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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.


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.

 

The Good Reason for More Disruption

Grace Yi - Friday, February 03, 2012

Posted by Grace Yi

 

 

 

Earlier last month, Fast Company put out an excellent article on Generation Flux, highlighting members of today’s new psychographic group of pioneering entrepreneurial individuals who are redefining their professional careers while making a significant impact in their respective industries. GenFluxers, the magazine states, represent a smorgasbord of highly adaptable, multi-skilled, and self-determined risk-takers, catalyzing new pathways and learning curves for individuals, companies, and entire systems.

Fast-paced, chaotic and creative by nature, this new pool of professionals is throwing caution to the wind and conventional models out the window in favor of flexibility, agility, and innovation. In other words, they’re disrupting the way things have been done. And people—including companies—are taking notice.

Most of us agree that our institutions are out of date with the traditional career (and its cushy benefits) long gone.

What I love about the article is that it takes note to emphasize the type of opportunity this disruptive change affords:

This is the moment for an explosion of opportunity, there for the taking by those prepared to embrace the change. We have been through a version of this before. At the turn of the 20th century, as cities grew to be the center of American culture, those accustomed to the agrarian clock of sunrise-sunset and the pace of the growing season were forced to learn the faster ways of the urban-manufacturing world. There was widespread uneasiness about the future, about what a job would be, about what a community would be. Fringe political groups and popular movements gave expression to that anxiety. Yet from those days of ambiguity emerged a century of tremendous progress.

Today we face a similar transition, this time born of technology and globalization--an unhinging of the expected, from employment to markets to corporate leadership. "There are all kinds of reasons to be afraid of this economy," says Microsoft Research's Danah Boyd. "Technology forces disruption, and not all of the change will be good. Optimists look to all the excitement. Pessimists look to all that gets lost. They're both right. How you react depends on what you have to gain versus what you have to lose."

However, here’s the challenge, and with it a gross assumption attached, to these lessons of flux and presumed opportunity: not everyone is equipped to take advantage of these opportunities.

Meaning, there are huge populations of people who are ill equipped, lack adequate skills, and experience enormous challenges that don’t support a vision for the type of change GenFluxers believe in.

With a growing income and education gap further separating the haves and the have-nots, how are under-resourced communities to help their members gain access to these types of opportunities?

I am indefatigably energized by every new conversation and connection that has been occurring with similar, like-minded individuals and groups working to address these gaps by creating opportunities and building networks for minority groups. There is a growing movement of black entrepreneurs determined to strategically advance the livelihood and economic situation of the African American community in areas of technology and entrepreneurship.

Proper training, as Brian (the Boss Man) likes to reiterate, is what is necessary to see these communities develop and sustain themselves where opportunity awaits. The problem is the ineffective and inefficient ways in which government agencies, politicians, nonprofits, and other well-meaning groups are tackling the problem.

Ideas, initiatives, and tools in areas of technology, green economy, clean/bio tech, and entrepreneurship are significant prospects to train communities around—with groups like Black Founders, Black Girls Code, The Greenpreneur, and others facilitating modes to do so.

To see success occur in this area, StartingUp Now aims to join the revolution of GenFluxers in challenging the status quo in the ways things have always been done in the past. Raina Kumra, a GenFluxer states, “Fear holds a lot of people back. I’m skill hoarding. You keep throwing things into your backpack, and eventually you'll have everything in your tool kit."

Similarly, we want to see everyone equipped with the proper tools to put into their tool kit—but with simpler, more affordable, and easily accessible tools to help them get to where they want to be.

Simply put, StartingUp Now is determined to help successfully position people in an ever-changing economic landscape. Just as Danah Boyd of Microsoft Research says, “Learning how to embrace instability is the challenge. What do you do to get everyone engaged on this journey? We all have to learn new skills. How you react depends on what you have to gain versus what you have to lose.”

If instability is a given in this era of transition, the approach to tackle it head-on will require more lessons in flux—and training that supports its evolution. In light of Black History Month, I hope that an evolution such as this will ultimately challenge ourselves in championing more equitable, just and inclusive opportunities for every person in our society.

A Dollar and A Dream: A Lesson in Abundance

Grace Yi - Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Guest Post by Derrick Braziel

 

There is a permeating barrier that blocks many entrepreneurs from taking the plunge and moving their business idea to the next stage.  More often than not, the paralysis of fear inhibits many of us from pursuing our goals, and instead, turns our attention to the laundry list of limitations rather than advantages that may be facing us.

Do we live with the mentality of scarcity then?

What is the Scarcity Mentality, you might ask?

The Scarcity Mentality, coined by Stephen Covey in his best-seller, The Five Habits of Highly Effective People can be explained as:

Most people are deeply scripted in what I call the Scarcity Mentality. They see life as having only so much, as though there were only one pie out there. And if someone were to get a big piece of the pie, it would mean less for everybody else.

The Scarcity Mentality is the zero-sum paradigm of life. People with a Scarcity Mentality have a very difficult time sharing recognition and credit, power or profit – even with those who help in the production. The also have a a very hard time being genuinely happy for the success of other people.

Why is this important?

Coming from the traditional not-for-profit world, I observed a pervasive mindset from people who believed that in order for any undertaking to launch, you need one thing: CAPITAL.  This paradigm, in an attempt to mitigate risk, creates invisible barriers that in many instances hampers creativity and growth.  My life experiences have proven that the world does not operate within the Scarcity mindset, but rather, operates based upon a precept of abundance. 

The  Abundance Mentality, according to Covey, flows “out of a deep inner sense of personal worth and security. It is the paradigm that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody. It results in sharing of prestige, of recognition, of profits, of decision making. It opens possibilities, options, alternatives, and creativity.

In other words, having the mentality of abundance assumes that individuals and communities have assets to share and collectively benefit from, which in turn increases, rather than depletes the resources afforded to those who invest in one another.

Dreamapolis, the organization that I helped create, has continued to grow as a result of a deep-seated belief in abundance.  Since September, the team members of Dreamapolis and I have worked tirelessly without receiving a dollar in compensation.  I have had to find creative ways to pay my bills, put gas in my car, and when necessary, provide for my most basic needs.  But through this, I have not wavered in my passions, and the Universe responded.  Dreamapolis is now in a position where we are continuing to grow and are now distributing seed grants to three urban Indianapolis entrepreneurs to help them turn their dreams into a reality.  Furthermore, the Abundance Mentality has brought us sponsors that are giving us the ability to provide $500 in additional seed grants for young entrepreneurs in our community. 

Did I mention that we are doing this without receiving a single dollar in revenue?  The world has continued to deliver circumstances, both positive and challenging, that we are leveraging in an effort to provide opportunities for others.

So let me ask you this: Is your glass half-empty or half-full? 

When you come to the realization that your search for outside resources diminishes what you already have at your disposal, you develop an Abundance Mentality that will propel you to create more opportunities for yourself and the community around you.

The Alchemist says that, “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” When you change the way you think, you change the way you act, which changes the way the world responds. And this, it appears, involves the entire community to work together in getting things done.


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