News + Resources

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.

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. 

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.

Self-Curating Communities - Can It Be Done?

L. Brian Jenkins, MA - Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Posted by Brian Jenkins

A few weeks ago, StartingUp Now had the privilege of being invited to participate in the Techweek 2012 Conference + Expo.

It was both an honor and great experience to learn that Chicago has a burgeoning tech community that may soon rival Silicon Valley! What was immediately obvious is that the Chicago Tech Community knew each other via both their professional and personal relationships.

Techweek simply provided another opportunity for the "community" to officially gather, collaborate, grow deeper and share. It was affirming to see that an idea could literally "host" an event and create meaningful engagement at many levels. Though at a conference of several hundred companies—many of which were being introduced to each other for the first time—there was a sense of genuine authenticity in this large, entrepreneurial gathering. Maybe I was just new to the party as the person “from the outside looking in," but it was refreshing all the same.

Similarly, almost 20 years ago, I settled into an urban community on Chicago's west side, moved by my Christian faith and filled with a hopeful desire for connectedness and engagement. Admittedly, there was much learning and relationship building to be done with those sharing similar values and a serious commitment to see real change occur. Those in our network were younger, optimistic, and looked at challenge as opportunity.

Many years later, the increasing weight of what we were really up against in our community change efforts (i.e. structural issues and systems) became more apparent—and our optimism began to wane. Many individuals and families left. Some moved on to pursue new interests and/or new careers while others relocated to be closer to family. Others just gave up and moved on.  Maybe we were too tight-knit, too homogenous, too like-minded and needed space to grow and be influenced by others not in our immediate community. Who really knows?

As StartingUp Now proceeds to enter unfamiliar networks and communities as a "newcomer” in these spaces, I'm mindful of the experiences and opportunities that have moved me in this direction. I'm also hopeful that "curating community" through social media will extend our ability to connect with others who share similar values, dreams and ambitions.

Yet, I'm optimistic that a "self-curating community" (i.e. tech, startup, social enterprise, etc.) will listen to new ideas, seek collaboration vs. isolation, and incorporate the voices of others that empower individuals and groups. Communities must be given the freedom to decide their own reality.

I believe it’s for this reason that we, as entrepreneurs, are drawn to self-curating communities as it provides a forum to not only share our ideas while engaging with others’ unique concepts, but are then encouraged to push one another to the limit in our viewpoints and activities. Simply put, we are given a chance to try and try again.

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.

 


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