All Articles Tagged "entrepreneurs"
Brian Shields started IncubateNYC, an educational community and incubation program for entrepreneurs, with co-founder Marcus Mayo in January 2012. “We designed our incubation program specifically to help aspiring entrepreneurs get started the right way and to continue to make progress. We accomplish this through the power of community,” reads the group’s website. The organization currently has 60 alumni who have gone through the incubation program, and is planning to expand more in 2013.
Shields spoke to Madame Noire about diversity within the technology industry and among entrepreneurs, advice for starting a business, and his personal journey with IncubateNYC.
Madame Noire: Tell us more about IncubateNYC and your role there.
Brian Shields: IncubateNYC is an entrepreneurial education organization that provides people curriculum and content through experiences. We’re really big on learning by doing and everything we do is tailored adult education that helps people learn in the most effective way. To learn sales, we make them pitch, which is obvious. Or to teach market research fundamentals, we make participants go out and talk to people. We make people learn things by executing it and we provide content around it.
Marcus and I have known each other for 10 years and tried to start a bunch of businesses, but we weren’t super passionate about any of them. We’ve been angel investing for a long time and decided that, because we’ve seen so many great things through entrepreneurs, learned a ton from working with and advising them, and funding them and seeing great exits, we decided to create an academy that provided people the education they needed to be successful.
MN: What are the goals for Incubate?
BS: From a business standpoint, this year is really about rocking out with the companies that we have. We’ve had about 60 founders come through so far in our six months of existence. So it is about enriching the alumni program and continued incubation.
And for next year, our goal is to roll out a la carte classes for people in three areas: business, product development, and industry expertise. One of the most important things is you have to know the industry you’re in and people who are entrepreneurial really thirst for learning more from people. We bring in new people once a month to talk about different industries. We’re going to be doing music in January.
MN: You said there are 60 alumni so far. What are some of the success stories from IncubateNYC?
BS: One example is a company called The Women’s Age, which is a media business for women to have a conversation about their ages and aging gracefully. This is a woman who is about 33 but most of the people in her family have died really young. She’s created this platform to celebrate women aging gracefully, through a combination of written media and a ton of guest bloggers and video content, like talk shows and interviews.
When she first came to the program she had a business idea that she wasn’t totally connected to, but [the experiential learning] eventually got her to this. She’s been doing this for two months, taught herself HTML and CSS, and started her own website.
MN: What is the percentage of blacks and women in your program?
BS: Our program is about 70 percent minorities, meaning not white males. It’s not by design. We are open to everybody and aren’t minority focused, but it is partially because Marcus and I are minorities and people gravitate to people they know. There are great programs like NewME, which are specifically minority focused. But we have the belief that the best want to work with the best, so we hope to attract the best.
MN: What can be done overall to get more minorities into technology and digital fields? How can the industry attract African Americans?
BS: You have to make tech cool. “Cool” is a relative term and “cool” is different for people who have grown up with two parents or parents who were doctors or teachers or bankers. They understand the fundamentals of business or math and science, and where that can take your career. But for a lot of minorities, in particular African Americans, our culture isn’t defined totally by that, [particularly] if there is a separation in the family foundation.
It would be great to elevate role models who people can relate to. That’s a big part of it. If I were to rewind the clock, I don’t know if I would relate to Mark Zuckerberg. Think about the impact that Barack Obama’s election had on people’s vision of what’s possible in this country, race-agnostic, and I think that can be applied to a business industry that is meritocratic in and of itself.
MN: What about diversity within investors? Is that something that is changing or on the rise?
BS: It’s changing. It’s the chicken or the egg thing when you are trying to get people in. It’s the same thing with women. Do you need more women investors or do you need more women entrepreneurs? Can you have one without the other?
If you look at the way the VC market is going now; it’s going more heavily operational. Entrepreneurs want to work with a funder or investor who understands what they are dealing with and who can help them think through questions, not just somebody who is about money. Entrepreneurs want to work with somebody who understands them and you can cut that down any segment or line: women, minorities.
MN: What is your advice for people who are starting out with their own business and how to jump in?
BS: My general advice is, look, it’s going to be hard and you aren’t going to make the right decisions. There’s a lot of research that says 2/3 of business decisions, either in new business or corporate, is going to be wrong. So just go do it; you’re not going to be right. But being wrong is the fastest teacher and you’ll learn the right answer sooner. And just stick with it. The hardest thing we find is getting started and then sticking with it. We tried to start like eight businesses, but we couldn’t stick with it because we weren’t passionate about it. So find that thing that really matters.
Quote that inspires you: “Life’s battles don’t always go to the stronger or faster man; But sooner or later the man who wins is the one who thinks he can.” – Walter D. Wintle, “The Man Who Thinks He Can”
Favorite Website: LinkedIn’s News Section
Current Read: The Start-Up of You, by Reid Hoffman
Who Inspires You and Why: My Mom. Whenever I think about where I am today and the viewpoints I have on life, I have always appreciated my mom for that.
Ready for another one of my “Behind The Click” profiles? I’m particularly interested to bring you this column on someone who’s making a contribution to the tech arena in a way which I don’t normally cover. Erin Horne Montgomery serves as the president and executive director of the National Association of Multicultural Digital Entrepreneurs. NAMDE advocates for, unites and promotes the interests of diverse companies, organizations, individuals and entities within the technology and broadband market industries.
Given the imbalance oftentimes in the tech arena, an organization such as NAMDE is important to have at your fingertips. But Erin, like many women, easily multitasks. She is also a graduate researcher at Howard University studying the participation of women and minority entrepreneurs in the innovation economy.
In the words of Slick Rick, “Here we go…”
Executive Director, National Association of Multicultural Digital Entrepreneurs (NAMDE)
The Information Society and the Black Community by John T. Barber and Alice A. Tait
2012′s ultimate goal:
To launch NAMDE’s app to better connect women and minority digital entrepreneurs.
Quote Governing Your Mission or a Quote that Inspires You:
Twitter handle: @namdedotorg
LdC: So, Erin, you are a graduate researcher at Howard, but you also did undegrad work there. How did you select Howard and how did you like it?
EHM: One of my favorite teachers in high school recommended Howard to me. I later found out that a lot of my family members attended HU as well. After that, I wasn’t interested in going to any other school.
EMH: My initial interest in tech came in the late 90s when one of my long-time mentors in entrepreneurship co-founded a start-up in Northern Virginia. He encouraged me to get active in this space.
EMH: Working with National Telecommunications and Information Administration was a phenomenal experience. I had a wonderful mentor in my supervisor, and I was able to learn a great deal first-hand how to impact policy.
EMH: My day usually starts with the reviewing of news stories online and tweeting topics of interest to our followers. Then I’m usually headed to a conference or meeting related to our issues. I also try to squeeze in some calls or emails to plan future NAMDE projects and events.
EHM: My biggest concern is that our community is being left behind in the innovation economy, from ownership to participation. I’m truly concerned about the long-term negative impacts on our community’s generational wealth potential.
EMH: Two of the biggest challenges black tech entrepreneurs face today are access to capital and access to the startup ecosystem. We’re almost completely excluded from both. How can one create a company, grow, and compete against other companies in this space when the resources available are limited and not equitable?
Hey All! It’s time for another “Behind The Click” profile from yours truly. Now, I recently found out about Kat Calvin because she is behind one of the first-ever black female hackathons. Not sure what that is? Read on. Because there is much more to Kat than just even organizing this event.
Calvin is the CEO and co-founder of Character’s Closet, a site that lists where you can buy the TV wardrobes from your favorite shows. She is also the founder of Michelle in Training, an educational and mentoring organization that teaches professional and life skills to high school girls. And she is about to bring the first black female hackathon to life.
Whew! I’m glad I found out about her through a particular Google Group of tech divas, and I’m glad — with all of that activity — that she had the time to sit down a bit for this interview. Here we go….
2012′s Ultimate goal:
Quote governing your mission:
Starting a new business can be frustrating, stressful and taxing. But believe it or not, according to a new study, entrepreneurs are the happiest — whether their business is a success or a failure.
The study by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business surveyed 11,000 graduates of the school’s MBA program, who were asked to rate their happiness with their career overall, their current job and their work-life balance, small business owners. About 20 percent of the graduates started their own businesses.
Although the study did find the more money someone earned, the happier they were, it also discovered “the role entrepreneurship played in a person’s overall career satisfaction,” reports The Street. “If money really was the key to happiness, you would expect the high-level execs at financial firms to rate themselves as happiest. But that wasn’t the case. Grads running their own businesses ranked themselves happier than all other professions, regardless of how much money they made.” Only 56 percent of the Wharton grads who started their own businesses actually made a profit.
The entrepreneurs in the study also felt they had more control over their time—even if they worked endless hours getting their business off the ground. “Grads running their own businesses also rated themselves higher than any other profession when it came to work-life balance,” writes The Street. “An entrepreneur can choose to take a break to attend a daughter’s soccer game or son’s school play, even if that means working late into the night afterward.”
It’s October 1, which means it’s the start of National Women’s Small Business Month. Huzzah! And while we’ve reported that resources can be hard to come by (microloan anyone? maybe a crowdfunding campaign?) there are signs that things might be turning around just a bit, for minority women business owners specifically and for black entrepreneurs, in general.
Wayne Sutton, founder and CEO of PitchTo, a company that creates tools for investors and entrepreneurs, argues on TechCrunch that now’s the time for minorities to not just be entrepreneurs, but also investors. Citing research from The Center for Venture Research, Sutton shows that there is a small but robust community of women and minority entrepreneurs who are seeking and getting angel investment.
Add to that an increased interest in startups among African-American entertainers, athletes and other assorted celebrities. “The fact that celebrities and athletes are getting more active in the tech startup space could also continue the increase in minority entrepreneurship in various cultures, especially for African-Americans who often look to the sports and entertainment industries for careers,” Sutton writes. “Now there are conferences such as Venture Draft, which educates and connects athletes to venture capitalists in the hopes of providing the necessary information that could spark investment opportunities to entrepreneurs in markets outside of Silicon Valley.”
Still, Sutton makes the appeal for more angel investors in minority businesses. In some ways, there’s simply the need for more investors to see the value in minority- and women-owned businesses; to be confident in the fact that these are capable entrepreneurs and you will make a return on your investment. In other ways, minorities and women are still growing in areas of entrepreneurship. Every day, women and minorities are learning more about the business world and making strides to capitalize on the profits and satisfaction it has to offer. This new breed of high-level businessperson will attract investors.
By way of helping, and in honor of the aforementioned National Women’s Small Business Month, the Small Business Administration (SBA) is hosting four webchats this month, where tips and advice will be available. We’ll also suggest that you keep an eye on the National Women’s Business Council, which is hosting a big event this week and, throughout the year, has the ear of government members and the SBA. If there’s something happening for women business owners that you can take advantage of, they’ll probably know about it.
With so many people struggling to deal with the rising costs of living and the staggering unemployment percentages throughout the nation, many people are thinking more seriously about going into business for themselves. The liberty to do what you please with your own time and the financial freedom that entrepreneurship provides are priceless. However, being a small business owner comes with its own challenges.
I own a small nonprofit consulting business and have a number of friends who have their own entrepreneurial endeavors. There is one frustration that it seems a few of us share. We’ve had clients who just don’t do right when it’s time to pay. Why oh why must we make it hard for the business owner who is trying to establish him or herself, build clientele, and end the year in the black? People rarely go to the register at a department store and negotiate the price of the merchandise they’re purchasing. They pay the price indicated on the tag. People don’t expect to walk out with items and then pay the store when they can; they understand that they are participating in business exchanges and that they must provide payment for a product in order to receive it. Why aren’t these simple concepts understood as readily when doing business with entrepreneurs?
I recall working with a client who I deeply discounted my services for because she started all of our conversations with long stories about how little she could afford, and I really wanted to help. I drafted a contract which she signed, secured the first payment installment and we began our work together. We worked with relatively few problems. That is until the work was complete and it was time for her to settle her account. It was at that point that Miss Lady began a disappearing act as impressive as Franklin of Terry McMillan’s popular novel with the same name. She was dodging phone calls, not responding to emails, the whole nine yards. When I finally caught up with her, she had spectacular stories for days to explain why she had been unavailable. I wasn’t concerned with much of what she had to say. My train of thought was essentially…forget that story, pay me! I got the money I was owed and I made a conscious decision to actively avoid similar situations in the future.
Moving forward, I implemented these simple commandments and you should too if you own a small business and want your money on time.
1. Only begin work with clients who demonstrate an ability to pay. If conversations about compensation are strained and leave you feeling uneasy, politely decline the business and walk away.
2. Set your own price and don’t allow clients to haggle you.
3. Be upfront about your payment policy and get it in writing,
4. Never begin work without at least securing a deposit, 50 percent preferably.
5. Stop working if a payment is delinquent and resume work once payment arrangements have been made.
6. Never deliver the final product before receiving the final payment.
7. Treat all business relationships as business relationships whether you’re doing business with family, friends, friends of friends, coworkers, etc.
8. Speak directly about compensation. If a client is actively avoiding the topic of payment, address the issue politely, but directly before payment is due and before a problem arises.
9. Be persistent. If a client owes you money, continue to follow up with them until payment is received.
10. If push comes to shove, utilize small claims court and collection agencies.
People deserve to be fairly compensated for the work that they do. If you’re a business owner, take the necessary steps to ensure that you get the money you’ve worked for every time. And if you’re patronizing friends and family who own their own businesses, stop fishing for a hook up and pay those people what they’re worth and ON TIME.
Sheena Bryant is a writer and blogger in Chicago. Follow her on twitter at @song_of_herself.
Any woman who is a true Sex and The City fan has jealously lusted for Carrie Bradshaw’s amazingly fashionable, eclectic wardrobe (we all got to know and love Mahnolo Blahniks through Carrie’s shoe obsession). But many of the items that Carrie rocked with such stylish flair were surprisingly found in vintage clothing boutiques. If you’re like me, you don’t have the first clue where to start when looking for classic items (I should really be ashamed of this living in New York City) but now it looks like maybe this “vintage gem” search doesn’t have to be so hard with virtual clothing resale store Imperfect Concepts Boutique.
Created by Southern University alum Tasha Robinson, Imperfect Concepts Boutique is an original resale boutique that offers affordable prices for vintage and modern fashion items. Unlike a consignment shop, the items are not provided by patrons in exchange for payment, but instead are carefully discovered and chosen by the Imperfect Concepts team from a variety of sources like vintage stores, thrift shops and estate sales. Robinson decided on the name “Imperfect Concepts” to pay homage to each item’s unique story. Never been interested in vintage fashion? Robinson tells her clients that there are a number of reasons why people should shop in vintage and consignment shops, including being able to find quality designer clothes for great prices, as well as developing your own personal style.
Armed with a degree in public relations and communications, Tasha was always very fashion conscious and displayed an uncanny sense of style. ICB was born out of her own frustration with not being able to receive fair value for her own exclusive pieces, as well as her need to do some major closet clean-up. “I was tired of not getting the full value of my clothes when I took them to consignment shops,” says Robinson. “When the store first started it featured a plethora of my clothing.”
Even with an ingenious idea like Imperfect Concepts Boutique, there are always obstacles and hurdles that come with being a entrepreneur. When Tasha first started her business she had to come to terms with the fact that she was not experienced in being a business owner, and had much to learn about how to handle the operation of a successful company. “When I started ICB there were thousands of resale stores, but not many that were not a part of Ebay. Therefore I had to learn everything on my own,” Tasha recalls. “I overcame this by researching and hiring people who knew what I couldn’t comprehend.”
Today Imperfect Concepts Boutique has over 3,000 monthly readers and a social media presence, most notably on the fashion industry’s virtual bulletin board Pinterest. Tasha has been doing so well that she is able to support herself solely as an entrepreneur, a feat that takes many business owners years to reach. Tasha manages her success by keeping organized objectives. “I have weekly and monthly sales goals that I adhere to,” explains Robinson. “The numbers are checked every quarter to make sure [they] are aligned with the yearly goals.”
Tasha’s advice for those wanting to start their own business? “Research the industry you want to enter intensely. Make sure you are bringing something to the table in your niche market. Wholeheartedly believe in yourself, company, product or service before you ask someone else to. Finally follow your passion. Money isn’t everything if you’re unhappy.” Now that’s a perfect concept.
Many of the speechmakers at this week’s Republican National Convention have been throwing out the “We built it” mantra, totally taking President Obama’s words out of context. They’ve been using the phrase to talk up all the good stuff that would happen for small business owners if Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan won the election. Last night, Rep. Paul Ryan took a moment to in his speech to tell listeners about his mom’s interior decorating business. (It also should be noted that many people are questioning the accuracy of many of the claims that Ryan made in his speech.)
But after taking a closer look at Rep. Ryan’s economic plan, Path to Prosperity, which would be the biggest indicator of which way he leans, there’s really no indication that entrepreneurs, and particularly minority and women entrepreneurs, would dramatically benefit from a change in the White House. Rep. Ryan would only be the Veep. But many suspect that President Mitt Romney would take cues from the plan Ryan has previously laid out before Congress. Entrepreneur provides an overview of its key points.
Moreover, Inc. magazine has this to say: “While in the budget Ryan mentions that he’d strip away regulatory bureaucracy that could ease the start of certain small businesses. But he voted against the Small Business Jobs Act, which some think increased contracting opportunities for the smallest businesses, and also increased the SBA’s lending capacity.” The article says that Ryan has promised to “close loopholes,” but it’s still unclear which ones those would be.
We’ve covered the struggles for minority and women-owned businesses to find financing and other resources for their businesses. (Check out this story about microloans for an interesting alternative.) That’s an area that we haven’t seen addressed by the campaign. Moreover, it’s an issue that really stems from the banks and their policies. For Wall Street, the biggest concern is regulation and the consumer protections that the Obama administration has proposed, which touches on some of those issues, but isn’t directly related. (Learn more about that here.) In terms of regulation, the GOP platform has favored less rather than more.
One thing is clear: the Republicans have some very serious problems attracting women and minority voters at the moment. Many have commented on the lack of diversity on the GOP convention floor. Insane policy suggestions surrounding women’s health have alienated many female voters. A recent poll shows Romney getting exactly zero percent of the black vote. And he’s not doing that much better with the Latino vote.
So Romney’s got a lot of voter problems and small business is just another one.
This summer, the Brick City Development Corporation (BCDC), Prudential Insurance and New Jersey Community Capital (NJCC) announced the BCDC Newark Fund, a loan program intended to help small businesses that want to set up shop in Newark, N.J. The program is just one part of a larger effort to bring companies to the city.
The largest city in the state, Newark is about 13 miles from Manhattan. It has experienced a resurgence over the past few years, boasting the area’s first new arena in a quarter century, the Prudential Center, which opened in 2007; a growing population, which is a big change from the previous decades when residents fled; and a landscape that’s being redesigned by an influx of new businesses, buildings, and green spaces, even urban farms. Just this week, Prudential, which has been headquartered in Newark for more than 130 years, got approval for a $444 million office facility.
Prudential has more than 50,000 employees around the world and $961 billion in assets under management. During the press conference announcing the new loan program, Lata Reddy, the company’s VP of corporate social responsibility noted that small business is “critical to the economic vitality of the city.”
With this latest fund, Marie Mascherin, chief lending officer at the NJCC, told us the partner organizations were trying to create an alternative to traditional sources, like banks, which have become more cautious about lending money to small businesses and startups. Add to that the lack of resources for minority-owned businesses and there’s a real need.
“We’re trying to fill a void that’s been created as a result of the banks pulling out,” says Mascherin.
According to BCDC CEO Lyneir Richardson, the goal of his organization “is to have a variety of tools” available to small business owners and minority entrepreneurs who need a helping hand.
“Our approach is to be proactive,” says Richardson. “We want to get the message out that if companies see an opportunity here, we can be the first stop.”
The organization has a number of funds, and millions of dollars have already been invested in building new businesses in the city, with “three or four deals in the pipeline,” Richardson says. Businesses that have already benefited from the BCDC’s help include a franchisee, a clothing retailer, two grocery stores (“solving the food desert problems,” says Richardson), a pediatric dentistry office, and hotels.
Besides the financial assistance the group offers, it also serves as the center of a small business network, connecting people and companies in a way that’s useful for all parties involved.
“Our work is more of a quarterback,” says Richardson. “Our goal is to make economic development happen.”
With all of that in mind, Richardson has four main reasons why small business owners should plant their flags in Newark:
- It’s close to New York.
- It’s a hub that’s accessible to Newark International Airport, home to to the third most active port in the country, and near trains and roads, which has proven handy for distribution companies.
- There’s great access to talent because of the five colleges (Rutgers and New Jersey Institute of Technology among them) and 44,000 students who live and study in the city.
- “Now we have this Mayor whose celebrity helps not only shine a light on the city, but on entrepreneurs,” says Richardson.
We see them on TV, and on the movie screen. We hear them on the radio. We follow them on Twitter. Our fave celebs are creating all kinds of buzz and blazing trails in everything they do. These business-savvy celebs have launched some lucrative ventures worth checking out. Take a look…
It seems that just about everything JHud touches turns to gold. First, it was her Oscar-worthy role in Dreamgirls. Then it was her Grammy-award winning debut album. Now it is Weight Watchers. JHud wowed us with her phenomenal weight loss reveal last year, and now she hopes to influence people in her native Chicago to do the same. JHud became the first celebrity to have a Weight Watchers center when she opened the Jennifer Hudson Weight Watchers Center in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood last fall.
What’s next for JHud? A launch of her new clothing line, the Jennifer Hudson Collection on QVC this fall, as well as recurring role on the hit NBC show Smash, where she’ll take on the role of Broadway star Veronica Moore.