Sophia Schmidt is the Marketing and Operations lead for Elevate. She is currently a junior studying Marketing and International Business with a minor in Human-Centered Computing. Her startup Elevate is working on a product that will innovate how people interact with elevators in a post covid world.
What is your story?
I have spent most of my life raised in Dallas, Texas, but I knew for college I wanted to get away from home, meet new people, and experience a new culture. I wanted a big school with endless learning opportunities. The Kelley School of Business offered mentorship opportunities, study abroad trips, and entrepreneurship electives which all interested me as a freshman. Today, I can say I have seized these opportunities and taken a sustainable innovation course, a business in Thailand class, and become a Kelley Freshman Mentor. From these opportunities, I have learned and grown as a student to discover both what I love to do and what I don’t like to do. This journey has been pivotal to my college experience in discovering my passions early so that I can find parallels in career down the line.
What is your typical beverage if you were to walk into a cafe?
Café Ole with almond milk and a dash of cinnamon.
What entrepreneurial or innovative business or project are you currently working on?
I am currently working as the operations and marketing lead for Elevate. Elevate is a mobile app that reduces wait time and increases efficiency in buildings all through a hands-free experience. We are currently in the research and development phases, but we will be launching in early 2021. In my specific role, I design all of our marketing materials used for our Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn social media accounts in addition to our website. I work besides Elevate’s founder, Casey Curtis, to prioritize our goals, build our communications platform, and reach out to investors. Additionally, I work with our data analyst, Dani, to compose relevant surveys to further the Elevate mission. I also work with head research, Maddie, to stay up to date with the patent process. While in these beginning stages, I have been “wearing many hats,” I have enjoyed the opportunity to have a hands-on approach for all aspects of our business.
How did you get here? What were some of your entrepreneurial and innovative highlights?
I first heard Elevate’s pitch from our founder and entrepreneur, Casey Curtis, at an executive board meeting this past March for my club, product management club run through our informatics school, Luddy. Her energy and vision for Elevate really caught my attention and inspired me as a creative-minded woman in business like Casey. When my summer plans changed due to COVID, I knew I had the time to take on a bigger role with Elevate which led me to work with Casey on Elevate all summer. Funny enough, I have only met Casey one time in person, but I feel like I have known her a lifetime. We work well together as creative problem solvers and trust one another with our lives. Since the summer, the Elevate team has expanded from us two to a total of five diverse, innovative, and intelligent team members. Seeing Elevate grow to include students as passionate as we are about the product has been truly the most rewarding experience.
Could you elaborate on the work you have done for the IU app?
Designing the logo/slogan and building Instagram following to create engaging content for the younger generation, including TikToks and podcasts which has raised almost 100 followers our Instagram: @elevate.app
Conducted survey with over 300 potential users to validate that Elevate would alleviate user pain points (~80%)
Conducted survey with over 300 potential users to validate that mobile applications save users anywhere from 2-6 hours a day
Recorded a podcast with IU Startup Experience and business pitch for Elle magazine “Pitch your Biz Contest”
Build the central communication platform with Casey, with specific leadership responsibilities for the “Vision Board” segment
Ideate MVP models of product version one with my team members
Network with Venture capitalist and fellow entrepreneurs to learn more of the future steps for Elevate
What has been the most useful entrepreneurial resource or experience at the university?
The product Management Club has been an extremely useful entrepreneurial resource for me. Since I am a business major and most of my classes are in the Kelley School, I have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to interact and learn from students in the Informatics school. From this club, I was able to first meet Casey C, the founder, and find our app developer, Casey D. Additionally, throughout the year, we hear from product managers from all types of technology companies which has been an excellent resource in expanding my thought process to think like a PM and find out what I can do now to maximize my potential to be a successful PM. Lastly, I am inspired by my fellow exec board members of PMC who all really care about one another and are constantly offering resources to learn and network.
What has been the most useful entrepreneurial resource or experience outside the University?
Outside of school, the most useful experience for me has been my seasonal job at a local Pilates studio in Dallas that I have held for three years. In this position, I interact with 100+ clients daily which has taught me so much about the customer experience and how valuable this is to make any entrepreneurial idea successful. The consumer and his or her interaction with your product should be the ultimate selling point. At the Pilates studio, I learned a lot about selling and how to work with both happy and unhappy consumers. I learned how to be personable and find a realistic option for every consumer no matter the circumstances.
What was your favorite failure or learning experience?
The best learning experience I have had thus far is being made aware of the importance of the ideation and brainstorming phases for the first versions of our product for Elevate. After our initial ideation session, I quickly learned that all of us need to come into that session more prepared. From then on, we have conducted sessions where every team member must bring one well-researched idea. I have learned that the power of discussion and analysis of pros and cons is truly invaluable for entrepreneurs.
What is the best advice you’ve received as an entrepreneur?
By working with Casey, the founder of Elevate, we have both established that the company culture and relationships we build while working on this project are the most important facets in building a collaborative, passion-driven team environment. From this, the best advice she has given me is to “find good people.” With good people, we have been able to challenge one another and find “believers.” As Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.” As an extrovert, I get my energy most by working with others, so developing a team of well-diversified creative problem solvers has been our number one priority.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
One thing I have learned throughout college and especially this quarantine is that nothing ever goes according to plan but THAT IS OKAY. I truly believe everything happens for a reason and stand by this statement because so many times throughout school I have looked for immediate results and questioned why things were not happening now, but I have found that waiting, going with the flow, and optimism have led me to find my passions with Elevate, the Product Management Club, my sorority, and my business fraternity. If anyone is looking for inspiration on days they feel “stuck,” I would recommend purchasing “The Daily Stoic” on amazon. Casey and I both read this daily!
Are you open to connecting with other students if they are interested? Where can people find you?
Yes, I would love to connect with other students to share experiences and resources. Students can email me firstname.lastname@example.org or add me on LinkedIn @sophschm12