The SFU Student Social Innovation Fund, a collaboration between RADIUS and Embark, provides project funding of up to $1000. Below, Butt Out Vancouver, a project team funded earlier this year, shares their advice for your startup endeavours.
So, you have a great idea about how you can make an impact in your community and want to start an initiative but don’t know where to begin. We understand – we went through that exact feeling! We knew that we wanted to focus on cigarette waste reduction but didn’t know where to start. Based on our experiences developing Butt Out Vancouver, here are the top four aspects we recommend focusing on when beginning a project of your own:
Ask for advice. We reached out to colleagues, groups and organizations that were working on our topic of interest or were addressing the issue in a similar way to how we wanted to approach our issue of interest. The Internet is your best friend for this since most (if not all) organizations have at least a contact email listed on their website. Before Butt Out Vancouver even became Butt Out, we talked with colleagues (current and past), SFU professors as well as friends and family about what we had in mind. We even met with Deputy Mayor Andrea Reimer for feedback. Click here for more details about how we did it! Here are some of the steps to take when asking for advice and developing your idea:
- Dive into the literature and get as much information as you can on the issue you want to address – know your facts!
- Verbalizing your thoughts and discussing it with others will help the team figure out some of the kinks and shadows in your idea.
- Once you have read what is out there and have reached out for advice you will most likely find that your idea has changed or shifted slightly. That is okay! It is important to realize that the more you peel away the layers of any problem, the more you will find that it is not always what it seems. It is important to stay open to changing your approach!
Gain your legitimacy. Once we knew how we wanted to move forward with our idea the next issue we stumbled upon was legitimacy. People wanted to know who we are, why we were talking to them about this topic and why they should talk to or listen to us. Allies, partnerships, and collectives give the team both legitimacy and access to resources, which enables growth.
- Look for grants from student groups, universities, and organizations. Each funding stream will have different deadlines throughout the school year, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t find one right away.
- Grants have various requirements and conditions for groups to be eligible. You may need to widen or narrow your focus. When we saw that applications were open for grants from Embark Sustainability and RADIUS we saw an opportunity to get our idea off the ground. Although we want to implement Butt Out on a citywide scale, these grants allowed us to start our initiative in the community we have been a part of for the last 6 years, SFU.
- Make it personal. Make sure to explain why your team is doing it, how it got started and why it should be YOU. People connect better with people than they do with ideas!
Design a unique logo! This might sound simple, but from our experience, a logo can be one of the most difficult aspects of a project. It should convey what your startup is all about while also being original. This is especially difficult if no one in your team is particularly skilled at graphic design, which was exactly our case.
- Begin by taking a look at different fonts on font websites (we used dafont.com). These sites are great resources since they let you see a preview of what your name would look like in various fonts.
- Reach out to your friends. One of them will most likely be able to help you out or at least know someone who can. In our case, friends played with the version of the logo we were working with, giving us some ideas to play with. See above for the variations our friends came up with which helped lead us to our current logo!
Last, but certainly not least in importance, is your online presence – make yourself known! Once we had our logo and had gained our legitimacy we were ready to create our online space. We built a website and set up email and social media accounts so we could share our story, our progress and be accessible to people who want to know more about us. Having pages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram has allowed us to slowly grow our community and gain followers.
- Be consistent. It is important that your logo and descriptions of the project are the same across all of your platforms. The website ‘If This Then That’ is a great resource because it lets you connect your various social media accounts.
- Make your posts and newsletters relevant and interesting! Think quality over quantity. Photos, info graphics and videos are great; just make sure to give credit to their designers of course! Graphics like the one below can convey the information you want without being overwhelming for the reader.
- Make sure to mention your website and social media accounts to people you talk to. This gives them a chance to look through your pages on their own time and recommend you to their friends and colleagues too!
We are confident that by following these recommendations your team will be ready to tackle the issue of your choosing and make an impact in your community. Reach out on social media or email with any questions or ideas! We’d love to hear from you.