Youth Entrepreneurship & Sustainability Summit
My Susty Party co-owner Jessica and I had the great opportunity to be invited to the Youth Entrepreneurship & Sustainability Summit last week in Kansas City, hosted by the Kauffman Foundation and YES.
When high-energy, spirited and fresh-out-the-gate entrepreneurs get together, you know we'll be sparking some crazy ideas off each other! Julie Sygiel was one such young entrepreneur, whose new company Sexy Period redefines period underwear! She posted her own conference re-cap, including photos. Talking with Julie, we shared insights on being women in business, making it happen, manufacturing, sourcing, marketing... the whole gamut.
Also, a strong theme of the conference was Conscious Capitalism. How do you create a business that will change the world for the better? The conference was co-hosted by the Conscious Capitalism Institute.
Add to this mix some seasoned, very experienced entepreneurs who were also in attendance, such as John Mackey the CEO of Whole Foods, Jeffrey Hollender the Founder of Seventh Generation, Betsy Sanders of Nordstrom, Lawerence Koh of International Diversified Products, to just name a few. We all had a chance to learn from each other, as well as from these greats. As a result, we have some incredible new advice and plans to implement at Susty Party.
I also wanted to share with you some more general take-aways from the conference. Some of these points I shared while talking on a panel with my Up and UP New York friends last week as well. So if you have started or want to start your own business, here's some insight from the YES Summit:
1. Have a purpose.
Connect with your values and your passion. John Mackey described that often purposes may fall into the categories of: Good, True, Beautiful, Heroic.
2. Get out there and do something.
Figure things out on the job, rather than over preparing. Don't let what you don't know become an impediment - admit what you don't know, be humble, and ask.
3. Relationships drive business.
Over and over again, we heard examples of how relationships - even meeting someone at a coffee break in night school (as per Lawrence Koh's incredible story) - can change your whole business. And those relationships are often driven by body language and how you are communicating more than by what you are actually saying (according to a UCLA study that John Mackey cited!). Also: invest in the best people, especially if you don't know what you're doing!
Again - this one comes back to purpose. You can't build trust in other people unless you believe in yourself and your own purpose of your company.
4. Funding is over rated.
We heard this from people like David Hauser, the Founder of Grasshopper: why celebrate in the tech community when someone gets $1 million in funding - why not be asking - what will they do with it? Funding may also lead to the wrong partners and a loss of control over your company. There's nothing wrong in bootstrapping. Then, if your model works, you will raise the money you need. But focus on your prototype first. If your idea is great, you'll get the funding you need. And often, slow growth (rather than fast expansion associated with being a funded company) allows for more control and attention to the consciousness of your company: the people and governance, the transparency and accountability, and building your business in alignment with your true purpose and values.
5. Be transparent.
Be honest about sustainability and purpose, and, as Jeffrey Hollender has emphasized, about what you're not doing or can not yet do. Transparency will build trust relationships, from customers to vendors to employees. And it connects you to your own authenticity of trusting yourself and your purpose.
So, if you'd lke to see some of the other awesome companies, created by young entrepreneurs, that were also in attendance and talking about this with us, here are some:
runa kept us deliciously, organically caffeinated through the conference, and have a great foundation!
holstee's values manifesto is a viral hit for a good reason!
sexy period's women entrepreneurs are tackling women's health and confidence issues and producing a revolutionary product - everyone wins!
barley & birch founder kyle started this organic baby clothing company, with no business plan at all. her "maverick" style, to say the least, has worked and funds amazing social aid work for her foundation!
And, the MVP Mentor award goes to: Jeffrey Hollender. You do not want to miss this man speak - he is a beacon of knowledge and he seems to really enjoy helping us upstarts! He also imparts his knowledge on his blog. Must-read, must-see, must-meet (if you are so fortunate).
Now, what are you waiting for? Get out there and make your dream come true!