News + Resources

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




Cultivating Urban Youth Entrepreneurs

L. Brian Jenkins, MA - Thursday, September 06, 2012

 

Challenge provides opportunity for change.

This is a common experience for most entrepreneurs who are challenged to provide their own solutions to the problems they face. Struggle is the birthplace of innovation, but one must be prepared with the right tools to overcome adversity. With the proper cultivation, ordinary individuals may become innovative entrepreneurial leaders, creating solutions versus being entrapped by problems that plague their communities. The entrepreneurial process strengthens the innate ability to create solutions, but this strength must be honed and fostered.

America’s three sports deities, the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), and the National Basketball Association (NBA) (I’m a fan of them all!) together represent one of the most highly revered talent pools in the United States. Each franchise, regardless of the sport, has a clear focus, expectation and invests capital with one goal in mind—winning. Participation at this level is highly selective. Most players have natural ability and talent within their sport often recognized in their youth. This leads to a training process, sometimes beginning as early as 5 years old or younger, and it typically involves someone, usually a coach, who has the experience to recognize talent and groom it to its full potential.

Where are those talent identifiers for potential entrepreneurs? What traits should they look for? Are those who teach in our classrooms, minister to our children, and serve as counselors at summer camps trained to recognize innate entrepreneurial abilities? How do you groom innovative entrepreneurial talent?

Great question. . .

 

1. Identify Urban Incubators

I believe the entrepreneurial incubators, particularly in the United States, already exist as schools, community organizations, places of worship, as well as the growing socially-networked global communities. Equipped with the tools, tech, training, and marshaling resources to compete in the marketplace, I’m convinced a crop of well-trained entrepreneurs can be seeded, sown, and harvested in their own communities. By providing entrepreneurs with solution based tools and resources such as StartingUp Now we can help cultivate their innate ability to create solutions in their own communities.

 

2. Expect Success

It is necessary to provide entrepreneurial facilitators effective solution-based tools intentionally designed to create operational businesses. This begins with a fundamental belief that the student can indeed, with the training, operate the business. Training connotes expectation. Train for success.

Within the context of football, a team practices all week, oftentimes twenty hours or more to play for a total of sixty minutes. The team is often able to quickly learn if their conditioning (preparation), game plan (business plan), and outcome (achieved goals) resulted in a win or a loss. It is also absolutely necessary, regardless of a win or a loss, for the team to review the game film with their coaches to improve each week. Teams DO NOT train to fail—failure is an obstacle to overcome. Therefore, we must position the entrepreneurial facilitator with effective resources with the expectation to train successful entrepreneurs.

 

3. Seek Challenge

Youth in challenged urban environments are highly intelligent, adaptable, and often solve their own problems. However, they are still youth and need the assurance that someone, their “coach”, will be there to assist with their business and personal development. The new startup provides opportunities for students to apply the skills learned in the planning process—it’s their business. We entrepreneurial instructors must learn to coach the business not control the business. The student must learn if their plan resulted in their intended outcome. Their network will multiply as they create new relationships, solve business trials, and begin to see difficulties as opportunities to be solved.  Their entrepreneurial mindset is shaped by both their successes, failures, and their resolve is increased by their ability to overcome. Students discover the power of decision-making and the implication of poor choices.  These experiences mold them as the future business leaders.

The startup provides ownership, accomplishment, allowing for a goal they set, achieved, and serves as a platform for other students to emulate. Through the rigors of operation, they learn that business is dependent upon their reputation providing ample opportunity to realize “Treat others as you want to be treated,” and the benefit thereof.  By growing urban entrepreneurs with values that exceed their own self-interest, we intrinsically train these future leaders that operating a successful business requires service to their family, community, country and others under their influence.


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.


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