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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.


CHICAGO+acumen Presents The Moral Pitch

Grace Yi - Monday, May 14, 2012

Guest Post by CHICAGO+acumen

 

Seeing is Believing at The Moral Pitch: A Demo for Decency Event

Tired of hearing people talk about "saving the world?" Snoozefest...ZzzZzz...We were too! So we created a competition to feature those rare social innovators with visions big enough to actually do it and with solutions tangible enough to prove it.

On May 24, 2012, CHICAGO+acumen would like to welcome supporters of social enterprise and social change to The Moral Pitch: A Demo for Decency. Hosted at Chicago's newest innovation hub, 1871, The Moral Pitch is a business pitch competition showcasing innovators with demo-ready products and solutions that directly address social needs. Four social enterprises will compete to win prizes and services that help foster the growth of their endeavors and help achieve the visions that they've demo-ed.

All proceeds of the event will go to Acumen Fund, a non-profit venture fund that has pioneered a model that combines the best of charity and economic markets to change the way the world tackles poverty! Since its founding in 2001, Acumen Fund has invested more than $70 million of philanthropic capital in 65 breakthrough enterprises that serve the poor by providing access to health, energy, housing, water, agriculture, and education to low-income customers in South Asia, East Africa, and West Africa.

CHICAGO+acumen is a volunteer-organized chapter that supports the mission of Acumen Fund by spreading awareness of its pioneering work and fundraising to expand the growth of its projects. We are excited to show off the bold ingenuity of Chicago-based social entrepreneurs and to invite fans of social change in on the spectacle. If you're interested in seeing how a "saved world" will be achieved, or in meeting other local dreamers, do-gooders, and changemakers, The Moral Pitch: A Demo for Decency is the must attend event.

To find out more details about the event and purchase tickets to attend, please visit our event page, www.moralpitch.com, or visit us on Facebook.

 

 

Raising Capital Takes 3 P's

Grace Yi - 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

 

eTech Students Get Exposed in the City

L. Brian Jenkins, MA - Thursday, December 01, 2011

Posted by Grace Yi

 

Students from the StartingUp Now eTech IT Training Program got exposed to their first business pitch event at the November Technori Pitch gathering last night.

 

Through the generous support of Seth Kravitz and team at Technori (thanks, everyone!), almost 50 high school students and their eTech instructors from our 2 program locations, YMEN and Tha House, sat inside the Chase Auditorium with 500 other entrepreneurs, developers and tech enthusiasts listening to 6 startups pitch their product and services.

The event, though normally a buzz with plenty of enthusiasm from the crowd, was all the more exciting as I overheard students sitting next to me whisper thoughtful and humorous comments about the companies’ pitches. Each of them had their favorites, running the gamut for why they liked the pitch—ranging from the usability of the product to the way team members presented their information and fielded questions by the audience. It was clear their interest was piqued as the evening progressed, culminating into conversations post-event about the types of businesses many of them envisioned to launch themselves.

We're hoping that this event, along with many other field trips we've got lined up, will help cultivate real opportunities for students to access inspiring ideas, information, and networks to help develop their budding entrepreneurial futures.

It’s never too early to start dreaming and planning, and we couldn’t think of a better way for getting them plugged in to a dynamic, growing and creative industry than technology. Let the developing begin…

 


 

 

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

StartingUp Now eTech students & trainers with Technori Co-founders, Seth Kravitz and Val Chulamorkodt

 

photo credit: Brad Wilkening

& Yolanda Richards-Albert  

 


 

 


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