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.

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




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.

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.

eTech Students Get Exposed in the City

L. Brian Jenkins, MA - Thursday, December 01, 2011

Posted by Grace Yi

 

Students from the StartingUp Now eTech IT Training Program got exposed to their first business pitch event at the November Technori Pitch gathering last night.

 

Through the generous support of Seth Kravitz and team at Technori (thanks, everyone!), almost 50 high school students and their eTech instructors from our 2 program locations, YMEN and Tha House, sat inside the Chase Auditorium with 500 other entrepreneurs, developers and tech enthusiasts listening to 6 startups pitch their product and services.

The event, though normally a buzz with plenty of enthusiasm from the crowd, was all the more exciting as I overheard students sitting next to me whisper thoughtful and humorous comments about the companies’ pitches. Each of them had their favorites, running the gamut for why they liked the pitch—ranging from the usability of the product to the way team members presented their information and fielded questions by the audience. It was clear their interest was piqued as the evening progressed, culminating into conversations post-event about the types of businesses many of them envisioned to launch themselves.

We're hoping that this event, along with many other field trips we've got lined up, will help cultivate real opportunities for students to access inspiring ideas, information, and networks to help develop their budding entrepreneurial futures.

It’s never too early to start dreaming and planning, and we couldn’t think of a better way for getting them plugged in to a dynamic, growing and creative industry than technology. Let the developing begin…

 


 

 

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

StartingUp Now eTech students & trainers with Technori Co-founders, Seth Kravitz and Val Chulamorkodt

 

photo credit: Brad Wilkening

& Yolanda Richards-Albert  

 


 

 


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