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.

LEADERSHIP EQUILIBRIUM

Randi Craigen - Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Renita Alexander believes we each have a God given assignment--a purpose for being here on this earth--that we've already been given the raw capacity to fulfill according to Ephesians 2:10, and that we can build a life around that purpose that's uniquely fit for each one of us. Renita's enthusiasm for helping people discover that purpose according to their own unique passions, concerns, experiences, personalities and values makes her an excellent leadership coach and inspirational guide.


Renita is passionate about leadership. With a desire to help leaders at every level unlock their power and passion in order to become truly transformationalRenita founded Leadership Unlockeda leadership coaching, development and training service committed to unleashing effective, influential, powerful leaders who consistently exude energy, positively impact their workplace, are surgical in making decisions, and inspire energy, loyalty and commitment in their employees. 


retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, Renita is an expert in the extensive leadership training and experiential leadership development unique to the military, as well as in the practical management skills characteristic of her leadership coaching practice. Renita has a coaching certification from the Institute of Professional Excellence in Coaching (or iPEC)a rigorous program accredited by the International Coach Federation (ICF)and more than 26 years of inspirational and transformational leadership experience. 


Renita recently brought that wealth of experience and expertise to SUN and Entrenuity clients via the mox.E Speaker Series with a December workshop on Leadership Equilibrium: Leading in a Way That Allows You to Achieve Balance in Your Life. With a focus on the need to "lead yourself first before being able to lead others effectively," the highly reflective and interactive workshop included several exercises designed to help participants identify their unique passion and purpose in life and how to create a life flow that allows them to be who they were truly meant to be—their most efficient, most effective, most productive selves.  

   

With an insightful look at the BRAKES—the Beliefs, Reality, Assumptions, Killers, Expectations and Systems—that serve as internal obstacles to keep people from living out their purpose, Renita engaged participants in an exercise to help them identify some of their own internal obstacles. Renita's entire workshop was packed with wisdom, practical insights and valuable tools for reflection, including soul searching questions, Biblical truth, and Renita's own positive, encouraging energy. 


Stay tuned for more mox.E Speaker Series Events at www.entrenuity.com/events 

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.


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.


Student Entrepreneurs at LYDIA

Grace Yi - Thursday, March 01, 2012

Posted by Grace Yi 

 

A few months ago, I had the chance to sit down with Travis Satterlee for an interview about his work with youth and teaching entrepreneurship in the classroom. Travis, having worked through the Entrenuity model over the past several years, has most recently been working through the StartingUp Now book, guiding students through their team-based business plan.

Travis is both a teacher and licensed clinical counselor working at the Lydia Urban Academy and Lydia Counseling Center at LYDIA, an organization that has, for almost a century, served children and families in communities across the country.

 


 

Can you provide some background on your students and the work you do with them?

At the Urban Academy, students are primarily Hispanic between the ages of 14 and 20. My job is to provide the students the opportunity to consider entrepreneurship as a Plan B for their lives. More than anything, I’m surprised by the students who are sparked by the idea of entrepreneurship as an option for their future path. The ones who connect with entrepreneurship have the aptitude for running with an idea or a vision with the realization that they finally have an outlet for their creative tendencies.

I was trained under the Entrenuity curriculum and have been implementing entrepreneurship in the classroom pushing for economic literacy. I’ve primarily used the business simulation games and work cards to help student groups create a business plan and start operational businesses such as a coffee shop, a garden project, and a vending machine business. Both the vending machine business and coffee shop operated for 2 years while the garden, though still operating, has been taken over by the residential program and has not had students engaged for awhile.

What are the most important and valuable tools necessary to teach entrepreneurship while engaging students in an effective way?

Exposing them to professionals and sectors that are interesting to them is crucial. So is the importance of experiential learning within the classroom setting to where they personally connect with the concept of running a business. Once doors are opened to the prospect of opportunity, the steps that lead them to small successes help set the foundation for them to keep pushing and moving forward with their activities.

What challenges have you and the students faced in the business planning and operations process?

Students did an excellent job in envisioning ideas and completing their business plans, but had a difficult time staying committed throughout the operation of the business after it launched. The most significant challenge that we’ve faced in helping students launch businesses through the school has been in student retention and engagement in the projects. People (both students and staff) regularly get cycled out and move on with their lives after graduating (or moving onto a new job) and don’t stick around. This makes it difficult engaging new students who were never a part of the initial business planning process like the individuals who shaped it from the beginning. Additionally, I work with a very diverse group of students that make it challenging to implement differentiated learning activities. A facilitator and school’s capacity to help support the students’ learning as well as operations is incredibly important, which educators should take into strong consideration if they plan on seeing these projects through long-term.

What has been most inspiring in teaching students about entrepreneurship? What words of wisdom can you share from your personal experience as an educator?

The key takeaways from my experience are found in the hope that entrepreneurship provides youth in enhancing their ability to make decisions for their future—independent from the constraints and challenges they may be facing. The other important value is the opportunity to help them develop healthy relationships through a classroom context, which will shape their personal and professional trajectory.

I think it’s important to have small, attainable goals that help encourage students feel confident and successful. Goals don’t have to be huge—like starting big businesses—but when you identify and attain some smaller goals, the skills and outcomes in reaching those goals are the valuable takeaways.


Recent Posts


Tags


Archive