Ways to grow


A Maui sunset. (Photo by Daniel Lee)

I had the privilege of meeting SDSU alumnus Jenny Amaraneni last week as guest lecturer and CEO/co-founder of SOLO Eyewear. When she first stepped onto campus for her master’s program, she knew she wanted to create her own company. She actually began the works of her business in an entrepreneurship class much like mine. Fast forward to present day, she is a successful entrepreneur for a cause: raising funds through sunglasses sales to provide eye care for people around the world.

I found myself inspired by Jenny’s mission to make a difference. With that being said, to make a difference you must be willing to grow. If I want to touch the world, I am going to need some help and new ideas. After reading Entrepreneur’s “10 Ways to Grow Your Business,” a few tips resonated with me. First, to diversify; sell complementary products or services, teach adult education or other types of classes. I’ve said this before, I  dream of publishing a book someday. This could be a means to diversify and connect with a greater audience. This leads to the second resonating tip, to target other markets; for me, this could be teachers and anyone else involved in the classroom.

I think more than anything I will continue to dream big. It hasn’t steered me wrong thus far.

“Maintaining your momentum means looking forward even as you focus on the present. Forecasting and planning are critical to your continued success.” – U.S. Small Business Administration


Finding something good


Snapping photos of the Sacramento sunset. (Photo by Jessica Vernone)

I’ve been lucky enough to find a whole lot of good. I am wrapping up my first year of graduate school – a dream turned reality one year ago. And just like that, I am already planning my move home to Sacramento for the summer, excited to reunite with family, friends, and my dogs.

But before I move back, I will reach the height of my graduate school experience thus far and could not be more grateful. Next week, I will present my research on parent media literacy and teenage cyberbullying – a pilot study for my thesis. I am also writing a business plan to create a Parents Online blog and podcast with media literacy resources and tutorials. I will pitch my business plan in just three short weeks.

I had my share of doubts about Parents Online, wondering where in the world I would find an audience. Thanks to the guidance of my professor, Dr. Schmitz Weiss, and additional faculty in my program, I have found that the need for parent media literacy resources is greater than I imagined. My audience is out there, and I can actually do something to help them, too. After my interview with parent Caleb Eames, attending the Screenagers documentary screening and panel discussion in San Diego, speaking with Adam McLane, co-author of A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Social Media, researching the success of Screenagers, and looking at numerous parent studies, subreddits, podcasts and Facebook groups, I know my topic is important. Many parents out there are interested in gaining media literacy because their children’s interests are important to them – especially when it comes to social media. I’ve found something good here, and it certainly makes for a more than good start.


Spring cleaning


Sacramento flowers in full bloom. (Photo by Jayla Lee)

Last week, I went home for spring break to the beautiful city of Sacramento. By stepping away from my normal environment on campus, I was able to gain some fresh perspectives on my project and do a little spring cleaning on my canvas. I realized my heart was set on creating a Parents Online YouTube channel because it was my favorite social media platform. I’ve found most of my entrepreneurial inspiration from YouTubers including lifestyle vloggers Lavendaire, Ingrid Nilsen, and Sarah Nourse. While I wish to carry their bright and personable energy over to Parents Online, I decided to put my YouTube dreams on hold and consider podcasts, instead. According to Pew Research Center’s “State of the News Media 2016,” the percentage of Americans who have listened to podcasts in the past month has increased steadily since 2013. Additionally, about one in five U.S. adults reported listening to some kind of podcast in the last month.

I recently read Entrepreneur’s “6 Tips for How to Build Your Startup’s Brand From Scratch” per Dr. Schmitz Weiss’ selected course readings. The first step is to identify your target market. By doing so, you must also find out what they like and what they need. It makes sense to start a Parents Online podcast after realizing this is where most adults spend their time. Perhaps, YouTube will find a way into my plan in the future. But for now, my priority is serving my target audience in the best way possible.

Growing up in the digital age

ocean beach

Ocean Beach, San Diego. (Photo by Jayla Lee)

Let’s face it – growing up can be hard. Especially in the digital age.

I still remember as a preteen, all the hours I spent trying to take new profile pictures for my MySpace account, and sitting on AOL Instant Messenger rather than calling up my friends to hang out (even though they lived down the street). It boggles me that I can recall my digital life in great detail as a child. Even more so, how a simple click of a button or typing of a few words could change someone’s life – their self-esteem, grades, and friendships.

We live in two worlds – real life and online. If you don’t believe me, I dare you to try going an entire day without using any Internet devices. (I did that last week, and it was eye opening.) With that being said, we have the opportunity to set an example for our younger generation in the way we navigate the Internet, social media, and even show an interest in their online uses.

I had the pleasure of interviewing my fellow SDSU Journalism and Media Studies colleague Caleb Eames, who is a parent of three. He recently allowed his eldest son to sign up for Instagram – as long as he could follow him, too.

“I decided that if I was going to simply ban him from social media, it would likely push him to do it behind my back at some point,” Caleb says. “However, if I interact with him, follow him on Instagram, and do it with him, I’m more likely to be able to influence him and to teach him.”

After the interview, Caleb invited me to a local film screening of Screenagers, a documentary themed on growing up in the digital age. It takes us on the journey of mother and physician Delaney Ruston deciding whether or not to buy her daughter an iPhone. According to the film, the average kid spends 6.5 hours a day looking at screens, excluding homework time. It also explains the lack of capacity for children to demonstrate self-control over using their devices – something that will develop later on, after they already establish online habits. Near the end, it shows how parents set examples. Sometimes good, and sometimes with room for improvement (we’re all human). The point is, kids are learning from us.

I am by no means a parent, and do not know the first thing about parenting. However, I am a young 20-something year old with a bank of information to share. I understand the insecurities and affirmations from social media, how to use it, and am on the other end now as a researcher and teaching associate for Social Media in the Digital Age. After consulting Dr. Schmitz Weiss this week, I further defined my goals for my business plan:

  • To aggregate research, tutorials, and insights on social media, cyberbullying, teaching, and parenting
  • Create easily digestable resources
  • Make them available on a Parents Online YouTube channel and blog

I am advancing my plan to launch Parents Online to assist in any way I can. The Internet has the capability to enrich our lives. My hope is that our young generation can find a balance between our two worlds, learn a lot, and break the mold for what Screenagers and other findings have already shown us.

Keep going, keep growing


San Diego sunflower fields in full bloom. (Photo by Jayla Lee)

Just as the San Diego sunflowers bloom, so will our ideas when the time is right. I realized this last week when I submitted my canvas to Dr. Schmitz Weiss. A canvas is a tool allowing entrepreneurs to map their business ideas. The map provides a foundation to strategize, organize, and see the bigger picture. Categories include:

  • Customer segments
  • Value Propositions
  • Channels
  • Customer relationships
  • Revenue streams
  • Key resources
  • Key Activities
  • Key Partnerships
  • Cost structure

I highly recommend our class textbook Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur for those interested in the canvas tool. You can even snag a printable version on its website. Here’s mine:


It almost reminds me of the sunflowers, blooming with ideas off the page. What’s next? Interviews. I am excited to attend a parent discussion next month about raising children in the digital age. I will report my findings here — and hopefully have an improved canvas ready to roll.

Sensing the news

Jayla at the event

(Ready for #Techraking! Photo by Isaac Brambila)

What is sensor journalism?

I found out this weekend at San Diego State University’s “Sensing the News” conference — hosted by its School of Journalism and Media Studies and The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR). Students collaborated with innovators and journalists from across the country to engage in workshops, discussions, and team projects. Groups also competed by pitching their ideas to a panel of judges.

Organized by our very own Dr. Schmitz Weiss, I had high hopes for the event. It exceeded my expectations.

Defining sensor journalism

“A sensor is something that reacts predictably to its environment and can measure some aspect of it,” said guest speaker Lily Bui, PhD student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning.

Journalists are now using sensors to develop, strengthen, and discover stories. In 2015, Dr. Schmitz Weiss led a class of journalism and geology students at SDSU to build electronic open-source sensors to test and monitor air quality in San Diego. Through using data-driven journalism techniques, the class found unique stories about San Diego’s air. Sensors made the stories possible.

The experience

The conference consisted of workshops, panelist discussions, guest speakers — even a Skype call with Safecast co-founder and global director Sean Bonner — and hands-on challenges. I tackled each challenge with my team, “Wildlife Patrol” (the name will make sense soon).

My team:

  • Travis Good, co-founder and producer of the San Diego Maker Faire
  • Lila Higgins, manager of the Citizen Science at Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
  • Yoohyun Jung, education reporter from the Arizona Daily Star
Jayla working with her group

I am grateful for the opportunity to work with Travis, Lila, and Yoohyun. Here, we are creating posters for the pitch.

Concepts and techniques

We first learned how to build a temperature and humidity sensor. Each team received a Ziploc bag of supplies including wires, a raspberry Pi, a breadboard, and more. Michael Corey, CIR senior news applications developer, provided step-by-step instructions. My perspective changed throughout the experience. As I held the sensor in my hands, I realized the growing opportunities for journalism to thrive.

Following the project, we were asked to brainstorm story ideas. The first brainstorming technique prompted us to consider the following about a community we know well:

  • What excites you the most?
  • What scares you the most?
  • What do you really just not understand?
  • What’s going to be the biggest problem in five years?
post-it notes

Each team member received Post-it notes to write their ideas and share on the wall. Ironically, pink is my lucky color. (Photo by Jayla Lee)

Forming the idea

As a Sacramento-native, I came to the conference with a concern for the safety of my loved ones back home experiencing excessive rain and flooding. My family and friends live beside the Sacramento River and need to know when the water rises to concerning levels. To give them that, I proposed to measure when water levels reach certain heights on the levee using ultrasonic or pressure sensors. In the end, we would create an app alerting community members and the media, also providing an interface for anyone to check water levels at any time.

While my team supported this idea, we were also passionate about using sensors to serve and preserve wildlife. We decided to investigate national parks along the U.S.-Mexico Border — a topic Yoohyun had significant experience in covering. We proposed using sensors to measure the compactness of soil. Additionally, we would place three cameras on land to track the safety of the park’s animals. These sensor tactics would allow us to make conclusions about the living conditions for wildlife. In the end, we would create online resources to shed light on the issue.

Challenges — and overcoming

Our group faced the challenge of time. We each had a great deal of passion… how could we fit it to just a few minutes in the pitch? However, the struggle also proved we did something right. It reminded me of the readings in JMS 527. A clear sign of a brilliant idea: you cannot stop talking about it.

As for me, I faced the challenge of vulnerability. I lacked confidence in my knowledge of sensor journalism going into the day. Lucky for me — I was more curious than anything. I soon realized conferences are an excellent opportunity for people who “don’t know” because they will know. Conferences encourage questions. The leaders there want to help you succeed.

Three key take-aways

  1. Be brave. “You shouldn’t be afraid to learn the science behind what you are covering,” said inewsource executive director and editor Lorie Hearn.
  2. Be human. “I’m always trying to put the participant first, trying to make sure their voice is at the table even when they are not at the table,” Lila said of citizen science.
  3. Believe. Leaving the workshop, I ran into Christine Sunu, creative director of flashBANG Product Development. I blurted in honesty that she is where I want to be someday — brilliant, thriving in her field. She replied, “It’s very doable.” The only thing getting in your way is saying that you can’t.

Moving forward

Discussing innovation and entrepreneurship in the JMS 527 classroom prepared me to take on “Sensing the News” with an open heart and mind. Now, I feel inspired to kick my business plan into gear. I understand the excitement of getting out the Post-it notes, sharpies, and rolling up your sleeves. Planning is the fun part. You can be messy and colorful. You can toss things out. You are free to be creative and yourself… the best part about the journey.

The Idea Lab

San Diego State University’s ZIP Idea Lab hosted a workshop for JMS 527 last week. The lab is “a campus-wide hub for collaboration across disciplines, the exploration of new ideas and the launch of new ventures,” as its website states. The platform provides resources to students, faculty, and staff to bring their ideas to life through workshops, projects, and special events. We were lucky enough to engage in a ZIP Idea Lab workshop led by team member Francesco Chinaglia.


We learned about the process of “design thinking,” utilized by entrepreneurs to launch ideas. It is a never-ending cycle of six steps involving empathy, defining, creating ideas, making prototypes, testing, and sharing. I was captured by the first step: empathy. During the workshop, we interviewed a partner about their feelings on an issue — only asking questions beginning with “why.” By asking “why,” I was able to gain empathy for my partner and see the problem beyond my own needs. It means everything to see a problem from another person’s eyes. Progress begins here.

Side note: we also built prototypes of our ideas using Legos and Play-doh.


Welcome to my blog!


(Photo by Mai Kinebuchi)

Greetings, dear friends and readers –

This is a blog about my navigation through the media world. It starts here as an assignment for JMS 527 Journalism Intrapreneurship and Entrepreneurship, under the instruction of Professor Amy Schmitz Weiss. This semester, each of her students are to build, present, and blog about a business plan that will address a need in the media. For me, the need I deeply desire to address is cyberbullying. I see the solution taking shape in the form of resources to parents and teenagers – educational tools that will allow them to co-use social media and have open conversations about it.

I imagine incorporating YouTube video tutorials, live stream events, and the list goes on. Learning should be fun when it comes to social media, and I admittedly got this idea from the brightest and bubbliest YouTube personality out there, entrepreneur Ingrid Nilsen. While our goals are different, we share the same core values of taking care and being kind. I am inspired to take on this project with the same enthusiasm as Nilsen, along with the extraordinary colleagues and friends I have met along the way.  Another source of inspiration comes from Mark Briggs’ Entrepreneurial Journalism. From the start, he says: “This book is for people who love working on their ideas, who see that ‘work’ as something they get to do, not something they have to do” (p. xxii).

I am one of those people.


Briggs, M. (2012). Entrepreneurial journalism. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.