Borrowed Sugar Lends a Lifeline for Living Local
From Classmates to Business Partners: Borrowed Sugar
Today’s technology makes it easily possible to connect with people halfway across the world. We can Skype with grandparents in Europe, order merchandise from South America or stream Sweden’s local news.
But how many of us can say that we talk to our neighbors on the same consistent basis?
Sixteen young entrepreneurs, most of them current or former students at The University of Texas, have a vision to close the communication gap between locals by creating a website that allows for the spread of information, including community news and events, lost pets, new neighbors and deals at local businesses.
The website, Borrowed Sugar, opens to the public in mid-August and hopes to help people live local lives in cities throughout the nation.
“We talked to one woman who is the definition of a power mom,” says Vice President of Operations Eric Sung, BBA ''10. “She has four kids and keeps up with 20 different newsletters on a day-to-day basis to keep up with the local beat. It shows that people are really going through a lot of trouble to live locally.”
Borrowed Sugar, founded in 2009, will launch as a free website that aims to make it easy.
Daniel Street, president and CEO of Borrowed Sugar, chose to start his company in Austin for its appreciation for living local and the desire to recruit UT students. Eleven of the 16 employees are students at or graduates of The University of Texas.
“We’re growing our team by recruiting from the McCombs family,” says Sung. “We really want to keep [recruiting] in UT because we’ve had such success working with these people.”
The team also uses McCombs as a network for mentors that provide the team with entrepreneurial advice.
Finance senior and Product Manager Kelley Rytlewski took on a product management role in the spring and sought out Associate Professor Edward Anderson of McCombs for guidance. “He is the professor of an operations management class, and he is great at agile development,” she says. “He gave me blogs and books to read and even helped me with my spreadsheets. He showed me that professors are excited to see us applying what they’ve taught us in the classroom.”
Borrowed Sugar employees describe the startup experience as full of challenges. With a new company, “It’s all hands on deck,” says Rytlewski. “We work throughout the day and really late into the night.”
Rytlewski describes one night in particular that took the team by surprise. In the early stages of Borrowed Sugar, the company’s office was the lower level of Street’s house. The first investor was scheduled to meet the team last October, and the electricity shut off right before his arrival.
“We’re an internet company and we had no internet. We had no lights, nothing,” she explains. “We were already so nervous, but we put on a smile and ended up closing the deal to receive funding.”
Operations intern and finance senior Jay Shah says that in order to achieve success as a startup, “You really have to believe in the vision. We all stopped taking salaries at one point and worked really long hours, but you look around the table and see people that grasp the vision and put it all on the line.”
“You must surround yourself with a good team," Rytlewski adds. "It’s so emotionally draining, and it’s an up and down rollercoaster all the time. If you don’t have good people riding it with you, the thrill gets lost and it can become very tough.”
To get your early invite to join the local community, sign up at www.borrowedsugar.com. The top 30 cities with the most registrants will have Borrowed Sugar launched in their area in mid-August.