On Social Entrepreneurship and Social Media – Interview with Alexandra Ernst of Project Pangia
September 11th, 2014 by
A year and a half ago, Project Pangia was born from the mind of Alexandra Ernst. After graduating from Loyola University New Orleans and working with The Walt Disney Company, she set out to create a business of her own. Having a passion for travel, meeting people, and social change, she aimed to create a business that would connect people. Project Pangia is a global initiative based on social and interactive development through the exchange and tracking of travel bracelets. With the help of social media, Ernst has managed to successfully fund an $18,000 Kickstarter campaign, create jobs for various underprivileged women in Bali, Indonesia, and spread these bracelets to more than 17 countries.
How did you come up with the idea for your business?
Project Pangia started as an idea for a travel website. I’ve always had the entrepreneurial spark and I wanted to create something. More than creating a normal business, I wanted to create something that connected people around the world and had some social impact.
I began thinking about how our generation uses social media; we all have Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter – people sometimes just sit and browse through these sites for hours looking at other people’s posts or thinking about what they are going to post. Then, I started thinking about how I could utilize these tools but be able to connect with people not only on a virtual level but also on a human level. This evolved into a travel networking site, but I needed something that would allow me to do it on a fixed budget. It all came full circle when I thought about the idea of creating these bracelets. I said, “What if I give these bracelets to one person; they can hand one off to another person and somehow be able to see where these bracelets are going?”
How does the exchange of bracelets work?
As it is explained on the Project Pangia website, every bracelet is handmade and stamped with a unique code, which is registered on the site. Every bracelet is handmade and stamped with a unique code, which is registered on the site. You can track your impact as your bracelet is passed along from one hand to another in the “spirit of kindness.” Each new recipient can add to the bracelet’s story online before passing it on to someone new. We keep you updated as your bracelet reaches certain milestones so you can witness just how far one simple act of kindness can go.
What is the goal/vision for your business?
A huge part of it is working in underprivileged communities that otherwise wouldn’t have these opportunities of having fair compensation for their work, quality working conditions, and mentorship. For now, I’ve handled the production aspect in Bali – we used recycled surfboards and other sustainable materials for our production, packaging, and shipping. Ultimately, I would like to offer other communities around the world these types of opportunities through collaboration and partnerships.
Project Pangia also aims to spread kindness and spread the message of “travel in kindness.” By doing so, we are creating cultural awareness and connecting people through the use of personal interaction, as well as through embracing the use of technologies and social media platforms.
Finally, as the business grows, I want for Project Pangia to have a strong online presence on a global level and I have been slowly creating this by displaying my products and the stories that arise through them on my website, Facebook Page, Instagram, and Twitter.
If you are active in social media, what platform do you find elicits the most activity?
Facebook and Instagram have definitely been the two that have grown at the fastest rate. In January 2014, my Facebook page had about 200 followers. Once I began to post more consistently and I began to push a couple of Facebook Ads, it grew to almost 3,900 in just a few months.
My Facebook page was definitely my most important and effective tool for my Kickstarter campaign. If it weren’t for Facebook it would have been impossible for me to successfully fund it. By creating Sponsored Posts through Facebook I was able to drive a lot of traffic to my campaign. Also, my campaign was shared via Facebook 1,523 times! It was definitely where I saw more interaction from my followers who eventually became my backers. My goal was $18,000 and I raised $18,295.
My Instagram has also continued to grow. I constantly want to push more imagery, and I think nowadays there’s an overload of information and people don’t want to read that much. Therefore I want to show them as many pictures of my products and their impact, and my followers have responded very well to that. A month ago, I had about 300 followers and it has nearly doubled in less than a month.
I try to be very meticulous and careful about what I post, which is why I do not post as often as other businesses. Something very important to keep in mind is that you can’t just post anything online; you have to be very intentional with what you are writing.
What other tools aside from social media are you utilizing to push your business online?
I currently use a WordPress site and as someone without much technical background, this platform has truly allowed me to manage my website effectively. WordPress even has a tool that measures traffic within the same platform. I also have Google Analytics installed with the site and I use Hootsuite to create social media posts ahead of time and make sure I stay organized.
Do you have any advice for other young entrepreneurs who want to leverage the use of social media with their business?
It’s way more time and money than you’ve ever imagined, so you better love it with all your heart and truly believe in it. However, once you start seeing how people respond and the feedback they give you it makes it all worth it.