TechLounge: Central Ohio Technology | Entrepreneurs | Innovation
Some people are born entrepreneurs. Others find the entrepreneurial spirit later in life. It seems safe to say that Tanisha Robinson falls into the former category, given her first “unofficial business” was started at the ripe age of 11. That business charged neighborhood kids to play with her and her sibling’s toys.
“When my mother found out about that she was not happy and I found myself in big trouble. But I think I redeemed myself by being more responsible with future endeavors,” she chuckles.
Tanisha grew up in a family where serving others was a priority, which probably explains her mother’s reaction. She claims that any time the children complained of being bored they were sent to sing for residents at the local nursing home.
"Since none of us were particularly musical, that was definitely interesting," she says, again with a little laugh.
Although her childhood entrepreneurial experience was controversial in the eyes of her family, Tanisha says, "I wholeheartedly believe there is no shame in working to make a lot of money. The truth is that your impact on the world is amplified when you have more available resources."
To that end, Tanisha co-founded Fudha, a company that promoted and sold daily restaurant deals to more than 20,000 email subscribers with proceeds from other businesses she had exited. Fudha, which bore comparisons to Groupon and Living Social, earned 50 percent of the revenue from deals purchased through Fudha.com. One difference from other sites, however, was that one dollar from each sale went to charity and the Mid-Ohio Food Bank was designated as the recipient. Over the course of 21 months, Fudha contributed more than $15,000, resulting in 30,000 meals provided to families in need.
In June of this year, Tanisha sold her interest in Fudha to 614 Media Group, which ran a competing site, Faveroo.com. Fudha now operates under the Faveroo brand, but continues ties to local charities.
Tanisha’s commitment to social entrepreneurism was also born out of travels to places like Northern Africa and Syria. Upon high school graduation, she enrolled at Brigham Young University, but chose to enlist in the United States Army instead of returning for her second year. She served four years as an Arabic linguist, and eventually lived in Syria after her Army service.
"I was actually in Lebanon when it was bombed by Israel in 2006. After you watch refugees flee across borders of a war torn region like that, you never take things like water, food and even clean clothes for granted again."
She returned to Columbus in 2006, finished her Bachelor’s Degree in Arabic and Political Theory, and started to teach herself everything she could about the internet. She also started networking with other young entrepreneurs, to which she affectionately refers as "the kids in the alley."
Ultimately, her earlier experience at International Risk Consultants before leaving for Syria and as a freelance writer for local startups upon her return to the United States propelled her further down an entrepreneurial path.
"Seeing IRC grow from humble beginnings into a global operation and being a part of what other young entrepreneurs were creating in Columbus allowed me to believe in my ability to be a successful entrepreneur."
Since selling Fudha, she took on the Marketing Director role for a Central Ohio startup called Skreened, another company focused on social entrepreneurism.
"After Fudha, I stepped back and assessed what was next and I decided to hitch onto someone else’s wagon for now. Skreened’s social commitment and the fact that I felt it was a scalable business made it a perfect fit."
Since its founding in 2006, Skreened has set aside a portion of profits to give away via kiva.com, a micro-lending site that opens access to capital to entrepreneurs from across the world.
For those interested in starting a business or becoming an entrepreneur, she offers the following:
Don’t think about what you want to do in terms of business at first. Instead, envision solutions to problems and develop critical thinking skills. The best startups solve a problem in a unique way.
Never make assumptions about partnerships. Work with professionals to make sure you have all your legal ducks in a row. You never think situations will go badly, but sometimes they do, and you need contingency plans in place.
Plan for monetization. A lot of people start with great ideas but have not thought through how they will actually make money.
Don’t listen to the naysayers. At first, people told me Fudha was a terrible idea. Believe in your idea and drive it to success or failure, but NEVER give up on it.
With regards to the future, Tanisha says there is much more to come, and says some initial seeds have already been planted.
Stay tuned. Those seeds are sure to grow heartily.
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