Meet The team behind YOUnite !
Hi there, tell us a little bit about yourself:
My name is Brenda Ortiz. I was raised here in Austin, Texas and attend Texas State University. I am the first in my family to go to college and I will be the first to get an undergraduate degree. I will be obtaining an International Relations degree this upcoming May. I represent YOUnite, a company I and a group of other five individuals founded because of our common passion. I am a co-founder and the Chief of Operations Officer of YOUnite. I am passionate in working with people, advocating human rights and higher education.
Your company started with a group called Level Up, tell us about that:
Our company was created after 4 weeks of soul searching and much trial and error while creating a business model. It wasn’t until we acknowledged and came to a consensus that who we wanted to help is undocumented students because they are a good asset to our community.
Level Up is a twelve-week program that helps reach human fulfillment through conscious entrepreneurship. This program is helping to create the next generation of diverse entrepreneurs.
Level Up in reality is two men whom I and the rest of the team call our parents (an inside joke we have). These two men are Ruben Cantu and Koy McDermott. (Pictured in 3rd to last photo!)
Level Up did not start YOUnite but it is playing an important role in the development. Koy and Ruben have been teachers, mentors, a support system, and guidance counselors. They both have taught me and the rest of the team to find a problem, develop a strategy, and create a solution. I oversimplified what I have learned these past twelve weeks because truth is that I have learned a lot. In a matter of twelve weeks, the co founders of YOUnite learned about finance, accounting, market validation, management, operations, learning how to pitch and much more.
Level Up has guided YOUnite through the entrepreneurial journey. It has given the team and I confidence and it has dwelled in our brains to believe that anything is what we want it to be. “Our reality does not create our thoughts, our thoughts create our reality.”
What is YOUnite?
YOUnite is a hub that centralizes educational, financial, and legal resources for DACA students. These resources will be personalized for the individual based on their interest, likes, and DACA case. Our mission is to help undocumented immigrants successfully complete the DACA process. We strongly believe that DACA has changed people’s lives by giving individuals opportunities that they would otherwise have no access to.
It’s from our understanding that you are one of 6 from your team. What does everyone else’s role entail?
Carlos- Chief Technology Officer
As chief technology officer Carlos’ daily tasks include coding the YOUnite platform, managing plug-ins, and ensuring that everything on both the front and back end of our platform runs smoothly.
Robin- Public Relations Coordinator
As public relations coordinator, Robin manages social media accounts for YOUnite. This includes creating Twitter and Instagram posts to keep the supporters of YOUnite up to date on our journey.
Brenda-Chief Operations Officer
As chief operations officer Brenda ensures that the day to day operations of YOUnite run smoothly. Some of Brenda’s daily responsibilities include, keeping a running schedule of all YOUnite projects, coordinating co-founders schedule and searching for funding opportunities.
Ricardo- Production Manager
As Production Manager Ricardo is a strategic and detailed oriented analyst. He has strong customer relationship skills and is self directed. He tends to see the bigger picture and is accountable for the measurement of YOUnite’s growth.
As partnership coordinator Joseph spends much of his time out in the community meeting with different organizations to build strategic partnerships for YOUnite. This will help YOUnite grow and impact a larger part of the community.
Gloria-Chief Financial Officer
As chief financial officer, Gloria oversees the different cash flows that occur day to day within YOUnite. She also creates budgets and manages the financial transactions of the company.
What are a few challenges you and your group have faced starting your company?
The biggest challenge the team and I have faced these past twelve weeks is being too “democratic” and coming to a consensus with our ideas. My team and I are passionate about our mission, and as we move forward in carrying out our idea we make sure that everyone’s perspective is heard. This is not bad, in fact I think it is so kind that we want to be inclusive of our team and respectful of everyone’s idea. I do understand that sometimes it is not effective when we are trying to execute a plan because we are waiting for everyone to give it a “yes.”
What are some obstacles you have overcome, and how did you guys do it?
Trust. Once problems in our team started developing a sense of isolation started to emerge within our group as well. A business needs a strong team, and trust is fundamental. In a work retreat we attended in behalf of Level Up we all openly discussed where we were at in our business and in our team. The team and I came to the consensus that our mission was important to all of us and that in order to get to our mission we needed to work together and put our disagreements behind.
How has this experience impacted you positively?
Level Up has fast forwarded my life a couple years ahead. I use to have a plan and this summer I have realized my “plan” no longer works. I wanted to be a business consultant after college, learn about how to maintain a sustainable business and then start my own business after going to graduate school. This summer I learned how to create a business, and I even founded one! My perspective on many matters of life have changed. I think more than anything I am appreciative of becoming aware of my faults. I have gotten to know myself and I am able to identify my weaknesses. This excites me because now I know what I have to fix within myself to be the person that I want to be.
What advice do you have for other young entrepreneurs?
Believe in yourself and in your mission. Age is not a limitation. Validate that your idea with who you are trying to serve. Identify your target audience. Make sure there is a problem. Get ready to get rejected. Rejection is not bad, it’s a gift in disguise. If you are hearing that your idea is great and there is no constructive criticism or questions are asked, be weary. You want people to give you criticism and sometimes to even tell you that your idea sucks. If someone ever does tell you your idea sucks, ask why.
Where do you see your company in 5 years?
In five years, YOUnite will be recognized nationally in the United States. We will have partnerships with companies who have the same mission and we will have a bigger staff helping us review DACA and other legal applications for students. YOUnite will have proof of its success in helping undocumented students and we will have scholarships along with paid internships for our our students to be able to pay for a college tuition.