An Experiment in Entrepreneurship: Building Confidence with Classes

By Veronica Kirchner, ASSETS’ Blogger

Meet Beatrice Zorrilla. She’s a recent college graduate and aspiring entrepreneur. But just a little over a year ago, Beatrice didn’t think her dream of business ownership could be a reality. “I graduated from college in May 2020, right when the pandemic was kicking off.” She reflects on what it was like to transition from college to career during the peak of a global pandemic. “The job market was terrible for a while.” The world was full of unknowns.

Prior to her graduation, Beatrice had dreamed of becoming self-employed as a freelance graphic designer. However, the sudden shift towards economic uncertainty caused her to re-evaluate that career plan. Like many other young adults entering the workforce at that time, Beatrice looked towards a safer alternative but she still felt conflicted about giving up her dream. She knew that having a backup plan was a smart idea, but she also cared deeply about incorporating community advocacy into her work. A job that provided stability and allowed her to give back the way she wanted to just didn’t seem to exist.

At the same time, Beatrice recognized the increasing importance of normalizing mental health, especially for young adults. With so many of her peers facing unexpected life changes, she understood that “mental health tools or ways to cope… were needed more than ever.” As someone who personally experienced the unsettling instability of the pandemic world, she felt inspired to lead an effort to make mental health resources more accessible.

It was then that Beatrice formed the idea for Cambia, an organization to promote authentic positivity. The brand would raise awareness about mental health through everyday products, all designed by Beatrice. This vision provided her the space to create for a greater good.

I want to see people have the resources to cope with their mental illnesses and thrive emotionally, and I want to use the skills that I have to help them.

With Cambia, she hoped to utilize her background in a way that felt more meaningful. Although she possessed both passion and design skills, Beatrice knew that there was still a missing piece. Her business was just an idea, and she needed help translating it into a plan.

Encouraged by her dad (Andres Zorrilla – Impact & Analytics Manager for ASSETS), Beatrice enrolled in ASSETS’ Idea Incubator. The class offers an interactive and conversational way for a group of aspiring entrepreneurs to learn and work through the early stages of the business planning process. It was a perfect way for Beatrice to test her business idea. She says, “I went into the ASSETS class expecting it to just be kind of a personal experiment.”

[Side note from the blogger: Beatrice and I actually participated in the Spring 2021 Idea Incubator together—it’s where we first met!] 

During the 10-week class, Beatrice gained both knowledge and a sense of community. Those new connections pushed her to lean into uncertainty and embrace the discomfort of entrepreneurship.

Being consistently a part of a cohort that was honest in all the different spaces of their business helped me feel comfortable with the unknown… everyone else is just winging it as well.

The openness of her peers showed that she wasn’t alone in her journey. Plus, the class motivated her to think critically about building a sustainable business plan.

Through the Idea Incubator, Beatrice was inspired to pursue an ethical business model. Specifically, she focused on minimizing the environmental impact of Cambia. “I would love to eventually be an eco-friendly company—making sure that what I do is not just more products being thrown into the wasteland but ones that will be used or can be reused.” Part of the Idea Incubator, taught by the ASSETS Impact Consulting team, teaches using business as a force for good. This topic includes an overview of B Corporation certification. Coincidentally, Beatrice interned on the design team for B Lab, the non-profit certifying body for B Corps, back in 2019, creating illustrations that are featured on their website.  Her familiarity with B Corps provided a strong understanding of their guiding principles. It was a logical next step then to work with ASSETS to help integrate these values into her own business plan.

Looking back on her experience in the Idea Incubator, Beatrice gives the following advice:

I would encourage anyone who’s curious about starting a business or even exploring what it’s like to own a business to take the Idea Incubator class. It’s not what people expect until they work through it.

Beatrice emphasizes that planning a business takes considerable effort and hard work. She laughs thinking about her original perspective—that the class could be an experiment. Instead, it proved to be a huge undertaking. But her dedication and commitment to growth proved that she was committed to the process.

After taking the Idea Incubator, Beatrice continued her entrepreneurial education in the ASSETS Finance Bootcamp. She views the progression from one class to the next as a logical one. Starting with the Idea Incubator allowed Beatrice to first solidify her business idea. This set her up to take a deep dive into the numbers when advancing to the Finance Bootcamp. Although accounting isn’t her expertise, Beatrice recognizes the importance of financial fluency.

It’s very tedious, but it’s crucial to the health of the company. [I’m] growing confidence in my business idea and learning the skills to do the groundwork and planning. The Finance Bootcamp is helping me solidify my business foundation before I launch.

After completing two ASSETS classes, Beatrice now has an intentionally-structured business with clearly defined goals for Cambia. She also successfully designed a business model that allows her to pursue her passions while helping others—creating that elusive dream job that was so hard for her to find. And best yet? She’s preparing to launch in the spring of 2023!

To start, she envisions an online store that sells her thoughtfully-designed graphics in the form of everyday products—like fun stickers that help spread awareness about mental health. Next, she plans to create care packages, allowing people to support one another regardless of physical distance. She’s also in the beginning phases of looking for a licensed therapist or counselor to consult with to assure that each product can serve people with different mental health needs. 

But, that’s not all. Beatrice has big plans for the future of Cambia. She hopes to expand the scope of the business to host in-person and virtual workshops, partnering with high schools and colleges to empower students. “The big picture is to help teenagers and young adults feel like they have what they need to tackle what they’re going through.”

Beatrice’s vision emphasizes that even small items can have a big impact.

Cambia’s mission is to lead a generation of emotionally-mature, empathetic leaders to build an empowered, inclusive community.

Put simply, the aim of Cambia is “to offer small and easy resources for people to remind themselves of mental wellness.”

Although her business idea focuses on mental wellbeing, Beatrice confesses that it can be difficult to always remember her own advice. “I think one of the challenges has been trying to practice what I preach—to really have a healthy work-life balance.” She believes that a well-rounded life leads to a more sustainable future for her business, even if it takes a little longer to reach those goals. She emphasizes a message shared in a popular online video: “Make sure you’re investing time in friendships, your career, and your physical wellbeing.”

By prioritizing her own mental health, she has strengthened her resiliency.

The thing I’m most proud of is that I still get back up, even if in my head I knock myself down… I’m most proud of the fact that I’m still here. Mentally, I’m thriving, and it’s really exciting to say that.

By taking a more holistic approach to her business endeavor, she’s been able to benefit from a healthy balance in her life.

Beatrice is, however, human—and being human comes with both highs and lows. For Beatrice, this means struggling at times with the unpredictability of entrepreneurship. “Another thing I found challenging was the letting go process… just being okay with being in a space of constant chaos. There’s a lot of moving parts, and it gets overwhelming easily.” For guidance, Beatrice points to the ASSETS network that continually encourages her to keep going.

I do really value having a strong community that supports you; it’s okay to lean on others sometimes. ASSETS proved that it’s a community of people figuring it out at the same time.

Joining a group of like-minded entrepreneurs allowed Beatrice to cultivate connections. Plus, it’s shown her that community flourishes where individualism fails.

This collaborative mindset also translates into Beatrice’s leadership style.

I definitely believe that the best leaders are the ones who stand in the back of the line and make sure everyone is included. I think it’s easy to think of leaders as the person in the front of the room, or the person bossing everyone around, or the influencer. But I think the people who are doing what they’re passionate about and inviting others in on their passions are the most impactful.

Although she doesn’t view herself as a leader yet, Beatrice truly exemplifies these principles. She’s a leader with a mission to change how young people engage in mental health.

However, Beatrice does acknowledge how far she’s come in such a short time.

It’s definitely not at all what I expected, but it’s better than I could have ever imagined. I went from being a nervous and anxious college grad to an anxious but hopeful entrepreneur.

The ASSETS programs allowed Beatrice to navigate her entrepreneurial journey with more confidence and transformational knowledge.

I am really grateful that ASSETS has helped me realize that my lofty dreams can actually be tangible goals. It still feels surreal to be here, but I’m more excited and hopeful for how it’s going to unfold.

Inspired?

  1. Follow Beatrice on Instagram to stay informed about the upcoming launch of Cambia!
  2. Explore ASSETS’ Course Book to learn more about the classes Beatrice took. We’re now enrolling for Spring 2022!
  3. Take Beatrice’s encouragement for “anyone who’s curious about starting a business or even exploring what it’s like to own a business” to connect with ASSETS. We offer free 1-on-1 Discovery Calls to learn more about you and your business—and chat through how we can help >> Training | Lending | Consulting