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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.


Industry Profile: Food Trucks

Rebekah Bishop - Friday, September 14, 2012

As the American public evolves to a fast pace and high efficiency lifestyle, many entrepreneurs' dream of owning a restaurant has likewise adapted. The recent trend of Food Trucks appearing in parking lots and street corners in urban areas is a clear response to our culture's growing need for on-the-go services. While fast-food chain restaurants and street carts have long benefitted from a busy culture, today's entrepreneurs are recognizing a desire for more exciting, and palatable, solutions.

The initiator of the Food Truck revolution, and by far the most successful endeavor to date, Kogi BBQ, belongs to Chef Roy Choi, famous for his fusion Korean-Mexican cuisine which he first offered from a mobile kitchen to the L.A. public in 2009. Chef Choi brings fresh innovation to traditional concepts such as Spicy Pork Tacos and Short Rib Sliders, creations that are quick to produce, but skillfully crafted to please the senses. Many trucks offering high-end or gourmet menus profit from customers who may not venture into a fine dining restaurant for their lunch break but find the food truck alternative more accessible (and more affordable.)

Even lower-end food trucks choose highly specialized concepts to set themselves apart from the crowd of quick fixes. One Chicago food truck, Southern Mac and Cheese, has turned the simple American comfort food into a popular novelty through their rotating menu of creative varieties. There is even a truck called Fido To-Go, which targets health-conscious/on-the-go pet owners, selling dog treats made with natural ingredients, including gluten free options.

Successful food trucks are highly integrated in social media networks, utilizing tools such as Facebook and Twitter to inform customers of hours and locations, as well as search websites dedicated to providing maps and listings of local food trucks. As a newcomer to the urban food scene, food trucks must make themselves known and accessible to their fast-flowing consumer base.

Start-up costs of food trucks widely vary depending on whether an entrepreneur decides to buy their truck new or used, previously fitted with the necessary equipment or needing renovations. Cost is also heavily dependent on the locality of the business. Certification fees, insurance requirements, and parking regulations vary by state and can pose significant challenges to those wishing to introduce their food truck to the market. Parking is also a challenge that every food truck owner will face. Every local parking department will have different regulations regarding where trucks may park, how long they can park, and who they can park next to. In many cities, including Chicago, food trucks are not allowed to park within 200 feet of stationary restaurants as a means of protecting the traditional establishments.

However, one recent development in Chicago's food truck regulations has many entrepreneurs excited about the increasing feasibility of operating a truck in the city. July 25, The Chicago City Council approved an ordinance allowing cooking to take place on board food trucks, a convenience that was previously not allowed in the city. Prior to the ordinance being passed, cooks had to prepare their food in a stationary kitchen before relocating to their selling spot, limiting the quality and range of product possibilities. This new allowance promises that Chicago may see soon a greater presence of food trucks in our midst.

For more information on starting your own food truck business, including estimates for startup costs and helpful tips for understanding your competition, visit this resource

Do Your Values Guide Your Business?

Grace Yi - Tuesday, May 01, 2012

 Posted by Brian Jenkins

 

"Core values. Is it how much something is worth?" asked Melody, a Chicago high school student. "If it doesn't directly impact my bottom line, how are values even relevant?"

This interaction with a student working on her first business plan struck the classroom instructor, which led to my visit.

The business venture that Melody and her team were pursuing was more than just a little "risque." Though the team had conceptualized a provocative business idea, its members faced challenges in moving past the first step of the StartingUp Now guidebook: Core Values. With profitability being the team's primary driver, aspects of the business's impact on its employees and their community--as well as the owners themselves--waned in comparison to their goal in "making money."

I was more than willing to visit the classroom and interact with the student team per the teacher's request, having experienced many of the same challenges that educators face in working with aspiring youth entrepreneurs.

Core Values acts as the first step in the StartingUp Now business guidebook, setting a foundation for the entrepreneur in thinking through their business idea. It's quite interesting to hear the various comments through my interaction with users--especially younger readers--who don't see the direct connection between how our values guide all aspects of our lives...even business operations.

Values are taught--historically at home, reinforced in school, and esconced through our peer groups. Values are not intrinsic--they are a learned behavior. As the traditional value reinforcers (i.e. home, school, religious institutions) are being replaced or expanded via social networks and media, where are students "learning" their values from?

This is why Core Values precedes all the other steps in the StartingUp Now guidebook. We want the future entrepreneur to make the correlation between their values and their business operations. I want people to struggle and force themselves through this section...even coming back to rewrite their values after discovering their own.

Entrepreneurship training is life training. By simply discussing Step 1: Core Values, the students and I were able to discover they actually do have values beyond the goal of generating profit, such as family, safety and stability. They simply were not making the connection between the influence that their values had on their business operations--that, in many ways, their values as a business were very much a reflection of themselves. Values act as a compass in making one's decisions, or as one of the students said, "It's like a GPS for our company, it helps us not to get lost."

Through the process of "facilitating vs. lecturing," the students and I, in an open-ended discussion, navigated various business scenarios that taught them how different types of values were profitable but harmful. They are now discovering their own personal values through their business planning process.

While wrapping up, a student named Hector asked, "Do you think an investor would invest in a business like ours?" He was thinking more like an entrepreneur than he realized. Through the process of engagement, the act of listening, and the encouragement for students to be empowered in their curiosity and choices, adult entrepreneurs can help shape the values of future entrepreneurs worldwide.

What do you think? Do core values guide business operations? How do you determine your core values?


Share your comments here or with the global business community on the Skillcenter message board.


Be Human, Do Good

Grace Yi - Thursday, March 22, 2012

 Posted by Grace Yi 

 

 

Do you believe in change?

Let me rephrase that. Do you believe that you and I can make a significant, lasting impact on society that affects the lives of people in a positive way?

I do. And so do a lot of other people. Everyone, however, seems to have an idea on how change can--or can't--occur. But ideas are fruitless without real action.

Luckily, there are unique and creative forums to exchange ideas and best practices with individuals and organizations that are doing just that: taking action to make big impact.

Such is the case with The !deation Conference, which will be held this May 7-9 in Chicago, IL. Intentionally formatted to create a rich learning and sharing experience, the conference will gather some of the most innovative thinkers and practitioners in the social good space (e.g., for-profit businesses, nonprofit organizations, influencers, etc.) to assist current professionals in their respective social impact work.

We're honored to be presenting at The !deation Conference with other influencers and look forward to sharing how a simple, effective, and scalable system such as StartingUp Now can be a model for others looking to help individuals and groups create their own opportunities.

Check out the website here and make sure to use the promotion code "startingup" to save 15% off your registration.

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

 

 


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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