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Getting Started with your Business

Posted: January 25, 2015 by Jessica Reading in Leadership, Startup

jessica reading miamiIt’s that time of year when New Year’s Resolutions are still on a high, and every bit of willpower is being used to do that extra ‘thing’ we’ve always wanted to do. If starting a business is one of them, willpower simply doesn’t make it happen.

This year, you don’t need to be a would-be entrepreneur.

Really, a lot of it is about removing a few assumptions, and just taking a few steps that will jump-start what it takes to call yourself an entrepreneur.

  • Get rid of the assumptions about your own skills.

Working with over 1,000 students in our entrepreneurship program, we see every bit of assumption why someone is not ‘ready’ to build a business: I don’t want to leave everything else behind to do just this. My idea isn’t perfect yet. I don’t have the skills to make it happen. It’s a lonely process. I’m not ready to be my own boss – the list goes on. Starting a business is not an outcome, it’s a process. You learn and grow the things you need for your business as you move through the process. Don’t worry about what you don’t have yet. Focus on what you do have.

  • Disregard the apparent legal and administrative complexities.

GOOGLE is your best friend. Seriously, there’s no need to worry about your background in education, or history, or engineering holding you back from being business savvy. There are millions of resources online, or in Cincinnati. It’s an ecosystem of support: from the incubator and accelerators to the investment groups in town.

  • Talk to people.

You probably told your closest friends, family and dog about your idea. That doesn’t count. Go out and actually ask your potential customers that your product would help them with a problem they face. Ask if they would actually buy your product. If they say no, then well, it’s best you didn’t spend the year focused on building that product.

  • Start with the problem, not the solution.

When you talk to people, focus on the problem. Too often, would-be entrepreneurs say, “But my solution is going to solve all of your problems with this.” The problem needs to be big enough that you can actually make a business out of it.

The most common characteristic of a successful student team in our entrepreneurship program is that they are willing to take all the preceding steps with a listening ear. What does listening look like? Being willing to accept criticism, take feedback, ask questions, adapt, and change. The change is part of improving your product and solution, and becoming a real business.

Starting a business this year doesn’t have to be as far-fetched as it may seem. With the abundant resources available and growing credibility of the region, the timing couldn’t be better to get going.

Developing Startup Leaders

Posted: September 29, 2013 by Jessica Reading in Culture, Ecosystem, HIgher Education, Leadership, People, Startup

jessica reading miamiThis summer, college students interned in our region’s startups and entrepreneurial companies.  Recently I met with several of them as they reflected on their experiences.  Or more accurately, raved about their summer:

  • “There’s nothing like going to work in the morning knowing it will be nothing less than an adventure”
  • “I learned how entrepreneurship can manifest in so many ways”
  • “My supervisor taught me to embrace being outside my comfort zone, and never doubt myself”
  • “I couldn’t replace what I gained this summer with any life experience”

These reflections are the wish list of what any educator wants every student to say after completing a course and often only result from the most empowering of teachers.  This summer, our region’s startups educated our students, teaching ‘real-world’.


jessica reading miamiIt’s summertime- for many it means amusement park season.  I remember anticipating a day at King’s Island- my friends and I would get up extra early, excited to take on the newest roller coaster. It may have only been a day long, but the only thing we talked about when we were leaving was when we were coming back.

Cincinnati’s entrepreneurial community is much like life in an amusement park.  The roller coasters, varied in size and thrill level, represent different startups.  The people, embarking on various rides for a period of time, function as the teams.  Some team members stick to one they like or others spend time riding each one.

It’s hard to make sense of this amusement park- why put people through fear and stomach-wrenching experiences and call it fun? Well for some- it’s the accomplishment of getting to the tallest peak and going upside down with their hands in the air.  For others, is being able to rely on each other to get through a tough challenge.

But who makes the most willing rider of all? It’s the student intern…and here’s why: