Frozen Yogurt and Pinstripe Suits
It was a warm, sunny July morning. The TTC drivers honked and the mild smell of cigarettes billowed in the air. The Uber drivers swerved through traffic, as businessmen and women rushed like a driven herd and I, a 20-year-old student-intern, calmly strolled down Bay Street with my head held high, ready for a new day, full of promise. You see, the possibilities were endless and it was exciting. My first summer in the big smoke. Each day I met seasoned executives, trading business cards and learning of their successes. I walked into my office building at King and University and stepped into the elevator. The young, overworked recent graduate sat scrolling through Twitter while the older, balding executive nodded his head, saying hello with the Financial Post in hand. Each day I hoped I would fit in, I didn’t want to be just another intern, I wanted to stand out. With a smile on my face, recognizing that any connection made is a good connection, I exited the elevator and walked into my office, ready to embrace a new day.
Working in consulting was a treat; every day was different given the diverse nature and scope of client projects. That’s why it was a match made in heaven. This morning was different; today I would be entering my first client meeting. I would be helping present recently conducted research to the executives of a national frozen yogurt company. Sure, I was scared and worried I would get called upon and not know what to say. After all, this was my first real meeting, but I also saw it as an opportunity. I sat in the board room with my jacket on, tie knotted tightly and a stack of papers (which I had carefully bound the night before), ready to be presented.
My two team members, both with over 30 years’ work experience in consulting, were confident, prepared and clearly ready for this opportunity. This being said, I better skip ahead because according to The Write Practice, 2016 the optimal length of a Blog post is 1250 words. The meeting was productive, my team was clearly communicating the data results and I, at that point, had not said a word. But then it happened, the team flipped to a slide which had compiled results on millennials and thoughts started coming into my head: I eat Froyo all the time at school; I know what these executives need to do to increase their sales. This data won’t tell them exactly what they need to know, I can help! Now, I was not sure if this would be an appropriate time to interrupt, but ultimately, I decided it was a good time to take a risk and it paid off. I slowly raised my hand, getting the attention of the team.. They paused, looked my way, gently nodding their heads to give me the floor. I turned to the executives from the frozen yogurt company and I began to speak. I told them about my experiences at the local shop in London. I discussed why we chose that establishment specifically and why Froyo appealed to us. I engaged them on the social aspect of the dining experience and that’s when I saw it. They were actually listening! In fact, they were even taking notes. I was almost surprised. I realized that I did actually have something to offer. My opinion mattered. These executives were simply too far removed from the target market to know how to effectively cater and sell to them. We chatted for a few more minutes before I let my team take the lead again. All tension had loosened from my head; I was able to sit comfortably in the room for the rest of the meeting, occasionally giving my opinion on the data presented and offering meaningful information to the discussion. After the meeting, my team thanked me for my contributions and I headed back to my cubicle. I felt energized and eager to help more, now that I realized I truly had something unique to bring to the table. Throughout the summer I often thought about how I could accelerate my personal brand in the consulting world, considering and questioning what I needed to do to be successful in this time of my life, competing with recent graduates.
Later that month, with a little extra cash saved from work, I went to get a suit made at an affordable clothier down on King Street. Upon walking in, I was impressed. It was an elegant shop, right out of James Bond. The staff were incredibly personable, selling a product I could afford. After working through the fitting and customization process, I was hooked. More so, I was amazed my other friends interning downtown, also in need of more suits had not heard this clothier. As soon as I returned to my desk, I opened up LinkedIn, attempting to uncover who ran this business and hoping I would be able to connect with them and offer my assistance. The ideas flowed as to how I could help their team increase sales to students. Quickly, I learned that I was connected to their CMO through a family friend, so I graciously asked for an introduction. It was granted.
I reached out to the CMO telling him I could grow his business within the student market and offering to create a proposal. He was interested in learning more. After sending the proposal, I was amazed to see how promptly he responded. He loved it. Sure, the ideas were simple to me, but they were fresh to him. He had not thought of these new age marketing tactics and was eager to work with me. He not only stated his interest in working together, but also asked if I would like an introduction to another executive at a brewing company. He saw the potential for him to benefit from similar ideas, but a new plan was necessary. Of course, I graciously accepted.
I reflected back to my meeting with the frozen yogurt company and these two new experiences. I began to see a recurring theme. Business executives were having a difficult time effectively catering and selling to students and I knew how to help. I realized it was a great time to take a risk and build a brand. This would be a tremendous learning opportunity for me. I created a business plan and pitched the idea to a semi-retired lawyer and avid investor in business opportunities; a man I knew who had some trust in me. He liked the plan. After ironing out the details and working through the legal work — of course, I was able to create and incorporate a business, Amplify Solutions. We help businesses to grow and succeed within the student market; no one understands this market better than students themselves.
- Kieran Mathew, Founder. Amplify Solutions Inc.