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An Afternoon with TheSkimm – by Evely Forte

 It’s not just every Thursday afternoon that you get to hang out with two honorees from Forbes 30 Under 30 List. But last month, that’s exactly what I got to do — and all because of the Shuford program.

On November 21st, Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin, co-founders and co-CEOs of theSkimm, spent their day meeting, advising and inspiring entrepreneurial UNC students and faculty members on campus. The two were invited to speak on campus at the second annual 2019 Shuford Program Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lecture by Dorothy Shuford Lanier — an advisory board member and chairperson on the Innovate and Lead Committee.

Before the hour-long Q&A session began, a few students from the Shuford Ambassador program and myself met with Danielle and Carly. I had the opportunity to directly ask the two entrepreneurs about the importance they saw in the pursuit of innovation and how they cultivate perseverance when facing challenges as innovators. As we talked as a group about our mutual love for Merritt’s, Gilmore Girls and Kanye West, I got the chance to see these two insanely successful and inspirational women as more than just CEOs of theSkimm, but rather as regular, everyday people like myself. 

We then headed downstairs to the Nelson Mandela Auditorium where Bernard Bell — executive director of the Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship — moderated an hour-long Q&A session with the women. Danielle and Carly shared why they started theSkimm, who their target audience is and how they created their business model. As an aspiring entrepreneur myself, I was most intrigued by Danielle and Carly’s revelation of challenges they have both experienced while working toward creating theSkimm. In a world where success is oftentimes unrealistically portrayed, it was reassuring to hear from two crazy, successful women that their path to success was far from perfect. Carly even stressed that she and Danielle are natural introverts who avoid risk-tasking and who feel most comfortable making plans — and following them; this not only surprised me but SERIOUSLY spoke to my soul. I am the exact same way and, because of it, have even doubted whether I could be entrepreneurial with such innate traits. Hearing from Carly and Danielle reminded me that the entrepreneurial mindset that my Shuford professors constantly stress can really benefit, and be practiced by, anyone and anyone at all. 

After the questions, a few board members and students went upstairs to the 4th floor lounge of the FedEx building for hors d’oeuvres. While there, I got the chance to speak with other students and campus stakeholders passionate about incorporating innovation in their respective fields. I got to chat with Carly directly and ask her what a student with an entrepreneurial idea hesitating to take the next step should do. Her greatest advice? Try it out. Jump right in. If it doesn’t work? Who cares? Try again. 

Reflecting on that Thursday night, I realize that tips like those that Danielle and Carly shared last month may help one of my peers land on the 30 Under 30 List in the future. One thing’s for sure, though. Following that lecture and the interactions I had with Carly and Danielle, I walked home invigorated enough to believe in myself, my abilities and my passions to think that that next person could very well be me.

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