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Archive for the ‘entrepreneur in training’ Category

Sunday Serial: How to be a Hipster

My Hipster Impersonation

Last week’s most provocative and amusing thoughts were made possible by the letter “H,” specifically of the “hipster” variety.

The Hipsterfication of America

That’s right, hipsters are among us and as the NPR article, The Hipsterfication of America, declared, “Hipsterishness is a state of mind.” From the NPR article:

The Urban Dictionary defines hipsters as “a subculture of men and women typically in their 20s and 30s who value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter.”

According to this article, you might be a hipster if:

  • You are authentic in your passions.
  • You know “how to make the cheap chic, the disheveled dishy, the peripheral preferable.”
  • You come in all stripes and all political persuasions.
  • You are any age (“Not everyone who is hip is young, and not everyone who is young is hip,” though hipsterism is most prevalent in people born between the late ’70s and the mid-’90s, more or less)
  • You live anywhere, from the urban metropolises to small towns in middle America.

This first article is, among other things, hilarious and informative. When I read it last Friday on the bus I was two breaths away from a serious case of the LMAO IRL in front of every other commuter.  It took a deep look at the anatomy of a hipster and described that being a hipster is not about fashion and riding fixies but about how you see the world and your role in it. As a friend of mine pointed out on Twitter – we all have a degree of hipster in us.

You should read it.

The Hipster Entrepreneur Generation

Generation Sell or The Entrepreneur Generation, which appeared in The New York Times last weekend, went one step beyond just looking at the sociological tendencies of hipsters but figuring out what motivates them as a generation with regards to work. William Deresiewicz sums it up in these two paragraphs (bold is my own):

Today’s ideal social form is not the commune or the movement or even the individual creator as such; it’s the small business. Every artistic or moral aspiration — music, food, good works, what have you — is expressed in those terms.

Call it Geneartion Sell.

Bands are still bands, but now they’re little businesses, as well: self-produced, self-published, self-managed. When I hear from young people who want to get off the careerist treadmill and do something meaningful, they talk, most often, about opening a restaurant. Nonprofits are still hip, but students don’t dream about joining one, they dream about starting one. In any case, what’s really hip is social entrepreneurship — companies that try to make money responsibly, then give it all away. . . . Our culture hero is not the artist or reformer, not the saint or scientist, but the entrepreneur.

I personally love this opinion piece. I am psyched to be part of a generation of entrepreneurs who are either starting their own businesses or are living as an entrepreneur-from-within, full of drive and passion to be an indispensable part of building an organization.

But all of us were not pleased with this new label.

Some of us grabbed onto the title of the NYT piece and got, for lack of a better word, defensive over our generation being labeled as one who is only interested in “selling.” For example, Justin Kan wrote this article on TechCrunch called Generation Make, which some of the most passionate entrepreneur-millennials that I know rallied behind.

The funny thing is both Generation Sell and Generation Make make the same argument, but use different words.

Why Hipsters Hate Being Labeled by People Other than Themselves

First off, it was incredibly bold of Deresiewicz to declare that the generation of hipsters and business starters are only motivated by one thing – selling. As someone who as dreams of starting her own business, making the first sale is not what’s on my mind right now, creating my business is. And even though if you want to start a business or a startup (perhaps that’s really what got these tech kids all bent out of shape – being lumped into a pile of “small business” starters, not “start-uppers”) – the question you need to answer before you launch is how you’re going to make your first $100,000.

We know that. We know that we can’t start a business based on free love, gold stars, and accolades from our friends about how cool we are just to be doing what we’re doing. Yes, we know we have to sell if we expect there to be a second quarter and a celebration of making it the first year. But that’s not what motivates us. What motivates us is our passion and our drive to make it happen.

What motivates us is exactly what Kan described:

We are a generation of makers. A generation of creators. Maybe we don’t have the global idealism of the hippies. Our idealism is more individual: that every person should be able to live their own life, working on what they choose, creating what they choose. If you want to build a company to change the world, go for it. If you want to be an independent knife maker, what is stopping you?

We follow our passions. If we do it as a business, then we can create the ability to support ourselves doing what we love, and with some measure of security and autonomy that no institution is going to grant us. The Millennial path to self-actualization is the individual path, each man to create it for himself.

It’s more than just selling or making or creating. It’s about thinking beyond each step and thinking about our idea, our life, and our business in a sustainable way instead of through a single transaction. It’s a feeling that every single person who is part of this generation feels but doesn’t need to explain because it is who we are.

It’s a hipster state of mind.

Update: This blog post was quoted in Monica Guzman’s article on GeekWire: You’re selling yourself, and that’s OK: Welcome to the entrepreneurial generation.

Photo Credit: another.point.in.time

Entrepreneur in Training: Three Tips for Launching Your Startup

Entrepreneur-in-training

Back in August, I read Michael Karnjanaprakorn’s blog post, How to Launch Your Startup Idea for Less than $5K. I don’t know much about his startup and his company, but I love the approach he took to launching, mainly the following points:

Start with small ideas

“Entrepreneurs should start with small ideas and learn how to execute those ideas.” – Mike Karnjanaprakorn

Yes, we know you want to take over the world. But in order to do that, you need to start by taking over your local metropolitan precinct. So do that and prove to us that you can. Start small, kick ass, and then move to conquering the bigger fish in the sea.

Test small first, then grow bigger.

Just do It

“The secret behind launching your startup idea is to always move the ball forward on your ideas through execution. “– Mike Karnjanaprakorn

Strategizing how you’re going to take over the world is one thing, but let’s be honest here, strategy is a bunch of hot air. You are nothing unless you ship, unless you launch, unless you do.  So “do something,” and show exactly what you’re up to.

Ask for feedback, specifically, will it work or will it fail?

“Once I convinced myself this was an idea I’d like to pursue, I asked a dozen really smart people I knew what they thought about the idea with a small twist. Rather than asking them if they liked it, I asked them why the idea wouldn’t work, why it would fail, and why I shouldn’t work on it.” – Mike Karnjanaprakorn

When we have a great idea that’s burning in the back of our heads, it’s easy to ask our friends, mentors, and allies, “What do you think?” but it’s incredibly hard to ask, “Do you think it will work or how do you think it will fail,” that, my dear friends, is a whole other beast of a question and I love it.

In summary, when it comes to testing if you have a viable business and idea, start small, be strategic, and get specific feedback that will help you along the way.

What feedback would you give to an entrepreneur in training?

Photo Credit: justmakeit

Would you stay at a job for 5 years for a $50K bonus?

Dan Schneider, founder and CEO, and SIB Development and Consulting team

This article – Keep your job for five years, get $50,000 – was published on CNN Money this morning and has been flying around Twitter all day.

The gist is this: one small business owner is offering his full-time employees $50,000 bonus for every five years that they stay with the company. The article brings up the key points:

Reward for retention – Nowadays, there is nothing that makes people loyal to a company, but Dan Schneider, the founder and CEO of SIB Development and Consulting (the company dishing out the cash) believes that a $50K retention can change that.

The average amount of time that people stay at a job is 2-3 years, especially at startups; staying at a company for 5 years is rare.

Additional bonus at 25 years – If employees stay at the company for 25 years, they will receive $250,000 cash (the article doesn’t specify if that’s the total of $50K for every 5 years or $50K for the first 5 years and $250K at 25 years).

Cut costs to train new employees – For the SIB, the bonus is really about retaining high-quality employees and not having to spend the money to train new ones over and over again.

Happy Employees

The most interesting part about this article isn’t the bonus, but the fact that every single one of the employees pictured is smiling, genuinely. Sure, it could have taken over a dozen shots to get this one photo, but if you look closely at the photo, they really look happy.

Maybe Schneider has a point. Maybe the promise of $50,000 after 5 years of service as a “thank you” is how much it costs to keep happy employees who are “not looking for work.” Maybe he’s on to something.

Why Money Talks

There have been many, many articles around the web about the key to having a successful business (and especially a startup) is to have the right people on your team and how you really need to work hard to keep them.

Mark Suster wrote a stellar article in TechCrunch earlier this year about it and while he broke down the kinds of people you specifically want involved with your startup, the title of his article said it the best: A Few Key People Really Can Make a Huge Difference.

But it’s not about having the right people on your team; it’s about keeping them. Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos.com, talks a lot about this (and unfortunately I can’t find the exact article that talks about this, so I’ll link to this one: Got talent? Competing to hire the best and motivate the rest).

Say “Thank you”

I’m going on a limb here, but maybe the reason why this bonus structure will and can work for Schneider is because he does have the right people at his company and he wants to keep them.

You have to motivate and retain your best employees. You need to say “thank you” and let them know that you are going to take care of them for them to stick around.

A company who wants to appreciate and take care of their companies? That’s as rare these days as an employee who wants to stick around for five years.

Would you stay at a job for 5 years if you got a $50K bonus?

I Have a Confession to Make

Born to be wild, Vauxhall tubb

I am starting my own business.

That’s right, a business and I have no idea what it will be yet. I’ve mentioned this to a few people, how I want to start a business but I haven’t had that idea that strikes like a bolt of lightning and makes me say, “holy shit, this is it!”

Actually, that has happened, but I’m still ruminating on it.

There are two things I’m obsessed with: 1) building things, and 2) movements.

The first I know quite a bit about from positions I’ve had over the years. And the second is a relatively new passion that was born out of the love I have of being the voice that connects brands with their customers and from watching organizations like the Girl Effect and Movember harness their communities and ignite a wave of action.

It’s pretty incredible.

So while I research and learn what exactly those two things mean – What do I enjoy most about building things? And what exactly is it about movements that totally draw me in? – and how they’ll work with each other, today, I’m officially coming out as an entrepreneur in training.

I don’t know when I’ll land and settle with an idea that I will want to build, execute, ship, and implement, but it will happen. It’s going to happen. And it will probably happen way sooner than any of us think it will.

And I’m bringing this blog (and you!) with me along the way.

Photo credit: tubb

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