perfect day would include a day near the water with good weather and food, family, friends, and her puppy!

Glori Avneet Singh

Glori Avneet Singh attended Eastern Michigan University, where she received her bachelor's degree in Business Administration. In 2016, Glori joined the Center for Digital Engagement and Ann Arbor SPARK internship program as a Digital Communication Specialist for MyFab5, now known as BestFoodFeed, where she created content and increased engagement and followers. Glori is now an Assistant Account Executive at Carat.