personal-profiles

At Schoolyard Farms, Students Get Their Hands Dirty and Learn to Eat Right

Growing up in a rural part of Chico, California, Courtney Leeds was surrounded by fertilizer and gardening tools. Her father grew walnuts and almonds, but she never thought she’d follow in his footsteps.

“I kind of rebelled from it and wanted to be in the city,” says Leeds, co-founder of Schoolyard Farms. “But once I started working in the corporate sector, I was disillusioned by it. It didn’t bring me the satisfaction I was looking for.”

After college, she worked at a corporation in San Francisco doing qualitative research on market trends and organizing focus groups. When the recession hit in 2008, the company shut down, giving her an opportunity to rethink her future. She started apprenticing for a San Francisco farm called Little City Gardens.

“It was an inspiring and motivating experience watching two young women just a few years older than me figure out how to repurpose land in that city, develop land use agreements, and build a community around pieces of land,” says Leeds.

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Then she had an opportunity to work with Zenger Farm in Portland and learn more about urban farming. That led to forming her own nonprofit with Justin Davidson, a farmer who also apprenticed at Zenger Farm.

Realizing the sincere joy she finds in being outdoors, working with her hands, and teaching kids about where fruits and vegetables come from, the duo launched Schoolyard Farms in 2012. The business has since partnered with two schools: Candy Lane Elementary and New Urban High School, both in Milwaukie, Oregon, a 20-minute drive from downtown Portland.

Though Leeds is now a solopreneur, she says partnerships with school administrators, teachers, and neighbors have been vital to funding her nonprofit.

“The elementary school has lessons that are structured and connect back to the classroom,” Leeds says. “The goal is to teach kids about where food comes from, how to grow it, and why it’s important to grow it. At the high school, we encourage kids to know how to grow food and have them work in the garden and get community service hours, which get credited towards graduation.”

Schoolyard Farms recently launched a tasting program for students to enjoy. During each month of the school year, they’ll sample recipes made with locally grown fruits and vegetables that they can easily replicate at home.

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Over the summer, Schoolyard Farms offers a host of activities for kids from first to sixth grades. For a week, they get a chance to watch chefs in the kitchen, study bugs in an ecology track, and make green houses.

During the fall, Schoolyard Farms hosts its annual Farm to Table Dinner, which attracts the public to see up-and-coming local chefs prepare rustic dishes using mostly the produce that comes from the plots of land harvested by Schoolyard Farms.

“We’ve grown at a good, steady pace,” says Leeds, a WeWork Custom House member. “We haven’t grown too fast too soon, yet we have taken advantage of all the momentum from the community and pushed ourselves. Slow and sustainable is the way to go.”

Photos: Tom Bender

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inspiration

5 Relationships You’ll Form at a Coworking Space

While many entrepreneurs are lone wolves, the value of making connections in the business world cannot be understated. Whether it’s at networking events or at the office, forming relationships is the best way to set yourself up for success. Fortunately, when you’re working in a coworking space, you’ll be surrounded with like-minded entrepreneurs that are happy to do some serious networking.

Coworking spaces are so much more than just somewhere to work. They are hustling, bustling epicenters of entrepreneurial energy that breed connections, passion, and success. After all, you are who you hang out with, and there are more than enough impressive people hanging around coworking spaces.

The Networking Guru

This person exists in every coworking space in the world. They have set up shop in a place like WeWork to shake hands, make connections, and set their business up for success. This person has thousands of business cards sitting on their desk, which they have positioned by the door so they can chit chat with every mover and shaker who walks past.

The Neighbor/Best Friend

When you’re in such close quarters, it’s hard not to develop a relationship with your neighbor. After all, you’re spending most of your time mere feet away from them. Getting to know people like this is incredibly beneficial to your productivity. Not only will you be happy you have a friend to work with, but their network will expand to yours, creating a super network the likes of which entrepreneurs have never seen!

The Informative Manager

Coworking spaces have a lot of amenities that you might not know about. Sure, a coworking space handbook is informative, but wouldn’t you rather talk to a human being? Community managers at coworking spaces know all the nooks and crannies of the office and can help you do everything from figuring out the community printer to pouring yourself an ice cold beer on a Friday afternoon.

The Friendly Staff Member

With so much space, the number of employees needed to maintain it is nothing short of staggering. Fortunately, these employees are some of the friendliest, most genuine people you’ll ever meet. Even just having a quick pop-in to discuss your latest vacation or an issue with your office can turn into a beautiful friendship that will last a lifetime.

The Office Crush

Love is a beautiful thing. Work crushes, doubly-so. Nothing gets you more hyped to come to work than that special someone waiting for you in the office. Sure, they might not know your name yet, but one day they’re going to ask you out, and it will be the best day of your life.

This article originally was originally published by Tech.Co, a vibrant media, community, and events organization for creatives, entrepreneurs, and technology enthusiasts.

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doing-good

Transforming Lives by Teaching Young People to Code

For Maurya Couvares, learning to code was a game changer.

“I was working in a law firm’s pro bono department, responsible for reporting out data on our pro bono programs,” she remembers. “And I was using clumsily using Excel to understand the data. A friend told me that if I learned to code, I could write a script that would do all the reporting for me in 15 minutes.”

The gears started turning. A former teacher, Couvares realized that coding could make a big difference in the lives of students from underserved neighborhoods.

“Many young people I knew were super interested in technology, but had never met anyone who worked in technology, and had no idea about the different careers that are possible in the tech industry,” says Couvares.

That led to the founding of ScriptEd, a non-profit that provides real opportunity for young students in the New York City area. Its programs concentrate on teaching students coding skills and providing them with professional experiences.

What year was your organization founded?

ScriptEd was founded in 2012 in New York City.

How many employees are in your organization?

Our team has grown to 19 people, including two in our new office in the San Francisco Bay Area.

What building are you based in?

WeWork FiDi

What made you want to get involved in this kind of work?

Learning to code was more empowering for me than any other skill I had learned since school. I had worked in schools, both as a teacher and as an after-school program coordinator earlier in my career. And I thought of the students I had worked with, and the new possibilities that learning to code could open up in their lives. Even though demand for software developers was exploding, very few high schools offered computer programming courses. I saw a vital need to teach students real-world coding skills and expose them to highly-paid, high-demand careers in tech.

What makes your organization unique?

A lot of organizations teach students coding skills. What makes ScriptEd unique is our focus on coding careers—our work isn’t done until our students have a job in tech. Our introductory classes are taught by volunteer software developers who take time out of their day jobs to teach real-world coding skills in under-resourced schools. For our advanced students, our goal is to place every eligible student in a paid summer internship at a tech company where they can build professional skills and networks that will help them land a job in tech. We are looking for internship partners for this summer, and would be thrilled to hear from any WeWork members who are interested in creating a life-changing opportunity for our students.

What was a moment you were inspired by the work you were doing?

The most inspiring moments always happen in the classroom. At the beginning of the year, we’ll have a classroom full of students who have never seen a line of code before, and volunteers who have never taught a high school class before. Everyone is there to learn new skills, and I’m always deeply inspired by the hard work, fearlessness, and persistence that our community brings into the classroom.

What has been you biggest hurdle?

The biggest challenge I’ve come across as the cofounder and leader of a growing organization is finding the right balance between managing our growth and staying involved in the day-to-day operations. It’s so important for me to stay connected to the students and volunteers who make our work possible. I’ve made an effort to stay in the classroom. This year, I went back into the classroom to teach two days a week at one of our partner schools, and I hope to continue doing that as long as I can!

How do you and your organization want to change the world?

If we can also help make the tech industry more diverse by creating a new talent pipeline from communities that are traditionally underrepresented, that would be a big win for all.

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news

5 WeWork Members You Need to Know

Love beauty products? Then you’ll want to know more about Soko Glam, which recently sponsored its second annual Pop-Up Charity Sale at WeWork Nomad. All the featured products were handpicked by co-founder Charlotte Cho, author of The Little Book of Skincare. All proceeds benefitted Caring Kind, a nonprofit focused on Alzheimer’s and dementia.

WeWork Paddington member Jamie Gray recently had a brush with royalty. His company Buddy Burst―creator of eco-friendly promotional products―partnered with the global charity INTBAU by giving out its signature Seed Sticks at the organization’s World Congress. After the event, Gray was invited to present the product to the Prince of Wales at his private residence, Clarence House. Charles, founder of INTBAU, is a big fan of sustainable products.

Based in Denver’s WeWork Union Station, Inversoft has launched Passport, a modern identity and user management system. Passport helps manage features such as login, registration, security, password management, and more, helping free up developers to focus on their core product. Congratulations, Inversoft!

In Montreal, WeWork Place Ville Marie member James Stephan-Usypchuk of JSU Solutions knew that 2016 was going to be a big year for his company, but he didn’t realize just how good. When they tallied the numbers, revenue for the digital marketing agency specializing in Facebook ads had grown 450% over the previous year. He wrote about his company’s tremendous growth―and what he learned from it―in this article on LinkedIn.

Vimbly, an activity booking platform based at WeWork Empire State, just launched its iOS app. Use it to find out the latest and greatest things to do in NYC.

Photo by Lauren Kallen

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inspiration

11 Entrepreneurs Reveal How They Measure Success

Whether you’re a scrappy startup, an established corporation, or somewhere in between, figuring out how to measure your success is incredibly important. With more and more startups hitting the scene, and as more entrepreneurs and freelancers decide to go it alone, learning how to measure that success is a skill everyone should have.

We asked WeWork members how they measure success in their own businesses, and they gave us some great insights on what success looks like to each of them.

Question: Other than sales, how do you measure success?

Getting insights from users

If it's early on, any insight you get from your early adopters is just as valuable as conversions. Sales will come when you learn enough from your users to iterate, or pivot, and refine your product offering or message.

Gauging my team’s morale

Your team’s morale, passion, and shared vision. If a team can get excited over potential, and work hard without necessarily getting paid immediately, I feel like that's a metric for being well on the right track.

Asking ourselves the right questions

I judge our progress, not our ‘success,’ because we're still evolving. We have a simple test that we do: Do we still believe in our fundamental hypothesis and vision? Are we closer to realizing that vision than we were yesterday? Are we having fun? Are we solvent? If we can answer yes to those four questions, then we should keep going. Otherwise something needs to change (or if we're insolvent we need to start interviewing).  

Paying attention to key metrics

Ways of measuring the success of a startup other than sales can vary exponentially from company to company, industry to industry, business model to business model, and even from one geographical region to another. That being said, there are a number of key metrics that all startups should be factoring in when measuring their success: scalability; valuation; client satisfaction levels (the number of positive reviews versus number of clients); employee number growth; employee satisfaction; social media following; new markets entered; financial runway (the longer the better); and number of successful funding rounds versus valuation achieved.

Balancing work and play

For me, success is being able to have fun at work and the freedom to go skiing. In order to be successful, I also need to be creative. My business needs to help other people and I need to have pride in what I do. I'm a big skier and outdoor enthusiast. It kind of goes with Chris Remus' blog Just Rolling With It, but he's a road cyclist and I mountain bike down cliffs.

Understanding the big picture

Voluntary engagement is a sure sign that supporters are authentically excited about the brand. When I'm excited about a brand I'll “buffer” them, meaning share them from my social sharing dashboard to multiple networks.  When people respond to a hashtag or call-to-action for your brand or campaign by using it on social media, you've done something right. If supporters attend your events, it's a sign they are genuinely interested in your mission, message, or what you have created or designed. While each of these are measured in any number of ways, only brands that understand the big picture will be able to use this interest as a leap in the right direction.

Knowing how you got the sale

I measure by repeat/renewal clients and referrals—that shows me I am offering quality services. The sale is fine, but it is more about how I get the sale that I like to measure.

It’s all about retention vs. return

Other than sales, we measure our success by retention versus churn—how many customers are using our service and for how long versus customers who decide to leave. It's important to understand why customers choose to stop using our service: Is it product related? Is it related to support or technical issues, or are they not using the product correctly and not getting its full potential?

Realizing size doesn’t always matter

How engaged a startup’s social media network is can prove to be a key metric. Note that I did not mention size, because a startup can have 1,000 followers or even 100,000, but it only matters if those followers are engaged and active brand ambassadors.

Remembering passion is important

A lot of smaller startups are at a stage where they're hyper-focused on gaining user traction and engagement on their respective platforms. From my perspective, that's only a fraction of the factors contributing to the success of a company early on. I feel that laying a strong foundation within your team and having a shared passion for wanting to create something bigger is where the actual success comes. If you have this internally, it will translate to the overall growth of your company.

Knowing great ideas take time

One should not forget that if you are early to the market you might be working on something that, while it has great prospects in the future, simply might not be on a mass audiences' radar. Think Facebook, AirBnb, Uber, Snapchat. Only a decade ago one could not imagine that we would sleep in strangers' beds, call friends via Facebook video, or broadcast our lives using filters and stickers.
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