Thursday, January 6, 2011

Guest Blog: Sarah Young + Rock Your Block

Sarah Young graduated from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management with a Marketing major and Coaching minor. It was during her undergraduate career that she got involved in the entrepreneurial community in the Twin Cities. She made a splash at last September’s Startup Weekend, pitching her idea for Rock Your Block for the very first time, and being named one of the winners of the weekend! Sarah serves on the boards of Project Skyway and BizLounge, organizations that support entrepreneurs in Minnesota. To support herself and her business through this start-up phase, Sarah works part-time consulting for local technology companies and also coaches high school pole vault in the spring. She also helps a local entrepreneur with facilitating team-building cooking events through his company, TasteSuccess. Learn more about Sarah and Rock Your Block in her guest blog post below!
Inspiration and Overview

Rock Your Block is a safe and secure application that helps teens find ways to make money by connecting with adults in their neighborhood community. My inspiration for creating Rock Your Block is most appropriately credited to my work ambition as a young child and teenager. From about the age of 9, I would walk around the neighborhood with my dog with the hope that I would run into other dog-owners so I could hand them a business card and pitch my dog-walking and pet-sitting services. The dog-walking evolved into other types of odd jobs, such as taking care of pets, babysitting, bringing in mail and watering plants. Whatever odd job was available, I would do it.

As someone who grew up with the evolution of the Internet, I quickly became intrigued by the idea that professionals could find jobs through online services like LinkedIn and Monster.com. Then I started to wonder why there was never a service like this that targeted teens and youth looking for odd jobs. After loads of research, I began to conceptualize the idea for providing a service that helped teens find quick and simple jobs from people online. I wanted to build something that would be safer than Craigslist and more targeted toward teenagers. Teens always love to discover new ways to make money and are paying for more things themselves these days. With a busy schedule around school, athletics, and extracurriculars, it is hard for teens today to commit to even part-time jobs. Rock Your Block is the perfect alternative solution.

Rock Your Block is built off of the idea that teens often find odd jobs from people they or their parents already know. To leverage this referral and word-of-mouth method, we are building the application through Facebook. According to Pew Research Center, over 90% of teens use the Internet. So why not help make this time more productive by providing them with jobs through an online application using the most popular social networking site?‬

Building Rock Your Block within Facebook allows people to connect with others around them and with people in their network. Nowadays, people tend to turn to the Internet when it comes to connecting with others first before connecting face-to-face. Rock Your Block helps push people to that first step in connecting with people.

My vision is to help teens and their families understand the value in learning life skills such as helping others in their community, managing money, and creating a positive reputation. By establishing partnerships with schools, churches, and other community organizations, I will be able to promote the benefit that Rock Your Block can provide to help engage members of all different types of communities.

Next steps
  • A Beta-version of Rock Your Block will be available within the next few months. I am currently gathering volunteers to be the test group. This means these volunteers will get to be the first users of Rock Your Block for a free trial period.
  • In order to find these potential users, I have been speaking with different high schools, community councils, community engagement organizations, and churches to gain feedback on how they would find value in Rock Your Block.

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