By Erica Polle C’17, Founder of GivTake
Since I’ve started working on GivTake, I have learned so many things that I didn’t anticipate—about startups themselves, about marketing, about working with others, and surprisingly about myself. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is about preserving the balance of being faithful to my idea and being flexible to changes.
GivTake has evolved in so many ways since we originally came up with the idea: everything from the basic structure of the business to the features on the site and the colors of our logo. In the midst of these changes, the basic vision of GivTake has stayed the same: a “go-to” place for college students to more easily and efficiently buy and sell stuff. It is by returning to this vision, the core of GivTake, that we consider new features and make changes.
As GivTake has grown, the opinions of others have also been instrumental in shaping the direction of the business; there is always more to learn from various experiences and viewpoints. I have met so many people at Penn with valuable ideas and advice; sometimes about things that my co-founder (and sister) Karen and I simply had not thought of. At the same time, sometimes no matter how good someone’s idea is, it doesn’t fit with GivTake. It’s at those moments that I have to stay true to the core values and direction of the company. It has been a commitment to our vision that has kept GivTake going.
Since launching our beta phase, receiving feedback from our users, along with observing the marketplace in action and how users interact with it, have been vital. I have learned the importance of being flexible, and of listening to the user. I’ve found it’s incredibly easy to become attached to my ideas—I have been working so closely on GivTake for long enough that at times it can be difficult to critically assess. I do not simply see the feature, but remember the hours of work or various iterations that have gone into it. I’ve learned that ultimately, no matter how much time has been spent developing a feature or choosing a certain user interface, it doesn’t matter if it is not right for the customer and the business.
As GivTake continues to grow and evolve, I am slowly learning how to balance a commitment and belief in GivTake and a flexibility and open-mindedness to changing it. After months of hard work, I am confident that the direction we are going in is the right one.
Bio: Erica Polle is a Penn junior from New York City studying Communications. She is the co-founder of GivTake, an online marketplace for college students to buy and sell anything and everything, from textbooks and dorm supplies to tickets and electronics. GivTake launched its beta phase at Penn earlier this semester. Be sure to check it out!