Archive for the 'Entrepreneurship' Category

Ashton Kutcher on ABC Nightline

Friday, May 28th, 2010


I know who Ashton Kutcher is from Punk’d and not much else. I have never seen That 70s Show or hardly anything else he has ever done. So I never really could figure out how he had so many Twitter followers or why he was so famous when it seems like he hasn’t done anything significant since Punk’d. But after watching this piece on ABC Nightline it makes a lot more sense. Kutcher is extremely impressive. Check out the video.

Illini Ventures Launch

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Since I have been here at the University of Illinois, I have met a lot of incredibly creative people. Many of them have dreams of owning their own business and some have even started their own ventures. Unfortunately, the only way an ordinary student would know about these student ventures would be to meet them by chance or to hear about them somewhere, most likely word of mouth. My partner, Bruce Ackerman, thought it would be a great idea to create a place where all the students could go to find out what their fellow students had going and were working on and decided to create Illini Ventures. I am excited to be helping him provide content for the site and hopefully it proves to be a success. It just launched and is already beginning to get student venture submissions. Check it out here!

Hello, Social Entrepreneurship

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

When I heard that Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Muhammad Yunus was coming to campus I did a little research on him to get an idea of who he was and what he did. There is a lot of interesting information about him and to hear him speak about the issues that he focuses on is fascinating. But the one thing that stuck out more than anything to me was the term social entrepreneurship. Maybe I’m late but it was the first time I had ever heard of it and I wanted to know more.

I consulted Wikipedia for a definition which they give as: someone who recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make social change. Initially I thought it sounded like a charitable venture. Then I realized it was different, although I believe the two are related.

Dr. Yunus really makes you think about what it is you intend to do with your entrepreneurial endeavors. With so many people trying to get rich, what about trying to help others too? And the next thought I had was, why don’t they ever mention this in school?

I believe this is a major shortcoming of the media’s portrayal of entrepreneurship. The only type of enterprise that is advocated is something that will produce wealth. School does no work to paint another picture of social consciousness. This has to be changed. In order to change the direction and influence of the future we need to offer students more curriculum choices pertaining to social change. They put in plenty of time training us to become corporate warriors. Mixing it up a bit can’t hurt. Nobody talks about creating value for those who need help, only shareholders.

Which brings me to the question of, if people thought not only in terms of creating enterprise for wealth but for world problems, how would the world be different? How many problems could be solved if the same minds who develop the world’s leading technologies were trying to figure out a way to make sure every child could read and write? While there would still be problems that needed to be solved, more problems would be addressed more frequently and with more vigor than most are being considered right now.

Part of the reason there are so many areas of need around the world is because of the state of a country’s local government. Whether that government be corrupt or simply in a state of devastation, they are often the sole place where problems are also expected to be solved for the citizens of that country. How is that government going to solve problems for its people when it can’t even resolve many of its internal issues? Even the highest functioning governments are full of bureaucracy that prevent or delay actions that need to be taken in order to help others.

A solution is to put the aide in the hands of private enterprise. Allow businesses to operate without that governmental red tape to develop ways to help the neediest of people. Many for profit corporations do great work to help people get things such as medicine, clothes, water, etc. But that isn’t their focus. They have other things to worry about and philanthropy is a branch of their large tree. Give a social corporation the same resources, but with the focus on helping others and the results would certainly be much better.

Everybody doesn’t have to start a social business. Trying to start any kind of business is difficult. But when we get a great idea we want to move on, or are having a brainstorming session to think about our next possible venture, let’s also give a couple minutes to social change. Clear out a corner of the white board for public issues we may be able to help resolve. After all, ideas can come from anywhere and for anything. We just need to open our minds to every possibility and let the rest flow from there.

*Photo credit to: Mark Paik

Dr. Muhammad Yunus at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Monday, March 1st, 2010

2006 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Dr. Muhammad Yunus, is coming to speak today here at the University of Illinois. Dr. Yunus received the award for his work in social and economic development through his Grameen Bank in impoverished areas. I find it absolutely faschinating that 96% of Grameen Bank’s borrowers are women. I also find the bank’s 20% interest rate fascinating! Upon doing some reasearch it appears that his bank is somewhat controversial depending on who’s opinion you seek. Either way, nobody can take that Nobel Peace Prize from him and I assume he had good reason to earn it. I look forward to hearing Dr. Yunus speak and hear some of his opinions on social entrepreneurship. Watch Dr. Yunus in Creating A Poverty Free World after the jump.

Inside IDEO the Innovative Design Firm

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Last week in my Organizational Behavior class we watched a video about IDEO. It is a design and consultancy firm that innovates for the biggest companies in the world. I had never heard of them until now and didn’t realize such companies existed. I thought the video was super cool and fascinating. The whole idea of what they do is intriguing to me. I believe that it is not only beneficial for existing companies but the process in general is great for anybody who wants to improve or create something and then turn it into a business. One of the infamous legends of Google is their white board where they just spin off idea after idea to prompt new products and services. These types of activities are powerful and effective and if adapted to each company or team’s needs I believe would be advantageous. All three parts of the ABC Nightline feature after the jump.

I’m An Entrepreneur

Friday, February 19th, 2010

This week we were in our screen printing shop preparing to fill an order when my partner, Bruce Ackerman, had a random thought. He said something to the effect of, “dude did you ever think about the fact that we’re entrepreneurs?”

I gave him the side eye before replying, “ya think?”

“I guess it’s true. But I am not comfortable using that word. It sounds weird,” said Bruce.

Now, I can kind of sympathize with the weird part. After he mentioned it I started to think about how many times I told somebody I was an entrepreneur, or anything remotely close to such a description. Then it occurred to me that I just about never said that word outright and at most said ‘I have a business.’ Even then I generally reduced said business to a serious hobby, turned into a business largely for legal reasons!

It was then that I realized Bruce had a point. Sorry for the side eye. I continued to delve into my own use of the word. I realized that I put it in writing fairly often. It is the easiest way to convey what I do. One word encompasses a lot. But when talking to someone in person It occurred to me that I preferred to explain some of my ventures in depth, probably in an attempt to make them seem more mundane.

Subconsciously, I think I relate entrepreneurship with somewhat of a rebellious, if not rogue image. And I do not think of myself as rebellious or roguish. My guess would be that a fair portion of society views the term in a similar light. Risk takers who prefer not to fit the mold that most of the population chooses to fall in line with. This may be where my self-image and entrepreneurship break off.

I don’t think there is anything roguish or daring about being an entrepreneur. I see it as another path that people take in life. Now we may have some characteristics that emerge more often than others but we aren’t always trail blazers. To me, anybody who recognizes and leverages the value of themselves, or creates an entity that adds value to the lives of others could be considered entrepreneurial.

The person who owns your local barbershop, hair or tanning salon is an entrepreneur. What’s so different about that? Nothing to me. They are just small business owners. I probably view myself more along those lines, in terms of pure relational factors. But they really are one in the same. The barber took the same chances starting his own shop as the software engineer who developed a new technology and got venture capital to back his or her idea. But one seems more glamorous or daring than the other, right?

Why is that? I think it is because if we acknowledged such reality on a regular basis it would take away from the aura that comes with being an entrepreneur. We like to think that entrepreneurs are rare. They come along once in a while and must have some special ingredients that they channel to invent, design, and innovate. It’s true that entrepreneurship spawns great invention and innovation, but it is also the foundation of our society and an essence of everyday living. We use the services of entrepreneurs everyday, and we often know them personally. But it rarely dawns on us.

We should recognize this and take advantage of the opportunity we have to help each other grow and learn. We often think we have to reach out to some guru via the internet or buy a book to get advice about our startup or idea. How about talking to the local McDonald’s franchise owner, or picking the brain of your insurance agent? They may have a word of wisdom or two for you as well.

Start a SUCCESSFUL Clothing Company

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

Over on my blog Lurk99Cents, my partner Bruce Ackerman just posted some thoughts on a subject that is frequently asked to us about starting a clothing company. Bruce decided that he wanted to expand the response he sent in his email reply for anybody interested in the topic to be able to access and read. So here is what he said to the young company in a nutshell with some expanded add-ins. I will be tackling issues on the same topics later on here on my own website.