Educating young entrepreneurs at TU

By: Victoria Nicholson, Art Director

Photo by Victoria Nicholson/ The Towerlight

Trusting someone to watch over your house or your animals can be tough, but what do you do when the person you trusted fails to do their job? This is what Jenny Thompson, founder and CEO of SafetyPIN Technologies, faced after trusting a Towson University student with access to her home to house sit and dog sit. 

On Feb. 18, Thompson spoke at an “Entrepreneurship Unplugged” workshop in PAWS. The purpose of this event was to inspire young entrepreneurs and students on campus to pursue their own entrepreneurial visions, according to Towson’s event page.

Jan Baum, a professor of design and social entrepreneurship at Towson, organized this event in hopes of connecting students to a real life Baltimore-based entrepreneur.

“I want students to realize what I’m doing in the classroom is real-world,” said Baum. “I think we need to hear it from an entrepreneur. To see them, feel them and hear them. It brings it more to life.”

According to Thompson, when she arrived back to her home after being out of town for nine days, it became clear that the dog sitter abandoned her responsibilities. Thompson noted seeing stains on the floor, resources left untouched, and even the fresh sheets she left folded in the washing machine unmoved.

“Has anyone here ever had to fold a fitted sheet?” asked Thompson. 

Pausing, only a small amount of hands rose into the air. Thompson’s point was that the sitter did not use the sheet, therefore, didn’t spend the night like she was paid to do.

After confronting the sitter on what happened, Thompson asked the sitter for the money back which she owed for failing to do the job. Normally during these situations, one may block the other person’s number or social media pages, but the sitter had another idea. She decided to fake her own death, texting back as the heartbroken mother. 

“Please take out your notebooks right now and write, do not fake your own death when you owe someone $150” said Thompson. 

This situation introduced a problem to Thompson: how do you trust a stranger with access to your home? In an effort to create a solution to her problem, Thompson launched SafetyPIN Technologies, Inc. 

“At SafetyPIN we’ve developed a universal trust badge, primarily for the sharing and gig economy,” said Thompson.

According to their website, SafetyPin has a “four-pronged algorithm that includes a broader criminal background check, a financial history screening, an ID verification, and a proprietary behavioral review.” After passing each of these checks, users will receive a unique eight-digit SafetyPIN, which they can share on the app or in person to show that they are trustworthy individuals.

Not only is Thompson’s team made up of criminal justice experts, and former Chief of White House Security John Gill, but according to the tech site Technical.ly, SafetyPIN is also ranked number six of 20 Baltimore tech companies to watch in 2020. 

For Thompson, turning your personal struggles into something that gives you strength was an important lesson she taught the audience. During the event, Thompson made it a point to share her personal struggles with the audience, without letting her struggles define her story. She mentioned being fired for standing up for sexual harassment victims in a previous workplace, as well as her weightloss journey and even divorce. However, Thompson quickly turned the conversation into a conversation on how future business owners may learn how to face these situations head on. One of the pieces of advice she shared was to not set specific goals. 

“I really liked how she talked about specifically how hard her hardships are life and how quickly she moved on from them,” said Adrianne Holocker, a student of Baum’s who attended the workshop. “[I liked] how she very easily overstepped those, and how she applied them to her business.” 

Thompson advises students to avoid locking themselves into specific goals early on, and to reach further.

“The reason I don’t set goals is because you reach them,” said Thompson. ”If I [had] set a goal to lose 50 pounds, I wouldn’t have lost 55,” said Thompson. “You have a million choices a day, always make the one you’ll be proud to make.”

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