News + Resources

The latest book from author and entrepreneur: L. Brian Jenkins, President of StartingUp Now

Randi Craigen - Sunday, May 26, 2019

Discover ways to develop your ideas into effective business models with fund raising strategies that best fit your goals. Whatever your niche, the question remains—Should you launch a for-profit or non-profit organization to accomplish your goals? You’ll get impactful solutions to successfully navigate the funding landscape and gain insight into cultural, racial and historical barriers African-American and Latinx nonprofit leaders typically face to secure funding.

Little by Little: Growing Your Savings in the New Year, by Lyman Howell

Randi Craigen - Tuesday, January 08, 2019

A YouGov poll revealed that some of the top New Year’s resolutions are:

  • eating healthier (37%),
  • exercising more (37%), and
  • saving (more) money (37%). [1]

Saving money is an excellent goal. An ancient wise saying from East Africa says, “Hurry, hurry has no waiting, little by little fills the measure.” This means that saving in a regular, systematic manner can be fruitful over the long-term. Another great proverb is, “Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.” (Proverbs 13:11, NIV) If we want our money to grow, we should earn it in an honest way, and we should save little by little over time.   

What steps can we take this new year to increase our financial resources? Here are some tips:

Save for emergencies. Something will always happen that can throw you off track from accumulating savings. You might have an unplanned medical emergency, car repair, lose a major client, or get laid off. A great goal is to build up emergency savings to cover 3-6 months of expenses. Put these dollars into accounts that are safe and secure. If you are young and in good health, you might also consider whole life insurance as an alternative tool to build up cash. You can borrow against the cash value in those policies for emergencies.

Live below your means. Think about ways to spend less on a monthly basis that you earn. In the best seller, The Millionaire Next Door (Stanley and Danko), a significant number of millionaires have simple lifestyles and tastes. They did not spend too much for a car or a house.  They prefer inexpensive clothes. Living below your means helps to free up funds for savings.

Automate your savings programs. Determine how much you will save on a monthly basis, and then make it automatic. By taking this step, you make only one decision for a ten-year period instead of 120 monthly, individual decisions.

Save for retirement. If you are an entrepreneur, set up retirement accounts for you and your employees.  Find out what retirement plans are available where you work. If you own a business or work for a business, it there a 401k-retirement plan? If you work for non-profit organization, is there a 403b or 403b (7)-retirement plan? If you work for the government, is there a 457-retirement plan?

You can also save for retirement using Roth or traditional individual retirement accounts (IRAs).  The Roth IRA is a really great vehicle. You can put in after-tax money, let it grow tax-free, and then eventually withdraw funds tax-free. Some businesses have started to set up Roth 401k plans for the owner and employees. With all of your retirement accounts, you should review your beneficiaries annually. With proper use of beneficiaries for IRAs, you can build up wealth for future generations.

Costs matter. With your retirement savings and other investment programs, the costs you pay for fees and expenses are critical. Investments with high fees and expenses can significantly erode the value of your long-term savings. Choose financial institutions that have lower fees and expenses.

How much should you save for your goals? This depends on a number of factors including your personal financial information, other family data, short-term goals and long-term goals. A great way to address this question is to develop a financial plan. Regardless of this process, it is critical to start saving something, even initially a small amount. You can increase your regular, savings in the future when your income increases.

Best wishes as you implement your goals for 2019!

Lyman Howell, MBA, CFPâ is the President of Regal Oak Financial, LLC,, a Registered Investment Advisory Firm in Illinois. His firm provides financial planning and investment advisory services.


[1] “The Most Common New Year’s Resolutions for 2018”, Martin Armstrong, Jan 2, 2018

Engaging Millennials at Work, by Ashley Ritter

Randi Craigen - Monday, November 12, 2018


5. Provide Access to Financial Literacy and Tuition Repayment Programs

Only 32% of millennials consider themselves entrepreneurs according to Fortune, nearly 10% lower than previous generations. Even though they are most likely to not launch an entrepreneurial endeavor until their 40’s, student loan debt is the pervading reason many of them feel crippled to dream. Raising capital will also be a critical part of their future success, so find ways for them to become financially savvy. Offer it as a part of employee benefits, or perks for retention.

4. Help them Develop Focus and Provide Leadership Training

A common misconception about entrepreneurship is the idea of one managing too many projects and never sleeping. Deep Patel from says, “First-time entrepreneurs often become distracted by flashy ideas, whether they come from inside or outside the company. Mature entrepreneurs, however, learn to say no to 99 percent of ideas that are likely to steer their team off course.” See this as an opportunity to shape the next generation of entrepreneurs with your hard-earned lessons. Provide your staff with thoughtful and intentional leadership development learning. In this way, they will grow in their ability to self-regulate, reflect, and work with teams.

3. Let Them Question You. In Fact, Encourage It.

While the entrepreneurial community in many ways is redefining the workplace, it is all too easy to bring knee jerk reactions to the table when managing staff, specifically as it relates to authority structures. Millennial entrepreneurs understand that the future of entrepreneurship is not going to be defined by the best ideas, but the right questions. At Google X, their Moonshot team “creates radical new technologies to solve some of the worlds toughest problems.” They bring innovation, invention and creativity together. Derek Thompson from the Atlantic visited Google X and said in their words, “Moonshots don’t begin with brainstorming clever answers. They start with the hard work of finding the right questions.” Instead of bristling at your staff’s continued questions, leverage it into the direction most useful for your business. Radically integrate it into the culture of your team.

2. Facilitate Intrapreneur Initiatives.

Just like building muscle, encouraging intrapreneurship from within your organization can capitalize on creativity in new ways. For example, a once a year intrapreneur initiative can encourage staff to think outside of the box, practice their ability to give and receive feedback, and can be a space for them to showcase some of their own potential dreams. Ironically, by allowing your staff some time and energy to pursue their own ideas, you can endear them to your organization, retain them longer, and cultivate happier and more fulfilled employees. Whether it be once a year, or once a quarter, intrapreneurship initiatives can be a fun, competitive way to keep staff engaged.

1. Let them take your mission to the next level. They are redefining entrepreneurship and want to change the world now.

For millennial entrepreneurs, the mission is not an afterthought. It is not an end goal. It must be in the everyday fabric and experience of the business. Many of them have different aspirations than to be the next Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg or Jeff Besos. While they admire the success, they aren’t dazzled by only money or solving an app problem. They want everyone to have access to clean water. They want rural areas to have access to telemedicine. They do not understand why 4.5 billion people lack safely managed sanitation and would like to solve that problem now.

While your business may have nothing to do with those issues, find ways to support the social concerns of staff. For them, it’s not just a nicety to do on the side. It is central to who they want to be in this world and why they wake up and go to work. Tap into this, and you can engage them in exciting ways.

In conclusion, millennial staff can add great value in an entrepreneurial landscape. But it begins with authentic engagement of who they are, their best talents, and how your company can be an agent of their development and growth.

(content originally featured at


Randi Craigen - Wednesday, April 18, 2018

“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.” 

Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell, pg 42.

Question: In no more than 600 words, describe 3 practices you will do to become excellent at your business.


Randi Craigen - Tuesday, January 30, 2018

  List your 3 most important values for your startup business or ministry. Please rank the values from most important to least important and elaborate on why you placed them in the selected order.


L. Brian Jenkins, MA - Friday, January 26, 2018

IDEAS:  How is the idea for your business or ministry startup rooted in people?

Entrepreneurship and the Igbo

Randi Craigen - Thursday, May 11, 2017

By Peace Udechukwu and Randi Craigen

It is an historical fact that the majority of African Americans descended from the people in the Western part of Africa, though it's not particularly taught in schools from what possible tribes. Through my personal research, however, I've discovered that the Igbo (pronounced E'-boo) people were a common ethnic group found amongst enslaved Africans in the United States. This is interesting as it relates to historical characteristics of the Igbo people, the topic of business and entrepreneurship, and the characteristics of many African Americans today. I believe entrepreneurship is "in their genes."

A true entrepreneur is a person who is able to generate income for themselves through some sort of service or invention. The very culture of West African people is driven by the notion of entrepreneurship to support their families, but the Igbos are known to be some of Africa's most energetic and entrepreneurial people. In fact, they are known as "hustlers," a term that has also been associated with African American men—often called street hustlers—who are in essence just trying to produce a living for themselves and their families. The term is often viewed negatively in American society, but I'd like to give it an unbiased definition. A hustler is an aggressively enterprising person—a go-getter. In fact, a hustler is someone who knows how to make money by several different means. There truly should be no shame in hustling done the right way.

Olanreqaju Akinpelu Olutayo, in his paper, "The Igbo Entrereneur in the Political Economy of Nigeria," wrote that "the Igbo, when compared to other major ethnic groups in Nigeria, are in the forefront of entrepreneurial activities, especially in the informal sector."1 He also states that "one major and unique trait of the Igbo entrepreneur is the courage, perseverance and determination with which they carry on in spite of … bad experiences and losses."2 The latter statement refers to the perseverance of the Igbos to reestablish themselves after the Biafra war in Nigeria. While there was much about the slave trade, colonialism and the migration of the Igbo due to land hunger that had an impact on their entrepreneurial development—it wasn't just a result of their ethnicity—their ability to generate and maintain a communal civic spirit was also key to their entrepreneurial success. Olutayo noted "their communal spirit is the life-blood of the entrepreneurial ability of the Igbos."3

Currently, Nigeria is the world's largest producer of shea nuts. The country is literally situated on a shea butter goldmine. The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Shea Origin Nigeria project, Mrs. Mobola Sagoe, is a budding entrepreneur committed to building a sustainable shea industry, which is why she implemented a pilot project to help women gather the shea nuts and process them into butter. She has since taken over the shea processing centre in Saki, Oyo State to train villagers, mostly women, on how to pick and process shea nuts and make a living from them, in order to lift them and their families out of extreme poverty. Sagoe intends to ensure that companies source products directly from producers in the villages, where villagers are involved through manually collecting, sorting, crushing, roasting, grinding, and separating the oils from the butter and shaping the finished product. The raw nuts collected from them are processed into unrefined shea butter. The villages also make money by selling the raw nuts to companies that extract, refine and export the oil abroad for cosmetic purposes.4

StartingUp Now had the privilege of participating in a Shea Butter Conference with industry leaders from Nigeria and helping them with the development of their business plans.

With the expanding opportunities in the shea butter industry, the growth of the shea nut production throughout Nigeria, and the entrepreneurial spirit of the people, Nigeria is in a position to improve its economy and, according to the Director General of Niger State Commodity and Export Promotion Agency, Mohammed Kontagora, “Shea butter has the potential to eradicate poverty."5

The same trait of courage, perseverance and determination of the Igbo people is often highlighted regarding many African Americans due to their resiliency seen over the years despite the suffering that has occurred due to slavery, Jim Crow and other forms of racism and oppression. Despite bad experience and losses, like their Igbo ancestors, they carry on. In working together, generating and maintaining a "communal civic spirit," African Americans can also increase their entrepreneurial success.

Over the years, I have observed many similarities between the Igbo people and African Americans. I encourage my African American brothers and sisters to explore their ancestry and if you discover you are Igbo, embrace your natural gift in entrepreneurship.


1 "The Igbo Entrepreneur in the Political Economy of Nigeria," p. 150, Olanrewaju Akinpelu OLUTAYO, Department of Sociology, Faculty of the Social Sciences, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, NIGERIA. 

2 Ibid, p. 169. 

3 Ibid.

4 "Making Nigeria a Global Player in $10B Shea Industry," Posted By: CHIKODI OKEREOCHA and DAN ESSIET, The Nation, 

5 Ibid.

Contexture Media Network

Randi Craigen - Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Lesley Martinez Etherly is a Chicago native with a passion for grassroots community development through the support of Strategic Marketing and Technology Resources. Lesley is the Founder and Executive Director of Contexture Media Network, a nonprofit media, web and tech organization working to support, grow and sustain economically challenged communities through digital education, production resources, and capacity support services. Contexture is Lesley’s direct answer to the ever-widening digital divide in low income and under-represented communities. Contexture’s team develops, trains and supports community development through the creation and strategic use of media, web and technology resources. Contexture is partnership focused and operates as an impact booster for organizations who are already committed to eliminating digital and economic gaps worldwide. Lesley believes in the ability to work together to sustain a 21st Century workforce development model and create a global media platform that is sustainable, inclusive and empowering.


Randi Craigen - Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Renita Alexander believes we each have a God given assignment--a purpose for being here on this earth--that we've already been given the raw capacity to fulfill according to Ephesians 2:10, and that we can build a life around that purpose that's uniquely fit for each one of us. Renita's enthusiasm for helping people discover that purpose according to their own unique passions, concerns, experiences, personalities and values makes her an excellent leadership coach and inspirational guide.

Renita is passionate about leadership. With a desire to help leaders at every level unlock their power and passion in order to become truly transformationalRenita founded Leadership Unlockeda leadership coaching, development and training service committed to unleashing effective, influential, powerful leaders who consistently exude energy, positively impact their workplace, are surgical in making decisions, and inspire energy, loyalty and commitment in their employees. 

retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, Renita is an expert in the extensive leadership training and experiential leadership development unique to the military, as well as in the practical management skills characteristic of her leadership coaching practice. Renita has a coaching certification from the Institute of Professional Excellence in Coaching (or iPEC)a rigorous program accredited by the International Coach Federation (ICF)and more than 26 years of inspirational and transformational leadership experience. 

Renita recently brought that wealth of experience and expertise to SUN and Entrenuity clients via the mox.E Speaker Series with a December workshop on Leadership Equilibrium: Leading in a Way That Allows You to Achieve Balance in Your Life. With a focus on the need to "lead yourself first before being able to lead others effectively," the highly reflective and interactive workshop included several exercises designed to help participants identify their unique passion and purpose in life and how to create a life flow that allows them to be who they were truly meant to be—their most efficient, most effective, most productive selves.  


With an insightful look at the BRAKES—the Beliefs, Reality, Assumptions, Killers, Expectations and Systems—that serve as internal obstacles to keep people from living out their purpose, Renita engaged participants in an exercise to help them identify some of their own internal obstacles. Renita's entire workshop was packed with wisdom, practical insights and valuable tools for reflection, including soul searching questions, Biblical truth, and Renita's own positive, encouraging energy. 

Stay tuned for more mox.E Speaker Series Events at 


L. Brian Jenkins, MA - Monday, January 09, 2017

Business ownership is both a privilege and an opportunity. 

As we enter 2017, a year that will undoubtedly be filled with both challenges and opportunities, are you prepared for the growth, setbacks and disruptions business owners face daily? 

Will your business crumble at the slightest challenge, negative review or comment on social media? 

Will a dispute with a business partner lead to a shutdown? Will an unexpected set back cause you to call it quits? 

As I am privileged to work with new entrepreneurs, I often stress to them that it's not just knowledge of their business that leads to marketplace success, but also strength of character. 

This past weekend my family and I went to the movie theatre to see “Hidden Figures.” The movie focused on the lives of three extraordinary African-American women who worked at NASA—Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson. Each of these women played a pivotal role in one of America’s greatest moments—the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit. This was a HUGE and PIVOTAL event in 1962 that revamped America’s confidence in the Space Race with our rival, the former Soviet Union. Their brilliance was astonishing, as was their resolve to persevere against the intentional sexism, racism and Jim Crow legislation used to oppress so many bright, creative African-Americans. They had the support of their families and churches and solidarity with others in similar circumstances. They were highly skilled in their field. They also had the strength of character that serves as a model for business owners and entrepreneurs in the coming year—they didn't quit in the face of obstacles, doubt or discouragement, but perseveredTheir legacy and contribution provides a model and foundation to build on, despite being ignored by history for more than fifty years.

How can you improve your knowledge of your own business in 2017? How can you learn more about your target market? What can you do to improve your skills or the skills of your team to better serve your customers? These are all important questions to ask in the coming year. Starting strong requires an honest assessment of where your business is at and how your business can be improved.


But starting strong, staying strong and finishing strong requires more. It requires strength of character. What are you doing to pursue excellence at all levels? Are you modeling excellence for your team? If there are those on your team that do not share or value your commitments, it may be best to help them depart. Sideways energy is often wasted energy; it doesn’t move you towards improving.  

The brilliant skill and strength of character of three remarkable African-American women working at NASA may have been hidden from public recognition for much of fifty years, but their impact was profound. Just as a business leader's strength of character will  have a profound impact on the business, whether publicly recognized or not. 

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