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Alex

10 things I’ve learned at Spark Week Festival

By | Alex | No Comments
Find out the 10 important things Alex learned at Spark Week, and see if the experiment worked.

 

The 17-year-old Alex Tudorache [a senior at Spiru Haret National College] accepted the BIZ challenge and for an entire week, he was one of the 40 young teenagers gathered from all around the country, at Spark Week Festival. Organised by EA – The Entrepreneurship Academy in collaboration with Transilvania Bank, Spark Week is the first Romanian festival fully dedicated to teaching teenagers everything there is to know about entrepreneurship.

1. I found a university, just like the ones in the Western Countries, here, in Romania.

Since I was a sophomore in high school, I knew I wasn’t going to study in Romania. When I think about pursuing a bachelor’s degree, I think about learning and not memorising facts just to get a good grade, a grade that is only highlighting the nights I’ve spent reading useless information, and not my intelligence. I’ve always dreamt of studying away so I could gain experience, learn from my mistakes, and have open-minded teachers that can help me pursue my dreams.

Spark Week felt like a summer camp that opened my eyes. The team from EA – The Entrepreneurship Academy proved that everything I was looking for in a university, exists here, in Bucharest, just 20 minutes away from my home! This entire experience showed me how a group of total strangers can transform into a family in less than a week, and how many new things you can learn from the people around you.

2. The word ”I” doesn’t exist in Entrepreneurship

Our schedule was divided into 6 different segments: Knowing, Exploring, Building, Testing, Doing and Celebrating, one segment for each of the remaining days.

On our first day, we had to understand each other’s personality, so we can split into teams easier. In the beginning, it was really hard for us to get along because the camp was full of people with strong personalities, but, along the way, we learned how to control ourselves, find the middle ground and split our tasks according to our abilities, so every each of us can work on what knows best.

Working with others always fascinated me, but I constantly felt that my ideas were better and I considered myself capable to handle everything on my own. After Raluca Raschip’s course [Team Coach @The Entrepreneurship Academy, Consumer Goods, and Retail Director] I realised I can’t succeed by myself, and in order to find the best solutions for a potential problem, I have to let people talk and hear their points of view out.

3. You have to be honest if you want to succeed.

During Spark Week, we heard the same words from every entrepreneur we’ve talked to “Be honest with the people around you”.

Just like Bogdan Mugescu [Development Director @FruFru] said: ”Being honest is how you maintain your business and your clients”. If a client feels cheated about your product or service, he won’t come back and will become a source of bad publicity.

At the same time, it is really important, to be honest with yourself, and if you wouldn’t buy your product or service, you shouldn’t sell it because you are wasting your time.

4. I’ve learned to shut up and listen

I like to talk a lot, usually, more than I need to, and people are not very happy about it because I end up interrupting everyone, and made them lose their ideas.

As I’ve already mentioned, before going to Spark Week, I thought I could do everything alone, and that my ideas were the best. It took me a while to realize that the others had also great ideas but I was to busy talking about mine that forgot to listen to theirs.

From what I’ve noticed, silent people tend to have the most ideas, and I have to shut up and let them express their point of view because I will never know when I’m going to lose a really important idea due to my impatience. 

5. Sell the story, not the product

At Spark Week we had to think, build, test and put into practice a profitable business model. It was one of the most difficult challenges I’ve ever had. After a heated argument, I and my team decided to use the idea of a “Blind date with a book”. Basically, we were going to sell the story rather than the product.

We used our budget to purchase 100 books and we wrap them nicely. The buyer could decide what he wanted by reading a small note attached to the product that only contained the first sentence of the book. I was pleasantly surprised to see how many people are still reading books and how impressed were about our business concept.

In my opinion, The fact that we understood from Petrus Stuparu’s sales course [Head of team Culture practice & Partner @ Trend consult] how important it is to sell a story and not a product, gave us a huge advantage against the other teams and ranked us first. Yes, my team won the first Spark Week edition and I am very proud of it.

6. Work and have fun at the same time

Probably, this would be the second reason why my team won: we simply understood that we should have fun… while working.

In the last stage of the competition, each team received a mini-office, which turned into a workshop for the next two days. At the office, we held all our meetings and we became a family. At the office, we cried because we didn’t have any ideas and we laughed because we won. The office was the place where we worked and where we had the most fun we ever had during the entire experience.

7. Social media is a waste of time

Don’t get me wrong, I totally agree with having social media accounts for your businesses. I think it is a must for promoting your products or services, because, after all, we are living in a technology era, and where to promote your business better if not on platforms, where millions of people enter every day!

But, if you end up spending 8-9 hours a day on Instagram, just like I did before Spark Week, social media is no longer a good thing. In the camp, I learned how many beautiful things surround me and how much I lose if I’m on my phone 24/7. I also learned that “living your best life” can be possible just in real life, disconnected from everything that has to do with social networks. Talking with people around, hearing their stories and making memories with them without caring about the number of likes I have on my last post or how many people viewed my story.

8. Waking up at 7 a.m. is not as bad as it seems

Yes, I know, when the alarm clock wakes you up at 7 am, and you are used to waking up at 2 p.m., you feel like you are part of a horror movie. That’s how I felt when I had to wake up at 7 a.m. to go to the first day of Spark Week.

But since the camp ended, I can say that I wake up at 7 a.m. every day and I really enjoy it. I now have more energy and I can do in a day what I used to do in 10. The person who said “the early bird gets the worm“ was right.

9. Failure is a relative concept

One of the most important lessons I learned from Nicholas Morgan [Lead @ Innovation Nomad] was that failing is not bad, on the contrary, it’s a very good thing. The main idea behind his saying “fail fast, fail cheap, fail often” is that you can always start all over again and it’s never too late to succeed. When you fail you have the opportunity to improve your product faster and cheaper. You learn from your mistakes and mistakes make you stronger.

In the 4 hours we spent trying to sell our products, we were refused many times. It was quite difficult to get used to hearing the word “NO“ every 5 seconds, but in the end, I realised that not everybody will agree with my ideas and I should try until I will find the people willing to see my potential and my concepts.

10. We are the change

A very important thing I learned from Carmen Uscatu [Co-founder @Dăruiește Viață] is that you should not wait for someone else to take action, you have to express your point of view, fight for the things you believe in and be the change you want to see in the world.

At Spark Week I realised that my generation is full of creative people with immense potential, and I truly hope that, after some years, I will have the opportunity to work with some of them.

So don’t forget: Take action, fail as often as possible, have fun while working, wake up at 7 am, shut up and listen, sell the story [but do it in an honest way], less Instagram and more teamwork, Don’t eliminate the option of studying in Romania, and until I see you at the second edition of Spark Week, don’t forget that…. The glasses are in the top right cabinet.

Source: @Revista Biz; Photo: @EA – The Entrepreneurship Academy

#3 What will happen next?

By | Our Journey | No Comments

You now know the past and the present, but just like in a famous Christmas movie, we will now show you the future. We worked hard before and we will continue giving everything we have for our dream. The future is yet to come, but we have a good feeling about what is about to happen.

Our dream is to make the planet smile again, but what does that truly mean?

We believe the planet consists of 2 parts, the Earth itself and its inhabitants. Bertho has always been passionate about the environment and how things work in their essence, and I am all about the people and how their lack of education can influence global problems.

With his strategic thinking and his dedication, Bertho wants to create a plan to clean the oceans and attenuate pollution by planting millions of trees. On the other hand, I want to focus my empathy and my boldness on destroying social biases, educating people to accept others, and teaching them how to love themselves more.

We strongly believe that uniting our passions, with our innovative and creative thinking, and with the education we can receive at NYU Shanghai, we can create a future we can all look forward to, and make the planet smile again.

But why should you help us?

We want to do all those beautiful improvements to the world, but it isn’t enough just to want. We can guarantee you that we will do everything we can, we will work harder than everybody else and we will use every resource we have in order to achieve our dream.

Just six months ago, being accepted by a top university seemed impossible. We did something unbelievable once and we will do it again. Our journey will continue having barriers for us to overcome, and today, that barrier is to raise more than 80k by the beginning of August. We will try even harder than before and we will get stronger with every challenge we will face. Why us? Because we proved once that everything is possible and we will continue doing so. Because if we succeed the planet will smile again. Because we know we can make it.

You now know everything there is to know about us. Thank you for following our journey, and for being a part of it. We can’t wait to continue sharing everything we will accomplish with you, and we hope that together we can make the planet smile again!

#2 How did we get here?

By | Our Journey | No Comments

In the last article, we talked about us and who we are in general, but what if we go back in time and tell you how we got here and what decisions made us the people we are today.

Searching for Pokemons but finding our friendship

It all started 4 years ago when we ended up hunting Pokemons together. From that day we became friends. Being in the same class really helped our friendship, and over the years we started to spend more and more time together. From partying at festivals to even going on double dates.

But, our true journey started at the beginning of our senior year, on September 15, 2019, to be more precise. Everyone knew where they wanted to study after high-school, and it seemed like they had their entire future planned. So, on the first day of school, we had a really serious conversation on this topic. We both realized that we want to make a great impact on the world, but to do so we need a strong education.

Google search: Dream school

Therefore, our first step was to choose the universities we want to apply to. To be able to go through more than 500 universities in a short period of time, we had to be creative and invent a filtering system [We will talk more about our system in the next articles].

We wanted to find a school that can offer us a 21-century education, where we can transform our ideas into reality, and where we can become the business-men the planet needs. So, we ended up picking 15 universities in total, 4 from USA, 4 from The Netherlands, and the rest from different parts of the world, our top pick being NYU Shanghai.

From zero to hero SAT Edition

After we made our selection, the hardest part came. We had 2 months to prepare for 4 pretty hard exams. To prove our English proficiency we had to take the TOEFL, to be able to apply in the United States of America we had to take the SAT, to be eligible for a business bachelor at a European University we had to take the SAT Subject Test on Math Level 1, and because one of our American universities required 2 subject tests, we ended up taking the Spanish proficiency one even though, when we made our choice, we only knew 3 words in Spanish: “Hola como estas?”

In the week before the SAT, we skipped school and studied 24/7. We used to wake up at 8 am, do a practice test for 3 hours, check the mistakes, and then work on our weaknesses. It was really hard for us because we only had the free online resources, and some borrowed books to help us study. On the exam day, we were confident. Everyone else seemed stressed and scared, but Bertho and I were cracking up jokes as usual.

Last-minute applications

After the exams, we had to focus on our applications. Besides the pieces of information we had to fill out, we also had to write a personal essay and a specific one for each university highlighting the reason why we want to study there.

In Romania, we don’t have writing classes, and because English is our second language, it was a little bit hard for us to write the essays. We were lucky to find some interesting books regarding the composition structure and some youtube videos about how we should approach the main subject. With our first drafts, we went to Fulbright Romania [a cultural and educational center for Romanian students who want to study at American universities], to get a professional opinion about our writings. Surprisingly, the counselors were really impressed by our work. They said that our essays are one of the best they have ever seen and they can’t believe it’s our first draft. Next thing we know, Christmas came and we only had six days left to send our applications. We still had a lot of work to do, but we manage to deliver everything on time, my last application being sent 20 seconds before the deadline.

To be or not to be accepted

The only thing we had left to do was to wait. After two months we received our first results, and we were really happy to see that we got accepted to 4 out of 4 universities in The Netherlands. And after one more month, the admission letters from the American Universities started to come one by one. Out of 4 responses, the first 3 were not in our favor. The last letter was from our first pick university, so we were not expecting much. But, on March 31, our hard work has been paid off, and we got accepted, together, with partial scholarships, at NYU Shanghai!

A piece of our acceptance letter

I hope you enjoyed our trip down the memory lane, now let’s see what will happen next.

#1 Who are we?

By | Our Journey | No Comments

By now you probably know that we are both from Bucharest, Romania, we got accepted at NYU Shanghai, and we need your support to continue our journey. But, there is a lot about us you don’t know yet so let’s get into it!

 

My name is Alex and I am the creative one.

5 words that describe me: Energetic, adaptable, sentimental, accepting, and bold

My favorite food: Definitely Gyros. There is an amazing greek restaurant right next to my house. So if we ever go out you now know where I’m taking you.

5 things from my bucket list:

  • Provide free education for 1 billion kids from disadvantaged areas.
  • Destroy the beauty standards and other social biases.
  • Visit every country and dive into learning all about their culture and traditions.
  • Finish a Marathon, Triathlon, and an Antarctic Ice Marathon.
  • Go vegan and use only cruelty-free animal products.

My favorite quotes:

  • “There is only one you. And there will never be another one. That’s your power” – Mel Robbins
  • “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room” – Confucius
  • “You were not born to fit in, you were born to stand out” – Ru Paul

My role models:

  • Chella Man – a transgender, deaf, and Jewish artist who, through his personal experiences, taught me how to accept and love myself 
  • Yes Theory – a group of 3 guys who encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone every time I get the chance
  • Ru Paul – the well-known drag artist, who taught me self-expression and authenticity

My favorite song: It’s a tough choice to make. I listen to music 24/7 and every day a new song grabs my attention, but here’s one with a really powerful message: High Hopes by Panic At The Disco. If you want to explore my music preferences more, feel free to check my playlists on Spotify. (For my Spotify Click Here )

My morning routine: Before this quarantine, I had a really strict morning routine, I would wake up at 6 am, meditate, work out, shower, and go to school. Now, I don’t have one anymore. I try to make the most out of the free time this quarantine has offered me, so you will find me working 24/7 on different projects to raise money for university, to grow intellectually, and to understand myself better. 

My name is Bertho and I am the strategic one.

5 words that describe me: Disciplined, calm, active, funny and hardworking

My favorite food: Definitely meatballs with sour cream sauce but only from my semi-boarding school canteen. Anywhere else they don’t taste the same.

5 things from my bucket list:

  • Help remove all the plastic from the world oceans.
  • Donate 1 million meals to homeless and poor people.
  • Repopulate the forests with at least 100 million trees.
  • Swim at the Great Barrier Reef and between continental plates in Iceland.
  • Be on Forbes Magazine after I achieve all of the above.

My favorite quotes:

  • “I mean, they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.” – Banksy
  • “Reason shows us there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” – Seneca

My role model:

Warren Buffett – He wasn’t rich when he was a kid, and I like to think that I can do the same as he did and become an important person. He is very humble and today he still lives in a small house in his home town. He also donated billions of dollars to charities. He influences the world in a good way and doesn’t brag about his money. I think he is the closest resemblance to what I want to be in life.

My favorite song: My favorite song is without a doubt Imagine by John Lenon. I know that it is impossible to accomplish all those great things that he talks about but it is great to sit and listen about peace and a quiet world. Very relaxing.

My morning routine: I don’t have a morning ritual. I just wake up, eat, brush my teeth, and get dressed. I don’t like to exercise in the morning because I like to start my day slowly.

Now that we know each other a little bit better, let’s talk about how we got here!