News + Resources

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.

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.

Cultivating Urban Youth Entrepreneurs

L. Brian Jenkins, MA - Thursday, September 06, 2012

 

Challenge provides opportunity for change.

This is a common experience for most entrepreneurs who are challenged to provide their own solutions to the problems they face. Struggle is the birthplace of innovation, but one must be prepared with the right tools to overcome adversity. With the proper cultivation, ordinary individuals may become innovative entrepreneurial leaders, creating solutions versus being entrapped by problems that plague their communities. The entrepreneurial process strengthens the innate ability to create solutions, but this strength must be honed and fostered.

America’s three sports deities, the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), and the National Basketball Association (NBA) (I’m a fan of them all!) together represent one of the most highly revered talent pools in the United States. Each franchise, regardless of the sport, has a clear focus, expectation and invests capital with one goal in mind—winning. Participation at this level is highly selective. Most players have natural ability and talent within their sport often recognized in their youth. This leads to a training process, sometimes beginning as early as 5 years old or younger, and it typically involves someone, usually a coach, who has the experience to recognize talent and groom it to its full potential.

Where are those talent identifiers for potential entrepreneurs? What traits should they look for? Are those who teach in our classrooms, minister to our children, and serve as counselors at summer camps trained to recognize innate entrepreneurial abilities? How do you groom innovative entrepreneurial talent?

Great question. . .

 

1. Identify Urban Incubators

I believe the entrepreneurial incubators, particularly in the United States, already exist as schools, community organizations, places of worship, as well as the growing socially-networked global communities. Equipped with the tools, tech, training, and marshaling resources to compete in the marketplace, I’m convinced a crop of well-trained entrepreneurs can be seeded, sown, and harvested in their own communities. By providing entrepreneurs with solution based tools and resources such as StartingUp Now we can help cultivate their innate ability to create solutions in their own communities.

 

2. Expect Success

It is necessary to provide entrepreneurial facilitators effective solution-based tools intentionally designed to create operational businesses. This begins with a fundamental belief that the student can indeed, with the training, operate the business. Training connotes expectation. Train for success.

Within the context of football, a team practices all week, oftentimes twenty hours or more to play for a total of sixty minutes. The team is often able to quickly learn if their conditioning (preparation), game plan (business plan), and outcome (achieved goals) resulted in a win or a loss. It is also absolutely necessary, regardless of a win or a loss, for the team to review the game film with their coaches to improve each week. Teams DO NOT train to fail—failure is an obstacle to overcome. Therefore, we must position the entrepreneurial facilitator with effective resources with the expectation to train successful entrepreneurs.

 

3. Seek Challenge

Youth in challenged urban environments are highly intelligent, adaptable, and often solve their own problems. However, they are still youth and need the assurance that someone, their “coach”, will be there to assist with their business and personal development. The new startup provides opportunities for students to apply the skills learned in the planning process—it’s their business. We entrepreneurial instructors must learn to coach the business not control the business. The student must learn if their plan resulted in their intended outcome. Their network will multiply as they create new relationships, solve business trials, and begin to see difficulties as opportunities to be solved.  Their entrepreneurial mindset is shaped by both their successes, failures, and their resolve is increased by their ability to overcome. Students discover the power of decision-making and the implication of poor choices.  These experiences mold them as the future business leaders.

The startup provides ownership, accomplishment, allowing for a goal they set, achieved, and serves as a platform for other students to emulate. Through the rigors of operation, they learn that business is dependent upon their reputation providing ample opportunity to realize “Treat others as you want to be treated,” and the benefit thereof.  By growing urban entrepreneurs with values that exceed their own self-interest, we intrinsically train these future leaders that operating a successful business requires service to their family, community, country and others under their influence.


Impacting the Marketplace: The Grove City Story

Grace Yi - 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.

 

Think Different.

Grace Yi - 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

 

 



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