• Ask the Entrepreneur: Sherri McArdle

    by Sherri McArdle

    Q. What did you expect when you set out on the journey to start your own business?

    Sherri: I’m not sure I had specific expectations but I did have specific goals. I wanted the freedom and flexibility to raise our two children. I also wanted to do work that I loved, to grow professionally and to generate a reasonable income.

    Continue Reading–15 words totally

    May 10, 2011 | 0 comments | View Post

  • Ask the Entrepreneur: Lauren Dixon

    by Lauren Dixon

    Q. What did you expect when you set out on the journey to start your own business?

    Lauren: When I started Dixon Schwabl 24 years ago, I sought to create an ad agency unlike any other in Rochester.  I interviewed leaders of area firms and asked them what they liked and disliked about agencies they worked with, and launched my business applying their candid feedback.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I knew I needed to listen to these leaders and adapt my agency in response.  I started by hiring the best and brightest people I could find to join me on this journey, and sought to develop a workplace and culture that reflected the passion, energy, creativity, and drive of the advertising industry. This is reflected in our workplace environment with its three-turn slide from the second floor to the lobby, koi pond, fireplace, and individual temperature controls in offices.

    Continue Reading–86 words totally

    May 02, 2011 | 0 comments | View Post

  • Ask the Entrepreneurs!

    This month we’ll be doing personal interviews with our entrepreneurs.  We’ll kick off this  month with Yvonne DiVita…see what she has to say about being a women entrepreneur!

    Q.  What did you expect when you set out on the journey to start your own business?

    Continue Reading–20 words totally

    Apr 19, 2011 | 0 comments | View Post

Hey You. Your Uber is Arriving …

by Sarah Plasky

“As the fairy tale goes, Uber was born on a snowy night in Paris in 2008, when Kalanick and his friend Garrett Camp could not get a cab. The two vowed then and there to solve the problem with a revolutionary new app. The premise was dead simple: push a button and get a car.” Full Article

I cannot remember which astute Simon Business School professor said, “If you cannot find something you want in the current marketplace, it has the potential to be a product.”  But the idea stuck with me and I learned first-hand with Aquavation® when I Googled to create a custom water bottle for my husband’s century ride, and all that came up was bulk ordering of hundreds of the same logo stamped cheap corporate schwag.

But I just wanted one!

Enter Uber.

As a closet economist, I genuinely see beauty when two curves hold the promise of efficient markets as they join real-time supply and demand data together.  But I see no beauty in waiting for things and I despise carrying cash. I decided on a recent trip to NYC to try out Uber and see what all the hype—and the $18.2 billion valuation—was about.  To my surprise, I am hooked, hooked, hooked.  Hooked from the minute I stepped out into the taxi line at LaGuardia Airport opened my Uber app, got a text from ‘John’, and the car arrived to my exact GPS sidewalk location.  All within 3 minutes.  Nice chat with the fellow from Tajikistan in his personal, clean Toyota Camry and I simply jump out when I arrive at MOMA.  No cash. No tip. Everything is automated and communicated on my smart phone.  Fares are based on a calculated rate and I could choose a level of service.  This time it was $39, a great discount, as my last taxi from LGA to Midtown was $49 + tip.

Once I encountered a published and much talked about ‘surge rate’ and it made complete sense given it was Manhattan rush hour.  One driver told me regular Uber users have learned to just wait 15 minutes and most times it changes. As CEO Kalanick says in the current Vanity Fair article, “You want supply to always be full, and you use price to basically either bring more supply on or get more supply off, or get more demand in the system or get some demand out,” he lectures like a professor. “It’s classic Econ 101.” I agree. I did not feel cheated or taken.  Let me say, to be picked up in a Lincoln Town car a day later at my hotel and driven in luxury to the airport while paying cab rates, because the limo was empty and the driver was seeking utilization was a living example of my beloved supply and demand curve in action. Aren’t you just chomping at the bit to join? Click here to you get $30 off and I earn a free ride!

This is the start of on-demand consumerism.

Uber means being a superlative example of its kind or class and the minute you step out of the car you are sent your receipt and a rating scale to size up your experience. Uber is not just a disruptive cab offering, it is about the potential of real-time delivery.  Several movements are of great interest to me as an Entrepreneur.  The Maker Movement is one I intend to hit on in another blog.  The other is how companies like Uber are moving to offer products and services when and where they are needed at the point of want.  Not only I am sensing another one of those beautiful curves here, I see an opportunity here.

Existing Businesses: You ask your customers what they want.  You most likely have a deadline or delivery schedule for when they will receive it, but can you look at the Uber model and think different?Entrepreneurs: As you build it, how on-demand can you make it?

Post Script

Since I am a social entrepreneur I cannot resist mentioning two giving aspects of Uber:

UBER VEHICLE FINANCING: BRINGING ENTREPRENEURSHIP TO THE INDIAN GRASSROOTS

UBER MILITARY

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The Four “P’s” : Panic + Pitch + Prepared = Positive PR

by Sarah Plasky

“If you wanna be an entrepreneur Sarah, you need to learn to pitch your idea in 3 minutes or less.”

When I heard those words from an itchy and obviously ‘tapped out’ VC guy, all I could think was, “How do you encapsulate the inventor story of idea, innovation, prototype, technology and software, preferred vendors, market story, delightful anecdote in one measly, miniscule minute?”  Let’s face it, having your paragraph pitch or one-minute elevator speech is an impressive feat–and a necessity–for cocktail parties and start-up weekends, but I will tell you now, people with three minutes or less will never be your partners, investors, or clients. So what are the basics of getting your story out so you have partners, investors, and clients?

PANIC! During your Entrepreneurial journey, I guarantee you will find yourself in the ideal setting with the ideal person and you will panic. It is a given. It will be sad and it will haunt you for years and you will find yourself saying, ‘Where would we be if…”.  I can assure you the best learning will come from the time you missed the mark and were not prepared enough to sell your idea when it mattered most. Use this panic to your advantage by being prepared.

PITCH MATTERS. So invest one day in a pitch session. The output?

1) What does your product do?

2) Be able to justify why your product is needed in today’s market.

3) State the three most extremely fascinating points about your product with uncontrollable passion.

Invite everyone in your start-up, a couple of trusted friends, and if you can, your mom or someone’s mom should be in your session. (Moms are great software and quality testers–someone should tell Apple!) Explain to them what your entrepreneur dream is and have them say it back a few times. Listen. Look for where they did better than you. What simple problem does your idea solve for them and how do you communicate the fix in normal people speak?

PREPARED. Now you will be prepared for when the interviewer goes ‘off-script’ unexpectedly:

Two young ladies with their "design-your-own" Aquavation water bottles. Twenty percent of the purchase price went to the Aquavation charity partner of their choice.

So, how did I do?

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Failure IS an Option

By: Sarah Plasky

I believe you can only be great at something you love. Maya Angelou

A curious thing occurred as I realized I had a calling to the social entrepreneurship uprising.

I decided to leave my job.

I mean who does that?

“Really!” My husband wanted to know, “Who does that?”

The day I walked away from my company with husband on-board to the change, Simon Business School Dean Mark Zupan invited me to dinner.  As we said goodnight he remarked, “It takes such courage to do what you did and to take on the risk of making an idea come to life. I am proud of you.”  Driving home my heart began to race.  “What have I done?”

Entrepreneurship is not for the faint at heart. It is not for someone who likes stable and loathes uneasy.

You have to SEE it. WANT it.

Everyday I crave a new customer like some people crave a cupcake.

Some days there are crumbs only.

Some days it looks like a birthday party platter for a Rockefeller.

Much is made of the success stories.  We love the after-party thrown for the Sir Richards, the Mr. Jobs, the drone-obsessed Bezos.  We like hearing the polished stories of how their successes seamlessly happened.  It sounds very Disney; way too Cinderella much of the time.  My hope is that we can use this new blog to explore the real journey of an entrepreneur together.

Failure is not an option, or is it?

Ode to Susan B. Anthony! Back in 2009 I had the great honor to receive the Susan B. Anthony Promise Award.  I went deep into the history of Susan B. Anthony and enjoyed learning her association with the University of Rochester and especially the stories of her attempts to get women admitted to matriculate there.  Often cited is her famous quote, “failure is not an option.”

And I get her point.  When women’s rights are a stake, she is on point.

However with a start-up failure is not a bad thing.  Not at all.

To be an entrepreneur trying to put a new product or service out there, failure needs to be your new BFF.  Keep her close, inquire where she was yesterday and don’t ever let her go without a proper farewell.

Keep her close

Failure will happen more than you ever believed it could. It is important to see it coming and make course corrections to avoid it.

Inquire where she has been just yesterday

Markets move quickly.  Trends crest into a wave and become the middle of the curve as fast as the ocean reaches the shore. And most importantly, as unique as your idea may be, if it is a good one, someone else is trying it in some form or the other. Who has failed?  What have they failed trying? What could have avoided the failure? Or put it closer and use this for sales learning: Why didn’t they buy it? What could I have done to avoid the loss?

Weigh her value

As the Aquavation founder I participate locally with Nextplex Rochester [http://nextplex.com/rochester-ny] a very hip, growing on-line community that connects IT professionals and entrepreneurs as a start up community. You build a personal profile and inventors may also build company profiles to share details about their intended start-up. There is a most interesting decision point built into their profile tool.   If your start up doesn’t take off and make it, if it ‘fails’ when the Founder goes in to delete that start-up profile a magnificent pop-up window is there to remind you about the importance failure.  In fact, it stops you in your tracks.

Think about that.

Be conscious of failure.  Carry her close in your hip pocket.  Think of her as the person you may want to avoid being seated next to, but when forced, you end up having a most epic of evenings.

 

 

 

 


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Social Entrepreneurship: Aquavation

By: Sarah Plasky

Everyone needs water, why not make it an exceptional experience along the way?

Aquavation® was co-founded by husband and wife team and Simon Business School Alumni, Sarah Plasky ’99 and Marc Sachdev ’95 to test the notion that social entrepreneurship can draw upon the best thinking in both the business and non-profit worlds to serve a market desiring to make a difference.

Several years ago, Marc entered the Highlander Cycle Tour, a grueling century length bike ride in the Finger Lake region of upstate New York. A few days before the ride, Marc and Sarah toured the Highlander route looking at a steeply graded road Marc would encounter at mile 78.  Another road was so steep the organizers had spray-painted Marc’s name and had hired a bagpiper to help propel cyclists to the top without them having to look up and waste precious energy.

Sarah left amazed, once again, at another of her husband’s ambitious cycling goals and what she calls his ‘weekend warrior spirit’. Inspired, she went out and purchased an ordinary water bottle, removed the printed manufacturer logo with nail polish remover and used paint markers to write motivational sayings such as: “12,000 feet of vertical is nothing!”, “Bopple will NOT topple you!”, “Miles and I will be at the finish line, we love you!”  The next day Marc used his water bottle for hydrating during the ride, remarking that it was ‘motivation through hydration’. Aquavation® was born, and Motivation Through Hydration® is now a registered trademark along with Aquavation.

And so it all began with the simple idea of providing a personal way to celebrate and commemorate a family member’s participation in an athletic event. The idea evolved to include the ability to support fundraising for cause related organizations. Everyone needs water, so why not make it an exceptional experience along the way? Making a bottle and a donation became a dream.

It has taken us many years to perfect the technology and manufacturing process; the design of our bottle; selecting partners as interested in quality and safety as we were; and to innovate a ‘print run of one’ using a cutting-edge digital printing process.  The product has now evolved into offerings which raise considerable donations for Aquavation Charity Partners through business sponsorships to gain marketshare for those businesses using personalized bottles during corporate, golf, and employee events.

Connect with Aquavation:

Visit: Http://aquavation.org

Like: http://facebook.com/aquavation

Follow: http://twitter.com/aquavation

PIN: Http://pinterest.com/aquavation


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Monroe County Economic Development & Entrepreneurship

By: Judy Seil

1. Tell us about Monroe County Economic Development. The purpose of the Economic Development Department is to work with businesses which are investing in buildings and equipment and creating (and retaining) jobs.  We offer incentives to these companies in return for their investment in our community and the jobs created and retained.

2. What are the perks of doing business in Monroe County? Monroe County offers a talented and skilled workforce, great quality of life, and our department offers businesses many incentives not offered in offer counties.  For example, our Monroe Manufactures Jobs program, rewards graduates of the MCC Applied Technology Center with a $1,500 bonus if they work at Monroe County manufacturing company for a year.  In addition, the company receives a $1,500 bonus.  We have developed incentive programs to meet the needs of our companies and workforce.  Our programs can be found on the Monroecounty.gov website.

3. What Monroe County Economic Development resources exist that could help prospective entrepreneurs? In 2006, County Executive Maggie Brooks saw a need to work with budding entrepreneurs in the community.  Monroe County is the founding sponsor of The Entrepreneurs Network or TEN.

TEN is one of Upstate New York’s fastest growing initiatives designed to bolster new ventures (early stage technology; life sciences) AND established firms (scalable, high-revenue potential; family-owned; and/or ownership transitioning). TEN members do better: winning government grants and contracts, increasing revenues by retooling sales & marketing strategy, and securing equity financing or traditional sources. More than 200 participants have graduated from the TEN program.  For more information on TEN go the the website at ten-ny.org.

4. What advice would you give to prospective female entrepreneurs? Use all the resources possible, from your accountant to your attorney to your banker to your local economic developer, to make sure you are taking advantage of all the programs available to move your business forward and to the next level.  Also, mentors are so important.  Look to the successful business people in the community and see if you can pick their brain.  Successful entrepreneurs typically like to share their “secrets” on how to make your business grow.  Do not be afraid to ask for help.

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