April 29, 2010
Recently at the GW Summit for Entrepreneurship, D.C. entrepreneurs gathered to network, share their knowledge and judge a student business plan competition. Throughout the two-day summit, innovation was in abundance and hopeful entrepreneurs mingled with local leaders. Among the leaders in attendance were three panelists who spoke about what a young entrepreneur should know and do to be successful.
1. Solve a Problem Near and Dear to The Heart – LaunchBox Digital’s Matt Jacobson started the day off with a keynote entitled Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Today’s Digital Society. Lunchbox Digital focuses on helping entrepreneurs maximize their chance of success. Jacobson began by noting that an entrepreneur is not someone who just starts a business and works for themselves. Rather, an entrepreneur is someone who solves a problem near and dear to his or her heart. A true entrepreneur is dissatisfied with a situation and works to solve the problem with passion. The passion must be there to achieve. One needs to believe that they are helping and solving real problems. You need to figure out what you can provide, set expectations, find a mentor, and gather feedback.
Bottom line, if you don’t have the passion and drive, you won’t succeed. For if there were only ideas without doers, there would be no innovation.
2. Brainstorm With All – During the Panel of Entrepreneurship Edward Barrientos, CEO of the famed social networking career website Brazen Careerist, highlighted how an entrepreneur is nothing without his or her ideas and colleagues. A successful entrepreneur continually jots down notes and ideas. A true entrepreneur constantly throws ideas around and then takes breaks and comes back. In order to get the job done they set parameters and minimize the variables. They have a goal and are set on achieving it. To reach that goal, he noted that one must talk to outsiders, talk to your friends and community, but focus also on communicating with those that don’t know you. The outsiders don’t know what you are thinking or anything about your idea, and thus they have an open mind to fill with your concept. It’s all about crowd-sourcing; take your idea and share it with the public, see how they receive your concept. Do they understand? Do they care? You need to sit down in person with people and talk it out. Find a mentor, find someone that has your passion and connect. Can you sell them your idea? If so, what makes it sellable? If not, what is the problem.
3. Be Genuine – Also at the Summit was Renee Lewis, founder of the Pensare Group. Renee pointed out that there is no shortcut for reputation building. You cannot be successful by selling something you don’t believe in. The key is to be who you are; there is no template, no right or wrong, just a person with a passion who can succeed. You need to be authentic and sell yourself and your idea to the investors and public. You take a risk and then you follow through. Many can talk the talk but only a few can walk the walk.
I left the summit with these three leaders’ insights on the forefront of my mind: be passionate, brainstorm and crowd-source, and be genuine. Anyone can call themselves an entrepreneur, but not everyone has the skill set and mentality to be a successful entrepreneur. As a young innovator, sit down and think about what you want to achieve and what you can accomplish. If you have the passion, the resources and the ideas, go for it. Just remember, there are many entrepreneurs out there, but only a few are on top.
Also check out Forbe’s recent article “Dorm Room Entrepreneurs,” for more insights on successful young entrepreneurs. The article includes a bit about D.C. local Micha Weinblatt whose four-year old T-Shirt company CrookedMonkey had more than $700,000 in sales in 2009.
Photo Attribution: A Young Entrepreneur on a Hot Day at Portland State by Rachel Voorhees
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