As a savvy and hungry 5th grader, I was driven towards two things: candy, and money. Unfortunately, after continuously feeling my empty wallet rub against my thigh, I realized that the two had an inverse relationship. Throughout the school day, I dreamt of the various candy bars and gummies waiting for my arrival at the bodega. I thought of myself as their savior, rescuing them from an uneventful and short-lived shelf life. As soon as the chimes rang, signaling the end of the day, waves of saliva accumulated in my mouth, and I would sprint downstairs and out of the building. By then, of course, I had already decided which lucky item would be devoured on the subway ride home.
A year later, I began to question why practically everyone in my grade so desperately needed candy. I suspected that my candy craving was neither sustainable nor healthy, but had always tried to ignore it, unsuccessfully. One subway ride home, while scanning a line of advertisements along the walls, I had my revelation: I’m going to sell candy. Within a week. I had four employees, all of whom reported their earnings to me at the end of each day. I had an Excel spreadsheet, tracking the items I had purchased, their price, units sold, remaining inventory, popularity, and profit. My commute home, from that point on, was transformed into a prowl for the cheapest treats in the area. Much to the chagrin of storeowners, I would walk from store to store, examining the prices of my selected products, determining whether or not it was a worthy investment. The baseline practice for my analysis was Dum Dum lollipops, the crowd pleaser, as well as my main source of revenue. Bags of 52 lollipops ranged from $2.75 to $3.25, to be sold at 30 cents a pop. Revenue: $15.60. Cost: $2.75. Profit: $12.85. Profit percentage: over 400%. Conclusion: good business. Repeat. The cursed inverted relationship between candy and money no longer applied. In two weeks, my underground candy ring gained school-wide recognition. I had profited an unprecedented 55 dollars; however, impressive as it were, my fame spread too fast and one person too far: the principle. The next day, I fearfully watched the school’s security guard, who was practically twice my size, approach me and bark “Are you the lollipop dealer?” My heart dropped. “No – no, I’m not.” Surprisingly, the guard gave me a look, turned around, and walked away. But it was too late, the damage had been done. Anxiously, I weighed my options throughout the day, and eventually decided to turn myself in. I approached the principle’s office, flanked by my guilty staff, preparing for a dignified surrender. It turned out to be a teary confession, with all remaining inventory, an estimated $12.50, handed over and lost forever.
My entrepreneurial goals no longer entail becoming a candy mogul. During my Freshman year at Swarthmore College, I led a team of students to the finals of Swarthmore;s business plan competition. Recently, I was selected as one of four students in his class to become a Eugene Lang Opportunity Scholar, which grants students $10,000 to launch a social impact project. I currently am in the process of launching a Social Innovation Fellowship, which seeks to connect Swarthmore students with regional/international non-profits for semester-long design-thinking projects. Additionally, I am also one of the student leaders of Swarthmore's new Social Innovation Lab.
Omri Gal is a University Innovation Fellow at Swarthmore College, studying Psychology and Peace & Conflict Studies. His interests include social/cultural psychology, advertising and mass media, Middle Eastern history, entrepreneurship, and soccer.
2018 Swarthmore University Innovation Fellows
2017 Swarthmore University Innovation Fellows