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Hackernoon logoHow The Great Recession Led Me To Innovate Now by@lblewisauthor

How The Great Recession Led Me To Innovate Now

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@lblewisauthorL.B. Lewis

Nominee for "2020 Contributor of the Year - Women in Tech." I write about modern culture.

We all know startups are supposed to solve problems. And, 2020 has been a record-setting year for problems.

“Founders often hold too tightly onto solutions and too loosely onto problems,”- Michel Siebel, Y Combinator.

One problem is unemployment. It’s estimated that COVID unemployment could be close to that of the Great Depression which reached 25%, according to Pew Research.

When shelter-in-place took effect in March in the Bay Area, and my projects got put on hold, I started actively networking for a new job. To do this from home, I’ve attended over 100 virtual events in the past six months. Like a lot of people, I’ve discovered new groups, events and resources in addition to re-connecting with my existing network.

The problem I kept hearing was: people wanted to work, but didn’t have a job.

Then, people becoming depressed looking for jobs can cause problems. (The New York Times gives tips on how to overcome job seeker depression.) And, finally, people losing skills and financial gains because they are not working are also problems.

When I took a digital detox at the end of June, I thought about these problems and my own unemployment problem. I reflected on doing my best to make intros which got a few people new work, but I, myself, had not been successful in securing a job.

(I spoke more about the detox in my Hacker Noon Noonies interview here.)

I thought back to my first freelance marketing client during The Great Recession, a fashion designer who paid me in clothes. While I had done other work-trade gigs before (a resort in Hawaii, a farm in France, ashram in New York and more), this was the first one I was using my marketing skills to help a solopreneur. Adding to my wardrobe was a definite plus, too.

In July, as my solution to the unemployment problem, I launched THE WISHERIE. I used my barter experience plus my marketing (10 years) and community building experience (got to #12 on Amazon’s New Adult Book Bestseller List) to develop the plan. It’s a remote, barter network for professionals and business owners that have time, are stuck at home/life, and want to be productive with their many skills.

THE WISHERIE is a different type of start-up. First, it’s a side project for me, while continuing looking for a job. Second, it’s solely based on donations and bartering. Third, I call it a pop-up startup because I have the goal of helping 20 professionals get new barter projects by Dec. 31, 2020. I would consider future options if we meet this goal and response gains (financial) momentum.

In short, THE WISHERIE is a referral-based barter network, rooted in the passion economy and improving mental health. I’d like to share the evolution of THE WISHERIE broken down into four strategic steps that I recently did for a job application:

  1. Research: From March - June, I heard from a lot of frustrated people in my network that they wanted to work. While I did my best to make quality introductions, I felt frustrated I could not help them. I also felt frustrated with the rejections I had been getting.
  2. Planning: In June, after a digital detox, I developed a plan for a pop-up startup project with my goal to help 20 people by Dec. 31, 2020 secure barter projects. The goal is to help beat job seeker depression, help small businesses and create new opportunities. I came up with the name “Wisherie” because people are wishing for easier times and I wanted the community to tell us what they need and wish for to make it through the pandemic.
  3. Launch: In July, I secured the domain Wisherie.co and built the website with forms for seekers and businesses to express their needs. I also created a plan, brand book and calendar for THE WISHERIE. In late July, we completed the first barter project. I traded copywriting for WordPress consulting based on a contract with deliverables and dates.
  4. Community: Presently, I send out THE WISHLIST, our weekly email newsletter for THE WISHERIE. In addition, I also hold BREAKFAST PIZZA, our virtual networking event. We’ve been featured in Virtual Mojito and had the founders of ConversationExchange and NOMAWO speak at BREAKFAST PIZZA. Talented professionals seeking opportunities in marketing, copywriters, branding, creative, UX/UI, and web development make up the majority of the community presently.

Lastly, while I have worked with many early stage startups in my career -- not one was a six-month project, based on donations or had a budget as small as mine. In addition, I don’t provide any job guarantees, shady subscriptions, or tax advice. THE WISHERIE is unique in many ways and is built on referrals and reciprocity to provide one solution to the unemployment problem we are currently facing. Bartering is not for everyone, but it’s something worth trying to get unstuck and move forward. You never know who you will meet.

**To learn more about how to participate or be featured, write us today: hello@wisherie.co.

(P.S. I’ve been nominated for two of Hacker Noon’s awards and would appreciate your support for “Contributor of the Year, Women in Tech” and “Indie Tech Journalist of the Year.” Thank you!)

Also published here.

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