Back in 2020, Sophia Severance – then a senior at Lincoln Park High School – was a part of the first ever all-virtual cohort of the Future Founders Be Your Own Boss Internship. During her time in the program, Sophia and her team built the framework for a new type of positivity-first social media app they called Uplift.
Today, Sophia is studying business at the University of Michigan, and recently returned to volunteer as a coach for the Future Founders 2021 Startup Sprints.
We caught up with Sophia to learn more about her time in our programs, and to hear about how she’s building on the skills and experiences she had while in the Be Your Own Boss Internship.
My old boss reached out because she knows I’m interested in business. She had heard about the program and immediately sent me an email saying, “Hey, I know you’re probably not going to work for the park district this summer [my old job], so why don’t you check this out instead?” And as soon as I saw what Be Your Own Boss was about, I thought it looked really cool and would be great opportunity for me.
My dad’s an entrepreneur, so it’s definitely been an aspect of my life. Entrepreneurship has always interested me, but being a part of Be Your Own Boss really solidified that this is what I want to do with my life.
Sure! Our team came up with the idea for Uplift, an online platform built to empower young women and grow confidence in one’s true self through connections and art. We wanted to make it different from other social media platforms, which are all so focused on the “like” button. So, we were like, “Let’s take that out and let’s just focus it on people”. We wanted users to really get to know each other, and to celebrate the different types of women that there are. There’s no one type of “perfect”. Uplift is meant to showcase that.
I really liked getting to meet the entrepreneurs that Future Founders would bring in every couple of days. It was interesting to hear about their business ideas and how so many of them just started doing this for fun and then it actually turned it into a business. This experience is where I first kind of got a sense of like, “Oh, this is something that I might be interested in doing”.
The past few years I’ve worked as a camp counselor usually over the summer, so I’m very used to working with kids, and I had a really fun time during the Be your Own Boss experience and I was like, “Well, here are some of the things I messed up on and I would have liked if someone had told me in advance if that I was going to run into these problems”. By coming back and being that person for somebody else, I feel like I’m being helpful.
It was very interesting trying to talk to students virtually because I know when I did the coaching sprint, half the group is not talking to each other. So working with my co-coach, who was an actual entrepreneur, and trying to facilitate conversation with this group to create their project was an interesting experience.
I’ve been trying to think of things because people often ask me, “Oh if you want to go in entrepreneurship, what do you want to do?” And I’m just like I don’t really know yet. I like painting, and I’ve been trying to see if I can get some of people in my dorm to pay me to paint them a picture.
I’d tell them to look for and take advantage of opportunities like Be Your Own Boss. This was something I wouldn’t have done if COVID hadn’t happened. I would have been like, “Oh I’m too busy, I have other stuff going on”. But I was like well I’m not doing anything else so I might as well try this. And it just turned into a bunch of great opportunities that followed. I think building those connections and just taking advantage of opportunities would be the best advice I can give.
Be sure to check out our Be Your Own Boss page to learn more about the program, and to be the first to know when applications for our 2022 cohorts open up.
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