Author Archive

Persistence

Posted: May 19, 2013 by Eileen Weisenbach Keller in Leadership, Planning, Startup

KellerA young father watched as his 1 year old daughter repeatedly stood and attempted to walk; only to fall, get up, and try again. The father was at once mesmerized by her indelible spirit of persistence and at the same time motivated to stop her, to protect her from getting hurt. Why then didn’t he pick her up…or hold her down to prevent injury?

He didn’t because he knew that this persistence was necessary. He knew too, beyond all doubt, that she would succeed. He did not expect her to succeed with a 25% probability that she would not; he knew the probability of success was absolute. So, watching her battle against gravity and the forces of nature meant watching her succeed, little by little, building the strength and skill to walk; a process more heart-warming than heart-wrenching.

So to goes many the entrepreneur: trying, “failing”, persisting, growing.  Battling the forces of nature and persevering in the face of uncertainty. Learning to be an entrepreneur is, obviously, quite different than learning to walk. But there is an important lesson that can be borrowed from the analogy. The child is surrounded by walkers – people proficient at the process. As an Entrepreneur you would be smart to adopt this method – surround yourself with business starters, those who have been successful and will be able to lend you support and confidence.

In Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati this is not hard to do. There are groups throughout our region that are open and generous with their guidance and support networks. Check websites for meetings of the Greater Cincinnati Venture Association, watch the news on the Cintrifuse and UpTech sites, thecircuit.net, Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, meetup.com/cincybusiness, cincytech; all of these provide resources and create an environment that encourages and enables entrepreneurial success. Invest your time with people who know how to succeed and believe that your struggles to learn the winning model for your company is a matter of when, not if.

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Going to Market

Posted: January 20, 2013 by Eileen Weisenbach Keller in People, Startup

KellerConversations in this column and in many places where entrepreneurship discussions occur often revolve around how the entrepreneur can bring his or her great idea to market, get financing and build it into a raging success. One skill touted as essential to this process is networking. Networking is the ability to make and build connections among people (and this next part is critical) who can help you build the necessary components of your business enterprise. Having an active, integrated circuit of acquaintances who support one another through knowledge, contacts and a willingness to share expertise is considered essential to entrepreneurial success.

While networking is vital, it rests on the assumption that you have the “big idea” and are at the next step of finding those who can assist you in turning it into a concept and from there into a viable business. There are, however, people who don’t have a big idea, but do have a persistent, perhaps even nagging, desire to become an entrepreneur; to make a difference, to change things, to compete in the marketplace and win. Perhaps you are an individual who has never quite found your niche in the world of employment; holding jobs but not finding fulfillment because of that incessant urge to start something from scratch. Alternatively, you may have been successfully employed for a long time but climbing that ladder and the trappings of success that come with it has not put to rest that itch to go and try something on your own. Maybe you have always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but that’s your only real passion. You’re not like those other folks who are fanatical about some one “thing” and can’t sleep until they bring “it” to market. You don’t possess a love of fashion, or science or electronics that drives you.  You’re not fulfilled by what you are doing, but need help finding the “thing” that you can do better than everyone else that will lead you to taking the risk.

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Our Growing Ecosystem

Posted: September 2, 2012 by Eileen Weisenbach Keller in Ecosystem, Innovation

When do skinny moms, back hair, bedsores, designated drivers, soccer games, star wars and childhood diabetes become elements of the same ecosystem? When entrepreneurs who live and work in the Northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati region identify each of them as opportunities and compete in Cincinnati Innovates!

Although the analogy is fitting, I hesitate to use the term ecosystem as it is becoming a much over-used word. Although becoming worn from use, the term is not maligned because it is often, as in this case, the perfect word to describe a unique situation.

The concepts mentioned, from skinny moms to star wars, are the foundations for a variety of companies that apparently have nothing in common. The founders of these ventures haven’t collaborated with one another, they have not been coached by the same incubator or accelerator, and chances are they really don’t know one another at all. Yet, the founders and their new ventures have become pieces of a robust ecosystem. They are “organisms”, if you will, in an environment that is systematically interacting and becoming healthier over time.

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Lack Creativity? Short on good ideas? Become an Entrepreneur!

Posted: June 17, 2012 by Eileen Weisenbach Keller in Innovation, Marketing, People

What? You may be asking, is she suggesting?

Many people, who would not qualify themselves as creative, find themselves studying markets, exploring and investigating as they look for opportunities. In the process they consider firms both large and small and the suppliers who work with them. They study the customer base for companies, the large customers like retail partners and the individual customers – the consumers. Pursuit of this line of study often comes from experience and deep knowledge of a particular market.

The entrepreneur who immerses him/herself in understanding these chains of business relationships will discover an occasional chink or weakness in the chain. In this weak point there is opportunity; some describe it as pain that the entrepreneur can relieve. Ta-da, a business idea is born, not by the most creative person in the room, but by the one who was willing to learn and look for opportunity where others might not see any. The ability to provide a solution and seize this opportunity is an opportunity to create value, which is the essence of success in entrepreneurship.

Although this may seem self-evident, consider an example from a young, developing entrepreneur. In a recent competition this local student studying entrepreneurship pitched a software program designed to assist restaurants with management of server effectiveness, job satisfaction and retention. With experience as both a chef and a catering company owner/chef, this young man discovered that the turnover rate for restaurants deteriorates service, increases expenses and costs the industry millions of dollars annually. With this discovery, the student who has already dabbled in entrepreneurship using his ability as a chef, now pictures himself providing software as a service in the global restaurant industry. Rather than cooking the food and supplying it to patrons, he will be a supplier to the restaurants.

If one were to categorize this student as either a “creative/innovative” type, or an “entrepreneur”, he would no doubt fall into the latter group. But can it really be said that he isn’t creative? The ability to take knowledge gained from deep experience in a particular area, search for pain, inefficiency or trouble in the supply chain and determine a viable solution is certainly a good description of entrepreneurship – but a clear argument could also be made for using this as a description of creativity in problem solving.

Is this young man a creative genius? Probably not, by most standards, but the judges at IdeaStateU (the Kentucky State Business Plan Competition for Undergraduates), felt his idea was worthy of a second place out of seven competitors in his category. The prize? Seed money to encourage him to persist and develop the idea which he is now doing.

The bottom line? Creativity comes in many forms; sometimes more colorful, other times more practical. In entrepreneurship solving a problem in a way that others have not is a good, creative way to begin.

Startup Owner’s Manual

Posted: April 22, 2012 by Eileen Weisenbach Keller in Planning, Startup

The Startup – that temporary organization in search of a business model that will allow an enterprise to duplicate and grow – draws a lot of attention. Have you ever felt left out by the Startup discussion, but unable to put your finger on exactly why that is?  Recently, I spent time at an international conference for inventors and innovators. Wow! What a group to hang out with for a week. Smart imaginative people, young and old, successful serial entrepreneurs and naïve students with fledgling dreams all sharing thoughts on how to generate, nurture and propel ideas from their very conception through commercial success.

During my time with these exhilarating individuals, I had the opportunity to hear from Steve Blank, author of The Startup Owner’s Manual. Steve, a serial entrepreneur with successes in tech start-ups and failures that created real craters (his words not mine). Steve has used his combined experience and education to write articles and books and teach for top universities about entrepreneurship.

Conversation with Steve and others illuminated for me why this Startup discussion sometimes leaves me slightly uncomfortable. Too often, it seems that the conversation about a Startup is not about a Startup at all, it’s really about an idea. You see, the two are not one and the same; neither is a bad thing, but confusing the two generally leads to mistakes. One big difference between the two, a start up is impossible without an idea, but the reverse is not true.

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