News + Resources

Teen Entrepreneur Spotlight: Rebekah Willis

L. Brian Jenkins, MA - Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Posted by Grace Yi

 

 

People are always asking us, "Who is StartingUp Now for?" Our answer: Whoever wants to start a business!

The accessibility and simplicity of StartingUp Now has benefited both youth and adults alike, including budding teen entrepreneurs like Rebekah Willis.

Rebekah, 16, and her two siblings got their first taste of entrepreneurship two years ago under Brian Jenkins' leadership as he guided them through the completion of their business plans. It was during this time that Brian developed the content for his book, StartingUp Now: 24 Steps to Launch Your Own Business, and tested his concepts on the Willis siblings. Their training culminated into a business pitch presentation in front of several business and community leaders who provided critical feedback on the viability of their business plans.

Currently, Rebekah operates a growing granola business from her home, stating, "I'm excited and a little nervous about this venture. The response has been huge."

Bright, talented, and industrious, Rebekah represents the new generation of young entrepreneurs who are juggling multiple projects and responsibilities. Hailing from a family of 10 children, Rebekah is a home schooled student, part-time graphic designer and editor for Enduring Endeavors II, Inc., and performs in a music group.

As one of her dozens of customers, I've had the pleasure of enjoying her delicious, homemade granola and was excited to catch up with her for this recent interview.

Did you ever see yourself as an entrepreneur? Why did you start your business?

Proverbs 31 in the Bible describes a woman of noble virtue. She has many home-oriented characteristics and one of them is the ability to produce marketable goods and sell them. This spring, I had the privilege to join about twenty youth in an Irish music competition. We took first in regionals, so we will compete at the world championship in Ireland...and I have to pay my way. So I pulled Grandma's old granola recipe out and put it to work. My intentions were not--and still are not--to start a huge business, but to earn money while still fulfilling my responsibilities at home.

Everyone experiences challenges in the process of starting a business. What have been the most surprising challenges you've faced?

I made my fundraising intentions clear from the start. Many friends and neighbors who have had my granola in the past have been very supportive. Their word-of-mouth marketing is my best marketing tool. One lady commented that she appreciates someone working hard to earn money rather than asking for donations. However, not all customers have been easy to work with. After a scheduled pick-up date, I still have bags of granola sitting by the front door. I have found that communication with customers is vital, but it is hard to work with their shortcomings.

How has StartingUp Now helped you in your business planning?

StartingUp Now helped me most with the financial side of entrepreneurship. I learned about startup-costs, on-going costs, gross income, and net income. I learned how to set prices so I cover my costs with buffer room and how to be competitive at the same time.

What advice or key takeaways can you share with other new or aspiring entrepreneurs?

First, be ready for some hard work. It may not pay off right away, but it will strengthen the business and it will strengthen you. I had to stir about 50 pounds of oats on one day. I had some sore forearms that week! But when a customer later asked if my mom helped me or if I did everything myself, I was able to confirm my own work and give her reason to trust me and my business.

Second, communicate. A tech-reliant culture creates more opportunities to promote your business, but it also makes customers more reliant on reminders. Don't hound them all week--personally, I would delete nagging messages sent to me. Be wise in your timing. Be brief. Be consistent.

Third, start simply. Rather than offering variety, start with your niche. Now that I have a good customer base and a good reputation, I can start selling scones or cinnamon rolls or other goodies. But to start with everything at once would be overwhelming to me and perhaps produce a product of lesser quality.

How can people interested in ordering your granola contact you?

You can reach me at rebekahlynn@me.com.

 

Do Your Values Guide Your Business?

- Tuesday, May 01, 2012

 Posted by Brian Jenkins

 

"Core values. Is it how much something is worth?" asked Melody, a Chicago high school student. "If it doesn't directly impact my bottom line, how are values even relevant?"

This interaction with a student working on her first business plan struck the classroom instructor, which led to my visit.

The business venture that Melody and her team were pursuing was more than just a little "risque." Though the team had conceptualized a provocative business idea, its members faced challenges in moving past the first step of the StartingUp Now guidebook: Core Values. With profitability being the team's primary driver, aspects of the business's impact on its employees and their community--as well as the owners themselves--waned in comparison to their goal in "making money."

I was more than willing to visit the classroom and interact with the student team per the teacher's request, having experienced many of the same challenges that educators face in working with aspiring youth entrepreneurs.

Core Values acts as the first step in the StartingUp Now business guidebook, setting a foundation for the entrepreneur in thinking through their business idea. It's quite interesting to hear the various comments through my interaction with users--especially younger readers--who don't see the direct connection between how our values guide all aspects of our lives...even business operations.

Values are taught--historically at home, reinforced in school, and esconced through our peer groups. Values are not intrinsic--they are a learned behavior. As the traditional value reinforcers (i.e. home, school, religious institutions) are being replaced or expanded via social networks and media, where are students "learning" their values from?

This is why Core Values precedes all the other steps in the StartingUp Now guidebook. We want the future entrepreneur to make the correlation between their values and their business operations. I want people to struggle and force themselves through this section...even coming back to rewrite their values after discovering their own.

Entrepreneurship training is life training. By simply discussing Step 1: Core Values, the students and I were able to discover they actually do have values beyond the goal of generating profit, such as family, safety and stability. They simply were not making the connection between the influence that their values had on their business operations--that, in many ways, their values as a business were very much a reflection of themselves. Values act as a compass in making one's decisions, or as one of the students said, "It's like a GPS for our company, it helps us not to get lost."

Through the process of "facilitating vs. lecturing," the students and I, in an open-ended discussion, navigated various business scenarios that taught them how different types of values were profitable but harmful. They are now discovering their own personal values through their business planning process.

While wrapping up, a student named Hector asked, "Do you think an investor would invest in a business like ours?" He was thinking more like an entrepreneur than he realized. Through the process of engagement, the act of listening, and the encouragement for students to be empowered in their curiosity and choices, adult entrepreneurs can help shape the values of future entrepreneurs worldwide.

What do you think? Do core values guide business operations? How do you determine your core values?


Share your comments here or with the global business community on the Skillcenter message board.


Impacting the Marketplace: The Grove City Story

- Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Guest Post by Carl Catedral

 

I moved to Grove City, PA in January 2010 from Phoenix, AZ to help my mentor Brad McKoy and friend Jessie Marquis establish the Antioch Overflow Experiment (AOX). AOX is unique in that we are a church that acts as a hybrid between a non-profit and a community development company. We are a simple church-planting community that meets in places where life happens—our houses, college dorms, parks, coffee shops, etc.—while following Jesus in everyday ways. Our desire as a community is to be a HUB that trains and equips college students and recent graduates to recognize that they can impact the marketplace and their communities by pursuing their God-given passions and putting their dreams to action. We do this through our mission training school like SCPx, summer internship programs, and weekly and monthly gatherings; but mostly, teaching and training happens experientially in everyday living shared in community.

The desire to equip college students to impact the marketplace and pursue their passions led me to recognize the importance of pursuing my own passions. I firmly believe individuals’ dreams and ideas will change the world and impact the marketplace in new and unprecedented ways. But talk is one thing. It's easy to inspire people to pursue their dreams, but what does it look like to actually help them make dreams become reality?  This is where my aspiration for helping people through entrepreneurship came alive. I began looking around Grove City to find out what our community's needs were. This led me to interact with local Grove City merchants.

As an AOX community, we frequented our local coffee shop Beans on Broad and built a relationship with Micaela, the owner. As I interacted with her, I discovered she needed help with basic marketing and social media to generate buzz in the community and promote the local bands that would play at the coffee shop on weekends. I set up Twitter campaigns that allowed for community interaction through special deals and discounts while managing her Facebook page to keep people updated on events and promote the bands that would be playing. In the process, consumer interest was generated and the buzz around the coffee shop’s activities substantially increased the number of people showing up to events and engaging in the Twitter campaigns—all of which helped to increase Beans on Broad's bottom line.

Through this experience, I have been able to build relationships with the community, learn and develop new skills in marketing and social media, and get compensated through free drinks and food at the coffee shop. However, the biggest gain was the relationships and opportunities that came with it. As I grew in confidence and got my feet wet, friends in the community would come to me or introduce me to people who needed help with their businesses and/or ideas.

In the pasts five months, I have had the honor to work with a writer, an entrepreneur in computer networking and technology, two local Grove City merchants, and an inventor who has come up with a new design for an energy-efficient windmill. Each of these individuals or businesses has a unique story. It has been my passion to enhance the value of their business or venture by knowing their story and helping them implement their ideas in an effective way so as to share their stories and causes with the larger public. This has looked differently in many ways thus far—with everything from social media and marketing to editing, package design consulting, and idea implementation.

What I have learned in the process is that I can't help people if I first don't know what I can offer them. I have realized the need to implement my own ideas and business strategies so I can best serve people. That's where StartingUp Now has been an incredible resource for me and my community. Working through the book and my business plan while talking with the team has led me to realize the practical things I need to do in order to pursue my dreams and set up my business, so that I can effectively help others pursue and implement their own dreams in sustainable ways.

My biggest joy has been collaborating with my friends in the AOX community. My friend Micah List and I have been working through the StartingUp Now book together, and in the process, our friendship has grown richer as we have helped each other pursue our ideas. Micah started a hat-making business when he was fifteen and provided jobs for four women in the Dominican Republic, but it wasn't sustainable because he didn't have the experience, knowledge, or community support to help his idea thrive. Now things are different. He is starting his business up again, but this time we are working with people like Stephanie Kunes, an up-and-coming graphic designer; Alex Catedral, a creative visionary in music recording and production; Lydia Medill, a singer and songwriter with a passion for language; Jasmine Tate, a talented musician and producer, and so many others who are supporting one another, pursuing their passions, and realizing their dreams.

In my pursuit to help create opportunities for others as a new entrepreneur, I have learned the power of community. As a member of AOX, we are seeing our local Grove City community impacted as we collectively pursue our dreams. Our dream as a community is to impact the marketplace and make a difference in campuses, cities, and nations. We are just normal everyday people, following Jesus in everyday ways, and believing that our dreams and ideas can change the world. This is just the beginning. Stay tuned to see how the story unfolds...

 

 

 

You can follow Carl Catedral and the AOX community on Twitter.

 

The Good Reason for More Disruption

- Friday, February 03, 2012

Posted by Grace Yi

 

 

 

Earlier last month, Fast Company put out an excellent article on Generation Flux, highlighting members of today’s new psychographic group of pioneering entrepreneurial individuals who are redefining their professional careers while making a significant impact in their respective industries. GenFluxers, the magazine states, represent a smorgasbord of highly adaptable, multi-skilled, and self-determined risk-takers, catalyzing new pathways and learning curves for individuals, companies, and entire systems.

Fast-paced, chaotic and creative by nature, this new pool of professionals is throwing caution to the wind and conventional models out the window in favor of flexibility, agility, and innovation. In other words, they’re disrupting the way things have been done. And people—including companies—are taking notice.

Most of us agree that our institutions are out of date with the traditional career (and its cushy benefits) long gone.

What I love about the article is that it takes note to emphasize the type of opportunity this disruptive change affords:

This is the moment for an explosion of opportunity, there for the taking by those prepared to embrace the change. We have been through a version of this before. At the turn of the 20th century, as cities grew to be the center of American culture, those accustomed to the agrarian clock of sunrise-sunset and the pace of the growing season were forced to learn the faster ways of the urban-manufacturing world. There was widespread uneasiness about the future, about what a job would be, about what a community would be. Fringe political groups and popular movements gave expression to that anxiety. Yet from those days of ambiguity emerged a century of tremendous progress.

Today we face a similar transition, this time born of technology and globalization--an unhinging of the expected, from employment to markets to corporate leadership. "There are all kinds of reasons to be afraid of this economy," says Microsoft Research's Danah Boyd. "Technology forces disruption, and not all of the change will be good. Optimists look to all the excitement. Pessimists look to all that gets lost. They're both right. How you react depends on what you have to gain versus what you have to lose."

However, here’s the challenge, and with it a gross assumption attached, to these lessons of flux and presumed opportunity: not everyone is equipped to take advantage of these opportunities.

Meaning, there are huge populations of people who are ill equipped, lack adequate skills, and experience enormous challenges that don’t support a vision for the type of change GenFluxers believe in.

With a growing income and education gap further separating the haves and the have-nots, how are under-resourced communities to help their members gain access to these types of opportunities?

I am indefatigably energized by every new conversation and connection that has been occurring with similar, like-minded individuals and groups working to address these gaps by creating opportunities and building networks for minority groups. There is a growing movement of black entrepreneurs determined to strategically advance the livelihood and economic situation of the African American community in areas of technology and entrepreneurship.

Proper training, as Brian (the Boss Man) likes to reiterate, is what is necessary to see these communities develop and sustain themselves where opportunity awaits. The problem is the ineffective and inefficient ways in which government agencies, politicians, nonprofits, and other well-meaning groups are tackling the problem.

Ideas, initiatives, and tools in areas of technology, green economy, clean/bio tech, and entrepreneurship are significant prospects to train communities around—with groups like Black Founders, Black Girls Code, The Greenpreneur, and others facilitating modes to do so.

To see success occur in this area, StartingUp Now aims to join the revolution of GenFluxers in challenging the status quo in the ways things have always been done in the past. Raina Kumra, a GenFluxer states, “Fear holds a lot of people back. I’m skill hoarding. You keep throwing things into your backpack, and eventually you'll have everything in your tool kit."

Similarly, we want to see everyone equipped with the proper tools to put into their tool kit—but with simpler, more affordable, and easily accessible tools to help them get to where they want to be.

Simply put, StartingUp Now is determined to help successfully position people in an ever-changing economic landscape. Just as Danah Boyd of Microsoft Research says, “Learning how to embrace instability is the challenge. What do you do to get everyone engaged on this journey? We all have to learn new skills. How you react depends on what you have to gain versus what you have to lose.”

If instability is a given in this era of transition, the approach to tackle it head-on will require more lessons in flux—and training that supports its evolution. In light of Black History Month, I hope that an evolution such as this will ultimately challenge ourselves in championing more equitable, just and inclusive opportunities for every person in our society.

A Dollar and A Dream: A Lesson in Abundance

- Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Guest Post by Derrick Braziel

 

There is a permeating barrier that blocks many entrepreneurs from taking the plunge and moving their business idea to the next stage.  More often than not, the paralysis of fear inhibits many of us from pursuing our goals, and instead, turns our attention to the laundry list of limitations rather than advantages that may be facing us.

Do we live with the mentality of scarcity then?

What is the Scarcity Mentality, you might ask?

The Scarcity Mentality, coined by Stephen Covey in his best-seller, The Five Habits of Highly Effective People can be explained as:

Most people are deeply scripted in what I call the Scarcity Mentality. They see life as having only so much, as though there were only one pie out there. And if someone were to get a big piece of the pie, it would mean less for everybody else.

The Scarcity Mentality is the zero-sum paradigm of life. People with a Scarcity Mentality have a very difficult time sharing recognition and credit, power or profit – even with those who help in the production. The also have a a very hard time being genuinely happy for the success of other people.

Why is this important?

Coming from the traditional not-for-profit world, I observed a pervasive mindset from people who believed that in order for any undertaking to launch, you need one thing: CAPITAL.  This paradigm, in an attempt to mitigate risk, creates invisible barriers that in many instances hampers creativity and growth.  My life experiences have proven that the world does not operate within the Scarcity mindset, but rather, operates based upon a precept of abundance. 

The  Abundance Mentality, according to Covey, flows “out of a deep inner sense of personal worth and security. It is the paradigm that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody. It results in sharing of prestige, of recognition, of profits, of decision making. It opens possibilities, options, alternatives, and creativity.

In other words, having the mentality of abundance assumes that individuals and communities have assets to share and collectively benefit from, which in turn increases, rather than depletes the resources afforded to those who invest in one another.

Dreamapolis, the organization that I helped create, has continued to grow as a result of a deep-seated belief in abundance.  Since September, the team members of Dreamapolis and I have worked tirelessly without receiving a dollar in compensation.  I have had to find creative ways to pay my bills, put gas in my car, and when necessary, provide for my most basic needs.  But through this, I have not wavered in my passions, and the Universe responded.  Dreamapolis is now in a position where we are continuing to grow and are now distributing seed grants to three urban Indianapolis entrepreneurs to help them turn their dreams into a reality.  Furthermore, the Abundance Mentality has brought us sponsors that are giving us the ability to provide $500 in additional seed grants for young entrepreneurs in our community. 

Did I mention that we are doing this without receiving a single dollar in revenue?  The world has continued to deliver circumstances, both positive and challenging, that we are leveraging in an effort to provide opportunities for others.

So let me ask you this: Is your glass half-empty or half-full? 

When you come to the realization that your search for outside resources diminishes what you already have at your disposal, you develop an Abundance Mentality that will propel you to create more opportunities for yourself and the community around you.

The Alchemist says that, “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” When you change the way you think, you change the way you act, which changes the way the world responds. And this, it appears, involves the entire community to work together in getting things done.


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