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