The Real Paul Jones

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Ioana Wins $25K from Intuit – Social Capital in Action

When I teach about social capital theory — thanks to Nan Lin –, I always talk about the action of social capital is what makes it real. Thousands of friends mean little until they are successfully called into action for some cause. I prefer good causes.

This past weekend, I got to see and to be a part of a successful social capital call when Carrboro neighbor, Ioana Sherman won the Intuit Small Business Grant Competition and received $25,000 to help start her music business.

Here’s what happened:

I stopped over at our local 3rd Place, The Weave, for a tweetup with pals @boraz and @mistersugar to welcome (and meet) @cogscilibrarian who had just moved to our area to become the librarian for the J-school. Already several layers of social networks and social capital situated there.

On my way to look for a table, I noticed a woman talking to people and handing out small flyers. She was explaining why people should go online (yes there is free wifi in this 3rd place) and vote for her friend. I heard someone say, “You don’t need these flyers; you just need to talk to Paul Jones.”

Like Satan, I appeared at the mention of my name.

The tale told is an international one, one best told by Ioana Sherman herself here in her not quite 4 minute video entry to the contest. Briefly, Ioaona was born in Romania and became an accomplished musician. She also has a gift for teaching. She started a small business teaching kids traveling to their homes. She needed an investment to convert her house, at least part of it, into a studio/classroom. She had a great plan, a good background, a proven market, a good startup success record, but no funds. She learned, not sure how, about the Intuit Small Business Grant contest. She made her inspiring video and was getting great feedback online.

While the judging counted for a lot in the contest, community ratings account for 40% of the judging criteria!

Her neighbors were out drumming up votes.

@mistersugar, @boraz and perhaps @cogscilibrarian and I all tweeted:

Ioana Sherman is running for an Intuit grant to start a music studio. Http:// Please vote for her project & retweet.


Ioana Sherman needs your vote in the Intuit Contest Look here View, vote (all 3 buttons)

Our tweets are automatically repeated as our FaceBook status, our FriendFeed, on our blogs and so forth. Soon there were a lot more people viewing the video and casting votes for Ioana. She had already attracted a strong and dedicated following through her own social network (as the comments on the video show), but we did add some votes.

Ioana’s final count was: Inspiring (1422) Useful (1389) Funny (1363). By far the largest response among rated contestants.

Today I got this tweet from @intuit:

Intuit @SmallJones @PaulTimmers Your votes helped Ioana Sherman win $25K in Intuit’s Small Business United grant comntest

BTW @intuit uses Tweetdeck

Was great to be a part of Ioana’s story and to see social capital in action.


  1. Ha! We were there at Weaver the same time, hanging out with some cycling buddies, and all of us at our table voted for her as well.

  2. If I say your names three times into a mirror, do you appear?

  3. Ioana Sherman

    6/5/2009 at 4:35 pm

    Dear Paul,

    THANK YOU sooo much for helping me out and listening to my story and following through with your word and putting this on twitter! I was shocked to hear the results yesterday and have been trying to spread the word, although it looks like you beat me to it! I have not been able to keep up with my emails in the last 24 hrs!! Thank you to everyone who voted at Weaver St. I am so honored that Intuit picked my story, and excited that I will get to share my gifts with this wonderful community!!

  4. Paul

    6/5/2009 at 5:51 pm

    Ioana, You and your neighbors really worked hard to make this part of your dream happen. It was great to be a small part of it.
    John, How did we miss each other?
    Fred, Now you know my secret. Use that knowledge wisely

  5. Hi Paul, My name is Kizito. I read your story about Ioana and had to smile, because you wrote: ‘On my way to look for a table, I noticed a woman talking to people and handing out small flyers. She was explaining why people should go online (yes there is free wifi in this 3rd place) and vote for her friend. I heard someone say, “You don’t need these flyers; you just need to talk to Paul Jones.” Well, that woman was me, and your friend, who pointed you out to me, did so after he had seen me approach people asking them to vote for Ioana four hours non stop at Weaverstreet.
    When my new neighbor, Ioana (who I hadn’t known before) asked me to vote for her – in the 1st round in the contest she was one of nearly 2000 participants -, because she was falling behind, I voted for her and emailed all the neighbors, as well as my family and friends urging them to do so too. When she became one of the 50 finalists, she asked me to vote for her again and she also wanted tips, how she could get more votes. I told her I would not only vote for her, but get as many votes for her as possible, because I believed in her cause and that she could win. The first step was to create an open event on Facebook, what her husband Chris did. Ioana and I spent two full weeks campaigning together, and I carried on when she had to give her music lessons, practice or go to a recital. I was told by many, that they believed my enthusiasm and energy helped her enormously in winning the contest.
    Inspired by Ioana (who called me her ‘godsend angel’, and I called her mine!), I intend to follow her advice at the end of her video: ‘Focus on your strengths and abilities and the right opportunities will find you. Don’t limit the diverse ways in which you can reach your dreams and goals.’ I intend to start a small non-profit business ‘kizitogoodcauses’, to help promote good causes I believe in. like I helped Ioana. Thank you for helping her too!
    To answer one question: how did Ioana know about the contest? Well, she was doing her taxes via TurboTax and then happened to stumble upon the ‘small business contest’ of Intuit and decided to enter the contest. It’s a good thing she did! 😀

  6. Paul

    6/6/2009 at 9:54 am

    Yes, Kizito. You were quite the angel and a hard working one too. It was for the record John Herr who you were talking to (if I recall correctly). At any rate, you were a wonderful and persistent advocate.

  7. Thx for your reply! I’m sad to be leaving Chapel Hill, but happy to tour the US, before going back to Belgium. I will start a website to promote good causes I believe in and will need to start expanding my own social network. 😉 Putnam’s book ‘Bowling Alone’ was recommended to me and already in my luggage!

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