Grappling With the Question: Why Isn’t America Number 1?

dv1940003Do you feel as if you are drowning in bad news? Welcome to the club. And not just generic bad news but the kind of bad news that makes you question whether we, as a nation, have the smarts, the wherewithal, the old-fashioned grit to solve our problems. One of the most alarming items on a long list of woes is that while the rest of the world’s kids seem to be getting smarter, our kids don’t. Right now, in fact, it looks as if we are on track to be one of the only developed countries to have smaller percentages of young people graduate from high school and college than their parents’ generation. This just piles on to all the other bad stuff that we hear about schools and education, which I am not going to repeat. But why? Journalist Amanda Ripley  wanted to understand that question and has written an engaging book that invites us to join her on the journey she followed to get answers: The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way (Simon and Schuster). She began by asking the experts — kids. The problem with talking with kids, though, is that their limited life experience means they can’t always make assessments about how different schools could be. So Ripley did something rather clever. She sought out kids with experiences that allowed them to have a point of comparison — exchange students. She surveyed large numbers of American high school students who went abroad and foreign students who studied here,  then closely followed the experiences of three students — a Pennsylvanian who went to Poland, an Oklahoman who went to Finland and a Minnesotan who went to South Korea. She chose those countries because Finland and South Korea show up as top of the world and Poland has dramatically improved in a relatively short time despite a high rate of child poverty. She chose students who are clearly bright, curious and interested in the world. So what did they see? They saw places where everyone understands that education is important, and organizes schools around that fact in ways that are palpable every day. For example Kim, the Oklahoman who went to Finland, saw that students respected teachers for their knowledge and expertise and matched them in seriousness and focus. Students there know that every one of their teachers has had to sweat out being accepted to highly selective teaching programs the way American students have to sweat out being accepted to MIT. Prospective teachers then have to go through intensive training and student teaching. Back in Oklahoma, Kim’s algebra teacher had majored in physical education at a university that accepts pretty much all-comers. All the kids knew his main job was coaching football; teaching math was what he had to do in order to coach. Tom, the Pennsylvanian who went to Poland, saw teachers read test grades out loud to the class and never saw anyone get the equivalent of an A. Back in Pennsylvania he would have been stunned not to get As for much lower-level work than he saw being done in Poland. And teachers would never have revealed grades publicly — in the United States grades are considered private; low grades shameful. In Poland, struggle and failure seemed to be acknowledged as a normal part of learning. I’m not going to talk about South Korea — there’s such a thing as taking a good thing way too far, and South Korea seems to have done it. If you ever start thinking that American kids are under too much pressure because they take a couple of standardized tests a year, you might want to read about the strain South Korean kids are under. But one thing — Eric found the math classes much less boring than math classes back in Minnesota. All these observations simply raise more questions, and Ripley allows us to follow her as she goes to experts in South Korea, Poland, Finland and the United States to get answers about teacher preparation, national standards and assessment that raise yet more questions about what the purpose of education is, what national policies are most effective and what obligations schools have to kids and kids have to schools. The intellectual journey that we travel with Ripley has profound implications for Americans as we consider what to do to improve education. This isn’t the book to read if you want your pet policies or proposals to be bolstered. But if you are curious why the richest nation in the history of the world can’t seem to get its educational act together, this is a very readable way to enter into the subject. By Karin Chenoweth Writer-in-residence at The Education Trust   Continue Reading

Lifting Africa up by empowering its youth By Fred Swaniker

fredswaniker[1]Finding opportunities for young people is a critical challenge for Africa, where 62 percent of the population—more than 600 million young people is below the age of 25. With no signs that population growth will slow in the decades to come, it is imperative that Africa leverage the talent and energy of its youth to create dramatically higher levels of prosperity and equality and avoid the latent risks of unemployment and social instability. Today, Africa finds itself in a precarious position on this most important issue. Youth unemployment is three times the continent’s overall average. The World Bank found that young people under 25 represent three-fifths of sub-Saharan Africa’s unemployed population, and 72 percent of the youth population lives on less than $2 a day. To help their families, 30 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 14 are forced to work, which robs them of the educational opportunities that could break their families’ cycles of intergenerational poverty. So what does the average unemployed youth look like in Africa? She is an 18-year-old girl, living in a rural area, literate but not attending school. Building her skills, reaping her energy, and realizing her aspirations would help every African country improve its living standards and ignite economic growth. Empowering her with opportunities to reach and apply her full potential is both our most important challenge and our most vital opportunity. I often put myself in the shoes of that 18-year-old girl, full of promise but with few opportunities to apply it. She is part of a generation of young Africans who are the most globally connected people ever to have lived on the continent. Although they can see the social and economic progress occurring elsewhere in the world, she and her fellow young Africans are largely isolated from that progress. Offering this girl a quality education is critical for her success. However, only two-thirds of youth who start elementary school in Africa graduate, and only one in ten African students continues on to tertiary education. Even when she obtains her university degree, she will most likely have trouble finding a skilled job in Africa which is why the continent loses an estimated 20,000 skilled workers each year to more developed economies. Simply put, Africa is sitting on a time bomb unless it creates its own jobs through the ingenuity, ability, and skill of its own people. It is our job as leaders to ensure that the millions of young people who are willing to put in the work to improve their future have every opportunity to experiment, learn, adapt—and eventually succeed. We must use this significant inflection point in the continent’s history to guarantee that the entrepreneurial nimbleness, grit, and vigor of Africa’s youth can be utilized to help lift the economies of Africa. The way we educate our youth in Africa will make all the difference. Entrepreneurship must be an integral part of every young person’s education. We need to impart not only the technical skills of entrepreneurship, but also the mindset of the entrepreneur, through our formal and informal education systems. To help address this challenge, some colleagues and I founded the African Leadership Academy (ALA) in South Africa to educate thousands of job creators and problem solvers for Africa. We accept 100 young leaders a year to participate in the program. They’re chosen from over 3,000 applicants from over 48 countries on the continent. At the center of our strategy is ALA’s Leadership, Entrepreneurship, and African Studies (LEA) curriculum, which prepares each young leader to creatively confront the continent’s most pressing challenges through interdisciplinary, experiential educational opportunities. In LEA’s series of design challenges, students leverage their ingenuity through team-based exercises to brainstorm, prototype, and test new ideas for addressing tough social problems. Using entrepreneurship case studies, students learn about modern African trailblazers in business, politics, and social affairs, giving them a set of inspirational role models to follow. The young leaders at ALA also have access to capital (in the form of micro venture capital or microfinance) to help them turn their own business concepts into reality. Over the last four years, 45 different ventures have been launched at ALA through this methodology—real, live, small-scale enterprises that will one day form the roots of much larger enterprises that can help create jobs on the continent for our youth. Behind this is our philosophy that if you give a young person a chance to get his or her hands dirty as an entrepreneur, you will inspire and prepare that person to one day launch entrepreneurial ventures on a much larger scale—ventures that can potentially create thousands of jobs. If you do not believe this, ask Mark Zuckerberg how the small computer project he launched in his dormitory at Harvard influenced what eventually became Facebook. Or ask Michael Dell how the small project he launched in his dormitory to assemble computers at the University of Texas when he was 19 influenced what eventually became Dell Computer. The 400 young leaders currently in the ALA system (on campus and at colleges around the world) , hailing from 43 African countries, are truly amazing examples of what the continent’s youth can do with the right mindset, experiences, and skills. They represent the extent of what could be achieved if all young Africans were given access to high-quality entrepreneurial education and practical opportunities to apply their ideas, ambitions, and talents to real-world opportunities and challenges. To create a supply of jobs for Africa’s youth and a wave of empowered young people to fill them, coordinated investments are needed in each part of the educational pipeline, from early childhood through to the entry-level labor market. Indeed, success requires the coalescing of today’s fragmented landscape of youth development programs into a harmonized network of interventions that weave together households, communities, schools, and companies in service of Africa’s youth. The Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator in South Africa is another promising example of how corporations and nonprofits, working together, can provide high-potential young people with the experiences they need to be successful in the marketplace. Harambee works with its South African corporate partners, including Hollard Insurance (one of the largest insurance companies in South Africa), and Nando’s (a large chain of fast-food restaurants), to prepare and place first-time workers in entry-level jobs. Recruited through a text-message-based application system, Harambee participants take part in a three-month bridging program that teaches them functional, technical, and interpersonal skills. Using reality-based simulations, Harambee students learn how to interact in the workplace, manage conflict, and deal with failure all assets proven to increase the success of new employees. Through its partners, Harambee is filling more than 3,000 jobs across South Africa with its graduates—all young people below the age of 25—validating an exciting new human capital model that has the potential to scale and benefit thousands more youth across Africa. It is no coincidence that Harambee is the Swahili word for “all together.” To decisively reorient Africa toward increasing success, equity, and stability, we must fully empower the continent’s greatest untapped resource: its youth. Providing access to entrepreneurial opportunities and experiences will ensure that all young people have the opportunity to develop their talent and realize their dreams. Africa may be known as the continent of gold, oil, manganese, and diamonds, but our true wealth lies in our people, especially our young people. Only by unlocking the potential of this treasure—by giving them a chance to work or to create their own jobs—will we finally achieve the prosperity that our minerals have so far failed to bring to our continent. Founder and CEO African Leadership Academy   Continue Reading

Memphis Entrepreneur Academy

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Checkout Memphis Entrepreneur Academy website www.mymeakid.org  Learn how you can register for our upcoming Passport Memphis program.Memphis Entrepreneur Academy (MEA!) is a groundbreaking and exciting summer program class that transforms young students into real, confident entrepreneurs. Throughout the class, students develop business ideas, write business plans, conduct market research, pitch their plans to a panel of business owners, and actually launch and run their own real, legal, fully formed companies and social movements. Complete with dynamic guest speakers from the local business community and exciting trips to local companies, the fun, projects-based MEA! MEA approach empowers youth to take charge of their futures in a profound way.

Passport Memphis™ is Memphis Entrepreneurship Academy’s 2013-2014 Saturday program. Participants will spend 3 semesters learning about the history and culture of Memphis combined with basic business principles and leadership. The students will develop, launch and implement a passport program that highlights the rich culture and history of Memphis and engages locals and tourists to explore the city. Program Schedule: Fall Semester: Memphis History and Culture Students will learn about Memphis from a business and cultural perspective. Students will research the cultural and business achievements of the city.  Courses includes instruction on formal writing skills and Microsoft Office. (September 21-November 23) Winter Semester: Introduction to Business Students will have an intense and fast-paced study in business principles and learn about entrepreneurship. Subjects include business concept development, marketing, leadership, finance and accounting, and product development.  (December 7-March 1) Spring Semester: Passport Memphis* Students take the information they learned in the fall and winter and develop a business plan for Passport Memphis. The business plan will be presented to the community and the business will launched at the end of the semester.  *Students must have participated in Fall and Winter semesters in order to be a part of the Passport Memphis semester. (March 8- May 24). Program Information:
  • As students learn history, culture and business, emphasis is placed on developing or enhancing communication skills, critical thinking, basic math skills, and public speaking abilities.
  • Using a team building approach, students learn how to work together to create one common goal.
  • Each semester, the students will participate in one community service activity.
Age: 10-17 (Grade 4-12) Location: Memphis Urban League (413 N. Cleveland St.) Time: 8:30 am- 1:30 pm, Saturdays (see schedule for details)

The News!

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How One Black Entrepreneur ‘Powers’ Obama’s Africa Strategy by Derek T. Dingle

jessica-matthews[1]President Obama’s Africa strategy has moved forward as other countries invest more into the continent. President Obama just ended his whirlwind multi-country tour of Africa. Traveling to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania over six days, his first major trip to the continent included moments both powerful and poignant: The First Family’s tour of the famous slave trade memorial, Maison Des Esclaves (House of Slaves) at Goree Island where millions of enslaved Africans passed through the “Door of No Return”; a trip to Robben      Island, the former prison where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years of incarceration for defiance of apartheid; and Obama’s visit to comfort the Mandela family as the revered leader fought for his life in a Pretoria hospital. The historic meeting between the first black president of the United States, the son of a Kenyan, and the first black president of South Africa would not take place though. As expected, Obama’s trip was chock full of meetings with dignitaries and business leaders as well as speeches designed to deepen US-Africa relations. But his visit, along with Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, to the Ubungo      Power Plant holds special relevance to entrepreneurs. It was at that facility — a public-private partnership between the Tanzanian government and General Electric Africa — that Obama witnessed a demonstration of the Soccket ball, a soccer ball that harnesses the kinetic energy generated during play to provide a source of renewable, off-grid power. In fact, a single bulb LED lamp can be plugged into the ball to provide hours of light. This revolutionary portable generator was invented by 25-year-old Jessica Matthews, co-founder and CEO of Uncharted Play Inc., a two-year -old company that grossed $1 million in 2012. Matthews, a dual citizen of Nigeria and the United States, developed Soccket with her partner Julia Silverman when she was just a 19-year-old Harvard University student. She’s no stranger to BLACK ENTERPRISE. This year at our Entrepreneurs Conference in Columbus, Ohio, Uncharted Play received the Innovator of the Year Award for using Soccket to bring power to rural, off-grid areas of Africa as well as Latin America and the United States. Matthews represents the type of tech innovators the president believes can help advance one of his major strategic initiatives for the continent: Power Africa. In an address to students at South Africa’s Capetown University a couple of days before the Soccket demonstration, Obama pledged $7 billion in U.S. investment, along with gaining $9 billion from the private sector, for electricity projects to bring “light where there is darkness.” The energy program seeks to impact as many as 20 million new African households and businesses in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and Tanzania. Power Africa was the centerpiece of Obama’s message: “Let’s do business.” But he didn’t stop there. He also announced another  initiative — Trade Africa — to increase commercial exchanges with and within Africa, starting with the East African  Community. As part of that effort, he maintained his administration would negotiate a  regional investment treaty with the EAC and work with countries to modernize customs and reduce other barriers obstructing the flow of goods to market. Moreover, he pledged to convince Congress to support extension of the 13-year-old African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which allows Southern African countries to ship certain products to our country tariff-free. The act expires in 2015. The president has made such moves as China has increased its footprint in Africa. Since 2009, China’s trade with African countries has grown to roughly $200 billion a year, surpassing America for the first time in history. And other foreign countries that ignored the continent only a decade ago have discovered the profit potential in its emerging markets. In 2010, South Africa  joined the industrialized growth economies known as BRICs, which includes Brazil, Russia, India and China. As of 2013, the five BRICS countries reportedly represent almost 3 billion people, with a combined gross domestic product — output of goods and services — of $14.8 trillion; currently South Africa chairs the group. During his trip, the president said: “Africa is home to many of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Sectors like retail, telecom and manufacturing are gaining speed…The world is investing in Africa like never before. In fact, we’re  close to reaching a historic milestone where foreign aid to Africa is  surpassed by foreign investment in Africa.” So what does all of this mean for you? In a word: Opportunity. African American businesses can no longer afford to shun global trade. Ron Kirk, U.S. Trade Representative during the first term of the Obama Administration, told me a few years back that “the United States represents about 5% of the world’s consuming population now. That means as a practical matter, 95% of our opportunities lie outside our own borders…What a lot of people don’t know is 95% of our exporters are small to medium-sized businesses.” In fact, during his tenure, he used the annual AGOA to connect African senior representatives and some African American entrepreneurs. Although there continues to be great reluctance for African Americans to access global markets due to perceived risks, African government officials have come to the U.S. to seek out their ingenuity. Two years ago, I met with Mpho Parks Tau, mayor of Johannesburg, who came to the U.S. to identify a diverse group of entrepreneurs to help create a “green” presence within the city. BLACK ENTERPRISE has also covered entrepreneurs who have profited from global exploration, many who have spread the gospel at our events. For instance, former Goldman Sachs investment banker Teresa Clarke, a speaker at our Women of Power Conference, has built Africa.com into the fastest-growing Africa-related website, with about  5 million page views per month from visitors in more than 200 countries  throughout the world.  (You must read her blogs on the president’s trip.) Critically-acclaimed actor Jeffrey Wright spoke at our 2011 Entrepreneurs Conference about the creation of Taia Lion resources, a company that owns rights to land targeted for gold exploration and mining in Sierra Leone and devotes a percentage of its operating budget to local economic development efforts. Entrepreneur Briggette  Harrington, who appeared in our December 2009 cover story on global business, launched successful golf pro shops in Ghana as well as brought a group of entrepreneurs from the country to the Black Enterprise/Pepsi Golf & Tennis Challenge to build cross-continental relationships. Those represent but a few opportunities connected to the motherland. Before taking the plunge, heed the advice of Rick Wade, former deputy chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Commerce who now heads a global business development firm that bears his name. As a part of National Small Business Week, he told entrepreneurs who want to join the global supply chain to partner with other small and  mid-size companies that know the international business terrain to leverage human, technical and financial resources. Establish  close relationships with trade agencies such as the United States  Department of Commerce and Export-Import Bank. Moreover, minority-owned firms “must fight for a seat at the  foreign investment table” and acquire funding from sources in China and other countries. From sectors ranging from agriculture and energy to technology and energy, American entrepreneurs can indeed gain a foothold in Africa, but, to paraphrase, fortune favors the audacious and innovative. Ask Jessica Matthews. She continues to grow Uncharted Play while developing solutions that can drive business development and reduce poverty over time. Her company’s next venture, Ludo, is a “smart ball” that uses an internal motion sensor to track playing time and convert it into points in which consumers can donate items to communities in need.  Given Matthews’ orientation, it is destined to become an international play. I strongly believe that more so than any group of businesspeople, African Americans, use links with Africa from a cultural and business standpoint. We must take advantage of new initiatives and emerging global trends to grow thriving businesses. At the same time, we can bringing innovation and entrepreneurial hustle to address some of the continent’s most critical challenges. Continue Reading

Where the Freelance Economy Is Booming By Patrick Clark

0531-freelancer-630x420[1]There were 22.5 million U.S. businesses that didn’t have any paid employees in 2011, 1.7 percent more than in the year before, about 75 percent of total businesses. They reported $990 billion in total revenue, up 4.1 percent from 2010. About 18 million non-employer businesses, or about 80 percent of the total, reported receipts of less than $50,000. By non-employer businesses, we’re talking about a wide-ranging group, from freelance writers and fashion designers to real estate agents and taxi drivers who work for themselves—as well as necessity entrepreneurs who were pushed into self-employment by a rough job market in recent years. Those numbers are from the U.S. Census Bureau, which released its annual report on non-employer businesses yesterday. As for where they worked and what jobs they did, a couple of tidbits worth noting: • The number of non-employer businesses in North Dakota increased 4.3 percent, while the state’s non-employers’ sales increased 13.2 percent, to $2.3 billion. That’s the biggest sales increase nationwide. (Check out Kasia Klimasinska’s story on the complementary service businesses women are starting in North Dakota, sparked by the shale boom.) • Finance, insurance, and construction were the only industries nationwide to show fewer non-employers in 2011 than in 2010. • Fittingly, the fastest-growing sector in 2011 was what the Census Bureau lumps into “other services,” which includes auto repair, beauty salons, and dry cleaners. One reason the economy of non-employers might keep growing: The Affordable Care Act, the bulk of which takes effect next year, will make it easier for self-employed Americans to buy their own health insurance. To that end, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation estimates that their ranks will swell by 1.5 million in 2014. Continue Reading

Memphis Entrepreneur Academy

313750_449892245097739_1322106670_n[1]Memphis Entrepreneur Academy (MEA!) is a groundbreaking and exciting summer program class that transforms young students into real, confident entrepreneurs. Throughout the class, students develop business ideas, write business plans, conduct market research, pitch their plans to a panel of business owners, and actually launch and run their own real, legal, fully formed companies and social movements. Complete with dynamic guest speakers from the local business community and exciting trips to local companies, the fun, projects-based MEA! MEA approach empowers youth to take charge of their futures in a profound way. Our mission is to inspire children to thrive for higher goals, good citizenship, to conduct themself as to bring credit to themselves, family and community. To develop future leaders for our community and nation to build a better economy for the future. Memphis Entrepreneur Academy is a summer program for ages 10 to 16. The program will be in in session from June 3rd till July 19th 2013. A draft_lens2342808module13124299photo_1230058518kids_in_business[1]program where children are inspired to develop a healthy lifestyle, develop creative initiative, entrepreneurship agility and civic literacy in a community environment. * What is the MEA? A program where children are inspired to develop a healthy lifestyle, develop creative initiative, entrepreneurship agility and civic literacy in a community environment. * How did you come up with this concept?  I wanted to be able to develop future leaders for our community and nation to build a better economy for the future. * What will this do for the students who enroll? Throughout the class, students develop business ideas, write business plans, conduct market research, pitch their plans to a panel of business owners, and actually launch and run their own real, legal, fully formed companies and social movements. * Why is this important for young people? To be able to develop the necessary skills not only contribute to community but also able to develop a partial product that can be used. * What can business owners do to help with the MEA? We would like business owners stop by and just talk with kids and share their knowledge.

* As a city, what would you like to see Memphis doing to make a bigger impact in the lives of young people? Allow our youth to develop into leaders, future business leaders and also have a stake in their community.kids-lemonade-stand[1]

*You have been spending your Friday mornings with a class of young men; tell us about what you are doing, why, and what impact you hope to have? I have been talking with young men about their future and how they can control their destiny.

*How parents can get their kids involved? For more information on the Memphis Entrepreneur Academy, please contact Kelly D. Price, Founder/CEO (901) 451-2900 memphisacademy1@gmail.com www.mymeakid.org Continue Reading
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WHAT IS NETWORKING?

Every time I turn around people want to start a networking group or a meet and greet. I have written something’s down to help you and tell you why Networking in Memphis and Networking in Atlanta has been such a great success! (This is a great read for everyone!!) First what is Business networking? It is the process of establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with other business people and potential a handshakeclients and/or customers. Notice that I don’t say anything about meeting people in this definition; the ever-increasing slew of businesses networking meet-and-greet events has given business networking a bad name. The key to true business networking is the establishment of a mutually beneficial relationship, and that’s an incredibly rare event at the standard shake-hands-and-exchange-your-business-card events that are touted as business networking “opportunities”. The purpose of business networking is to increase business revenue one way or another. The thickening of the bottom line can be immediately apparent, as in developing a relationship with a new client, or develop over time, as in learning a new business skill. The best business networking groups operate as exchanges of business information, ideas, and support (NO MATTER THE BUSINESS). The most important skill for effective business networking is listening; focusing on how you can help the person you are listening to rather than on how he or she can help you is the first step to establishing a mutually beneficial relationship. Jim learned a lot about how to improve his customer service through his business networking group. Networking is a lot of fun! Business networking is when a group of likeminded business people gather and help each other. If you check, you will surely find a networking group in your area. The networking group can meet as often as they wish, as is convenient for the participants. Regrettably, most people start with a networking group by looking for immediate gains, that is, for favorable results for themselves. If this is what you are trying to achieve, you are networking for the wrong reasons and will be sticking out like a sore thumb. Many people think that the size of a networking group makes the difference in networking. When groups start falling in size, members will say, “We have to build up our numbers.” Now, what numbers are they referring to? Is it the number of participants? I would rather belong to a networking group of two people who can help each other on a regular basis then have a large group of business people not following the Ten Commandments of Networking. It is not the quantity, it is the quality. “I haven’t got any leads yet!” Well excuse me; have you given one, ever? Or, have you made a suggestion that might help a fellow member? Did you call anyone with a compliment and say, “Just wanted you to know, Jim, that your comments on the XYZ expansion was right on the money.” One must be willing to put in time waiting also. It might take a while before people feel comfortable with offering you a referral. Networking groups will entrepreneur-network-women-300x232[1]come and go. To get the most out of your networking experience, you need to build a relationship with people who you want to have contact with. Not all members will be able to help you, nor will you be able to help them. That doesn’t mean you should snub them! I still have strong relationships with my networking friends from groups that are long gone. When networking, spend most of your time and effort on people who can help each other out, for the long term. That is right. This is a long term project. Countless times I have been to business networking events and have seen people actually run from person to person, with the expectations of first giving away their card and hoping to gather the other person’s. How can you possibly build a relationship with a person when your objective is to get out there, and collect cards? Some networking groups make a game out of it to see who can collect the most in a certain time. What a waste of business cards! You will find that a highly effective networker will “work the net”. What I mean is that they will go into a function with a goal in mind. My usual goal when business networking is to have the expectation that I will “meet” and “understand” only three people per event. I know what kind of person that I can help and expect that this person will be able to do the same for me. A win/win situation is what I am talking about. The highly effective networker will take the time to cultivate a rapport. After the business networking event is when the real work begins. After all, you are only at the networking event to meet and build rapport. Follow up ASAP. Now is the time to send a nice customized card, and call a few days after to arrange a time to meet for a coffee or to have lunch. That is when you can listen to the details of what your new “friend” requires. You might even have the chance to offer your goods and services, only after listening. If you want to gain the most out of business networking, follow the Ten Commandments of Networking! 1) Thou shalt drop the “what is in it for me?” attitude. 2) Thou shalt listen. 3) Thou shalt build a relationship. 4) Thou shalt give the first referral. 5) Thou shalt not tell others of the referral you require; thou shalt “show them” with a story. 6) Thou shalt be specific of the type of referral. 7) Thou shalt reciprocate when appropriate. 8) Thou shalt participate in the network executive, functions, and network time. 9) Thou shalt thank the person who gave a referral. 10) Thou shalt follow up on the referral within 24 hours. Business networking is productive and fun, and that is why it will always be part of the Bigger Picture. Thank you Kelly D. Price DSC_2655[1] - Copy   Continue Reading

Entrepreneurship Principles You Shouldn’t Forget

Businesses fail all the time. SBA likes to throw statistics at you such as a 95% failure rate within a year of operation and so on. (But see the definitive small business failure rates.) The reasons as to why businesses fail can be many. Here’s what I think. The reason most businesses fail is because entrepreneurship is a principles[1]lifestyle shift, which most entrepreneurs do succeed in. It is, however, the mind shift that’s an integral part of entrepreneurship that remains incomplete. Most entrepreneurs do make mistakes during the startup phase. Below are 9 entrepreneurship principles you shouldn’t forget, to help you be more successful. 9 Entrepreneurship Principles:
  1. It’s Never About the Economy; it’s Always About You
  2. It’s easy to blame everything on the economy. The reality is that entrepreneurship has nothing to do with your idea, previous experience, education and training. Although all of these do help you later on.
  3. Entrepreneurship is always about you. It’s about how you organize resources and manage them. It’s about how you market your business and it’s all about your commitment to see it through to the end.
  4. You Aren’t Playing if You Aren’t Playing by the Numbers, so think outside the box.
  5. If you are in business, you have to make those sales happen. The first hat you wear as an entrepreneur, apart from conceptualizing and designing your products and services, is that of a sales person. A sale manifests itself in various forms and doesn’t always lead to a financial transaction. Wooing investors, convincing customers to buy from you and roping in beta testers for your new startup are all successful sales closures.
  6. As long as it’s about sales, there’s a cardinal rule that applies to it: It’s always a game of numbers while you focus on doing it right. The more customers you talk to, the more you’ll sell. Apply that rule to first hires, venture capitalists and everyone else involved in the startup phase.
  7. Needless to say, rejections will come with 9 out of 10 interactions. It won’t matter since the 10th person is likely to buy. Rejection is the fuel that should keep entrepreneurship alive. Are you letting it fan that flame in your belly?
  8. Use Technology, the new economy demands new approaches to business. The Internet has already turned the tables around. So when you are starting up, is your approach going to be contemporary or traditional? The contemporary route is going to pull you towards the rewards of using technology. You’d typically start a website; create a blog, set up social media accounts and one of the many tools available to run your business. The traditional way still holds (depending on your business), but it still plugs itself into the contemporary way of doing business. That is, even brick-and-mortar business models will end up using technology.
  9. Customers Are Humans; Not CRM Entries Customers are not serial numbers. They aren’t entries in your CRM solution or on your accounting ledger. When entrepreneurs come up with ideas, they could fall in love with their own ideas, concepts and product prototypes that they forget that they are selling it to humans with the aim to solve a pressing problem with an effective solution. That process ought to reverse. Find the problem, come up with solutions for it, launch your product or service and then look to serve customers for life.
Ok the story does not end after the sale. Serving customers to the best of your ability kicks in and stays over. In a Sales Process, You Aren’t Important, Entrepreneurs are people too. They have needs as everyone does. That’s where the fault line is. Nowhere is it more visible than in the sales or deal making process itself. If small business owners need a better conversion ratio in their sales process, they’d have to do the gargantuan task of “removing themselves” from the equation. Your idea might be unique, you’d have invested money in product development and you’d have hired the best people your money could buy. Still, you aren’t important in the process; the customer is. So Just Shut Up Entrepreneur talking about you it doesn’t earn you bragging rights. Nothing ever does. The more you tend to give away in a sales process or while making deals, the more you stand to lose. How familiar are you with these elevator pitches? For example “We are a edu-tech company with 8 different portals to facilitate online education in the emerging economies. We show up when learners demand better access to education.  $8.5 billion in funding, and having bagged 3 prestigious Startup of the Year awards. ”That pitch does sound nice but it’s got “you” written all over it. It’s not personable, it’s not customer-centric and it doesn’t even say how it benefits your client or customer. All it does is brag about how quickly you grew. Entrepreneurship without Vision is Abortive; Entrepreneurship itself is a visionary endeavor. While your broad vision for the company can change as you grow and explore opportunity, it should have one to begin with.
  1. What do you aspire to be? How do you purport to serve customers as you grow? What, exactly, do you want to achieve?
  2. What’s Your Plan? No, you don’t need a business plan. At least, you don’t need to create a 67-page business plan with financials forecast for the next decade. Your business plan puts your ideas onto paper. It gives you a document to go back and refer to when you need to refocus your entrepreneurial efforts. It’s not etched in stone. It’s printed on paper or it might even sit as a document on your computer hard drive. Change plans if you must. Dump the original plan and go for a completely new one. Whatever you do, print it on paper and keep it with you because it guides you along your way.
  3. Not Knowing Is No Excuse, Most successful entrepreneurs are well-read, knowledge-hungry, information addicts. Reports, magazines, books and countless hours on the Internet are all in a day’s work for the typical new age entrepreneur. It’s actually a pretty simple trait that’s still so powerful. Entrepreneurs cannot rest on their laurels. Changes are the only constant that everyone has to deal with. The only way small business owners can keep track of changing trends is by keeping on top of what’s happening in the world, in their industry and elsewhere.
  Entrepreneurship keeps the world’s economy spinning. It’s the reason why jobs are created and new products and services are launched. Entrepreneurship is the sum of all the work that goes behind the scenes to bring us everything we enjoy, use and experience. None of that would have been possible if any of those entrepreneurs behind everything we have today had not acceded to even one of these fundamental entrepreneurship tenets.  So now what’s the plan, entrepreneur? Kelly D. Price DSC_2673[1] Continue Reading

Where tech meets social: how entrepreneurs use tech to drive social change

Social Entrepreneurs Ireland (SEI) has been helping social enterprises across Ireland scale up for the past eight years. However, the organisation is seeing a shift towards technology social entrepreneurship. We talk to the founders of two social enterprises about how they have combined technological solutions in their businesses in order to drive social change.
Darren Ryan, head of engagement at SEI, says the organisation has been seeing a shift towards tech social entrepreneurship in the past few years. imageID_21440__imageTypeID_2.image[1]SEI provides funding and a structure of support to social entrepreneurs to help them grow their ideas and increase their impact. In its eight years of operation, Ryan says SEI has seen 161 social entrepreneurs come through its doors. “We’ve contributed nearly €5m in funding to those entrepreneurs. The trend we are starting to see in the last few years is people coming to us with projects that are completely mission-driven and targeted at solving specific social problems using technology as the vehicle to do that,” explains Ryan. He says mental health, physical health and education are some of the main areas where social entrepreneurs are starting to deploy technology.

Online programme for eating disorders

Emma Murphy is CEO and clinical director of The Turning Institute, a new online programme to help people with eating disorders, such as bulimia and anorexia. The programme received Endeavour funding from SEI last year. Murphy is a psychotherapist who specialises in eating disorders. She is the founder of Sandyford Wellness Clinic. About two years ago, she had two clients who started at the same time: a 40-year-old woman and a 50-year-old man. Both of her clients had been struggling with bulimia for 25 to 30 years. “They had never before brought the eating disorder into the therapy room. This happened quite a lot, so I said to myself there has to be an easier way to make it easier for my clients to get help,” explains Murphy. At her Sandyford clinic, Murphy already ran a 12-week group therapy programme in addition to meeting people individually. She decided to take that group therapy format and translated the 12-week programme into an online format, co-founding The Turning Institute along with Alan O’Neill, the programme’s online marketing director, and Vinny Reynolds, senior developer. “It’s online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). These programmes are not new, but the way we did it is extremely different to how everybody else did it,” explains Murphy. “We took a group of actors and gave them all characterisations and back stories and we used a lot of issues that are common to people with eating disorders.” The online programme is pre-recorded videos but each participant logs on and sees the therapist (ie, Murphy) outlining what they will be covering during a particular session. “Participants do a written exercise in the middle of the session and they have to download the exercise and write it. So we are using writing as a therapeutic tool. It’s about helping people process information better by actually making them write,” she says. Once they finish this exercise they turn the video back on again and enter the online group featuring Murphy and the actors. The programme also offers online webinars to give people the option of interacting with a therapist, but she stresses that this is entirely optional.

Affordable

The reason why The Turning Institute received an Elevator award from SEI, she says, is because it made accessing therapeutic intervention online affordable for people who otherwise may not be able to afford to go to a therapist. emma-murphy-the-turning-institute[1]“People get access to a 12-week programme that represents 24 hours of group therapy. It’s for the cost of two sessions of face-to-face therapy,” explains Murphy. The online programme has been running for two years now for testing and is just about to launch. A clinical trial of the programme started this week at Dublin City University. “It took us nearly a year to get the entire course online,” she says, adding that there’s now some major funding in the pipeline from the commercial sector. “Social entrepreneurial projects can be commercially viable.” Finally, she says the programme is not online counselling.”The key differentiator for us is that people can engage with our programme completely anonymously and confidentially online.” This year, The Turning Institute will also be doing a pilot of the programme in the US with the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA). “Our goal is to be established in the European market, but also in the US market,” adds Murphy. Next up is Grace App, a new app for children with autism or special needs. Lisa Domican is the founder of Grace App, which has also been supported by SEI, receiving an Elevator award from the organisation in 2011. Domican says the inspiration to develop the app came from her daughter Gracie, who has autism. She needed to use picture cards known as PECs (picture exchange communication) to teach her daughter how to communicate. “Grace was extremely good at communicating her needs with PECS but she relied on me to add to her vocabulary with new cards. As a mum with two autistic kids, there was often a delay in taking, saving, printing and laminating those new pictures,” explains Domican. After six years, she says Gracie had accumulated so many pictures that the book had become unwieldy. “I knew that I wanted to keeping visually prompting her emerging voice, but in a way that was more portable and enabled us to add pictures wherever we were,” explains Domican.

Inspiration from the iPhone

It was an advertisement for the iPhone and pictures of apps that reminded Domican of Gracie’s picture book. “I knew nothing about iPhones or even what an app was, but I thought there might be a way to put Gracie’s pictures on that device,” she explains. Domican set about enlisting the expertise of the programmer Steven Troughton-Smith in order to develop the app. “I had read about Steven online and set out to contact him via social media. When I did, and explained what I was trying to do, he agreed to help me straight away.” Since then, the Grace app has been downloaded 20,000 times. It is available for the iPhone, iPad and the iPod touch. “We’ve just had the app translated into six languages by Tethras, which specialises in app localisation services,” she says. This means the app is now also available in French, German, Spanish, Danish, Brazilian, Portuguese and Arabic. Domican says the app is simple to use and works well with Apple’s user interface. “It also addresses a niche in visual communications that encourages the users’ own voice. Its simplicity and usability is down to the fact that it was created in collaboration with somebody who uses and needs it,” she explains. Joining the SEI network has been pivotal, explains Domican, in terms of the mentoring, encouragement and support she has received. “Winning the Elevator award gave me the resources to travel and attend some major assistive technology conferences as a speaker in the US and Spain,” she says. Domican has also recently presented workshops in Australia.

Training others

As for her plans for Grace App this year, she is aiming to continue offering workshops to show people how to use the app. “I want to develop my training into a set of videos and incorporate those into the manual I’ve already written.” In addition, Domican also wants to reach out to carers who look after people with autism, special needs or a traumatic brain injury. “I have an app that helps the user communicate, I want to create one that supports their carers in supporting and developing that communication,” she affirms.
Continue Reading

Entrepreneurs: The Best Hope for the World’s Poorest People

by Pictures-Entrepreneurship1[1]Poverty on a scale that’s unimaginable in developed countries is the daily reality for nearly half the human population. Today, more than 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 a day (measured in purchasing power), and 1.4 billion live on less than $1.25. There is good new, though. Global poverty has, in fact, declined dramatically over the past 50 years, proof that this is not an intractable problem. Income inequalities may always exist, but extreme poverty need not always be with us. Over the years, a multitude of programs have been proposed to tackle the problem of global poverty. Today, the effects of different approaches can be better evaluated, thanks to the powerful technologies now available for research and analytics. And the best of this research points to some surprisingly hopeful conclusions. Entrepreneurs and their companies turn out to be powerful positive forces for reducing extreme poverty around the world. High-impact entrepreneurs have been shown to play an outsized role in producing the new jobs, revenues and innovation needed for broad economic growth in emerging markets. They also have the power to inspire and mentor others as role models. Together, these entrepreneurs hold an important part of the solution for lifting great numbers of people out of extreme poverty. Numerous studies have highlighted the power of these high-impact entrepreneurs to generate jobs, encourage innovation and turn emerging markets into growth markets. For example, in a five-year survey of 800,000 randomly chosen adults in over 60 countries, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor showed that, while only 4 percent of respondents were classified as high-growth entrepreneurs, they generated 38 percent of all jobs created by entrepreneurs in the survey. As companies generate revenue, attract investments, and increase demand for associated products and services, they contribute to the GDP of their countries, which has been shown to effectively reduce poverty. A study of sub-Saharan Africa by researchers at MIT and Columbia University showed that when GDP per capita went up, poverty went down. Research by Endeavor Insight found similar trends in additional countries with large populations in poverty, such as Brazil, Mexico and China. Similarly, a recent World Bank report shows that a 1 percent rise in mean income or consumption expenditures in a country corresponds with a 3 percent reduction in the proportion of people below the poverty line. In recent years, micro-finance programs have helped many poor people — primarily women — take initiatives in agricultural or business that allow them to support themselves and their families. But these very small enterprises alone simply cannot kickstart the jobs and economic growth needed to transform the world’s poorest regions. Research shows that, on average, a high-growth entrepreneur leading a company that can grow to become a large business creates up to 100 times the number of new jobs as a new micro-enterprise. Research on comparative growth in GDP is equally significant. A recent study done in Mexico showed that 273,000 new microfinanced companies would be needed to grow the country’s GDP by 1 percentage point. Only 105 midsize companies would have to grow from medium to large in order to produce the same result. And the jobs created by these entrepreneurial companies were shown to be stable, high-quality and inclusive of diverse skill sets and education levels. To unlock this transformative potential, Endeavor Catalyst was launched as an innovative philanthropic fund to support promising entrepreneurs in emerging markets. Catalyst’s donated funds are co-invested in professional capital raising rounds alongside institutional investors in a neutral, rules-based process. Unlike traditional philanthropy, Catalyst harnesses the value creation of entrepreneurs to produce investment returns that are recycled into new investments, so that initial donations generate ever-increasing funds for social change. We’ve long known that the spirit of entrepreneurship exists everywhere — underdeveloped countries have simply lacked the institutions and mechanisms needed to unlock its power. With Catalyst as a model, we now see that finding, supporting and accelerating the entrepreneurial spirit can be a highly effective investment in a transformed future. Continue Reading

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