News + Resources

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.


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.

Think Different.

- Thursday, January 19, 2012

Posted by Grace Yi

 

In his biography, the late Steve Jobs stated early in his career that he set out to “make a dent in the universe.” For many of us, it’s significant enough to “make a dent,” or, more fittingly, produce something meaningful, on a scale that impacts our families and communities.

Like Jobs, many individuals and organizations understand the value in one’s ability to adapt to and innovate with change. Easier said than done, right?

Our time spent at last weekend’s RELOAD Conference with the Urban Youth Network Institute demonstrated the difficulty in change and adaptation. Resources to help fund social service and ministry-related work continue to be scaled down at an increasing rate. And yet, the needs of the community are undoubtedly growing exponentially as families tighten their economic belts.

Such is the case for communities across the globe, but how are we doing anything differently? If the world’s changed so much in the last decade, why hasn’t our approach in addressing some of these problems changed as radically as the issues in themselves?

Think different.

This was the slogan for Apple’s major marketing campaign in the late 1990s that so aptly represents what StartingUp Now values as an organization, aiming to provide people the tools and training to access and create opportunities for themselves.

In thinking different, we want to act different. In order to create, innovate and collaborate for greater impact, we plan to experiment. To try new things. Play. Engage. And question our tactics. Our activities. With the intent to support those pursuing their goals.

More importantly, we want you to participate with us. We couldn’t imagine doing this alone, so join us as we take the plunge and create new opportunities for our communities.

Activate your business idea and help us spread the word with these two highlights:

 

Google+ Hangout – A Training for New or Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Got a business idea? Great! Don't know where to start or how to grow? No problem. We're here to help you.

In this 1-hour webinar with Brian Jenkins, you will learn how to use the StartingUp Now guidebook, take away techniques and insights into business-planning, and meet other passionate entrepreneurs looking to share and connect.

For more information and to register, check out our Eventbrite here.

 

StartingUp Now on WVON’s Radio Show: “The Greenpreneur”

Brian Jenkins of StartingUp Now and Technology Consultant, Vince McCaskill, will be speaking with Michael Thomas of the “The Greenpreneur” on Chicago’s local radio station, WVON (1690 AM). The show will highlight how StartingUp Now is being used to activate one’s entrepreneurial inner drive while acting as a catalyst to unleash the entrepreneur within any individual.

Jenkins and McCaskill will also speak about their collaborative work on StartingUp Now’s eTech IT Training Program, an after-school high school program training students around entrepreneurship and technology-based skills.

WVON – 1690 AM

Saturday, January 20 at 5:00pm CST

 

 


Raising Capital Takes 3 P's

- Thursday, January 12, 2012

Posted by Brian Jenkins

 

 

 

I believe that every challenge presents an opportunity.

Identifying the capital to move your idea from the dream stage to launch stage is both a challenge and an opportunity. First know this: you are not alone.  For many launching their first business, or even for those who have successfully launched, identifying start-up and growth capital is a daunting task.

My own experience in raising capital proved to expose and engender me to opportunities that I had never expected. However, the difference between chasing capital versus securing it has more to do with you than you think it does.

A few years ago, I was invited to pitch a project to a new group of potential investors that I had never met at their investment club meeting. A few of the people there were some of Chicago's key business leaders and represented significant wealth--the 1% as politicians would refer to them as. For the most part, they were regular people that happened to be friends of the host, and I enjoyed meeting with them. Though nervous at the onset of my presentation, I kept it focused and clear while confidently sharing about the opportunity involved. The host pulled me aside as people were preparing to leave shortly after my presentation and informed me that enough funding was secured to move the project forward. I was elated! What occurred next was remarkable.

On my drive back to Chicago, I received a call from a couple that had attended the presentation, asking if they could schedule a meeting to learn more about my story and the details of the company. I was shocked at their interest, but knew I had to be prepared for an opportunity I hadn’t anticipated.

We met as scheduled over breakfast and connected while learning about our respective backgrounds, families, and future goals. A single question was then asked of me: “What would you do with $250,000 in investment?” Though caught off guard due to the nature of their interest in my work, I responded—to their amazement—by pulling out 2 copies of my business plan for their review. Surprises were exchanged both ways, but it wasn’t for any lack of preparation on my end that prevented our conversation from moving forward.

The next day, I received a call asking when I would like to stop by their home to pick up the check. I had secured investment capital and found partners who wanted to join me. That experience has informed me to advise many entrepreneurs, both youth and adults, to always: Pitch your ideas, identify Partners, and always be Prepared for success.

The 3 P’s in Raising Capital:

  1. Pitch, Pitch, Pitch (and then pitch some more) your idea within your circle. A colleague shared, “If you don’t pitch…you won’t know what the questions are.” Most presentations and pitch opportunities will likely lead to future prospects to pitch, allowing you to “Tell Your Story” while connecting you to seasoned experts in the field as well as their networks. 
  1. Partner – Identify a capital partner within and outside your circle of influence. Many will immediately say, “But I don’t have a capital partner!” My response: new ideas may require new relationships. It’s likely you’ll have to expand your circle. They’re out there, but where do potential capital relationships “hang out”? Find out who they are, where they work, what do they do, and what social gatherings they typically attend to get to where you want to go.
  1. Preparation – Total preparation demands strategic anticipation. Simply put, if you want to successfully secure capital, you must anticipate securing the capital before the meeting takes place. Developing a healthy Positive Visual Outcome (PVO) will hone your awareness. Visualizing yourself executing the steps in your business plan requires prior planning to achieve outcomes for yourself as well as the potential investor(s) you meet with. Many entrepreneurs have great ideas but have not planned for success, thereby limiting their own opportunities.

 

photo credit: Liz Song

 


Recent Posts


Tags


Archive