Entrepreneurship and Courage

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Twice this week I have been called ballsy in negotiations. I’m not sure what to make of it. I don’t think I am ballsy but I do think that attribute is important for people to cultivate.

Neale Godfrey author of “Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Financially Responsible Children,” said it best in Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management, that at some point you’re going to have to give up caring what other people think of you and go after what you want.

I don’t think that’s gutsy. I think it’s a basic human right to dream and to choose to go after those dreams. Not everyone has the opportunity to do so, granted, but I wish that folks had the chance, at least once in their lives to sit back, think about what they wished their lives, their businesses, their legacy to be and then decide to do it. If that makes me gutsy, so be it, but I just think it’s about taking the time to imagine a future that you want and then asking and working hard for it.

By no means do I think I’m invincible or infallible. I just think I want to create something—a business in this case—and I have made the decision to sign a few documents to make it into a reality. In my opinion, that’s not brave, that’s following a path of people I respect, a path that’s already laid out before me and I can choose to follow it or I can choose to go in another direction. I think that’s sensible.

I remember before I started a business I looked up to CEOs and managers and thought that somehow they had achieved greatness. I thought that they were so brave and daring to take a step forward in life. I looked up to them. Now that I have my own business, they’re my peers and I look at them instead of up to them. That’s not courageous; it’s just a shift in perspective.

In business school I learned how to do that; in practice I’m learning that just by using the skills I garnered there that people’s perception of me has shifted.

About the Author

Named Top 100 Leaders by 2012 Magazine, Jasmine Grimm has been nominated for Central Penn Business Journal’s “Top 40 Under 40,” and The Lancaster Chamber’s ATHENA Award.

Jasmine founded Ruby, Inc. a personal styling business that teaches women how to dress for their body types and became a two-time nominee for Inc. Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30 Top Young Entrepreneurs in America. She won the 2013 SCORE Business Development Award, won the Central Penn Business Journal’s Top 25 Women of Influence Award in 2013 and the 2013 Leadership Award from the MS Society.

She has been a popular guest lecturer at the Maastricht Institute of Entrepreneurship and has been featured in Under 30 CEO and Productive Magazine, was the cover story for Harrisburg Magazine and her writing has graced National Geographic Television and Film, Harvard University and more.

She’s a 5,3,8,3 on the Kolbe A Index and her strengths include input, relator, learner, responsibility and achievement.

For more information visit her Google + Page.

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If You Don’t Think About These Sacrifices Now You’ll Hate Yourself Later

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When I attended the Whitman School of Management through Syracuse University, Neale Godfrey, an American author who writes books on financial literacy for children, including most notably “Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Financially Responsible Children” talked to my class about sacrifices.

She said that once you start a business there will be times when you’re counting pennies just to pay for Macaroni and cheese and then other times you’ll come home with a check big enough for a steak dinner. Business is high and low. The trick, she said, is to decide what you’re willing to sacrifice and what you’re not.

No truer words were ever spoken.

I understood what Godfrey was saying because I come from a family of entrepreneurs. My grandparents on both sides owned mushroom farms and distribution plants and my parents and grandparents owned a farmers market together as I was growing up. After college I was offered an opportunity by a venture capitalist to start any business I wanted. I rescinded his offer because I learned from the time I was small that when times were plentiful, life seemed easy. When they were lean…well, let’s just say that I didn’t mind scrounging through the couch cushions to gather a bit of change to ride my bike down to the store to find something to eat.

It’s part of the sacrifices you make when you start a business. The trick I’m learning is to ride out the lean times until you get to the times of plenty.

This sounds easy but emotionally it’s tough. I’d like to state for the record that I am totally debt free. Nothing I own owns me. However, it doesn’t mean that it’s simple to ride out the lean times. I ask myself often: is this broken or just an excuse to give up? To this there is no simple answer. I have not owned and operated a business without having a a full time gig before and therefore I have yet to determine when times will be booming and when times will be scarce.

So I have to ask myself about what I am willing to sacrifice during times of uncertainty. Some questions are simple: do you really need knock-out roses in the front of the house when you don’t have a client lined up this week? That’s pretty easy but yet when I drive through the community and see the neighbors beautifully landscaped yards, I covet what they have and I feel a bit inadequate for not having the same. I ask myself sometimes if it would just be smarter to go to a job with a six figure salary and show up, do my job and then go home and have extra money to spend if I would be making a smarter choice than I am now. I ask myself am I willing to sacrifice a dream for comfort or am I willing to trade uncertainty for chance.

As someone who is in the midst of this, I don’t know the answer. So I harken back to what Godfrey said about entrepreneurship: some days it’s tough to make mac and cheese, some days the money is so plentiful you’re full of steaks.

As of now I have concluded that regardless of the path I choose, I am going to suffer. I just have to decide, just as you will need to do as you’re going through your business path, what I am willing to suffer for.

About the Author

Named Top 100 Leaders by 2012 Magazine, Jasmine Grimm has been nominated for Central Penn Business Journal’s “Top 40 Under 40,” and The Lancaster Chamber’s ATHENA Award.

Jasmine founded Ruby, Inc. a personal styling business that teaches women how to dress for their body types and became a two-time nominee for Inc. Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30 Top Young Entrepreneurs in America. She won the 2013 SCORE Business Development Award, won the Central Penn Business Journal’s Top 25 Women of Influence Award in 2013 and the 2013 Leadership Award from the MS Society.

She has been a popular guest lecturer at the Maastricht Institute of Entrepreneurship and has been featured in Under 30 CEO and Productive Magazine, was the cover story for Harrisburg Magazine and her writing has graced National Geographic Television and Film, Harvard University and more.

She’s a 5,3,8,3 on the Kolbe A Index and her strengths include input, relator, learner, responsibility and achievement.

For more information visit her Google + Page.

 

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Now, Have the Luxury and Education of an Ivy League at a Price You Can Afford

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I may have mentioned this before but I have always longed to go to Harvard. That’s been a huge dream of mine since I was small and time and time again my friends, family and even strangers would tell me it couldn’t be done. I don’t have some prestigious last name or a big bank roll and unless you trace my family history back to Charlemagne you’re not going to find any big wigs in my lineage. But today, I proved the naysayers wrong. Today I started with MIT and before long I’ll be going to Harvard.

I’m continuing my education through a Massive Open Online Course, which is is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. Today I took my first class at MIT. I have goosebumps.

I am passionate about learning—not education—but learning. I love absorbing as much information as I possibly can, not to the point of mania, but it’s a passion. When I called my mom the other day and told her I signed up to take classes for free at Harvard she said, “You should just apply for a job.”

Really? I have the opportunity to learn for free and you’re telling me, “just get a job.” So I apply for jobs where I have the skill sets that would be applicable knowing I can work on my business part time, go to school online for free part time and I still hear it daily: Get a job. Get a job. Get a job.

That’s when the old adage by Friedrich Nietzsch comes to mind: “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”

Here’s the music that’s playing online: They’re singing a tune of entrepreneurship. They’re singing about how I need to build a vibrant culture of hackers, hipsters and people on the fringe of society because that’s where I’ll get my traction. They’re singing about how I’ll most likely fail but I’ll be able to parlay those skill sets into my next venture, opportunity or job and that’s okay. There is a music in the air about how I need to find my specific niche and listen to their pain points so I can solve them and allow them the opportunity to solve their pains. Still I hear the drums in the background thundering to stop getting an education, slow down on my goals because I’m not getting results and take a safe route through life. I don’t know which is right. I can only listen to my gut, listen to educators at Ivy League schools and go after my goals even if I have to do them part time.

The songs that resonate from Massive Open Online Courses are for me, and for people like me who want to learn without the hindrance of paying. They’re for people who want to learn, not for people who want to be educated.

I plan on building an MBA type curriculum for free and getting the necessary mind set so I can learn to, as Steve Jobs put it, be a pirate instead go joining the Navy. However, hopefully these classes will help me become a pirate but with the skills of a Navy Seal. If I fail? So what. At least I dared to learn.

About the Author

Named Top 100 Leaders by 2012 Magazine, Jasmine Grimm has been nominated for Central Penn Business Journal’s “Top 40 Under 40,” and The Lancaster Chamber’s ATHENA Award.

Jasmine founded Ruby, Inc. a personal styling business that teaches women how to dress for their body types and became a two-time nominee for Inc. Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30 Top Young Entrepreneurs in America. She won the 2013 SCORE Business Development Award, won the Central Penn Business Journal’s Top 25 Women of Influence Award in 2013 and the 2013 Leadership Award from the MS Society.

She has been a popular guest lecturer at the Maastricht Institute of Entrepreneurship and has been featured in Under 30 CEO and Productive Magazine, was the cover story for Harrisburg Magazine and her writing has graced National Geographic Television and Film, Harvard University and more.

She’s a 5,3,8,3 on the Kolbe A Index and her strengths include input, relator, learner, responsibility and achievement.

For more information visit her Google + Page.

 

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How to Go to Harvard for Free

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From the time I was small I dreamed of going to an Ivy League. For free. Many would say this sounds crazy, because most spend about a quarter of a million on an Ivy League education but with the digital revolution, it’s no longer impossible. You can get an MBA education from a top tier school for free but it’ll take discipline and self-direction.

Welcome to the world of MOOC, an honor-system type education for self-starters who want a self-paced education. Professors deliver content in real time through Power Point, videos and books and students respond in message boards and receive student support.

Coursera, edX, and Udacity are social entrepreneurial companies that form partnerships with schools to develop the content and students have access to education for free. MOOCs stands for Massive Open Online Course and it’s often times used for personal enrichment in lieu of a standard diploma, though some offer a certification of completion.

That doesn’t mean that the education isn’t valuable, it just means that the idea is too new to have the market determine the value of it.

What’s interesting is that although anyone can have a university-level instruction  anywhere, it’s mostly white-collar males who are pursuing it.

If you’re interested in dabbling in Ivy education, for free, here are nine places to begin:

About the Author

Named Top 100 Leaders by 2012 Magazine, Jasmine Grimm has been nominated for Central Penn Business Journal’s “Top 40 Under 40,” and The Lancaster Chamber’s ATHENA Award.

Jasmine founded Ruby, Inc. a personal styling business that teaches women how to dress for their body types and became a two-time nominee for Inc. Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30 Top Young Entrepreneurs in America. She won the 2013 SCORE Business Development Award, won the Central Penn Business Journal’s Top 25 Women of Influence Award in 2013 and the 2013 Leadership Award from the MS Society.

She has been a popular guest lecturer at the Maastricht Institute of Entrepreneurship and has been featured in Under 30 CEO and Productive Magazine, was the cover story for Harrisburg Magazine and her writing has graced National Geographic Television and Film, Harvard University and more.

She’s a 5,3,8,3 on the Kolbe A Index and her strengths include input, relator, learner, responsibility and achievement.

For more information visit her Google + Page.

 

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Adversity: A Distinct B School Advantage

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When I was taking classes at the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University’s Entrepreneurial Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities Program, my professor Dr. Mike Haynie challenged my thinking. He had this knack for storytelling and he’s so insightful that he was recently awarded a Ted Talk. But on this day in class he let Aimee Mullins do the talking through a brief video. Mullins shared her story about how being typically thought of as disabled has given her a distinct competitive advantage. I’d argue it gave her the ability to think creatively. In her Ted Talk she asks children to give her suggestions on if she wanted to jump over a building, what sorts of legs would they build for her. Immediately the children took clues from nature like frogs and kangaroos. And what’s interesting to note is that those children were doing exactly what the folks at the Biomimicry Institute do on a daily basis—they were looking to nature to solve a problem. And what’s interesting to note is that not only were the children limitless in their thinking but they imagined a far greater outcome than just jumping over a building—they thought she could fly, too.

Professor Haynie brought to light the idea that innovation often comes from adversity, limitations and shortcomings. He made us think how we could look at the world around us and see problems that others found invisible and begin to brainstorm solutions that were previously undiscovered. As further illustration, Mullins said that she called for innovations—one might argue who are childlike in their thinking: curious, limitless and unhindered by others’ perceptions—to design new legs and make prothesis making an art form. Fashion designers made her boots, innovators created kangaroo like legs that allowed her to sprint faster than many people with two naturally created stems and others allowed her to vary her height based on the size shoe she wanted to wear that day and Mullins friends’ became jealous of her previously-thought-of-disability because it gave her the advantage of changing her height.

Professor Haynie made us think about how we too could solve problems as entrepreneurs, how we could change our thoughts to imagine the impossible, think of solutions to things that were once thought of as impossible and he demonstrated through Mullins that adversity is not what we think. It is not a setback but rather an opportunity uniquely to the person facing the obstacle to trek a path that was previously unexplored.

I’m not saying that Syracuse is the only B school to be touting ideas like these to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs, but I can say with confidence that unless a college or university can challenge your thinking in this way that it is a waste of time and money. If B school doesn’t drastically alter the way you’ve been thinking, working and imagining the future than it has failed in it’s endeavor to educate you.

About the Author


Named Top 100 Leaders by 2012 Magazine, Jasmine Grimm has been nominated for Central Penn Business Journal’s “Top 40 Under 40,” and The Lancaster Chamber’s ATHENA Award.
Jasmine founded Ruby, Inc. a personal styling business that teaches women how to dress for their body types and became a two-time nominee for Inc. Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30 Top Young Entrepreneurs in America. She won the 2013 SCORE Business Development Award, the won the Central Penn Business Journal’s Top 25 Women of Influence Award in 2013 and the 2013 Leadership Award from the MS Society.
She has been a popular guest lecturer at the Maastricht Institute of Entrepreneurship and has been featured in Under 30 CEO and Productive Magazine, was the cover story for Harrisburg Magazine and her writing has graced National Geographic Television and Film, Harvard University and more.

She’s a 5,3,8,3 on the Kolbe A Index and her strengths include input, relator, learner, responsibility and achievement.

View her Google+ page here. 

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Sophie’s Choice and Entrepreneurship

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Not a literary buff? Here’s a little tale you ought to familiarize yourself with from the cannon. It’s called Sophie’s Choice, by William Styron. Amazing novel, but that aside, if you haven’t read it, here is the crux of the book and actually, one of the smallest scenes in the entirety of the piece.

I read it sometime during my undergrad studying Mass Communications and English at Missouri Valley College.

It goes a little something like this:

Sophie just arrived in Auschwitz with her 10-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter. There a sadistic doctor said she can pick one of her children to live and the other will be killed. She couldn’t make the agonizing choice until several officers get ready to rush both children away and Sophie picks her daughter to die.

The unfortunate side to entrepreneurship is that many times you’ll face decisions that have no right answer, much like Sophie’s choice. And no I am not comparing running a start-up to the horrors of the Holocaust. I’m only using the movie and the literature as an example of impossible choices and the story illustrates that clearly.

I can’t speculate why she made the decision to save her son but not her daughter but I know tons of factors can do into a split second decision. Sometimes there’s so much pressure you blurt out an answer just to move onto the next problem you have to face. Sometimes your brain moves slower than your mouth and you just spout out something because you have to choose and neither answer is right and neither is wrong. Other times you agonize over a decision—stay up late at night tossing and turning to try to make one and still not know the answer but are forced to make a choice when you don’t know what the outcome will be.

As an entrepreneur, I studied at Syracuse University through the Whitman School of Business, and after graduating I’ve faced numerous tough choices and I don’t know the right answer, akin to the tale I learned in my undergrad.

I just know the path I took. Here’s some of the decisions I have had to make during my time as a small business owner that maybe you’ll have to face, too. Or maybe your choices will be something far more interesting with little quirks that push you in one direction or the other. I won’t tell you the answer I went for, I’ll just pose the quandary and just like in college, you get to think about the answer.

  • Do you file taxes if you only broke even?
  • Do you press criminal charges against a family member for something they did during their time in business with you?
  • Do you pay for a website or ask an ex-boyfriend to do it for you?
  • Do you give trade secrets away on the Internet for free or do you lock them down and safeguard them so your client base has to pay for them?
  • When finances are tight, do you pay yourself or someone else first?
  • Do you stop running your business so that your partner can’t collect a portion of your business or do you continue to work knowing they’ll get a portion regardless of how much they put in or not?
  • If you’re paid in cash do you deposit it in the bank or does that money not exist because there’s no paper trail to prove it?
  • Do you eat the cost of a lawyer with a business partner or pay for it yourself knowing you’re investing in social capital within the relationship?
  • Will you risk suffering to do something right, or will you take the easy way out to save the hassle?
  • Will you devalue your products and services by lowering your price to make the customer happy or will you turn down customers who won’t pay your fees?

These are just a tiny iota of questions I’ve had to answer during my time as an entrepreneur. Some feel like Sophie’s choice–an impossible decision that you don’t want to make but must because of the situation that surrounds you. Others are not. But they’re all questions that you can’t Google. They’re judgement calls and regardless of the choice, there’s no undoing it.

What impossible decisions are you making today as an entrepreneur?

About the Author
Named Top 100 Leaders by 2012 Magazine, Jasmine Grimm has been nominated for Central Penn Business Journal’s “Top 40 Under 40,” and The Lancaster Chamber’s ATHENA Award.

Jasmine founded Ruby, Inc. a personal styling business that teaches women how to dress for their body types and became a two-time nominee for Inc. Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30 Top Young Entrepreneurs in America. She won the 2013 SCORE Business Development Award, the won the Central Penn Business Journal’s Top 25 Women of Influence Award in 2013 and the 2013 Leadership Award from the MS Society.

She has been a popular guest lecturer at the Maastricht Institute of Entrepreneurship and has been featured in Under 30 CEO and Productive Magazine, was the cover story for Harrisburg Magazine and her writing has graced National Geographic Television and Film, Harvard University and more.

She’s a 5,3,8,3 on the Kolbe A Index and her strengths include input, relator, learner, responsibility and achievement.

For more information visit her Google + Page.

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Intrapreneurship: Lessons from B School and Experience

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When I was taking classes at Syracuse, Professor Mike Haynie introduced me to the concept of intrapreneuship. I had no clue such roles existed but I reflected back on the job I was working at the time and realized that I was an intrepreneur.

That was revolutionary.

I learned an intrepreneur behaves like an entrepreneur within a large organization. Famous examples might include the Skunk Works operation at Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Programs (ADP), formerly called Lockheed Advanced Development Projects. Their job was to come up with new ideas in aerospace, whereas mine was to develop a magazine from the ground up in a digital-only fashion.

In hindsight I can tell you that intrapreneurship is much more challenging that it’s more famous counterpart.

Having studied under Guy Kawasaki a bit at school and having read his books, I can tell you that when he says from the outside it looks like intrapreneurs have it made because they have pre-existing infrastructure, sales teams, technology, and really, they don’t have to worry about writing a business plan or raising capital—it seems like a cakewalk.

But it’s not.

One of the most challenging aspects of intrepreneurship is that you have to assume the risks of the endeavor but relinquish control of the success. For example, I personally won an award, I didn’t win it, the company did. But if I failed in some endeavor, or if anyone failed for that matter, I had to assume responsibility for it. It’s maddening at times but it also serves as entrepreneurship with training wheels.

It teaches you balance: can you balance the demands of the customers with the demands of the company? Can you balance the wants of the stakeholders knowing that it’s not going to work with the technology? Can you tell someone why an idea isn’t going to work because you have become a specialist in your field and still have them listen even when you’re not the ultimate decision-maker?

It’s maddening at times. I remember as the project reached year three, having won awards, grown readership and figured out how to parlay blogging techniques into a medium where those strategies weren’t previously done, it seemed like everything changed. I felt like I was a blind dog walking around in a house where the furniture kept changing. I’m not saying anything disparaging about the company where I was working nor is it a comment on the stakeholders. Rather, I think it was growing pains for the publication. We reached a crux where we weren’t sure where we were going: turnover, lack of sales goals met, management structure changing and more. About two years before the magazine ultimately ended, I realized that the magazine wouldn’t survive because I had learned a critical concept in business school that I didn’t know before: brands and companies exist to solve problems. This concept I was working on created more problems than it solved and the pain point that it aimed to solve wasn’t pressing enough to overlook the other details. Had I have known that concept before I started the magazine I don’t know if I would have taken on the project. Yes, I would have worked for the company. Yes, I would have continued in journalism and yes, I loved figuring out problems that didn’t have a solution before but if it doesn’t solve a problem it’s all ultimately futile.

If I were to do a post mortem on the project, I could dissect it and see all the instances where I went wrong.

First, I would have looked at the project and asked myself seriously: does this project solve any pressing problems? If not, it’s going to fail.

Everything that works for a large company will be the antithesis of what works for an intrapreneur. If everyone is going in one direction, you have to stop and go the other way. It’s painful. It’s embarrassing to present ideas that no one else supports, but because they’re not operating from a start-up perspective, they won’t see the problem until it impacts them and their cash cow.

I wish, in hindsight, all of my meetings with the team were in a separate environment. It sounds silly but you’d be amazed at how many times we’d pull off an idea only to get in trouble for it first and then have it succeed later. Getting in trouble used to mean that I was on the wrong path, but with intrapreneurship it meant I was doing something that was getting attention and therefore it was frightening to the stakeholders. If we could have operated in a silo and presented to the company what we were learning from first-hand experience developing something from the ground up, I think it would have made the team more cohesive and we could have celebrated our accomplishments without being fearful of losing our jobs because of the failures—and there were many.

My team and I were often left alone with our projects—which is good in many cases but it also made us feel isolated from the rest of the company. However, it wasn’t until the final season of the publication did I feel like I had a team with that something special where they weren’t afraid to take risks and see what worked, and have the grit to say, well, that didn’t, let’s try again.

I wish we would have been able to share the data and lessons we learned with the rest of the organization. We learned some valuable lessons from our experiment. We learned what worked, and what didn’t. We could have used these best practices for other publishing houses to emulate. And in some ways we did, but we could have contributed more.

I learned that success within a company is measured in miles and success in an intrapreneurial role is measured in millimeters.

Finally, I wish I would have just flown under the radar. I wish that I would have been able to keep my trap shut and just have done my job quietly so that when we succeeded, someone else could tout our success and when we failed, no one would be impacted by it. But I didn’t.

And so ultimately I learned that intrapreneurship, in some ways it very much like entrepreneurship. It’s riddled with risks. It might not work. It’s got to solve a pressing problem and ultimately it has to make money to survive.

Had I have known all of these lessons from Syracuse, and not the school of hard knocks, I think I would have been able to make far wiser decisions.

In the end, would I change any day of it? No way. It paved the way for me to start my own company because in its failure it gave me the ultimate lesson of all: the courage to fail publically and continue to try despite the many obstacles against me.

About the Author
Named Top 100 Leaders by 2012 Magazine, Jasmine Grimm has been nominated for Central Penn Business Journal’s “Top 40 Under 40,” and The Lancaster Chamber’s ATHENA Award.

Jasmine founded Ruby, Inc. a personal styling business that teaches women how to dress for their body types and became a two-time nominee for Inc. Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30 Top Young Entrepreneurs in America. She won the 2013 SCORE Business Development Award, the won the Central Penn Business Journal’s Top 25 Women of Influence Award in 2013 and the 2013 Leadership Award from the MS Society.

She has been a popular guest lecturer at the Maastricht Institute of Entrepreneurship and has been featured in Under 30 CEO and Productive Magazine, was the cover story for Harrisburg Magazine and her writing has graced National Geographic Television and Film, Harvard University and more.

She’s a 5,3,8,3 on the Kolbe A Index and her strengths include input, relator, learner, responsibility and achievement.

For more information visit her Google + Page.

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Poverty, Prosperity and Entrepreneurship

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In business school I took a class on poverty. That might seem like an unlikely area to study considering many entrepreneurs aim for prosperity, however, I might argue it was one of the most important classes I took at Syracuse. The professor talked about how poverty isn’t only for individuals and families if their annual pretax cash income falls below a dollar amount but rather poverty is made up of any lack of resources including financial, housing, education, family structure and more. She said we’re all susceptible to the three major causes of devastation in our lives: job loss, illness, death or divorce. She said in a sense, we’re all one day away from poverty.
Now this is a sobering thought to many would-be entrepreneurs in business school. Many are in business to create abundance, prosperity and fortune. Some are in it to create an entity that will outlive themselves—they love the idea of creating a legacy through an organization that they designed. But so infrequently do we, as entrepreneurs, think about poverty.

In the past year I stopped working full time to pursue entrepreneurship. I ventured out with savings, mutual funds, and a small nest egg. I went through a divorce and my ex-husband drained all of the accounts. As many know, cash flow can cripple a business and he almost succeeded. He also misappropriated funds and violated an operating agreement. He also filed my taxes without my signature and kept the refund. Again, this nearly crippled my dream. Add to it the fact that I had a serious illness that required me to have a portion of my skull removed, he refused to put me on health insurance and we had subsequent family deaths. If you look at the sobering fact: in 2013 I was nearly completely crippled. I was in poverty. I lacked resources. I lacked my health. I lacked my once nuclear family and I lacked my business partner.
But I thought back to the lessons I learned at Syracuse and I thought about poverty in context. Yes, I lacked funds but I had faith. Yes, I lacked health but I had a support system who could do physically where I could not. Yes, I had my funds depleted but I had a dream and once I was back on my feet I could pursue it. There were resources out there and I set out to find them because although I was crippled I was not defeated.

So here’s what I learned struggling in the process. Any government institution will require you to be on hold for at least 40 minutes and will most likely give you little information you need to make an informed decision. You will be told no at every pass. There is always some random guideline that you do not qualify for and therefore you have forfeited the opportunity to use it. Don’t lose heart. Just assume those resources are not for you.

In my opinion the government doesn’t make it easy on entrepreneurs. At all. Healthcare costs are astronomical. Resources are limited and hidden by layers and layers of red tape. Nothing is user-friendly. Unless someone knows you, most likely you cannot count on them for help.

But as an entrepreneur, and especially one in poverty, you have something far more powerful than you ever imagined. You have a story. You’re making a story of an American legend and that story will resonate with people. It’s riveting because you’re a real life David and Goliath fighting the only way you know how to fight.

So here’s what I’d encourage the struggling entrepreneur fresh out of business school that didn’t take this class at Syracuse. Poverty and prosperity are a state of mind as much as they are a real concept. Out of the greatest poverty we can create amazing entrepreneurial stories. Our country is rich with them from stories of immigrants coming through Ellis Island to prosper in the new world, to thread bare students going to Harvard on scholarship only to persevere and graduate the top of their class. Entrepreneurship is about struggle. Poverty and prosperity are a day away. Keep trying. Keep looking for resources because the best times of innovation come from abject scarcity.

About the Author
Named Top 100 Leaders by 2012 Magazine, Jasmine Grimm has been nominated for Central Penn Business Journal’s “Top 40 Under 40,” and The Lancaster Chamber’s ATHENA Award.

Jasmine founded Ruby, Inc. a personal styling business that teaches women how to dress for their body types and became a two-time nominee for Inc. Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30 Top Young Entrepreneurs in America. She won the 2013 SCORE Business Development Award, the won the Central Penn Business Journal’s Top 25 Women of Influence Award in 2013 and the 2013 Leadership Award from the MS Society.

She has been a popular guest lecturer at the Maastricht Institute of Entrepreneurship and has been featured in Under 30 CEO and Productive Magazine, was the cover story for Harrisburg Magazine and her writing has graced National Geographic Television and Film, Harvard University and more.

She’s a 5,3,8,3 on the Kolbe A Index and her strengths include input, relator, learner, responsibility and achievement.

For more information visit her Google + Page.

 

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The Smartest Thing I Ever Learned in Business School

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Quite a few years ago I took some business classes at a local community annex. They taught the basics of time management and P&L statements and had us craft a mission statement and 30-second elevator pitch. I won’t say that these things aren’t valuable because they are; however, the thing I noticed in class is that many of the budding entrepreneurs were pitching ideas that were self-aggrandizing. They were selling themselves and what I mean to say is they honed in on a talent or hobby or idea that they held near and dear to their hearts with little regard as to who would purchase their product or service. They made the business all about them.
When I went to Syracuse they had us think about this concept that I’ll call, “Will the fish bite?” before we ever started brainstorming our business plan. They wanted us to think about a need that people have and are willing to pay to solve. They didn’t want us to think about ourselves, rather they encouraged us to look around the world and begin looking for unsolved possibilities. The idea of “Will the fish bite?” means essentially, “Will you be able to hook a customer with your idea because they’re hungry enough to latch onto it?”

What problem will you solve?

That’s the smartest lesson I learned in business school.

The second most valuable idea I garnered from business school was the process of honing in on the fish that will actually bite.

If I were to continue the fishing analogy, if you’re hunting for Muskies most likely you’ll want to grab a Jensen Jig and head to Cass Lake, Minnesota for the summer and take out an experienced guide like Dr. Loren Gruber to a catch the beasts. Customers are like that, too. You’ve got to know what your customers who are looking to do one specific thing with you want. You’ve got to know what will make them hungry enough to pay money so you can hook them. You’ve got to know their hair, eye color, demographic, hobbies, friends, etc. so that you can craft an ideal image in your head of what an ideal buyer looks like. You do this so you can find your fish time and time again and know how to hook them.

Then you have to find your pond. You have to know where to fish. With Muskies you can go to Cass Lake. But where do your fish hide out? If you need a guide, reach out to the local library. They can help you pull demographics right down to addresses and phone numbers of fish right in your neighborhood. And from there if you have the right bait for the right fish and they’re hungry, I promise you they’ll buy.

About the Author
Named Top 100 Leaders by 2012 Magazine, Jasmine Grimm has been nominated for Central Penn Business Journal’s “Top 40 Under 40,” and The Lancaster Chamber’s ATHENA Award.

Jasmine founded Ruby, Inc. a personal styling business that teaches women how to dress for their body types and became a two-time nominee for Inc. Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30 Top Young Entrepreneurs in America. She won the 2013 SCORE Business Development Award, the won the Central Penn Business Journal’s Top 25 Women of Influence Award in 2013 and the 2013 Leadership Award from the MS Society.

She has been a popular guest lecturer at the Maastricht Institute of Entrepreneurship and has been featured in Under 30 CEO and Productive Magazine, was the cover story for Harrisburg Magazine and her writing has graced National Geographic Television and Film, Harvard University and more.

She’s a 5,3,8,3 on the Kolbe A Index and her strengths include input, relator, learner, responsibility and achievement.

For more information visit her Google + Page.

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‘How Will You Measure Your Life?’—An Application of Lessons from HBR

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Clayton M. Christenson teaches at Harvard and he works with students to educate them on management theory, innovation and growth. In a nutshell, he teaches them what actions yield what results. On the last day of class he has students posit answers to three critical questions:

  • How I be sure that I’ll be happy in my career?
  • How can I be sure that my relationships with my spouse and my family become an enduring source of happiness?
  • How can I be sure I’ll stay out of jail?

These questions might seem like a no brainer, but they’re not at all. I’ve never been arrested but I have gone through divorce and family tragedy and I have found myself at crossroads in my career when I wasn’t sure if I was happy or just complacent and after starting my own company, I’m forced to think about these things in a greater context because my actions impact those around me. It’s not that they didn’t before. In a sense I have always had a team of people relying on me in one capacity or another. It’s just that I didn’t recognize it before.

To answer the first question: how can I be sure I’ll be happy in my career; I’ll share an anecdote.

In 2007 I had spent a year eloping and moving to Alaska with my then-husband whom I had known since I was 8 years old. We spent the year going dog sled racing and traveling up and down the west coast through Anchorage, Seattle and British Columbia. Then we finished the year traveling from Alaska to Pennsylvania by Uhaul before settling into his parents’ home until we bought a place of our own. At this time in my life I was offered an opportunity to make $60,000 the first year as a financial advisor for a prestigious firm. I passed all of the interviews and loved the culture but there was just one problem: I didn’t learn the way they were teaching me. Every single day I struggled through the online exams only to fail and fail again. I was discouraged and unhappy. We wanted to buy a house and he was unemployed so I felt pressure to bring home money to finance our goal. One night after the umpteenth time of trying to take the test and failing, I went to bed and asked him how he felt about me quitting. He said, “Jasmine, you’ll either love your paycheck or you’ll love your job. Pick which one is more important to you.” The next day I quit and went back to a job as a newspaper editor making pennies on the dollar and loving my job every day. I didn’t have a lot of money but I sure was rich.

Second, how can I be sure that my relationships with my spouse and my family become an enduring source of happiness? Now, as I shared before I have gone through a divorce—a bitter, ugly bifurcation that cost me more than $20,000 in savings, and thousands more in tax returns, my home and more than half of my property. I lost my home and damn near my sanity. But more than all of those things, I feel as though I lost my time and that’s a resource I can’t get back. I believe that money comes and goes. They print more of it every single day so I’m not going to worry about a resource that can’t be depleted. But time: I lost it.

I intentionally planned to have a healthy relationship with my spouse. I tried the Love and Respect books, marriage counseling, pre-marital counseling, following Martha Stewart’s guidelines for a clean house and more. I worked out hard at Crossfit and Krav maga so I’d be fit. I didn’t let myself go. But it didn’t work. We fought constantly. We lost respect for one another. We had different values. We didn’t have an enduring source of happiness. It was seven years of hard work that ended in bitter disappointment, many travels and ultimately failure. From this I learned that you’ll face adversity with friends, family and spouses. Really, what holds people together is respect and shared values. If you don’t have that foundation, no matter what you build it’ll crumble.

Finally, how can I make sure I stay out of jail?

This is a hard one.

Here’s what I mean: the past year my business partner stole thousands from the business my misappropriating funds. I contacted the police and thought he may face jail time. That didn’t happen. I thought he’d have to pay the funds back quickly. That too, didn’t happen. I thought he’d be held accountable. Again, that didn’t happen.
On the other hand, I relied on a professional who gave me bad advice and I lost $25,000 in the process.

This gives me pause and confuses me.

The first act was done maliciously with the intent to destroy something I had built. The second was bad advice from a trusted professional and foolishness on my part to follow their discernment.

The question “how can I make sure I stay out of jail” is hard because you really don’t know the consequences of any behavior until you do it. Yes, I can hedge my bets and work on wisdom and discernment but ultimately I can’t predict the future. I can just try my hardest to make good decisions, safeguard myself and my business from undue risk and hope that I am building a business that will outlast me, but I don’t know what the future holds. Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr. both ended up in jail and they’re some of the most influential leaders of our time and yet at the same token Al Capone, Charles Manson and Ted Bundy also ended up in jail.
How can I apply this question to my business? File taxes, do the right thing by people, avoid hubris and make sure I have a good lawyer, I suppose.

Ultimately though without a taking one of Christenson’s classes, I guess that I’m learning management theory, innovation and growth by studying what others around me are doing and seeing what actions they take to yield what results. I try to follow the results I like and avoid the consequences I abhor, and give myself the grace to learn through experience.

About the Author
Named Top 100 Leaders by 2012 Magazine, Jasmine Grimm has been nominated for Central Penn Business Journal’s “Top 40 Under 40,” the Woman of the Year, and The Lancaster Chamber’s ATHENA Award.

Jasmine founded Ruby, Inc. a personal styling business that teaches women how to dress for their body types and became a two-time nominee for Inc. Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30 Top Young Entrepreneurs in America. She won the 2013 SCORE Business Development Award, the won the Central Penn Business Journal’s Top 25 Women of Influence Award in 2013 and the 2013 Leadership Award from the MS Society.

She has been a popular guest lecturer at the Maastricht Institute of Entrepreneurship and has been featured in Under 30 CEO and Productive Magazine, was the cover story for Harrisburg Magazine and her writing has graced National Geographic Television and Film, Harvard University and more.

She’s a 5,3,8,3 on the Kolbe A Index and her strengths include input, relator, learner, responsibility and achievement.

For more info, see her Google+ Profile.

 

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