News + Resources

BLOG QUESTION #2

Randi Craigen - Tuesday, January 30, 2018


Values:
  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.

BLOG QUESTION #1

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

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

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.

LEADERSHIP EQUILIBRIUM

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 www.entrenuity.com/events 

A STRONG START

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. 

Industry Profile: Green Technology

Rebekah Bishop - Tuesday, November 27, 2012
What is Green Technology, and how can it improve your business strategy?

Green technology has become a buzzword over the last few years, referring to a variety of innovative products and techniques designed to promote sustainable living. As both our need and awareness increases for alternative methods of protecting the Earth's resources, green business strategies have become valuable tools for increasing efficiency as well as attracting a growing market of eco-minded consumers. Many business owners still believe that green technology can benefit only those businesses involved in energy or food production, however, with the advances being made in areas such as heating systems and recycling methods, every business can find ways to employ earth-friendly alternatives to their existing processes.

Developing and providing green technology has been the platform for many new businesses to find their niche in a competitive world, businesses such as Wolbrink Architects Chartered, a Chicago architectural firm that designs and constructs eco-sensitive, energy efficient buildings. Their ongoing project, Green Dream, is creating ENERGY STAR-rated condos in Chicago. Impressively, each unit is between 46.5-57.5 % more energy efficient than ENERGY STAR's baseline standards. In response to this incredible innovation, Wolbrink Architects received the 2006, Mayor Daley's Greenworks Award for market transformation. http://www.wolbrinkarchitects.com/

Directly capitalizing on green technology, is the dry cleaning service, Greener Cleaner. Using a liquid silicone solution, the non-toxic alternative to the commonly used perchloroethylene, Greener Cleaner is able to say that their product is safer to use and non-hazardous to the environment to make or dispose; it also cleans more effectively and is gentler on fabrics, giving clothing longer life cycles and reducing waste. http://www.greenercleaner.net/

Even fashion can be green, as proved by Mountains of the Moon, an eco-friendly clothing line that focuses on sustainability and responsibility. They are committed to using only low-impact dyes and long lasting fabrics such as cotton and hemp, grown without the use of pesticides and manufactured in US, sweatshop-free facilities. Designer, Melissa Baldwell intentionally creates “designs that are stylish but that can also be worn for multiple seasons and that surpass short-lived fads and trends . . . less likely to end up in landfills.” http://www.mountainsofthemoon.com/

Innovative businesses like these are receiving encouraging responses for their contributions to the green movement. Not only do a growing number of consumers prefer green products, but some states and influential corporations have begun to offer incentives to green businesses. Several grant funds are available in Illinois, including assistance for installing efficiency technologies to incentives for green building projects. 

http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/index.cfm?State=IL 

In the corporate world, the investment firm, Goldman Sachs, announced this year a “$40 billion target for financing and investing in clean technology companies over the next decade.” http://www.goldmansachs.com/our-thinking/focus-on/clean-technology-and-renewables/index.html

Other opportunities available to green-minded entrepreneurs include franchising schemes which allow you to operate your own business from an established platform. One such opportunity is being offered by EASI Energy Automation Systems Inc. which creates products designed to improve efficiency in existing electrical systems. EASI provides the needed training, tools and support to entering affiliates, and start up costs are minimal as inventory is kept by the corporation, and affiliates may work from home and at their own pace.

http://www.energysavingbusiness.com//energy-automation-systems-opportunity.php

Another valuable resource for Chicago entrepreneurs is the recent establishment of the Green Exchange building housing a wide range of tenants each operating a sustainable business within the localized community. Renovated from a factory built in 1913, the five story building now features state-of-the-art green technology including a green roof with 8,000 SF organic sky garden, high efficiency heating and cooling system, a 41,329 gallon rain cistern, and an escalator with occupancy sensors. Tenants benefit from increased exposure, synergy opportunities with like-minded businesses, and reduced overhead as a result of building efficiency and by sharing common spaces and amenities. http://www.greenexchange.com/

Opportunities like these make eco-awareness a valuable and even necessary consideration for forward thinking entrepreneurs. To learn more about how you can green your business or start a green business, visit these additional resources.

Green Certification and Industry Partnerships: http://www.sba.gov/content/starting-green-business

Find Green Business Grants: http://www.brightgreentalent.com/green-business/green-business-grants/

Green Franchise Opportunities:

http://www.franchisedirect.com/greenfranchises/?gclid=COnypqjA4LMCFexAMgod1VUAGw

5 Green Businesses You Can Start From Home: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/199952




Teaching Entrepreneurship - Fostering Opportunity

Rebekah Bishop - Monday, October 15, 2012

Cornerstone Academy students selling their mosaic picture frames at Chicago Business Opportunity Fair

Cornerstone Academy students selling mosaic picture frames at Chicago Business Opportunity Fair, April 2012 

At StartingUp Now, we teach that entrepreneurship is more than a tool for profit. It is a lifestyle which embraces hard work and ingenuity as a means of growing strong economic markets, self-sustained communities, and flourishing individuals. These and other principles of entrepreneurship are vital, not only to the health of our own struggling economy, but even more so to that of our future generations. Educators who recognize this need within the lives our youth, are exploring ways in which we can introduce the concept and skills of self-employment at the student level.

One such fore-thinker is Mr. William Seitz, co-founder of Cornerstone Academy in Chicago, IL and Director of the school's core curriculum of economic principles. Cornerstone Academy is an alternative high school for students who have dropped out of public schools, and Mr. Seitz believes that preparing these students for a bright future, involves giving them the tools to see their potential and imagine the possibilities.

At Cornerstone Academy, traditional disciplines such as math and science are supported by school-wide lessons in the fundamentals of economics such as: “all choices have consequences.” Every month  a new principle is introduced and highlighted by teachers within the context of each class. Students also participate in a school economy based on a credit system which records their attendance and adherence to codes of conduct. Credits are translated into positive and negative dollar amounts, giving students the opportunity to earn a small income to be used for school events such as attending a Shakespeare play or going ice skating in Millennium Park. In monthly meetings with their “banker” (Seitz), students review their credits and are given the option to retrieve their funds, or save them in the bank. However, in keeping with the principle “all choices have consequences,” those students who use their money right away often face the difficulty of paying for events which other students have set aside money for. Seitz says these experiences teach students that their choices are their own. He cannot make wise choices for them, but he shows them the consequences of the choices they make.

Another choice Cornerstone students are offered is to participate in the student business, Artistic Expressions. Students design, make, and sell mosaic picture frames and mirrors, at craft fairs and expos, earning money and valuable experience interacting with consumers. The program started in 2006, when Entrenuity (not for profit founded by SU's founder, Brian Jenkins) lead an entrepreneurship course at Cornerstone in which students created the business model for Artistic Expressions. Their goal was to design a business that would function according to the economic principles they had learned in class. As a result, their design became the foundation which has for 6 years continued to support students in their business experience.

Like any well organized business, Artistic Expressions is formed of separate teams: the designers, the manufacturers, and the sellers. Profits are divided evenly between the teams and then amongst team members, according to the amount they contribute. Because participation is voluntary, each student is responsible for his or her own choices and level of commitment, and they each get to see the direct results of those choices as they earn their income.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Jerry, a Cornerstone student who was part of last school year's selling team. He told me about his experience selling the mosaics at the 45th Annual Chicago Business Opportunity Fair at Navy Pier in April, 2012, and what he learned from being in the role of a businessman.
    
    “The environment was totally new; it was a new experience because I couldn't look around at everything myself, because I had to sell. Speaking to so many strangers was hard at first, but once I sold one, I wanted to sell another," says Jerry.
    Overcoming his natural shyness, Jerry worked hard to discover effective sales techniques of approaching the difficult crowd.
    “If I talked to them about our school and how we made the frames ourselves, I might sell a few. But if I mentioned that Mother's Day was coming up, and I asked them if their mom might like one of these picture frames, then I would sell a lot."
    Other lessons Jerry said he learned that day included patience and recognizing that hard work only paid off after more hard work. He is also excited about this next year's opportunities. “I want to make and sell this year,” he told me excitedly. “If you sell what other people make, you only make part of the profit, so it is better to sell your own product if you can.”

    The opportunity of a hands-on business experience is one that has broadened the possibilities for many of Cornerstone's students. Jerry reports that he would never have thought that starting his own business could be an option before; he always expected to work for someone else. Now he thinks it might be something he could do one day. “Not arts and crafts.” he told me emphatically. Computers and software design are what interest Jerry. He plans on attending college to study computer science and social work to discover ways in which he can serve people using his skills in technology.

Other Cornerstone students have been inspired by their experience with Artistic Expressions to start their own business, such as Mark, who, during his senior year, began a fitness training service and earned money for his college tuition.

Beyond making a small profit now, students of Cornerstone Academy are adopting a vital mindset for their future. Whether they follow the path of entrepreneurship, or choose to work for existing businesses, they have the faith in themselves to make ambitious decisions and apply their skills towards attaining their goals.


Following Your Drive

L. Brian Jenkins, MA - Wednesday, September 12, 2012

 

Skating isn’t usually included in the list of entrepreneurial ideas. It might even be called a foreign entity in the business world. At StartingUp Now, I had the opportunity to speak to a skater who turned his passion for skating and ministry into an achievable and actionable business plan. Noah Arnold, 29, demonstrates entrepreneurial initiative as he transitions into a new stage in his life, while showing how broad entrepreneurship opportunities can reach. In an unyielding manner, Arnold represents a prime example of entrepreneurship in a new capacity, and he uses StartingUp Now to turn his skating interests into a profitable business.

Arnold plans on opening a board shop that would sell skateboards, wakeboards, and snowboards products as well as accompanying retail clothing. He has always had a heart for skating, but he became a leader as he grew into a minister role to the skating community. Growing up in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, he moved to Illinois to study at Trinity International University. After college, Arnold moved to Libertyville, IL, where he co-founded Foundation Skate Ministry, a nonprofit skate ministry. Foundation Skate Ministry has two purposes: the “effective proclamation of the gospel of Christ to the lost skate culture in Lake County” and, “making disciples and the development of those disciples’ character into the character of Christ himself ‘teaching them to do all things whatsoever I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28:20).” Through weekly bible studies, the ministry reaches out to the skating community and transforms it through the word of God. “It started with a couple of kids a week, like 3 or 4, and then it grew to around 35-45 at my apartment,” said Arnold. He used his individual role as a skater to reach out to an entirely new and often overlooked community. 

He further immersed himself in skating culture when he moved to California for a year to teach physical education at a private school. “So-Cal and skate boarding is like PB & J,” said Arnold. However, he returned to Sturgeon Bay when he heard about the creation of a ten thousand square foot skate park in Door County. “If I can open up a skate shop and do ministry, I would be following my heart and passion,” he said.

While formulating his initial concept for the business, he was directed to StartingUp Now by a parent of a child in Arnold’s youth group. Since then, he has begun using the plan to layout his business plan and confirm his goals for the board shop for the next five years. “It’s been really helpful to put it all in words…I want to make sure I’m aiming for what I really want,” said Arnold. His use of the StartingUp Now Skillcenter not only allows him to lay out his business plan in a central online location, but the resources he can access help him visualize unclear concepts by providing relevant examples on starting his own business.

What he has gained most from the StartingUp Now plan is his marketing strategy. Arnold still dedicates himself to fostering the skating culture. “Skate culture is fairly new, it’s growing, and it would be...molding the culture…being the voice for skaters and supporting them…I want to motivate skaters and get their support,” he said. Developed from the StartingUp Now plan, Arnold’s efforts target at expanding the skating culture as well as promoting Door County as a prime destination.

Arnold’s situation presents a great example of the influence entrepreneurship can make on a community. Spurred by his passions for ministering to the youth and skating, he is able to transform a lifelong “hobby” into a way to support his family and occupy an influential role in Door County, WI.

To learn more about Foundation Skate Ministry, visit their website. To contact Noah Arnold directly, email him at noah.arnold711@gmail.com.

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Randi Craigen

Jason Huang - Thursday, August 30, 2012

 Sometimes the greatest challenge to success is knowing where to start. Randi Craigen found her focus through StartingUp Now.

Randi Craigen is the Chicago director of East Wind Nannies as well as an emerging jewelry designer who had once never thought she would run a business. A mother of four and proclaimed introvert, Randi took the inspiration of friends and the tools and support she gained from StartingUp Now, and is now working on making two dreams a reality. Randi has lived in Chicago for over twenty years, and faces both the challenges and excitements of marketing to the city’s unique needs and culture.

How did you get started with your nanny business?

I was working as a part time teacher’s aid at a preschool, and a friend of mine asked me how my job was going. I told her I was thinking about taking a nanny position instead, so that I could really focus on just a couple of kids and really relate to them and invest in them, rather than crowd control with twenty-some kids. She said to me, why don’t you open a branch at my nanny agency. She was looking to expand, and I said sure let’s talk. As we talked more about it, I realized it was something I could do and would enjoy doing. I didn’t have to start from zero; I could take her plan and her structure, and I could work from there. I still felt by doing that I could invest in kids by helping find quality nannies to care for them while their parents were at work.

How did you learn about StartingUp Now?
I’ve known Brian for about twenty years. I didn’t know exactly what StartingUp was about, but I knew that Brian was kind of a small business guru. I started with this agency in Chicago, which is pretty much just me. I quickly found myself in over my head, and I thought what am I supposed to do? Even though some things were already laid out for me, reaching the Chicago market, you know, that was all on me. So I went to his office to talk to him about small business, and Brian did everything to get me involved, from dropping the book in my lap to walking past me and checking up on me to making sure I was working on things.
 
What has been your experience with StartingUp Now?
I’m still honestly working through some things on it, but I think the greatest benefit I’ve had thus far is clarity. When I first talked to Brian, I wasn’t sure how helpful it was going to be, because figuring out the business plan and start up costs had essentially been done, or so I thought. However, it really helped me to understand just what it was I was marketing, what my product actually was. I thought my product was nannies, and that’s not my product; my product is really the very personalized customer service that I provide for families by doing the nanny search for them. That makes a difference in how I market it.

Brian also showed me the Skillcenter, and I was fiddling around with it and realized how easy it was. There was a question on startup costs that I didn’t exactly know what it was, and there was a link that I could click on immediately that went to an article that explained it; it’s so user friendly.

So after going through StartingUp Now, how has your outlook on entrepreneurship changed?
I just think differently; I see the opportunities in things. It’s funny to me how even talking to my daughter this summer, when she had requests to do face painting at a birthday party, I was just flowing with ideas about how to turn that into a business for her and how she could market that and how she needed to lay out a plan and all these different things on how to market herself as a face painter for birthday parties and earn a little bit of money. I’m planning these little businesses every time I turn around.

About a year and a half ago I started making jewelry just for friends and as gifts. A couple friends would ask, “Can you make something for my mom, and I’ll pay you for it.” People were liking what I was doing, so I started looking for little opportunities, Christmas shows where I could set up a little table and trunk shows for friends, but I never planned on making it a business. It’s just sort of been happening on the side. Now I love making it so much that I have all this product sitting around that nobody knows about really; nobody knows my little secret. Brian has been talking to me about how crazy that the product is already there, the investment is already made, so he’s really pushing me through the business side of it.

Where do you hope to see your businesses going?
I’m a little timid about that, which is another thing that Brian has been beating me over the head about. He’ll say things to me like what if I said you could earn this much money next year with your jewelry business, and I just look at him like he’s crazy. He’s dead serious, like no really, let’s talk about this. Of anybody I have talked to, Brian has really made me feel like okay, I can do this. He’s not just “rah, rah, go!” but instead gives me tools that have really helped me and made me start to believe, yeah I really can do this.

What do I want for this agency? I want it to be very relational, very personalized. I don’t have a vision for it to be huge. If I can’t give the families the kind of customer service that I believe in and believe is a strength as an agency, that means I’m probably going to need to get administrative help; somebody else will have to do other things so that I can do the relational aspect.

StartingUp has helped me to think in terms of growth, but not that it turns into something that I don’t want it to be. Just being able to express that, the Starting Up process has helped me define those things.


If you are interested in being a part of East Wind Nannies, visit their website. To contact Randi directly, call 312-650-9396.


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