Champions of Change: Young Entrepreneurs

Uploaded by whitehouse on 18.08.2011

Ari Matusiak: Good afternoon, everyone.
We'll try that again.
Good afternoon, everyone.
Audience: Good afternoon.
Ari Matusiak: All right, welcome to the White House.
My name is Ari Matusiak, I'm the Executive Director of the White
House Business Council and part of the team here that focuses on
engaging the private sector and talking about jobs and the
economy around the country.
And we have the opportunity to get all over America and meet
incredible people who are creating jobs and investing in
their communities and growing their companies and thinking
about the future and winning it, but events like this are some of
the most exciting that we can do because we get to have an
opportunity to bring people here to the White House and celebrate
their successes and their achievements and do so in a --
with a larger group of people from all over.
So I want to thank everyone who is here and talk a little bit
about why we're here.
This is the Champions of Change program,
and it's a weekly series where we bring people from around the
country here to the White House to highlight stories and
examples of citizens who are really living the President's
vision of winning the future -- out-innovating, out-building,
out-educating, exemplifying those kinds of characteristics
in terms of creating value in their communities around
the country.
And so today we're really excited to be able to welcome a
host of young entrepreneurs -- 10 of them --
from across the country, and we're going to introduce them
and then we'll -- our hope is really to get involved in a
conversation here.
So we'll have an opportunity to listen to a couple of people
from the administration talk a little bit about what's going on
here, to take a couple of questions from the audience,
but then really to open it up and have an exciting dialogue,
because we have the benefit of some really great talent here.
And I, you know, some of you brought your resumes --
I'm sure they'll talk to you after.
So, without further ado, I want to introduce our champions.
We have Torya Blanchard, who is the founder of Good Girls go to
Paris Crepes, in Detroit, Michigan.
She's also the founder of Rodin and Little Vera and Ooties,
all of which sound much cooler than any place that I could go
to myself.
There's Craig Cordes, founder and chief financial officer of
Cordina Frozen Drinks in New Orleans.
Jennifer Donogh, who is the creator and director of Young
Female Entrepreneurs in Seattle.
Kwanza Fisher, who's the founder and executive director of
Neighborhood Mathematica in Atlanta, Georgia.
Zach Hamilton, the founder of DevilWash in Phoenix, Arizona.
Josh Linkner, who's the CEO and managing partner for Detroit
Venture Partners in Detroit, Michigan.
Jennifer Medbery, the founder and CEO of Kickboard by Drop the
Chalk in New Orleans.
Alex Rincon, who is the founder and owner of four0six in
Helena, Montana.
Andrew Yang, the founder and president of Venture for America
in New York City.
And Erica -- is it Zidel?
Erica Zidel: Zidel.
Ari Matusiak: Zidel, who is the founder and CEO of SittingAround in
Seattle, Washington.
And then we also have Susan Koger,
who's the chief creative officer and co-founder of ModCloth,
in Pittsburgh.
She was unable to be here today.
So why don't we give them all a round of applause.
We find these champions through --
this program, we find these champions through local
connections and people who work with us to really help us
identify talent all across America,
and so I actually want to take an opportunity now to introduce
the person who helped pull this event together, Scott Gerber,
who is a very accomplished young person in his own right.
Scott is an entrepreneur and a founder of the Young
Entrepreneur Council.
He's also an active investor and the author of the book
"Never Get a Real Job."
So I would like to read that book, actually.
Where is Scott?
Bring him up.
Come on up, Scott.
Scott Gerber: I have good news and I have some bad news.
The bad news is that we live in very uncertain times.
Last Monday, the stock market dropped 630 points, the Dow.
And throughout the week, we experienced more volatility in
the market than in the history, any time in the history of the
United States economic system.
During the recession we've lost over eight million jobs.
This statistic is particularly concerning for our young people.
The reason being, today, they are 40% more likely to
be unemployed.
And yet these same young people are the people that we often say
are America's future.
But thankfully, it's not the end of the story.
There's good news.
While we can all agree there's much work to be done,
we are at a time and place we're working to create millions of
new jobs, many because of the small businesses all throughout
the United States, but young entrepreneurs are creating jobs
by creating companies in record numbers.
At no time before have we seen a generation as entrepreneurial as
this current generation now, because it is that drive and
it's that determination that is going to help us to reshape our
economic future.
But at the same time, it is all of our duties, fiscally,
morally, and in terms of our just undying passions to see
this economy grow, to see our young people succeed,
that we strive to create the changes that are necessary in
order to watch and grow and succeed as a youth generation.
It's interesting, the times are at --
we're at the moment now where the tides are shifting.
There is significant change.
If we can find ways to help all of the young people here and
outside of these walls, we have the potential to tap in to the
creation of tens of thousands of new companies all across the
United States, creating exponential numbers of jobs,
and foster an ecosystem that can support and promote the vital
trend of youth entrepreneurship as a viable career path for
young people, and more importantly,
as a solution to youth unemployment
and underemployment.
I'm tremendously humble to be participating in this event,
and I want to take a moment, of course,
to thank President Obama and the Administration for, you know,
not only just supporting us, but for truly, you know,
having us here today.
Because it gives me faith, a real faith in the fact that we
all understand collectively that we are on the precipice of
something real, of a real opportunity that is incredible.
That it is time we stop telling our young people that they are
America's future, and instead we embrace them as
America's present.
I want to take this opportunity, of course,
to congratulate all the incredible young people here
today, and to all the organizations in the
entrepreneurial ecosystem out there,
know that the Young Entrepreneur Council and I hope to work with
you to create a unity and strength of resolve and position
that will allow us to create a better today for our
young entrepreneurs.
Thank you so much.
Ari Matusiak: Thank you, Scott, those words ring very true.
And we were, we have had an opportunity to meet young
entrepreneurs around the country and in our travels,
and one of the truisms is that there is an energy level and an
appetite for creating value and thinking about investing and
thinking differently about how to shape careers and pathways
than, you know, maybe really at any point in the recent,
in our recent history, which is somewhat a reflection of the
times, but also a reflection of the opportunity that
we have here.
So thank you for all the work that you do.
The next person I'd like to introduce is a good friend and a
wonderful, wonderful asset in this administration,
and to all of you, Deputy Administrator of the Small
Business Administration, Marie Johns.
Marie is a rock star.
She is, she's been recognized as one of the 25 most influential
black women in business by "Network Journal,"
one of the hundred most powerful women by "Washington Magazine"
-- she has a lot of accolades after her name.
But the most important thing about Marie is that she is one
of the most committed people I have ever met when it comes to
working with business owners around the country and making
sure that they get connected to the resources and programs that
are going to help them grow and succeed.
She's passionate about these issues,
she's passionate about these, this community in particular,
and so it's a great honor to be able to introduce Marie Johns.
Marie Johns: Thank you, Ari.
I know I'm in great company when I have the opportunity to share
a mic with Ari and Scott.
So I'm in the right place.
Ronnie, thank you for the invitation to be here this
afternoon, and congratulations to the Champions of Change.
I had, when I first got here this afternoon,
I slipped into the room where you were doing your video clips,
and I tell you, such an impressive group,
and the personification of what the President talks about when
he says we're going to win the future.
Because this is what it's all about.
It's about young people starting businesses,
becoming entrepreneurs, and leading our country into a
strong economic future.
I'm pleased to be joined by two of my colleagues,
I see Jack Bienko and Erin Andrew,
who are in our Office of Entrepreneurial Development at
the SBA.
And we talk a lot about young entrepreneurs at the agency,
and it's wonderful that so many students are here from the great
universities, our local universities: George Washington;
University of the District of Columbia;
there's some people here from Howard University.
Just one personal moment, I spent many years on the board at
Howard, so go Bison, I'll just say that, and then move on.
When we talk about young entrepreneurs,
that could be the young person who's just graduated from
college and decided instead of taking an internship somewhere
decides to go into business.
Or it could be someone who steps in to the business that mom and
dad built and they're taking it over,
taking it to the next level.
But in these tough economic times we're counting on young
people to take the risks, take that step forward and become
entrepreneurs, and become those game changers that we need in
order to strengthen the economy.
Scott talked about this, the fact that the unemployment rate
among young people is stubbornly high.
The numbers vary, depending on what slice,
what your definition of young is,
but last year the unemployment rate for people ages 16 to 25
rose to 20%.
Now, when you look at a wider swath, 18 to 35,
this year it improved somewhat to 12%,
but when you factor in that number as well as the fact that
for minority youth the number is much higher,
it's just not a good number at all and there's a clear and
urgent need for young Americans to become more involved in
creating new jobs.
And quite frankly, it's never been easier to start a new job,
excuse me, to start your company as it is today.
With new technology, the tools are there,
it levels the playing field between larger companies and
smaller companies in terms of what you're able to do.
You don't need a lot of equipment or even an office
space, you just need good technology and a vision as to
what you want to do, as our Champions of Change demonstrate.
And that's why the Obama Administration is so committed
to building and supporting the next generation
of entrepreneurs.
We want to help you turn your ideas into real businesses that
allow you to grow, and most importantly, create jobs.
A little bit about the SBA.
We talk about our three Cs: Access to capital,
business development through government contracting,
and access to counseling and technical assistance.
We have some tools that are specifically relevant,
I believe, for young entrepreneurs,
that includes our microloan program which focuses on lower
dollar low cost loans that are available through microlenders
around the country, and in fact we just announced 20 new
microlenders around the country because of the resources we got
through the Small Business Jobs Act that the President signed
late last year.
We also have partners in SCORE and in our small business
development centers where we have a network of 14,000
business counselors around the country,
and there's a vast array of menu options for training that are
available, often at no cost or only minimal cost.
And we have a broad range of partnerships with other
organizations because we don't believe that we have the
monopoly on good ideas, we know that there are others out there
who are doing good work in terms of supporting entrepreneurs,
and when we put those resources together we have a bigger impact
on your behalf.
Because we know, as young entrepreneurs you have different
needs, and we've got to do our work differently at the SBA
and beyond.
We have to be mobile, as you are,
we have to be available online, and be ready and available where
you're looking.
The other thing about young entrepreneurs that's so exciting
for me is that you're interested,
and again our Champions of Change demonstrate this: You're
interested in doing well, certainly as a business,
but you're also interested in doing good.
And so the notion of the double and triple bottom line companies
is very exciting.
Young entrepreneurs are working out of cafes,
they're working out of their dorm rooms,
they are working out of shared workplaces like the General
Assembly in New York where we hosted a great event earlier
this year, and you're often bootstrapping your companies as
well as looking at taking out a loan.
I mean, the variety is endless.
In May we hosted a packed house of young entrepreneurs talking
about how we can support your efforts more effectively,
and it was really thrilling to see the response.
We had 300 people in the room, we had over 10,000 online who
participated, and what that said to us clearly was that we've
touched a chord, and so we're now in the process of planning
a series of young entrepreneur events around the country and
we're hoping to stay in touch with all of you to help us
ensure that those events are shaped in a way that are
most useful.
We created Startup America, which is leveraging federal
resources to support startups and putting $400 million in
private sector funds into the hands of new businesses.
And so more information about that is available through the
SBA and also through the web.
We've launched a new set of tools at, and this page has links to
resources, to online courses, mobile apps,
and other tools that are specifically useful for
young entrepreneurs.
So we're constantly looking for ways to make sure that we're
tailoring what we're doing in a fashion that is going to be a
useful set of tools for you so that you can, again,
grow those businesses and create the jobs that we need,
whether they're Main Street jobs or high growth,
high-impact jobs in the technology sector,
brick and mortar, or online.
All of it matters and all of it is exciting in terms of the
opportunities for job growth -- for business growth and
job creation.
The next generation of entrepreneurs is going to --
there will be the next Steve Jobs included in the group,
but it's also going to be made up of many more folks who are
this generation's moms and pops who are making the vibrant
retail corridors in our neighborhoods around
the country.
I just want to hold up a couple of examples of this next
generation of entrepreneurs and the exciting things
they're doing.
One example is a gentleman by the name of Mason Fuller.
At 23, Mason went into business selling used medical equipment
on eBay.
He joined an SBA mentoring program and learned how to
expand his business, and he eventually took out an SBA loan.
And he now has offices in Seattle and Boise,
and his sales have grown from $25,000 to just under
$2 million.
There's also Kevin Plank, who in 1996 was a football player right
here in the region at the University of Maryland.
He got tired of having to change out of his sweat-soaked T-shirts
after football practice, so he got together with a teammate,
started Under Armour in his grandmother's basement.
Early on he got an SBA loan, and today Under Armour is a
multi-million dollar publicly traded company.
And then there are entrepreneurs like Antoine Ford and
Andre Rogers, who actually started at George Washington
University, they were undergraduate students together,
and they started a company called Enlightened.
At the beginning it was just the two of them,
and today they're a management and technology consulting firm
in Washington, D.C.
I have worked with them mentoring them some years ago in
their business, and they've taken advantages --
they've taken advantage of SBA programs like 8a,
the mentor protégé program.
They're located in a hub zone, and they have been able to win
government contracts and grow their business.
And today they employee over 120 people,
and they're giving back to the community in very important ways
by teaching young people about entrepreneurship and working as
mentors to smaller companies.
So their examples, just like the Champions of Change,
are examples of how young entrepreneurs not only start
businesses, grow businesses and create jobs,
but they really do transform the communities where
they're located.
And we know you have big ideas and what our commitment to you
is at the SBA, we're going to have big tools that match those
big ideas so that as you start and as you grow,
that we'll be there to help you every step of the way.
Again, congratulations to the champions.
Thank you all very much, and we look forward to your
questions later.
Thank you.
Ari Matusiak: Well, thank you, Marie.
So, a part of why you're here is because this is an effort that's
coordinated by something in the White House called the Office of
Public Engagement, which sounds very serious and formal.
And it really is the front door of the White House and the
Administration to the American people.
And it is one of the things that the President was most adamant
about in terms of making sure that it was a robust effort and
really carried forward his values and beliefs from the
campaign and just his life as a public servant and activist.
And for the first two years the Office of Public Engagement
served that mission and was very actively engaged with all kinds
of constituencies across the country.
But in the last few months the Office of Public Engagement has
really kind of put a few rocket boosters on its back and
taken off.
And that is because of the next person who I'm going to
introduce, Jon Carson, who's the Director of the Office of Public
Engagement and Deputy Assistant to the President.
Jon was the field director for the campaign,
he was formerly the chief of staff for the Council of
Environmental Quality here in the Administration,
and is the reason why we have the Champions of Change program
and really a big reason why we are so much more out in
communities across the country and engaging with people in
real time and in their backyards and in their, well,
and in their office places and places of gathering.
So it's with great pleasure that I get the opportunity to
introduce Jon, and he's going to talk a little bit about the
program and everything else.
Jon Carson: Thank you.
Hi, everybody!
Welcome to the White House!
Audience: Oh!
Jon Carson: Good catch!
I got your attention, didn't I?
All right.
Well now that you're all awake -- that was a very good catch.
So it's great to be here.
I was very excited of all the Champions of Change we've done,
having this group of young entrepreneurs here is very
exciting for me.
I've seen a lot of definitions for what sort of defines,
what's the sort of age range for young or millennial generation.
By even the most generous of those,
I've aged out of it a couple of years ago now,
but I do feel like I know this generation incredibly well.
As Ari mentioned, I was on the campaign,
and I've yet to meet anyone who's probably supervised and
seen the work of a bigger group of this young generation at one
time than I was able to on the campaign.
And let me tell you, I know there's lots of different names
for what this generation is labeled as,
but to me this generation is the next greatest generation that
this country -- that is going to lift this country up,
just like that greatest generation did after
World War II.
And the folks here on stage, our Champions of Change,
are the leaders in what's happening.
I graduated from college in the mid '90s from an engineering
school and had classmates who were --
it was a good economic time at that point.
And I had classmates who were getting signing bonuses for
signing up for jobs six months before graduation.
I know that is not the environment that all of you are
facing right now.
But let me tell you what I have seen this generation do and I
think what the folks here on this stage have shown is that
this is a creative generation, this is a generation --
I like to define young people as people who had IM
in grade school.
That this is a generation that knows how to find ideas,
how to spread ideas, and how to make this country what we all
know it can be.
And our job here at the Office of Public Engagement is to show
how this White House, how this Administration,
how federal government in general can be a partner in --
with every small business, with every nonprofit,
with every American who wants to move this shared agenda we
have forward.
But I, today, have a job for each and every one of you,
and for the folks here on stage.
And that is to tell the story of what you saw here today.
To, when you get outside of our not very wireless compatible
auditorium, to tweet about the fact that you were here.
To -- if you have your own blog, to write about the fact,
write about what you saw, to take a look at what some of
these companies are doing and tell the story.
Take a look at our website,
where you will see all the inspiring stories of Americans
who are making change in their communities across the country.
I ask you to do this really for two different reasons:
One is right now, we live in a time where I think we are
surrounded by information, but nobody knows what's going on.
I think theoretically every program that the federal
government makes available to help entrepreneurs,
to work with nonprofits, to help communities,
theoretically all of this information is available right
online and you could find it if you just knew what to put
into Google.
But what we find out over and over again is that people,
they don't know how to access the information,
the help that is available to them.
The other, the other phenomenon that I think is going on right
now is that bad news and negativity travels in bulk.
And what makes people feel pessimistic about where our
country's going spreads pretty quickly.
But the good news and the signs of hope and the signs of where
this country is heading, led by this generation,
it travels one individual success story at a time.
There's a cynical view right now that people don't want to hear a
vague version of what things could be,
they want to see concrete examples of change that's
happening, either in their own community or in a community or
situation that they could imagine happening
in their lives.
The folks here on stage, these entrepreneurs,
are making that happen.
So we need your help telling that story.
Because with these two, you know,
these two sort of realities of how communication works right
now, the fact that information is theoretically available
everywhere but it's not getting where it needs to be,
and also the fact that people view everything they hear
through a cynical filter, what breaks through that is the
influencers in everyone's life.
When it comes to finding out about an opportunity to partner
with the federal government or an NGO that's working on an
issue you care about, the number one way people find out that
information is from someone that they trust.
And each and every one of you in this room,
and particularly our folks here on stage,
you have a circle of influence, you have a circle of people who
listen to what you, to what you put on your Facebook page,
to what you put on your blog, to what you are talking about,
probably a much greater circle than you can even appreciate.
And in fact, we don't view this as just sort of another channel
of communication and information,
I honestly believe it's the number one way that information
is traveling right now.
When it comes to those success stories that are pointing to if
they can do it in Detroit we could do it here,
when it comes to how can I find a best practice that worked in
another community, the number one way this information gets
from community to community from entrepreneur to entrepreneur is
through those circles of influence,
those circles of people that are listening to each other,
and so that, that is my ask of all of you today.
Talk about the fact that you were here and talk about the
fact that this White House cares about lifting up stories of
success of young people like we have on stage today.
Talk about, spend some time at the SBA website.
I can't tell you how often I hear, you know,
there really ought to be a program that does X, Y and Z,
and I send them the link to the page on SBA that does XYZ and
ABC as well.
So, and just a big congratulations to our
champions, but I think because of the example that you have
set, there are probably young people in your circles of
influence in your communities whose lives are better because
you have shown them what is possible.
When I graduated in the '90s I had friends that probably took
that engineering job when they could have started a company.
You are a generation that are creative perhaps because you
were forced to be, but you need to celebrate that,
you need to spread that, and I know you're doing that every
day, and would just ask each and every one of you to help move
that along.
So thanks for everything you're doing.
Thanks for all the companies I know all of you here in the
audience are going to go out and create.
Let's keep fighting every day.
Ari Matusiak: It's a full contact sport here, so --
so we're going to open it up for questions from the audience in a
second, but I want to recognize Sidnee Peck.
Where -- Sidnee's with the W.P. Carey School of Business at
Arizona State University and has been a real help in pulling
together the event as a whole, and flew in all the way
from Tempe.
So let's give her a round of applause, please.
And we'll open it up to you for questions.
Sidnee Peck: Is this on?
Thank you very much.
I am honored to be here as a representative from Arizona
State University, and to cheer on Zach Hamilton,
our ASU's very own in the front row.
ASU is making some big waves in entrepreneurship.
We are fairly new at the game, but within the last five years
we've gotten some significant investment from Kauffman,
and ASU has thrown a few dollars in the mix to really grow
entrepreneurship at our University.
And so Ronnie asked me today to speak a little bit about what
can a university do?
What can entrepreneurship education offer for individuals
who are go-getters on their own who are going to do a lot of the
stuff on their own?
What does education have to do with it?
And we heard a lot about Startup America,
and I think these movements are great that the government is
doing, but I think that universities need to play a
bigger role and can play a bigger role.
Universities have a hand on huge communities of people who have
knowledge, experience, and money,
and those are the things that entrepreneurs need.
And I teach entrepreneurship, so I also would like to say that I
believe that there are a lot of valuable things that can be
taught in the classroom, such as, okay, you have a great idea.
What do you do?
How do you start market research?
How do you approach someone who wants to invest in your company?
How do you take that step as a 19-year-old person who's
intimidated by the entire startup world?
So the examples that I've seen at ASU are three
really key things.
One is to do what a university is meant to do,
which is provide knowledge; access to any area that students
want to learn about.
Don't just have students come in,
join the business school and say that's all you're
going to learn.
You don't get to learn engineering,
you don't get to learn design, you don't get to learn science.
Let students explore.
Let them learn about a lot of different areas so that they can
see what's right for them, what they're passionate about,
and better yet, down the road, if they are a business student
they can communicate with an engineer.
They can communicate with a designer as they build
their companies.
And then they have a network where they can utilize these
people to become business partners.
Two is what I was speaking to earlier, which is resources.
Universities need to continue to connect students with
experienced mentors in the community,
people who have gone down this path and can speak and support
these entrepreneurs and help them along the way.
The next big one, capital.
We at ASU are very lucky.
We had a huge donation that started the Edson Fund,
and every year we get to give away $200,000 to students who
have worthy business ideas.
And Zach, I'm sure, will speak to that a little bit as he has
been a recipient numerous years.
This is a huge deal.
You hand a student who has a great idea 10, $20,000 and say,
go make it happen, and it's a grant and they don't have to pay
it back and they don't have investors knocking on their
door, it's a huge deal for students.
And the third thing that I've seen ASU do that I would
encourage other universities to do is just encourage the
entrepreneurial spirit.
Universities, just like the government,
just like big corporations are full of red tape
and bureaucracy.
Startups aren't, so the only way to encourage students to do
that is to behave that way yourself.
And we're very lucky, our president, Michael Crow,
has pushed down from the top for faculty and staff to behave in
the entrepreneurial spirit just like the students are.
And so, it's a hard process, of course,
we are a huge organization, but we're getting there,
and we're encouraging students to be creative,
break the rules a little bit, do something differently.
So I strongly believe that education can play a huge role
in entrepreneurship.
And, no, we cannot take credit for students like Zach who do
really well, but what we can do is take those students who have
that fire in their belly, give them the resources,
give them that step up and really help them to succeed.
So those are my thoughts on entrepreneurship education.
And now I'm going to open it up to all of
the entrepreneurs on stage.
And because I think we have a lot of students and people in
the audience who maybe are considering entrepreneurship or
are thinking about getting started,
I would like to hear if anyone has stories about that moment
where you went from having an idea to having the courage to
start something and what gave you that courage to
take that leap.
Torya Blanchard: Hi, everyone.
I actually started Good Girls go to Paris Crepes.
One day -- well, I was a French teacher for about five years,
and one day I went to the YMCA, I was taking a spinning class,
and I missed the class and I thought to myself, why was I so
busy that I missed this class, and I just had what I call my
"Fight Club" moment, I just said this is, you know, life,
and it's just ticking by, I was like,
what do you really want to do?
And I -- I like making crepes and I like collecting French
movie posters, so I said, okay, I'm going to combine this and
started a crepery, and I walked downstairs,
there's a little kiosk, it's like 48 square feet,
it's probably bigger, you know, your closet is bigger at home,
and that's when the first Good Girls started.
So that was my moment of, okay, you know, it's crazy, you know,
just tell your job, oh, I'm going to quit the job and not
get my check and if I could get insurance, whatever, but,
there it is.
Craig Cordes: I guess we'll just go down the row.
My idea actually started, it was a little bit different,
I was actually sitting on the beach and we got kicked
off for having --
We got kicked off for having glass beer bottles at the age of
23 and, you know, we looked down,
a little kid walked by with a Capri Sun pouch and said,
why not put your favorite frozen cocktails in a pouch and you can
take them anywhere?
And so with that crazy idea of, you know, having no experience,
you know, I graduated in finance,
having no experience in the beverage industry,
much less a highly regulated industry such as alcohol,
you know, we built our business on Google asking, you know,
Google the questions, asking everybody, you know,
that I could find how to formulate a product,
how do get the proper licensing from the government, which,
I mean, it's a stack about this thick of licenses that
we have to hold.
But that aha moment, you know, was born on the beach.
And I'm going to steal Jennifer from Drop the Chalk's statement,
which is if you're -- you know, if you're not embarrassed six
months into it, then you're too late.
And, you know, that's one of my favorite quotes of her saying,
it really is true, if you're not embarrassed to do something,
then you probably really are too late, so...
Jennifer Donogh: Well, my name is Jennifer Donogh,
and I own,
and so my actual business is Ovaleye, we host websites,
and I own it with my parents.
And so when I got into entrepreneurship,
it was right after college.
I graduated in 2007 from the University of Washington,
and I'm 26 now.
And my parents actually sat me down and said,
what do you want out of life?
And I think that's a huge question for everyone that's
graduating from college, right?
You're like what -- what am I going to do now,
I just finished college, that's what I had planned so far.
And so basically what they had said to me is is that with
entrepreneurship, you can really have whatever you want.
That's where you get the most freedom out of life.
And so that was kind of just like a no-brainer, well, sure.
So my parents gave me a huge stepping stone with that.
And Young Female Entrepreneurs, what I'm trying to do with that
is give a stepping stone into entrepreneurship to other women
like myself into business -- yeah,
I kinda lost what I was saying, but that's basically my aha
moment, it was freedom.
Kwanza Fisher: Hi, everyone.
My name is Kwanza Fisher, and I am the founder and executive
director of Neighborhood Mathematica,
and we send volunteer math coaches to high-need areas to
work with students for 10 weeks, after which they come together
and represent their neighborhoods in competitions.
And my aha moment was actually 3 a.m. in the morning about a
year ago.
I was driven by this -- by the thought of education culture;
how do we close achievement gaps?
And my thought was that we have to create a culture of education
in communities outside of schools.
And so at 3:00 in the morning one night,
I was just thinking about this, like what does this look like.
And it popped in my head, a competition where everybody
gets out, people from all walks of life come together
and support kids.
We make standards the norm, high standards the norm.
So I think it's really important to just keep going with your
passion, whatever really drives you, ride that wave,
even if it keeps you up late, late,
late in the night like it did for me.
Zach Hamilton: Hi, I think mine's a little bit different than everyone else's.
I don't think I had -- I didn't have much of a moment,
I just kind of found myself in the situation.
I started my first company, I was really young,
I was like 12 or 13 years old, I started doing a lawn service,
and I was making really good money by the time I graduated
high school, and I sold the company,
because I decided I didn't want to do something dirty,
I decided I didn't want to get my hands dirty every day.
In retrospect, that was a dumb decision.
But anyway, I went to flight school;
I decided I wanted to be a commercial airline pilot.
And anyone who's ever done some flying,
you get that -- FAR is the book of rules for the air that's
about that thick.
As soon as we started getting into commercial work,
I just hated it.
I hated going to get in the plane every morning;
I hated every bit of flight school.
So the bug had already bit when I was in high school,
so I started another company and I decided that's where I'm the
most comfortable.
Josh Linkner: Hi, my name is Josh Linkner.
I'm the CEO and managing partner of Detroit Venture Partners.
I have a confession to make; I think I'm the old man up here
on the group at 41.
In fact, I think I'm in the wrong room altogether.
The geriatric entrepreneur conference is around the corner.
But I have had the opportunity in my career to look at
entrepreneurship from a lot of different angles.
I had the privilege of founding and building four technology
companies over the last 20 years,
and now I moved to the dark side and I'm a venture capitalist,
so I'm helping to invest in and back great entrepreneurs today.
And to me what has been the inspiration in each of the cases
where I started the business and in many of the cases now where
we're funding new entrepreneurs is people who are wanting to
really make a significant change and do something different,
deploying creativity and innovation in a meaningful
way that isn't just another copycat, it isn't just a
"me, too" player.
As a venture capitalist, I see pitches all the time,
and if someone pitches me another, you know,
Groupon copycat, you know, no thanks.
But what really gets people's attention in not just capital,
but also consumers, is when people do things that are
remarkable and they solve problems in a new and
compelling way.
So I would suggest to any aspiring entrepreneurs that
rather than just launching yet another something else,
try to find an opportunity that you can really be different,
where you can be a category of one.
Because what the world really craves, I believe,
is things that are remarkable, original thought and innovation.
That's what has carried the day for me in my career,
and I think that's what will carry the day for you as well.
Jennifer Medbery: Hi, I'm Jennifer, founder and CEO of Kickboard by Drop the
Chalk, which is an education software product that was really
born out of my own experience in the classroom as first a middle
and a high school teacher.
And so I, like Zach, I don't really think I had a moment,
I just had a series of moments, days in and out of the classroom
over a three-year period where I was just frustrated by the
status quo and itching to really do something else.
And so for me it wasn't so much as like a plunge or just that
leap of faith, but just stepping back one day and saying I'm
going to try this, I don't know where it's going to go,
but knowing that you start small.
And so to pick up where Craig left off, for me,
it's -- you just have to start as small as you can go.
And your first, you know, idea for the company or your first
prototype is not going to be perfect,
but you'll learn a lot from putting it out there and getting
feedback, and that's -- that's where I've gotten today.
Alex Rincon: Hello, everyone.
I don't think this is on, so I'll just talk like this.
My name is Alex Rincon, my nickname is "Papu,"
and that's what I more commonly go by.
I own a clothing store in Montana called four0six,
which represents the area code for the entire state of Montana.
So, one of the largest states and less than a
million people in it.
But the store, more than just being a retail store,
is a really active member in the community.
It hosts art shows, video premieres, concerts,
community events, barbecues, and we do a lot with, you know,
local schools and nonprofits.
The reason I started four0six, though,
is because I had gone to Carroll College in Helena, Montana,
and graduated with a triple major,
business being one of them.
But even after college, I was still working at these retail
jobs, 9:00 to 5:00 just to get by month to month.
And I call it my quarter-life crisis,
I turned 25 and realized that I was just working 9:00 to 5:00,
you know, on the strip mall, and really didn't want to do that.
So I rode my motorcycle around 3,000-miles that summer fly
fishing around Montana, I chased snowstorms once the snow started
falling on my snowboard, and went and visited a friend in San
Francisco and we went to Sushi one night and he said, "Dude,
what are you doing?"
And I said, "I don't know."
And -- and he's like, "What do you want to do?"
I'm like, "Well, you know, I really want to do something in
Montana, I really love Montana, and -- but I don't know if I
want to do something in art and music or just in retail."
And then I said I wanted, you know,
to do something that promotes Montana.
And he says, "Make up your mind and do what you want to do."
And I just kind of went back to Montana not knowing what to do
with that information, and one night I woke up and I had these
ideas and I couldn't stop writing them down in my
little notepad.
And from there, I met with the SBA and went to the score desk
and said, hey, this is my idea, and, you know,
I had experience writing business plans in school,
but every class that I took was always based on big business,
it was taking on launching a product overseas or on,
you know, what's the bottom line in accounting and your
break-even point, and it's all great,
but it doesn't help you start on a smaller --
small business side.
So I just was a monster, and any person that I could pick their
brain, ask them questions, any resource like the Small Business
Administration, I just devoured it, and put pencil to paper and
started seeing, okay, how many T-shirts could I hold on this
wall, how many racks is that going to be,
what's it cost to rent a space downtown,
and started developing my business plan.
And after about four months, I went to a local bank and,
you know, sought out a loan.
And now we're four years into it and we're starting to expand all
around Montana.
So I guess my aha moment was having absolutely no idea what
I was doing.
And going for that.
Erica Zidel: This is not -- I can hold this symbolically, I guess.
Can you guys hear me okay?
My voice isn't quite as loud.
Audience: (unintelligible)
Erica Zidel: Oh, sorry about that then.
I'm Erica Zidel, I'm the founder and CEO of
You know, I think I've been an entrepreneur since the day
I was born.
When I was a child, my idea of fun in the summertime was I
would get a cardboard box, literally flip it over and set
up this bracelet-making stand.
I would enlist all the help of the kids in the neighborhood
working for me and helping me run this business.
I think my first sale was to the teenager who drove
the ice cream truck.
And so I knew that I always wanted to have my own business,
but I knew that I didn't want to just have any business,
I wanted to have a business that was really going to make
a difference.
And so when I graduated from college, you know,
I knew that this was something that I wanted to do,
but I didn't start a business right away.
I went, I did the corporate thing for a while,
and I thought, you know, I looked at the world around me
and said, you know, where are the problems, what needs
to be fixed?
And I definitely had an aha moment.
So I'm also a mother -- I have a five-year-old son,
and around the time that my son was three,
I was talking to actually another parent and I was
complaining about the fact that, you know, it's very,
very stressful, you know, working, being a mom, you know,
I really don't go out.
And childcare outside of daycare is very,
very hard to coordinate and very expensive.
And she looked at me and said, "Well,
why don't you join a babysitting cooperative?"
And I said, "A what?" you know, "What is a
babysitting cooperative?"
And she explained the concept to me.
Babysitting cooperatives, they're groups of families who
actually trade childcare with each other,
taking turns watching each other's kids --
they build community, they save money, they make it really,
really easy for parents to find and coordinate care.
However, most parents, like me, had not heard about babysitting
cooperatives, so I said, there's a problem, there's a problem,
and there's a solution that can make so many parents' lives so
much better.
And so that's really, you know, how the idea for SittingAround
was born, SittingAround is a website that makes it easy for
parents to start and manage babysitting cooperatives,
but it's also evangelism for the babysitting model --
the babysitting cooperative model itself.
It's really going out there and educating parents that there is
a better way to acquire childcare.
Andrew Yang: Hello, everyone.
My name is Andrew Yang; I'm the president and founder of
Venture for America.
I'm right behind Josh as the old man of the group.
Venture for America is a fellowship program that sends
recent college graduates to work at startups in low cost cities,
so those of you who want to work with Josh or Jen,
I'm very happy to say that Venture for America is working
with both of their organizations.
I think, along with being the second oldest guy in the group,
I was probably the least enterprising recent college
graduate among the group, because when I graduated
from college, I had no idea what I wanted to do,
so I went to law school.
And my aha moment was sometime that first year at a law firm,
I think I was knee deep in a box of documents and realized that
instead of reading about people doing something,
I wanted to do something myself.
So I started a company when I was 25,
and this also is somewhat different from the rest of the
group, in that my first company struggled quite mightily to the
point it actually went out of business about a year and
a half later.
But I think one of the great ways to have an aha moment,
is like Zach and Alex and me, to have a job you really don't want
to go back to.
That helps a great deal.
So I was determined to follow the startup path,
and ended up being mentored by a couple of other entrepreneurs
over a five-year period, and then ended up the CEO
of a company.
As you can tell, I must be a little bit older to have
done all that.
But another piece of advice I have in addition to getting a
job you don't like is, if you want to learn how to work to
build a company, it's to work for someone like the other
people in this group, because by supporting someone who is
building a company, you'll be able to get a lot of the
experience and then be better situated to do so yourself,
and that's really what Venture for America is about,
it's about providing that pathway for recent grads.
Ari Matusiak: All right.
You can just hold on to that if you don't mind.
Thanks, Andrew.
Being knee deep in boxes at a law firm is definitely something
that will make you consider a different career path, so...
Where is Tim?
Tim Williamson?
Hey, Tim.
Tim is with Idea Village, he's the founder and CEO of that
organization in New Orleans.
It's a great organization that is a real model regionally and
around the country for recruiting and retaining
entrepreneurial talent locally in New Orleans.
And so, I want to welcome you, Tim,
and offer you the opportunity to ask a question.
Tim Williamson: Thank you and I think I am the old guy here, so...
About I guess 10 years ago, I was a young entrepreneur,
born and raised in New Orleans and moved away to New York,
Boston, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and moved back home to New Orleans.
And the moment for us or for me was coming back to a city
that was declining.
In all metrics in the world, New Orleans was going down
the tubes pre-Katrina.
So the belief from Idea Village was basically was five guys in a
bar, we're all entrepreneurs, with a simple belief that
entrepreneurs create change.
That -- I'm so glad to be here, because we felt that you could
find entrepreneurs and if you could support them and keep them
in New Orleans, and this was a crazy idea 10 years ago,
those folks would do a couple things.
They'd raise money, they'd hire people,
they'd actually make some money, and then they'd take that money
and they would solve all these problems.
So the Idea Village was really a movement that's
lasted 10 years.
Inc. Magazine just said we're the coolest start-up city in
America -- thanks, Donna.
But the aha moment that I was listen -- the friend from
Montana that all entrepreneurs seek, I always look for,
you know -- if you're a Rocky, the "Clubber" Lang,
or the -- you're the enemy.
But when we were young entrepreneurs starting this
concept of creating a village to support entrepreneurs,
we met with a business leader one day,
35-year-old business leader and we said,
we've got this great idea, entrepreneurship is cool,
we're going to keep talent.
And he said, you know, one thing, he says, "Tim, you know,
what if this thing fails?"
Now, here's a leader telling a bunch of young entrepreneurs who
was trying to start this thing to support other entrepreneurs,
what if it fails, and I realized at that moment he was the
problem, that never ever should a business leader tell a young
entrepreneur, what if it fails?
You should say, what if it succeeds?
So that's what has actually catalyzed the Idea Village,
was to build a network of business leaders, government,
universities, to (indiscernible) never say that again to you
guys, you should never hear someone say, what if it fails?
They should say, what if it works?
I'm proud to say the White House is now a part of that.
I was at a meeting today with Aneesh Chopra,
and we're working on a very innovative model to bring the
White House into New Orleans to directly support entrepreneurs.
So you've got a great network here to support your efforts.
So if it can be done in New Orleans,
it can be done in any city where you guys live.
So if you're thinking about a crazy idea,
move back home and build an entrepreneur movement.
With that being said, I want to congratulate you guys.
And obviously we have with two folks from New Orleans
and everyone else.
But I like to ask the hard questions.
We've had over 1,100 entrepreneurs and what's your
great idea and all that stuff, but I'm looking at the other
side, tell me when it was a hard, dark, moment,
when was that time when you were really down,
when it was -- it was over, right?
You had to make payroll -- right, Craig? --
and it was what am I going to do.
And you thought about I can't do this but,
how did you get through that?
Zach Hamilton: I would say one that happened for me,
I was running a series of really big jobs,
it was the biggest jobs we'd ever done with DevilWash.
I think I forgot to say what we do.
We do high-pressure cleaning for concrete surfaces,
and we reclaim all of the water we use to clean it and filter it
back and reuse it through our system.
This was the biggest job we had done to date.
I had a crew of four guys working for a couple of
weeks around the clock.
I had maxed out every credit card I could get,
I'm not talking like everyone I had, everyone I could get.
I had borrowed money from my little sister,
I had borrowed money from my mom, my dad,
anyone who would give -- my roommates,
and my card got declined when I went to buy myself and my guys
who were on the site McDonald's.
I go, this is a problem, you know.
We got to put fuel in this stuff.
That was when it was about as bad as it could get.
But, you know, we pulled through.
There's ways around any -- any failure that you're
going to have.
But yeah, the low on cash is definitely probably the biggest
thing that happens to all of us, there's not enough zeros, ever.
Torya Blanchard: Well, right now I have the Good Girls,
the 48-square foot space now became the 2,000-square-foot
Good Girls, so that's fine, but opened another one in
Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan, and then a breakfast and lunch
place called Ootie's in Hamtramck which is a city
inside of Detroit.
Detroit is huge.
And I'm currently doing a bar.
So my dark moment is -- I'm still going through it,
I mean it's just a matter of -- I mean, now it's fine,
everything has come together, but just getting the money
together and, you know, that's -- and you're up at night and
you're like, oh, my gosh, you know,
you have all the weight of the world on your back,
but I knew that, you know, for me,
Detroit is a great place to start a business, and I know,
you know, everybody is very supportive there,
I know that the funds are there if I just keep pushing,
and it all worked out, so.
Josh Linkner: Let me -- quick comment on that.
The -- there's a great quote, an Emerson quote that says "one can
never truly savor success until first tasting adversity."
And I think that's so true.
The entrepreneurial path is never a straight line.
If -- if it was, I don't think we would be entrepreneurs,
it's the opposite.
I mean, there's all these, you know,
high highs and very low lows.
But sometimes the darkest moments are the ones that become
the greatest inspiration moving forward.
And when you have the courage and fortitude to take those
challenges head on, and ultimately overcome those
obstacles, that gives you a reservoir of confidence to
take on the next challenge and continue to step on the gas.
So I mean, in our case, I had a company called ePrize which
I started in 1999.
Everything was going great, we had venture capital funding,
I just made a bunch of commitments on a promise
from our VC that we were going to get another $3 million of
venture funding, and I got this call saying, hey, Josh,
we like you and all, everything is cool,
but we've decided to get out of the venture capital business,
so good luck.
Well, this is a bit of a problem, because this was 2001,
we had an E in front of our name,
we were cash flow negative, we were investing out of the curve,
and it was the worst possible time to raise venture capital.
I had almost no cash on my balance sheet,
so what do you do?
I mean, most people, you just, you know,
lock the door and go home.
But perhaps maybe the Detroit willpower,
that kind of inner street fighter that we all have,
at least in our region, and certainly New Orleans as well,
we just kept plugging away and just said, you know what,
we're not going to go down until you count us out.
And it went right to the wire.
I mean, literally, we were one day away from bouncing
everybody's payroll check and shutting down the company.
I ended up negotiating a buyout of our VC and raised
local capital.
But the wire came within, you know, a hair of losing it all.
But I'll tell you, when I look back,
and the reason I tell this story is that that moment of pain,
and let me just tell you, it stunk, you know,
sweating and exhausted and all the negative emotions,
I think that enabled our future success,
because we kind of felt if we could get through that,
we could get through anything.
And it gave us that new sense of confidence to take on the
challenges that came thereafter.
Andrew Yang: I think I may be alone in this group where my story of failure
actually ends in failure.
So the dark moment was telling our investors that we were
winding down the company and then shutting it down.
I think a great way to motivate yourself to do something is to
tell all your friends and family that you're going to do it.
And a great way to feel pretty bad about it is to tell them all
that it didn't work out.
So that's -- that was one moment.
Another, a company ran out of money and one of my colleagues
got evicted from his apartment, so he was living in the
conference room, I just came in and he's like, you know,
his stuff was there.
And I said to him, I was like, you're living the dream, man,
you're living the dream.
And then, you know --
He looked at me like he's crazy.
And I went to use the bathroom to wash up.
And it was -- so like the stories of adversity you hear,
like most of them have happy endings,
especially if you're in an event like this one, but sometimes,
you know, sometimes an ending is an ending,
sometimes a failure is a failure.
But I will say that Josh is 100% right,
that you end up growing through that.
My first company failed when I was 26,
I still owed $100,000-plus in law school debt,
I had lost people hundreds of thousands of dollars in
the company.
And when someone says you raise money,
like -- especially if there's like the term venture capital,
it sounds kind of glamorous and sexy,
like you went into the shiny office and someone wrote you
a million dollar check, most raising money is
really not glamorous.
I mean, it certainly wasn't for me.
Like it's going into people's living rooms and saying, hey,
this is what I'm going to do, do you want to write a check?
And the first time someone wrote a check,
I was like running to the bank to make sure like I could cash
it before they changed their minds.
So, you know, I totally agree with everyone on the panel in
terms of being able to hit that low and then
come back and rebound.
You know, like I stuck with it, and many years later had some
happy endings myself.
But people who go down this path should know that there are real
consequences that come with companies that don't quite
hit the mark.
Ari Matusiak: Who's screening these Champions of Change (inaudible)?
Just out of curiosity, how many of you are students in
the audience?
And how many of you are thinking about starting a business
of your own?
That's a great number of people.
So good work, Andrew.
How many of you have changed your mind after
listening to him?
We were actually just in Oakland last week,
and the CEO of Pandora was out there, and, you know,
when I think of Pandora, I think of the direct connection to
anything productive that I get done at work is related to
whatever channel I'm listening to on Pandora.
And they were turned down for capital 500 times.
So I guess persistence really does matter.
I think, you know, we've had some great questions from --
from our good and trusted colleagues,
but I think it would be great to just open it up here to people
in the audience.
If you have questions of our champions,
and we can continue the conversation that way.
We have -- maybe we could take one of the --
one of the mics and move it around or we can use
these mics here.
Who has a question?
Start there.
Audience Member: (inaudible) is -- I've gotten to the point now where I've gotten
tapped out on friends and family,
and looking to get some more money to grow the business,
I'm wondering, and I know that SBA loans is --
there was an article in "The New York Times" yesterday
(inaudible), SBA loans are a little challenging for recent
startups because of the whole tax returns issue.
I'm just curious, are there any innovative ways that you guys
have, you know, come up with to raise, you know,
if I can, maybe $50,000 is not anything huge, but, you know,
any suggestions you guys have (inaudible).
Torya Blanchard: Do you have a 401(k)?
Audience Member: Yes.
Torya Blanchard: Cash it out.
That's what I did.
Yes, yes.
Listen, look, that's what I did.
My parents were not going to give me money to start a crepery
when I was teaching for five years, had a nice job,
so I just took my 401(k) and cashed it out.
Just as well, I mean, you know, but -- I mean,
it all worked out.
You need the money, I mean, that's a quick way to do it.
Ari Matusiak: Are there other suggestions?
Jennifer Medbery: So I taught as well, but where I taught,
they didn't give us 401(k)s.
So three years after that, for me the option was,
and many people know this as a history of Drop the Chalk,
business plan competitions.
We've won about four of them.
Start with your local community; Tulane for us has been
exceptional, because they are really pushing forward
entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship as well.
And it's a great way for you to bring interns and other young
people into your company as well.
Because I founded the company just at my kitchen table,
came up with the name, you know, filled out the necessary forms
and mailed them to Baton Rouge, and then just
started programming.
But I built a tool before I really built a business,
and then I went and enlisted the help of a lot of Tulane MBAs,
we sat down and cranked out a business plan in about 24 hours,
literally the 24 hours before the business plan competition's
deadline was.
And then we just started researching other competitions
across the country, and that helped us refine our pitch,
so by the time we actually got around to raising some real
money, you know, we felt comfortable getting up there and
talking about our ideas.
And if you're at the $50,000 level,
that's -- that's really perfect.
Craig Cordes: Another idea that -- and it's actually something that we did
also and it may sound kind of scrappy, but entrepreneurship,
you have to be scrappy, is to figure a way to make money off
of someone else's idea.
And an example of that is we were part of Idea Village and we
needed -- my business wasn't, you know, fully capitalized yet,
and there was a flip-flop company that had a need and we
had a warehouse and we could fulfill it,
and so we charged him to package -- package his flip-flops and
ship them out, and we made over $20,000 one summer just by
fulfilling a need from him to fund our business.
So, you know, just figure a way to use someone else's business
to, you know, generate additional cash.
It might not be your core competency,
but it's a way to get there.
Kwanza Fisher: As a -- if you're thinking about being a social entrepreneur or
going into the non-profit world, consider a for-profit model for
your non-profit; sell merchandise.
So this upcoming competition, we're selling merchandise --
T-shirts, hats, et cetera -- Rubik's Cubes --
sell that and leverage, you know,
the name that you've made for yourself --
if you've made a name -- or the concept that you have to really
cash it in.
There -- the sky's the limit, so you can use a for-profit model
for a non-profit.
Ari Matusiak: Okay, other -- so, we have one in the back?
Michael Simmons: My name is Michael Simmons and I'm the co-founder of an
organization called the Extreme Entrepreneurship Education.
And from my perspective, there's just so much exciting stuff
happening in the entrepreneurship/education
ecosystem and great organizations like Global
Entrepreneurship Week and Global Student Entrepreneur Awards.
So my question for anybody on the panel that wants to tackle
it is, if you were in charge of jump-starting the
entrepreneurship ecosystem in the U.S.,
what's kind of like the one idea that you would follow to help
support entrepreneurs?
Erica Zidel: I'll start with that one.
So, I'm going to echo what Jennifer was saying about
business plan competitions and especially startup incubators --
really promoting those.
I'm actually a finalist in one in Massachusetts
called MassChallenge.
And I have office space with about 125 other companies.
So I go into work every day and I am surrounded by
other entrepreneurs.
And it is the most productive, most inspiring environment that
I've ever been in.
And I've been around some pretty cool people,
but nothing like this.
I mean, it's sort of like osmosis for entrepreneurs --
I mean, you know, you bounce ideas off each other all day.
You think of new ways to tackle problems.
Sometimes you even start, you know,
you get together and you start a totally different business.
But by really bringing entrepreneurs together in these
types of environments I think is the best way to encourage
entrepreneurship and help the companies.
Andrew Yang: You know, I mean, I have some strong opinions about this,
because what Venture for America is trying to do is exactly this,
which is help the ecosystem by making it easier for recent
college graduates to actually find startups to work for.
Most college graduates, when they're looking for jobs,
particularly their senior years, they're being recruited by
companies that have large scale resources and recruitment
programs and two-year programs.
Most startup jobs, and I'm not sure if everyone else has the
same experience, but most startup jobs are filled through
personal networks.
Most people hire someone that their friends or friends know.
And so what we need to do is we need to make it easier for
someone who, like many of the people in this room,
want to become an entrepreneur and build a business to get the
experience they need to do so.
And right now that pathway is hard to identify.
I know most people who want to work at startups struggle to
find the right opportunities.
So what we're going to do with Venture for America is make it
as easy to find a startup job and get the experience you need
to build a business as it currently is to work for a big
company or apply to law school.
Jennifer Donogh: So I had just one other thing I wanted to add to that,
because you're right, there are so many different places that a
young person can go to to get the information that they need
to start the business.
What's missing, though, I think, is the space in between that.
You have the idea, and then you go and get the information right
in between there of where you're actually doing the thing that
you want to do.
So I feel like one way, and this is what we do with Young Female
Entrepreneurs, is just putting it into context.
What does that look like when you've actually gone and you're
starting to do the doing part of it?
So any -- I think just events like this,
when you're highlighting people who are doing the doing,
you're tweeting about it, you're getting it out there saying, oh,
well, this girl had this frustration,
and this is what it looked like, and this is what got her
out of that.
So it's just putting into context something that you've
always been thinking about so you can compare your situation
to someone else.
And I think that was a long-winded way of just saying,
raising awareness, showing people what's out there.
SBA, for example, at a young entrepreneurs meeting,
I brought the idea up about SBA.
Probably one other person knew what SBA was.
That's a problem, and that's something that all of us can fix
easily by tweeting about it, by telling our peers,
by coming together forming networks.
So, yeah.
Ari Matusiak: Are there others on the panel who want to say anything
about that?
I want to introduce -- I want to just note Doug Rand,
who is a colleague here at the White House in the Office of
Science Technology Policy, he works on as part of the team
working on Startup America here, which is one of our,
one of the President's main initiatives and drives toward
increasing entrepreneurship and supporting entrepreneurs around
the country.
And there is the government side, which is Startup America,
and the non-profit side, which is is a resource that is also
available to you, and one that will be adding many more
networks and sources of information in the weeks and
months to come.
So part of our commitment as we think about this space is how to
make sure that you all, to your point about raising awareness,
how do we make sure that not only do you know about the SBA,
which is very important, you should know about the SBA,
but also that you know about other government programs and
resources that can help you get off the ground or navigate some
of the first issues that come and face really everybody who is
in the entrepreneurial space, but also that those networks
that the gentleman in the back mentioned about educational
networks, ecosystems, accelerators --
MassChallenge is a great one in Boston --
and so we want to make sure that we're connecting you.
Are there other questions?
Let's go here.
Audience Member: Hello.
My name is (inaudible) and I go to the George
Washington University.
So coming from the student perspective,
I'm very interested in what is more along the lines of social
entrepreneurship, and I think that we all share the
same qualities.
So this question is for all of you guys.
There is something that business models can do to be successful,
be profitable, and help their community.
What do you think you guys are doing right now to help your
community, aside from generating jobs, which is very important?
And what do you think that you can do combining your resources
with the issues in your community to make your business
not only be profitable but also be positive for your community?
So that's my question.
Alex Rincon: I'll take that one real quick.
That really hits close to home for me.
My business, again, is a for-profit retail store,
but some might look at me as a bad entrepreneur in the sense
that I don't have a focus on the profitability of the company,
although it is very profitable.
My focus is exactly on the community,
and not just providing a service for the community by offering
products that aren't available there,
or jobs for some of the college and high school students,
or a fun concert to go to, but more so on the social causes of
each community, whether it be education,
whether it be a children's hospital, whether it be,
you know -- we held a fundraiser for the earthquake
in Haiti.
We do different things like this,
and we don't do it as an advertising thing or
marketing thing.
We do it as, this is what we think how businesses
should behave.
I feel that a lot of businesses, especially big businesses,
tend to lose that sense of social responsibility,
and they operate more off of profitability.
In my process of how I've run my business, you know,
there is definitely some times where I know that I could make
more profits if I went one way.
For example, our number one products are our name brand
clothing, four0six Clothing, and it's all made in the U.S.
And even though I'm just a little store in Helena,
Montana that's making, you know, some T-shirts for around
Montana, it doesn't make a huge impact.
But if more businesses adopted that mentality of supporting
local economy, I really feel like it would grow a lot
bigger from that.
A lot of our customers could care less.
If it was made in China, I'd make three times as more profit,
they're still happy they have a product,
but it doesn't really -- it stops there.
Giving back to the community, I think,
is what's grown my business.
Everyone that supports the store feels like they're contributing
to their local community, not just some retailer.
So I guess I'm kind of all over the place there,
but what I'm trying to say, I guess,
is definitely focus on what the cause is and go for that,
and good things will come.
Josh Linkner: What we're doing here, so we launched Detroit Venture
Partners about a year ago, my partners and I,
with a couple purposes in mind.
One, we felt the region is vastly underserved from a
venture capital standpoint, that there's amazingly talented
entrepreneurs and technology and great universities and a lack of
organized early stage venture capital.
But what we're trying to do is not just sort of make money but
make a difference in our city and help rebuild our city
through entrepreneurial fire.
And what we're doing is trying to say that it's okay.
I mean, it's always the first person that gets out there and
puts themselves out is very scary,
but once others see that it can be done,
then it provides more of a safe environment.
And so we're trying to seed a lot of businesses in downtown
Detroit and show that it can be done and show that people are
passionately committed to the cause.
And I think, in other words, we're trying to create a
symbolic effort in addition to our own for-profit
capital effort.
The nice thing is it started to get some momentum.
We recently brought in a new partner to our firm,
Earvin Magic Johnson, who is Michiganian by trade, you know,
he lives in LA now.
But he saw what we were doing, got excited about it,
and has invested a lot of money with us to help rebuild Detroit.
So we think that while that's a nice PR win for us individually,
more importantly it's a win for our city and our region to show
that, hey, this is a place that people who have the opportunity
to invest anywhere choose to invest in Detroit because we can
make a real difference.
Kwanza Fisher: I think that businesses should really recognize and emphasize
the marketing opportunity that's available when they're investing
or, you know, giving back to the community and really
focus on that.
They're going to spend money on marketing and
advertising anyway.
Think about ways in which you can use your already established
goal or inclination to support the community and also market at
the same time.
So in a sense, killing two birds with one stone.
And I think people really need to remember that fact that they
can indeed market themselves through supporting causes.
Ari Matusiak: Other questions?
We have one here.
Audience Member: Hello, my name is (inaudible) and I represent Howard
University's ACAP program.
As a youth ambassador of HRS Princess Foundation,
my question is: What do you suggest are good ways to keep
people in middle school and high school programs in school become
more entrepreneurs?
What do you suggest are good ways?
Erica Zidel: Well, I would say giving them the opportunity.
I mean, you know, as I mentioned,
and I won't talk about my son the entire time,
but as a mother, you know, it's amazing to see what young people
can do if given the chance and what they're capable of.
So really giving them the ownership to take that
initiative, you know, competitions are a great way to
incent that and to really give them the opportunity to showcase
to other people and to instill that sense of pride in
themselves that they can accomplish these things and to
work to strive harder to do so.
Zach Hamilton: Yeah, I would like to comment on that too,
just because I started my first company when I was like 12 or 13
years old, so that age group right there.
And what kept me around is, actually,
started to get some results.
I was actually making money and yet getting laughed at the whole
way by my teachers, classmates, and everything, you know;
who wants to be friends with the kid who mows lawns?
You know, and it's actually giving them, one, the chance,
but also just the support, just the hey,
you're doing a good job, as opposed to acting like they're
doing something wrong by not doing really well in school and
not doing all the stuff that you're supposed to do.
What's wrong with starting a company and going the way that
you want to go?
Josh Linkner: I want to add to that.
I actually think there should be a mandatory course in middle
school called "Making Mistakes."
Because the thing is that we're taught that mistakes are
horrible and it's the worst thing you can possibly do,
and they should be avoided at all costs.
But in reality, mistakes are simply the portals of discovery.
And I think at an early age if we can learn the difference
between risky things that would endanger safety and responsible
risk taking that would empower people to go out on a limb and
try new things and really create.
Now, the problem often in schools,
both public and private, is we're taught to follow the
rules, guess what the teacher knows,
there's only one right answer, don't ever make a mistake.
But if we do that in real life, that's a surefire path
to mediocrity.
And so I think that we need to encourage kids that it's okay to
go out on a limb, it's okay to express your creativity,
it's okay to be different, because that is, in turn,
what will enable entrepreneurship.
Ari Matusiak: In the back.
Audience Member: So, my name's Jason.
I'm not representing anything.
I just have a question.
One of the things that Scott spoke about that I thought was
really powerful was that we need to reduce the unemployment rate,
in particular among younger people,
and it's great for all of us to go out here and start
companies, right?
I own one, I'm very fortunate about that.
What's going to actually get you guys from a government
standpoint, because we have so many great government people
here, to hire more people, because ultimately,
is there anything the government can do --
and I don't mean to be politically insensitive,
but I mean practically to do to get you to hire more people and
grow your business?
Is there anything they can start doing or stop doing that would
help you as the executive who runs it to go out there and hire
more people now?
Craig Cordes: I'll take this one.
I currently employ 44 people, and one of the hardest things to
do is find good workers that actually want to show
up to work.
And, you know, there has been times where I've had to,
you know, decrease the pay for certain actions,
and I've been told three or four different time that I can make
more money in unemployment, I'm just going to quit.
Which is actually kind of sad to say that you have a job but yet
you're going to go try to file unemployment or go back on
unemployment and not work, which actually makes
absolutely no sense.
So I think I heard someone say on the news or a senator say one
thing that you could do is create these little vouchers,
give them to companies, instead of giving the unemployment check
to Jay, who is sitting on the couch,
give them to a company they can only hire from this pool of
people who are unemployed, instead of giving the check to
that person, they're giving it to the company to create a job
to get the person off the couch to make them more confident.
You know, a lot of these people who are unemployed right now are
not confident.
You know, they may have worked.
They just can't get out of bed and there's no confidence.
And not only does it help them to get out of bed and create
confidence, but it also may help them create a job for
themselves, and it also benefits the company.
Ultimately, it's expensive to hire somebody.
You know, I look at my employer taxes, it's a lot of money.
And so, you know, I'm very selective on how many people we
hire and who we hire, because you're making an investment.
And so, as a strategic person who make investments,
you want to make the right ones.
And if you don't make them, you're going to lose.
So I really think a voucher system,
instead of just continuing to give money to these people who
are unemployed, it would be to give them to the companies to
create the jobs.
Essentially, it's free labor for the employer, and it gets,
you know, things moving a little bit better in America.
That's my personal opinion.
Ari Matusiak: Other people, other champions have comments about
this, or thoughts?
Torya Blanchard: Your question was, how can the government help create more --
what was your question again?
Audience Member: The short of it is, is we have all these great government
leaders here.
What do you think the government can do that will actually get
you to hire more people, they can either start doing or stop
doing, from a (inaudible) standpoint?
Torya Blanchard: Well, currently right now in Detroit,
the government has actually been very active in giving loan funds
through different nonprofits, giving money to the nonprofits
to give to me to start more businesses.
So that's how, you know, I started from being a French
teacher to opening up several businesses, and there it
is, I guess.
So that's the way that the government has stepped in to
create more jobs.
Erica Zidel: I would add that I think increasing the number of grants
to startups and small businesses,
especially along the lines of performance based, I know,
you know, as a CEO of a small company,
one of my biggest challenges is just, is raising money,
and raising money is a distraction from my core
business, which is not about raising money.
I raise money so that I can, so that my business can grow and so
that I can hire more people.
But there's sort of a ying and a yang problem there where,
you know, I can't grow it until I have that money.
And so for, you know, for high growth startups,
I think more government grants and easier access to that money.
I think there's a lot of potential grants out there that
small businesses have trouble finding out about.
Audience Member: Thank you.
Ari Matusiak: Anybody else want to jump in?
Josh Linkner: I just want to comment later on down the life cycle,
not so much early stage, but I think that the IPO market had
shut down so much because of Sarbanes-Oxley and such overly
burdensome regulation.
And, you know, when you look at the entire path of the
entrepreneurial effort from, you know,
starting something in a garage to ultimately having an exit,
which gets, you know, folks like us, venture capitalists,
excited about it, if a major source of the IPO market is
either overly burdensome or closed or requires you to get
much further on, that actually slows the rate of
entrepreneurship in my mind.
So I kind of feel like most entrepreneurs will figure out
how to get it done.
They don't need a handout, they don't need the government to
hold their hand, but what they want to do is have a regulatory
environment that's supportive overall and isn't putting a
burden on entrepreneurship.
It doesn't slow things down.
In fact, it accelerates it.
Ari Matusiak: Great.
I think we have time for one more question.
Sir, in the back?
Audience Member: I just love this topic of mistakes and failure,
and I just want to dwell on that, if we can,
just for a second.
I'm Jonathan (inaudible) with the Kauffman Foundation,
and (inaudible).
And first of all, I want to say, don't worry, you're not --
you know, the average -- at Kauffman,
we have one data point that says the average age of a U.S.-born
entrepreneur is actually 39 years old.
So don't be too frightened about this.
But you have to kind of ask, because most of the
entrepreneurs we look at are entrepreneurs who are often
younger entrepreneurs, like those in this room.
So when we put out a data point like that, someone says,
you know, how is this occurring?
And I think one of the things we're observing is that
something that I get to see, because half of my portfolio is
outside the United States is the jealousy in the United States,
outside the United States, for the fact that we have
adopted failure.
And so my question for you, if anybody wants to comment is,
how much have we really adopted what the rest of the world
thinks we're so lucky in America, you know,
you're not looked down upon when you fail,
you get back on the saddle, and you do it again.
But how much do we actually really practice what people
say we preach?
I have actually started trying to not use the word
failure anymore.
I tend to try to use the word recycle.
You know, there are ideas, there are people,
there are teams that form firms and that will go on and form
more firms, and maybe their biggest success will come when
they're 39 years old.
But anybody got a comment on this,
about whether we could do doing better collectively as
young entrepreneurs?
I started my first company when I was 19 years old in microchip,
and I -- but the most successful one was 12 years later.
So I ask you, how much is failure a critical thing for us
to adopt?
Erica Zidel: I would say that, you know, it differs.
So failure from people, from others, they accept failure.
So if I were to fail at something,
I would get the support of my peers.
But the internalization from me and the pressure that I put on
myself, I don't think -- I would say if anything we put more
pressure on ourselves to be successful and that, you know,
as very driven individuals we are our harshest critics.
So I don't see it as -- I don't see it I see compensation for
what actually goes on behind the scenes.
Torya Blanchard: Real quick.
I know a lot of people gasped when I said cash out your
401(k), but that's what I did, actually.
And when I started my business, I just bet everything that it
was going to succeed.
I just said, I'm going to put my whole life, my money,
all this money, and if it failed,
would I have been totally comfortable with that,
and I would just do something else.
I cashed out my 401(k).
So what?
I'm young.
I'll just start saving some more money.
I mean, I think we need to embrace that.
If any of you out there are interested in opening --
starting a business, have you to be very comfortable with
failure, and you have to be comfortable if you lose
everything that you can accept that, can you move on,
and keep going.
Zach Hamilton: I like the -- one of my favorite things about being an
entrepreneur is no matter what happens, it's your fault.
So if you make $100 million next two weeks, it's your fault,
but if you run your business into the ground,
it's your fault.
And kind of going on that, there's different ways
of failing.
There's failing because you get too wrapped up in talking about
your venture and going out to bars and partying and blowing
all this money, that's failure for a dumb reason,
but if it's failure for an external factor,
some new technology comes around and just wipes your company off
the map, that's a whole different story.
That's an acceptable failure to move on from.
Andrew Yang: You know, I think Josh hit the nail on the head when he talks
about how school guides you in a way where mistakes are frowned
upon, and I think that the more schooling you get,
the more that socialization develops.
So I believe that the fear of failure actually is somewhat
inversely related to how much exposure you have in educational
environments and professional service environments.
And I think it's vital to be able to present an appetite for
failure to people who have advanced degrees and are very
far along in terms of schooling so that they can take risks in
greater proportion.
Josh Linkner: I've had the chance to, you know,
really privileged to talk to a lot of fairly successful people,
and it seems that those people look at failure differently.
And I think it's a short-term versus long-term thing.
So if you say, what's a failure in the next five minutes?
That's maybe the way that most Americans, unfortunately,
look at things.
They look at short-term value.
What's going to happen this week or this month.
But if you zoom out and you say, wow,
wouldn't it be a failure 40 years from now or 50 or 80 years
from now when we're on our death bed and we look back and say,
I should have, could have, would have.
Look at all the risks I didn't take.
Look at all the opportunities that I passed by because I
was too scared.
I would call that a much bigger failure.
So I think the what can we do, we collectively, government,
business folks, educators alike, can drive that message that I
think the biggest failure any of us can make as a human being is
not living up to our full potential.
In any case, to hit that potential it certainly requires
responsible risk taking along the journey.
Alex Rincon: One last thing to add to that.
I think that the name of the game is doing something that
you're passionate about.
You know, it's doing something that, you know,
in school failure is frowned upon -- sorry about that.
The other thing in school is that you're expected to be the
best at everything.
So if you do great in Math, great in English,
great in Science but you, you know,
didn't do so good in geography, then that's what they focus on
is what you did bad on.
Now you're grown up.
Focus on what you do good at and employ other people that are
good at what they do.
Vertically integrate.
If you're really good at marketing or design,
bring someone else that's good with finance,
someone that's good with branding.
Again, doing something that you're passionate about and
going for it, take the risk, I think the incentive is that
you're doing it for yourself.
And, you know, like you said, whatever happens,
it's your fault.
Ari Matusiak: Well, let's give our champions a round of applause.
This has been a great conversation,
and I do want to -- I'm going to introduce Ronnie in just a
second, but I want to take a moment of privilege here and
just say that one of the great opportunities of convenings like
this is that there are a lot of people who aren't on the stage
who are also talented, have a lot of offer and a lot of advice
to give, and I would encourage everyone here to linger a little
bit and try to find one another and make connections and start
conversations that hopefully can last beyond this gathering
here today.
And it's something -- it's part of what we hope happens through
this series and it's a great group of people who are here,
not just on the stage.
Obviously we have wonderful people on stage,
but everyone in the room.
One of the people here who is responsible for this whole thing
happening is Ronnie Cho.
Ronnie is actually one of our newest colleagues here in Office
of Public Engagement, and he is the new liaison to young
Americans and is really just -- this is his first event.
So he did a pretty good job.
So, would you give a round of applause for Ronnie and then
bring him up.
Ronnie Cho: Hello, everyone.
So this is my first event, and I hope you enjoyed it.
I certainly did.
I want to thank everyone who came.
I know our champions themselves who traveled great distances had
a very compact timeline, and so I want to say how grateful we
are that you are here, but more than that,
grateful for all the things that you're doing to win the future
for this country.
Keeping with that, you know, you don't get to be invited to the
White House simply because you're that great.
I mean, you are great.
But you get here because others believed in you.
And we've had a lot of people here who believed in you,
who believe in you, who have nominated you,
who have supported your businesses -- family,
friends who helped max out your credit cards,
max out their credit cards and really invest is the word I want
to emphasize.
And this concept of investment within ourselves,
our communities, our neighborhoods,
our family is the only way we're going to continue to lead the
world the way that we have.
And speaking from a young person --
and so many of us here in this room are of this generation --
that we have this tremendous opportunity,
if not an obligation, to seize upon this moment and emerge as
John Carson had said, the next great generation.
You know, the resources that we have here are
really unparalleled.
We are technology natives.
We are of this time.
We are of this era.
And the world is a lot smaller than it's ever been,
and that's an advantage, and this entrepreneurship is a core
American value that is a tremendous competitive advantage
that we hold versus virtually every other country in the
world, and that gap is narrowing every day,
but as long as we are investing in ourselves, in each other,
I would never bet against the United States and certainly not
against this generation of which I'm very proud to be a part of.
And so with that, I encourage you, as John had said,
to share the stories that you have heard today.
And hopefully they've inspired you to go home,
not only to start your own companies,
but to help the young person in your life support theirs.
And sort of let's move this forward, let's keep it going,
and, again, we're winning the future everyday,
and it starts someplace like this,
but it really happens in communities when you guys go
back home to wherever you came from.
So with that, I'd like to introduce one of our great
partners in developing and shaping this great event,
Christine Lagorio of
Christine, are you here?
You're right here, all right.
And so if she'd come up and give some final remarks.
And again, thank you so much for being here.
My contact information is in every single one of
your packets.
So I look forward to hearing from you.
And I have your contact information because you sent me
your secret service data so I can track you down, and I will.
So, ladies and gentlemen, Christine.
Christine Lagorio: It's a tricky stage to get up on.
Thank you so much, Ronnie, and thank you so much for putting
this together.
It's amazing to be on stage with all of you
wonderful entrepreneurs.
I thank you for sharing your experiences with us,
just being here today, and thank you for being the catalyst of
change in your communities.
As a reporter for Inc., I spend most of my days talking with
young entrepreneurs with startups and with the innovators
in our country.
I hear three things very, very often, and the first one is,
are you going to write about me?
The second is, starting a business is the hardest thing
I've ever done.
The third is, am I crazy?
For the third question, I always answer a definitive no.
It's true, starting a company is one of the hardest things a
person can do, but today it's one of the most important.
And as we've heard today, young entrepreneurs are some of the
people with the coolest ideas in this country.
They're creating jobs, they are innovating,
and they are inspiring others to do the same.
You've heard from people like Jennifer Medbery,
who is changing the way we think about educating our kids.
You heard from Josh Linkner, who is working to change the future
of Detroit, one of this country's most important and
most depressed cities.
And there's also Torya, who cashed in her 401(k).
They're all very different, but we're here with the same goals.
For those of you who aren't Inc. readers,
I just wanted to say that Inc. has been devoting to helping out
small companies and entrepreneurs since 1979,
which was a time when the definition of entrepreneur
involved something like someone who had recently done jail time.
Then today we understood that the real business news happens
every day in the country's small privately held companies,
not on Wall Street.
In these private companies, drama unfolds every day where
innovation, creativity and a strong sense of purpose results
in job generation and these fast growing companies.
I wanted to mention that in just six weeks,
Inc. is bringing about 2,000 of these small companies and
entrepreneurs back to Washington, D.C.,
we're based in New York, to celebrate what many would argue
is the most resilient group of Inc. 500 winners.
This has been going on for about 30 years.
This is a group of companies that is so driven by
entrepreneurial excellence that they've created tens of
thousands of jobs, and this year have achieved up to a growth
rate of 40,000% over three years.
So, on behalf of Inc., we would like to invite any of the White
House staff involved in these Champions of Change events to
join us and experience more of these champions in action.
Ronnie, Ari, and Josh, this means you.
And I'd like to say from myself and everyone in the room a
sincere thanks to the Obama administration for putting this
series together.
And thank you, Ronnie, for organizing this entire thing.
It's very, very impressive as your first action at work.
You're a great addition to the White House.
And if you ever decide to go back to the Fourth Estate,
I'm sure there will be a job for you.
So, thank you, everyone, for coming today and sharing all of
your experiences.
With that, I'll turn it back to Ronnie.
Ronnie Cho: All right, folks, well, that concludes our program.
I wanted to say thanks to all of our speakers,
our program developing team that we've put together here,
and get home safely.
Remember to tweet @WhiteHouse #WHChamps once you get reception
out of this building, and let us know anything that we should
know about that you're working on in your community.