Posts tagged Entrepreneurship
How We Should Have Done It

Two energy startups. One succeeded. One Failed. This is what I learned.

I recently got to know Zack Moore and Shannon Sentman of Sol Vista in their office around the block from me in the Silver Spring Innovation Center (SSIC). As they told me their story, I was struck by how uncannily similar it was to my last company, greeNEWit.

Both companies started with the same vision of unlocking the potential trapped inside of buildings in the form of energy costs. Both raised capital to develop software products. Both faced similar setbacks and market challenges.

Yet ten years later, Sol Vista is a market leader with a bright future while greeNEWit closed its doors days shy of its ninth year in business.

I couldn’t help but walk away from my time spent with the Sol Vista guys wondering, what could we have done differently…?

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The Definition of Success Belongs to You

“Scale thoughtfully. Source locally.”

My ears perked up.

I had just finished listening to an episode of The Tidbit on Full Service Radio hosted by Kim Bryer, Founder and CEO of Cureate. The show discusses tidbits of knowledge around starting and running small businesses with a food and beverage lens.

The outro Kim uses to sign off from each episode reverberated through my mind.

Scale thoughtfully...

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Why People Quit Their Job to Become Entrepreneurs

How Quick Base gave this entrepreneur the platform to pursue her dream

When Sharon Faust was 5 years old, she knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur.

She looked up to her mom and watched as she crafted the life that she wanted with her own hands and spirit. A true creative, Sharon’s mom was an artist and entrepreneur who started a graphic design firm and opened a store that sold local crafts and artwork.

Sharon’s mother wasn’t the only source of inspiration in her life. Her grandmother ran a real estate business, and her father grew up on a family-owned farm.

These examples instilled in Sharon a deep desire to create something of her own one day. She wanted that life of independence and fulfillment she admired so much about her role models.

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Making the Most of Capital

A not yet true story of how Lean helped one startup

Tucked within the walls of an inconspicuous building off of Liberty Heights Avenue in Baltimore lives a true gem of Maryland’s entrepreneurship community. Conscious Venture Lab runs an accelerator program here for purpose-driven startups who epitomize the principles of conscious capitalism.

It was here that I had the pleasure of reconnecting with my former coworkers, Josh Massey and Gabe Bustos, to learn about their company, Ortus Academy. Ortus teaches money management and financial intelligence to 5th-12th grade students with a proprietary and hands-on money game they call NumisMatters.

In the days that followed my conversation with Gabe and Josh, I couldn’t help but wonder what I would do if I were in their shoes. I imagined what it might look like if Lean principles were used to address the challenges that Ortus now faces. What the story could be if I sat down with Josh and Gabe in a year to do a follow up interview.

What follows is the not yet true story that they shared with me one year from today.

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Purpose and Profit

Let’s move the conversation beyond compromise

In early 2014, my last company, greeNEWit, was in crisis.

We had just lost our most lucrative contract implementing one of Baltimore Gas and Electric’s largest energy efficiency programs. It was worth over $1 Million.

Layoffs were inevitable. We had to part with nearly half of our staff to survive.

Nobody felt less secure than Josh Massey and Gabe Bustos, Co-Directors of greeNEWit’s OUR Schools Program. OUR Schools was a social program that supported greeNEWit’s mission by teaching Maryland elementary students the importance of sustainability and the environment in an exciting assembly style presentation.

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Replacing Hustle with Humanity

Hustle has Eroded Workplace Culture. Let’s Fix That.

“Excellent post, Brad! We absolutely should be having deeper conversations about what it takes to start and operate a successful business, regardless of industry or size. Thanks for bringing a little light to this!”

I lit up with excitement, my pride beaming momentarily, after receiving this message on LinkedIn in response to an article I had published on rethinking what it means to be an entrepreneur. This was exactly the sort of engagement I was hoping for. I didn’t skip a beat and replied back, hoping to solicit an interview for a new post in my “Entrepreneurship In Real Life” series.

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What is Lean?

Lean means a lot of things to a lot of people. To some, “running lean” means cost cutting to the bare minimum. To others, Lean Manufacturing is all about reducing waste without sacrificing quality or productivity. In the world of entrepreneurship, the Lean Startup methodology offers an approach to building business through practices of experimentation, iterative development, and validated learning.

To me, the most important principle of lean is this:

Focus the precious time and resources you have on the right things, and don’t waste or invest new resources on the wrong things.

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Filling in the Spaces of an empty canvas

For creatives, a blank canvas represents the beginning of something new. An exciting start to a destination with infinite possibilities. For systems thinkers like me, a blank canvas can feel like an infinite expanse of nothingness, devoid of anything to grab hold of for inspiration or direction.

At times, the blank page of my computer screen gives me that same feeling. The blink of the cursor flashing at the top of a page awaiting the words that I can’t seem to find swirling in my head. Writing can be incredibly rewarding, and a source of clarity and inspiration. But regardless of whether it’s been a blog post, a journal entry, a marketing document, or even my to do list, it’s been a real challenge for me recently. I’ve been lacking that something to grab hold of.

This week, Spaces gave me that something.

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Why is WeWork so popular?

For people who aren’t that familiar with the concept of coworking spaces, if they’ve heard of one, they’ve likely heard of WeWork. WeWork is the fastest growing coworking concept in DC, if not the country. In the past few years, WeWork has quickly expanded from 1 to now 10 locations across the metro area, with more on the way. With locations such as White House, Manhattan Laundry, and Crystal City, when I started this project, I knew that WeWork would be one, if not several, of my stops. I’ve been incredibly curious about what’s made it so popular, and to some in the entrepreneurial communities I’ve been connected with, a bit contentious as well. I visited their Dupont location to find out.

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How to filter out the noise in the connection economy

As I reflected upon at the beginning of my journey back into the DC entrepreneurial community, I’ve learned how strongly my brain is wired in systems thinking. I can’t help but see the world as a beautifully complex structure of nodes and connected pathways. Sometimes this holds me back when I struggle to find “anchor points” in new environments, but it also gives me this insatiable curiosity to find order in a seemingly chaotic world.

I believe our success in life (however we choose to define it) is largely determined by our ability to understand our relationships with systems — both our place within the systems in which we live, and the relationships we have with and between others that exist within those same environments. But not all connections are valuable, and the wrong ones can be detrimental to our success.

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Is the Entrepreneurial Dream Wasting Millennial Talent?

America has a love affair with entrepreneurs. We idealize successful icons like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk, and we tune in to shows like Shark Tank and The Profit to watch people just like us try to achieve their own success. It’s not hard to see why. Entrepreneurship represents the very essence of the American dream. Entrepreneurs are literally able to take their dreams and turn them into reality. But is this vision of entrepreneurship an accurate representation, or is it simply the picture we want to see?

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Leaning In — The Start of a new Chapter

I’ve lived, schooled, and worked in the DC area for my entire life, and I’m an entrepreneur. Yet I know next to nothing about the DC entrepreneurship community. So I’ve decided to dive in. Why? For starters, I was catapulted out of the comfortable job that I buried myself into for the last 8 years when it suddenly failed. That really sucked. But I’ve decided to turn that failure into an opportunity and reconnect with the DC entrepreneurship community I’ve missed out on for far too long. These used to be my people, yet work became the perfect excuse to not stay connected. Slowly, I lost touch with this scene and now I know practically no one. That’s about to change. I’m going to visit a new co-working space every week and share my experience with you. Hopefully, we both can learn more about what’s happening here in the District, the people making it happen, and how this community reflects the way our world is changing at large.

Let me back up and tell you more about how I got here.

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