Stanford University freshman and Project TGIF (www.projecttgif.com) co-founder Cassandra Lin is the 2017 winner of the iSeeCars.com Future Entrepreneurs Scholarship, which was established to help inspire and support the next generation of business owners.
What inspired you to start your own business venture?
I was inspired to start my own business venture after reading an article in the local newspaper that said that many residents in my town could not afford home heating in the winter and that local charities were running out of funds. Growing up in a small New England town where everyone knows each other, this really struck a chord with me. I knew I wanted to do something to help, so I came together with some equally passionate friends and we co-founded Project TGIF – Turn Grease Into Fuel.
How did/do you balance your business project with school and your other responsibilities?
I definitely had to learn time management skills! I think it’s really about making time for the things that are most important to you: If it’s not one of your personal priorities, you might be inclined to push it off until later. It can honestly be difficult at times, but I just have to remind myself that this is something that I’m passionate about, so it’s worth it.
What’s one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned so far?
I’ve learned that you can always learn something from the people around you. Whether that’s my teammates, mentors or friends, I’m always trying to improve myself by observing and engaging in conversation with them. I think it’s important to realize that everyone has something to bring to the table, and that everyone benefits when we acknowledge their voices and let their voices be heard.
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
I see myself working on a social venture or for a nonprofit about a cause I’m passionate about. I’m not sure what the nature of that will be (anything from environmentalism to increasing diversity in STEM), but I’m excited about the possibilities!
What advice would you give to other young entrepreneurs?
I would tell them that there will no doubt be moments that make you question your abilities or if you even want to be an entrepreneur. I think that if you can channel the obstacles and challenges you face and use them as motivation, you can emerge even stronger and more dedicated to your venture. Believe in yourself and your mission!
Here is more about Cassandra, from the 2017 iSeeCars.com Future Entrepreneurs Scholarship announcement:
Lin co-founded Project TGIF (Turn Grease Into Fuel) in 2008 when she was just 10 years old. TGIF collects waste cooking oil from restaurants and residents, converts it into biofuel and distributes it to families in need in Lin’s hometown of Westerly, RI, and other communities in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut. To date, TGIF has set-up 22 public recycling sites and donated 50,500 gallons of biofuel to 505 families.
Among TGIF’s many achievements, the team helped draft the Used Cooking Oil Recycling Act and testified on its behalf. The bill, which requires all Rhode Island businesses to recycle their used cooking oil, went into effect in 2011.
TGIF has won many awards, and Lin’s individual honors include a Brower Youth Award, Nickelodeon HALO Award, Anderson Cooper’s CNN Young Wonder and a Prudential Spirit of Community Awards’ Top Ten Youth Volunteer. She has also been a speaker at the 2011 United Nations Environmental Programme TUNZA Conference on the Environment in Indonesia, TEDxProvidence, the 25th Annual National Service-Learning Conference and La Ciudad de las Ideas in Mexico (where she presented in Spanish).
The spokesperson for TGIF, Lin is passionate about using computer science to expand TGIF and create new social ventures in the future. She plans to major in international relations and become a diplomat or Foreign Service worker to help find collaborative solutions for issues such as poverty, climate change and the refugee crisis.
The iSeeCars.com Future Entrepreneurs Scholarship is given annually to one student currently in college or graduate school. The recipient will receive a $1,000 scholarship for the current school year. Distinguished finalists are not usually part of the scholarship, but two were chosen this year because of the high quality of applicants.
iSeeCars.com is an automotive data and research company that helps consumers find the best car deals by providing key insights and guidance. It turns used and new car shopping on its head by applying big data analytics powered by over 25 billion (and growing) data points and using proprietary algorithms to objectively analyze, score and rank millions of cars and thousands of dealers. Based in the Boston area, iSeeCars.com was founded by former TripAdvisor and SAP developers and executives determined to improve the car shopping experience for consumers. www.iSeeCars.com