News + Resources

Ryan Tolbert_Lively Booth

Randi Craigen - Monday, January 11, 2016



If a picture is worth a thousand words, than entrepreneur Ryan Tolbert has a lot to say. Ryan is the founder of Lively Booth (launched 2015)—a rentable photo booth based on the classic model of providing event guests with enthusiastic photos, but with a modern twist. While photo booths are nothing new, having been around since the 1920’s, Ryan’s innovative ideas for Lively Booth makes it relevant for today.

Unlike the typical photo booth that has room for just an individual or perhaps a few guests at a time, Lively Booth functions as an open standing kiosk that can be placed in front of any backdrop to fit many guests comfortably and move lines through quickly. Instead of printing instant images on site, Lively Booth sends the images immediately to a website, where guests can download them to a computer or mobile device to be shared via social media, or printed as they like. Lively Booth adds value to event hosts by offering an effortless way to document or commemorate an event, and excites guests by providing them full access to high quality images with their friends or other guests. With digital files, the use of social media and hashtags, Lively Booth can be also used in marketing contexts. It’s the perfect solution for celebrations where a lively photo of guests both communicates brand personality and brings awareness to the event at hand.

During college, Ryan used to shoot photo booths for events manually with a camera and lights. People really enjoyed the photos, so overtime Ryan researched ways he could scale and streamline his service, and discovered companies on the West Coast that were doing something similar with an open-style kiosk and a printer. As Ryan saw guests from events posting his photos on social media to share with friends and family, he began researching ways to make his photo booth idea digital. Sometime after he began prototyping and building Version 1 of Lively Booth, which is what he’s using today.

After graduating from college in 2013, having studied Content Creation—photography, video, and graphic design in communication applications—Ryan was connected through a mutual friend to chaperone at an Entrenuity Business Camp, as well as shoot a promotional video for the camp. The theme of the week was around App Development and Ryan had a blast learning, as well as connecting with young entrepreneurs. While at the camp, Ryan was introduced to the StartingUp Now (SUN) 24 Principles to Launch Your Own Business.

Ryan found SUN invaluable as he developed his own ideas for a business. He says SUN’s system for “laying out bite-sized goals and principles to plan and execute is a blessing when starting a business, because there are many moving parts that can fight each other if not approached strategically.” Ryan considers SUN to be a sort of short-cut to starting a business, stating that while “you are still responsible for executing the steps, SUN guides you in a trajectory that helps eliminate and troubleshoot some of the common hindrances” to growing an idea into a viable business. While launching a business always includes some minor hiccups and things to modify, the SUN process of actually writing out his business plan allowed Ryan to “live outside my head concerning my ideas ... take advantage of opportunities … and test my assumptions based on live data.”

Ryan’s future plans are to create a “content creation ecosystem,” as he likes to call it, of which Lively Booth is just one of three parts. Creative media that is tailored to a brand or an individual’s persona and is strategized to fascinate a customer or add value to a customer is an area that Ryan finds exciting—an excitement he wants to share. The kind of excitement felt when your favorite sports team wins a championship or the way you feel after watching a really great movie, is how Ryan wants people to feel about the stories of people in their communities who are doing great work. He believes that content has the ability to inspire and challenge, by platforming messages and in turn reflecting the infectious and unique personalities around us.

Ryan’s advice to future entrepreneurs is to write down the ideas that keep reoccurring in their mind and set mini-goals to reach them. “You know what will happen if you don’t take action; however, you don’t know what will happen if you keep pursuing those ideas to fruition. That’s exciting.”

Teen Trep Esther Renee Jewelry

Randi Craigen - Monday, September 21, 2015

Sometimes the seed for entrepreneurship gets planted early … very early. Esther was just five years old when she created her own little business for a Kindergarten project—Esther’s Pretty Stuff. She envisioned herself selling things like earrings and necklaces with prices from $999 to $9,999. She still has the piece of paper with her business name and ideas. That was over 12 years ago, but the concept wasn’t that far-fetched, even though the original price point may have been. Esther now has a growing business making custom, hand-crafted jewelry, grossing over $300 at her very first sale. Esther’s always been creative and enjoys making things with her hands, so learning to make jewelry seemed like a really good idea. She started teaching herself to make earrings in 4th grade, eventually getting some help from other family friends and contacts who knew the craft. She fell in love with wire-wrapping and enjoyed using the technique to make jewelry for teachers, family members and friends. The more she made, the more her craftsmanship improved, and her appreciative “clients” encouraged her to keep designing. Signing up for a craft fair at a local park was out of necessity more than anything. She had to find a way to reduce the growing pile of jewelry in her bedroom and to acquire the funds to buy supplies to make more. She was definitely hooked.

Using the 24 principles of StartingUp Now, Esther is working on her business plan for Esther Renee Jewelry, learning about costs and pricing, evaluating her opportunities and competition, and learning about legal structure. Her parents have been a huge encouragement, taking her shopping for materials, helping her set up at sales events, and traipsing across the city with her to apply for the appropriate business licenses and permits. Her dad even got permission for her to set up a table at his job site—a high rise condo building where he works security--and that turned out to be one of the best investments of all. One of the residents—a professional personal shopper well-connected to high end customers—took a look at Esther’s jewelry and was very impressed. She purchased jewelry for herself, sold some to friends, and got orders for several more custom pieces. She had Esther make her a necklace to wear to a celebrity fund-raising event and is personally working to connect Esther to buyers and future sales events. It’s a lot for a 17 year old to take in, but Esther’s learning fast, making the most of the opportunities before her, and even earning some math and business class credit while she’s at it. And most importantly, she’s delivering beautiful, one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted jewelry to happy customers.

Vision, Purpose and Service Behind Bars

Randi Craigen - Monday, September 21, 2015

Troy Rienstra is an artist. Using only hand-held chisels, cutting and tooling stamps, he creates beautiful, custom leather briefcases with exquisite detailing and hand stitching. It takes over 40 working hours, start to finish, to complete just one briefcase. Troy hand dyes, treats, cuts and punches all of his materials, without the use of machines. The result is a beautiful, yet functional, high-quality work of art that will last any business person a lifetime—guaranteed. A lifetime is also the sentence Troy is currently serving in a Michigan correctional facility.

Though he grew up in a Christian home and attended Christian schools, in his teen years Troy rejected his family and the faith they represented. By age 19 Troy had a juvenile record and was facing a five year sentence with the Michigan Department of Corrections. A year and a half after being granted parole, he returned to prison--this time with a life sentence and the label “habitual criminal.” Troy racked up numerous violations during the early years of his sentence, resulting in years of “no visitors allowed” and eventually an entire year in solitary confinement. It was during this year of isolation that Troy finally began the journey back to the faith he had been taught, embracing it as his own and becoming a different man.

Troy’s genuine experience of repentance, forgiveness and restoration was transformational. He became a model prisoner, earning the respect of fellow inmates and corrections staff alike. Troy’s life became one of vision, purpose, and service. He took advantage of opportunities to educate himself, better his skills, and serve those around him. Leather crafting is just one of the skills he had the opportunity to learn and develop.

Once offered throughout Michigan’s 40 prisons, leather-craft programs are still available in three Michigan facilities where prisoners are allowed to teach other prisoners the craft. Troy worked regularly on smaller projects so that he could practice and develop his skill by giving attention to detail. Once he got started, he found that he truly enjoyed working with his hands and seeing the fruit of his labor. His first large project was a briefcase that he made as a Christmas gift. The response was so great, that Troy decided to continue making them with hopes of finding his place in the hand-crafted, leather briefcase market. He and a fellow inmate now work together making Zaken (a Dutch word for businesses) custom briefcases.

Using the 24 principles of StartingUp Now (SUN), Troy has developed a plan for Zaken Leather Works to become a viable business with a social conscience. His vision is for Zaken to employ, educate and economically empower formerly incarcerated individuals. He’d like to say they make bags to rebuild lives. Troy’s goal is to become a trained SUN Facilitator with hopes of having the necessary support to offer the program to other prisoners so they might be prepared to implement a realistic and well thought-out plan for business and life upon their release. He’s already helping develop a program called Citizenship Academy (CITAC), with the mission of offering a complete curriculum--which will include StartingUp Now--to address the academic, economic and restorative needs of incarcerated people so they might re-enter society as productive citizens. CITAC is in its infancy right now, but in time Troy believes it will make a major contribution to the push for prison reform, as prisoners begin to live as upstanding citizens during their time of incarceration. Troy’s natural leadership abilities and the positive example of his own reformed behavior encourages other prisoners that a life of value is still possible. Troy’s prayer is that an upcoming hearing before the parole board will result in the opportunity for him to re-enter society as a citizen in good standing and begin making the kind of positive impact outside the prison walls as he’s been making inside.*

*Update: Troy was granted parole at his hearing and has returned to society as a citizen in good standing! Troy is looking forward to developing his business, as well as teaching others to use their unique gifts, ideas and dreams to be productive citizens.

StartingUp Now: Facilitator Training in Action

Brittany Coleman - Monday, September 21, 2015

After our facilitator training in June, many of our participants have put the SUN method into action. One of those successful participants is Scott Turpin of Dallas, Texas. Scott is using the StartingUp Now (SUN) method to teach entrepreneurship to 11th and 12th graders at Uplift Peaks Prep and Uplift Heights Prep Charter School in Dallas, TX. Uplift's mission is to create and sustain public schools of excellence that empower students to reach their highest potential in college and the global marketplace and that inspire in students a life-long love of learning, achievement, and service in order to positively change their world.

From mowing yards as a teenager to teaching tennis lessons in college to founding a youth camp, Scott has been a lifelong entrepreneur. When Scott learned of the SUN facilitator course, he was impressed with the breakdown of the business planning process and how teachable the methods were. He knew that the method would be perfectly adaptable to teach high school students.

On August 11, 2015, Scott launched the SUN class to 19 students at the two high schools. The students were so eager to take the class, that many of them chose the class over an ACT Prep course. Scott keeps the class exciting for the students by connecting the lessons to current events, such as McDonald’s or Apple’s business practices and principles.

The students, paired in teams of two, prepared a “Big Idea” and are developing a business plan to be presented to their peers and faculty in December. The “Big Ideas” that the students selected were not only exciting but innovative as well. Student business ideas include pet sitting, molecular cooking/catering, virtual dining, a grocery delivery service for elderly customers, a blog that captures restaurant reviews through a teen’s perspective, and tech services that help the elderly and those in retirement communities make the best use of their electronics.

The class has generated a passion for entrepreneurship in the hearts and minds of the students and is inspiring a whole new generation of thought leaders. Scott believes the StartingUp Now facilitators training course has a great curriculum and is perfect for anyone looking to share the power of entrepreneurship with their community.

Meet Juan Gonzalez: Starting Up Now’s New Community Coordinator Intern

L. Brian Jenkins, MA - Monday, September 21, 2015

StartingUp Now is happy to welcome Juan Gonzalez as our new Community Coordinator Intern. Juan is a recent graduate of North Park University, in Chicago, with a degree in International Business and Economics. During his time as intern he will collect and organize content for the Skillcenter’s topics and resources, develop content for media outlets, including the StartingUp Now blog and social media accounts, developing communications pieces, attending social networking events to advocate for SUN, and expand its brand awareness. To learn more about Juan, read his bio below!

"I was born and raised in Colombia, South America, but have lived most of the past 4 years in the United States as an international student. I graduated this past May from North Park University, in Chicago, with a degree in International Business and Economics.

My parents instilled in my sister and I their strong belief the most valuable things in life are faith, knowledge, service and family. They have been and continue to be my role models; their strong ethics and values provide a clear compass to follow. Their encouragement and support inspired me to fulfill my dream of coming to the United States to earn my college degree. Through hard work, dedication and a no small degree of sacrifice, I’ve learned today’s dream can become tomorrow’s foundation and my future is limited only by what I dream today. 

Soccer has also been an important part of my life. It seems like I started playing as soon as I learned to walk and played four years of highly competitive soccer in college. Through my love for the sport, I’ve learned individual talents, motivated and focused on a common goal, build a successful team. Leaders are motivators, allowing us to achieve more than we initially thought possible.

My dream today is to be a leader; helping, motivating and inspiring people; providing a path for others to achieve their dreams. One person, providing knowledge and support, can make a difference in countless lives. I intend to leave behind a powerful legacy of positive change”


SunTalks: Featuring Beth Santos, Founder & CEO of Wanderful

L. Brian Jenkins, MA - Monday, June 01, 2015

Beth Santos is a dynamic, creative leader with a passion for international development, multiculturalism and community building. She is the founder and CEO of Wanderful (formally Go Girl Travel Network), a resource and community for women travelers.

In this edition of Sun Talks, Beth discusses the inspiration the sparked her business, her journey to building an international brand, and the tools entrepreneurs need to launch their own business.

Below is the learning guide used to accompany the Sun Talk video. Use it as a blueprint to guide you in building your own travel business or for inspiration on how to put the StartingUp Now steps into action.

Elevator Speech

“Go girl Travel Network is an online resource and community for adventurous, independent globally minded female travelers. We bring women travelers around the world together to connect with one another, share travel tips, and experience what it is to go abroad.”


Beth’s biography included two key take-a-ways:

1. Discover a Need
2. Create a Solution for that Need – Beth's development of a forum for her audience was her solution.

Bio - Beth created Go Girl while cruising her blue motorcycle through the streets of São Tomé and Príncipe, a small country in Africa’s Gulf of Guinea. She really wanted to write about her experiences and over time realized there weren’t a lot of resources for women to express these experiences, whether they where social, cultural, biological. Beth wanted to create a forum that gave women that opportunity.

Identify Your Space

• Many travel companies are trip based, but Beth was able to identify her unique space by targeting an audience that identifies as globally minded travelers and by providing them an opportunity to connect with one another.

• To distinguish Go Girl Travel Network from other women focused travel sites, Beth focused on an audience base that is already traveling and who want to share those experiences rather than focusing on motivating women to start traveling.


• The first moment is saying YES!
• The business started as a small travel blog and when Beth realized there was a need, the blog organically evolved into more.

Social Media

1. Trying to start many social media accounts all at once creates the risk of failing at all of them.

2.  Use Social Media deliberately by:
  • Knowing your audience
  • Knowing what platforms they are using
  • Getting really good at using those platforms 
3. Calls to Action – One of the most successful social media calls to action for the Go Girl Travel Network includes the sharing of travel tips and ideas, and encouraging their network to get engaged.

Features and Benefits

• Realizing the value they were bringing to their market, interactions with companies became different. They became responsible for making sure the information they were portraying to their audience was sincere and useful rather than simply sharing their own personal experiences.

• Becoming a voice for their community was an important factor in their model.

The Business Model

1. Create your online persona through:
  • Making your website
  • Social media accounts
  • Building a strong brand image
2. Develop strong and compelling content:
  • People will not visit your site if they aren’t interested in the information you are sharing.
3. Get your audience invested early on:
  • Don’t write or create things only for yourself, think about what others are interested in.
  • Become necessary for the people that are following you.
  • Most importantly, become necessary to the people you interact with so you do have the opportunity to grow with them.
To learn more about Beth Santos and Wanderful, visit or

Training in Action: Entrepreneur uses StartingUp Now for Social Change

Brittany Coleman - Monday, June 01, 2015

Cory Roberson is a California based businessman, social entrepreneur, and now an author. With over 13 years of entrepreneurial experience, Cory’s latest venture “Build-Ur-Impact” is a social enterprise geared toward teaching minority youth entrepreneurship skills and leading them on a path to ownership using the StartingUp Now Model.

Build-Ur-Impact will lead youth on the path to ownership through a curriculum focused on:

1. Education and training using the StartingUp Now model

2. Business Development

3. Connecting Young Entrepreneurs With Mentors

This format will give participants the foundation they need to really starting developing their ideas into profitable ventures.

Cory will travel to Chicago to attend the June 2015 Facilitator Training, to become a certified facilitator and launch the StartingUp Now curriculum by early 2016. Cory firmly believes that the StartingUp Now model provides a user friendly, effective method with actionable steps the young entrepreneurs can put into action.

To learn how you can become a StartingUp Now Facilitator: Click Here

To learn more about Build Your Impact, Cory's latest book "From Student to Entrepreneur": Making a Transition to Business"
(Release Date: Late June 2015), or his other business ventures, visit and .



StartingUp Now Partners With North Park University’s School of Adult Learning To Offer Entrepreneurship Course for U.S. Military Veterans

Brittany Coleman - Tuesday, February 17, 2015



This summer, StartingUp Now will begin offering an 8-week entrepreneurship course at North Park University’s School of Adult Learning. The mission of StartingUp Now, to empower individuals to create profitable businesses through a values-based approach that fosters positive change in individuals and communities, clearly resonates with the mission of North Park University, which is to prepare students for lives of significance and service. 

This course will provide students with the information, resources, and tools to bring their business ideas to life. North Park University believes that StartingUp Now’s entrepreneurship curriculum and materials fit remarkably well into the course offerings of the School of Adult Learning. North Park’s existing curriculum included a course on entrepreneurship that had been on hiatus for some time; because the StartingUp Now course content fit the existing course description so well, it was the perfect opportunity to make this course available to students.

This course will also have a focus on serving the veteran community. While there is a consistent number of veterans enrolled at North Park, both in the School of Adult Learning and in other programs, the university recognizes a need for more intentional and consistent outreach to veterans.

The veteran students are highly motivated and committed to their own learning. They bring valuable life experience and considerable skills to the classroom, which contribute to the learning of other students, as well. If lives of significance and service are the hallmark of North Park students, then serving veterans, who have already demonstrated both significance and service in their lives, is precisely what this course supports. One of the distinctives of North Park University is its engagement with the urban setting, using Chicago as the classroom. Engaging with StartingUp Now and veterans from around the city builds a network and connections to the community.

The schedule of the course, meeting one evening per week for seven weeks, is designed for working adult students. In addition, online components of the course allow students to work and interact outside of class. These working, adult students are the “new normal” in higher education and the mission of the School of Adult Learning is to deliver excellent college-level learning opportunities in formats that accommodate post-traditional college students. Finally, each student will have the support of a School of Adult Learning academic advisor. These advisors help students navigate their university experience so that the students can focus on their learning.

North Park hopes to continue to develop a learning environment that will motivate and encourage veterans to pursue their degrees. Veterans and School of Adult Learning students will earn transferable college credit that can count toward a Bachelor’s degree at North Park University or any other regionally accredited college or university.

5 Ways to Market your Start-up on a Tight Budget

Brittany Coleman - Tuesday, February 17, 2015

It is important that every start-up develops a marketing strategy, but with limited funds in the early stages of business it can be challenging to hire marketing professionals or come up with creative strategies with limited resources and a tight budget. Even if funds are limited, effectively marketing your business to capture the attention of your target audience is not out of the questions. Here are five marketing strategies that any start-ups can use with a limited budget:

1. Set Marketing Goals – No marketing budget is too small to set goals. Even without a marketing staff, every start up should organize year one marketing goals, these goals can even include how you would like to grow your marketing outreach as your budget increases.
2. Build Media Exposure - If you can't attract top-tier press early on, that's okay. Reach out to bloggers and small local media outlets while you build a base of support. You can also use HARO (Help A Reporter Out), a web service that helps journalists find sources for their stories. Whatever the industry your startup represents, there is a journalist out there looking for information on the same.
3. Develop a Positive Customer Experience - A positive customer experience is possibly one of the best low cost marketing strategies that has the greatest impact. When hiring staff make sure they are your brand ambassadors. They must be educated on your mission and passionate about your products and services. When your staff represents your brand well and communicates effectively with your target audience, word of mouth marketing, brand loyalty and sales will increase.
4. Cross promotions/partnerships – Take the time to connect with local organizations, community events, and resource fairs. Partnering and participating in these kinds of events will expose you to new audiences and prospects. Develop a follow-up strategy with your new potential clients through email or your online newsletter.
5. Utilize Social Media – The web provides a large opportunity to grow and expand your brand online. Establish social media pages and regularly post topics that communicate your niche and inspire others to engage with you online. Also, consider adding a blog to your website to increase traffic through evergreen content.

With these simple techniques you can make sure your target audience is reached no matter your budget and position your business to grow.

Upcoming Jewelry Classes

Brittany Coleman - Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Entrenuity will be offering classes in basic jewelry design starting Spring 2015. Classes will include hands on instruction, tools and materials, resources for further learning and finished product! Learn practical skills that you can turn into your own business opportunity.

Tentative Class Descriptions:

Basic Stringing is a foundation class where you'll learn about necklace and bracelet design, stringing materials and finishing techniques. Most important, you'll design and string your own necklace and bracelet using flexible beading wire, beautiful beads and crimp beads to attach a clasp. Class time: 3 hours. Class fee: $50 (includes hands on instruction plus bead board, bead mat, flush cutter, flat nose pliers and materials for one necklace and bracelet.) Attendance: limited to 10 people.

Mother/Daughter Stringing is a foundation class where mothers and daughters can learn together about necklace and bracelet design, stringing materials and finishing techniques. Most important, you'll work together to design and string your own necklaces using flexible beading wire, beautiful beads and crimp beads to attach a clasp. Class time: 3 hours. Class fee: $60 (includes hands on instruction plus 2 bead boards, 2 bead mats, flush cutter, flat nose pliers and materials for one necklace each.) Attendance: limited to 10 mother/daughter pairs.

Basic Earring Design is a great way to start working with wire. Learn how to make simple loops and wrapped loops -- techniques that can be used in a wide variety of jewelry designs – as well as attaching ear wires. You'll also get written instructions with diagrams to take home so you'll always have refresher information handy. Most important, you’ll leave with your own finished pair of earrings and the skills and materials to make more at home! Class time: 3 hours. Class fee: $60 (includes hands on instruction plus bead mat, flush cutter, flat nose pliers, round nose pliers, materials for 5 sets of earrings.) Attendance: limited to 10 people.

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