It’s Never Too Young to Start Thinking Like an Entrepreneur

Pic 4 LAST WEEK, NEW ORLEANS ENTREPRENEUR CHRIS SCHULTZ VISITED KIPP CENTRAL CITY SCHOOL IN NEW ORLEANS TO TAKE PART IN THE STARTUP EFFECT, A NON-PROFIT STARTED BY FOUR VFA FELLOWS. NOW, CO-FOUNDERS MIKE MAYER AND BILLY SCHRERO ARE TEACHING ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN MIDDLE SCHOOLS TO EMPOWER YOUTH WITH THE NECESSARY TOOLS TO THINK INDEPENDENTLY, PROACTIVELY, AND CREATIVELY, RESULTING IN INNOVATION AND VALUE CREATION.

SCHULTZ, WHO HAS CO-FOUNDED LAUNCH PAD & FLATSTACK, AND IS CURRENTLY LAUNCHING A NEW VENTURE CALLED NIKO NIKO, INVESTS IN NEW ORLEANS COMPANIES THROUGH VOODOO VENTURES. BASED ON HIS SUCCESS LAUNCHING COMPANIES, HE HAS TAKEN AN INTEREST IN MENTORING OTHER ENTREPRENEURS, WHICH LED HIM TO BECOME INVOLVED WITH THE STARTUP EFFECT.

READ ON TO HEAR MORE ABOUT CHRIS’S EXPERIENCE HANGING OUT WITH THE STARTUP EFFECT KIDS AND THE WORK MIKE AND BILLY ARE DOING IN NEW ORLEANS. ULTIMATELY, THEY HOPE TO SPUR ENTREPRENEURIAL THOUGHT WHERE IT MATTERS MOST – IN THE MINDS OF THE YOUTH IN THESE GROWING CITIES WHERE VFA FELLOWS ARE PLACED.


By Chris Schultz, Co-founder of LaunchPad & Flatstack in New Orleans (Originally published in Huffington Post)

“Who wants fireballs going out, and who wants her shooting flames?” Lionel asked.

The hands went up for fireballs, and Lionel spun around the flame out of the trumpet arms on Fiona Flames, the new character that he prototyped in real-time the ideas being generated by the class of 7th and 8th graders at KIPP Central City in New Orleans.

Pic 1We were in front of this eager group thanks to a new program called Startup Effect, launched by newcomers to New Orleans, Billy Schrero & Mike Mayer, two Venture for America Fellows working with startups in the city.

Startup Effect is an after-school program designed to expose middle school students to real-world startups and inspire them to “Work Smart! Act Now! & Dream Big!” the call and response mantra that Schrero and Mayer shout like coaches during the fast-paced afternoon session.

Lionel Milton is the creator of Mardi Brah, an iPhone football skills game set in the streets of New Orleans, and he had come on this day to get real product feedback from the students who were, in fact, the target audience for the game. The Mardi Brah challenge was prototyping and the students had been taught the importance of “play & refine” and once you design something, you have to test and evolve. The week prior, they had designed a stick figure drawing of a new character for Mardi Brah, and Lionel was here to turn it into a real character in the game, right before their eyes.

Pic 7

Lionel took the prototype the students had created and sketched the female character before digitalizing it and putting it up on a giant screen where the students could provide input and watch the prototyping process. The kids were mesmerized as Lionel constructed Tutti based on their input, carefully running through color choices and adding details like a hair bow and getting her eyes just so. By the time we got to the fireballs coming out of the trumpet-arms, the students had seen their vision executed and the prototype was ready for the game.

Startup Effect is a powerful new program on many levels. The students at KIPP Central City are being exposed to real companies and learning cutting edge startup thinking, and getting started early. The mantra keeps reminding the students that they have the opportunity to do anything they want, they just have to work at it.

Schrero and Mayer are going beyond their full-time positions as Venture for America Fellows with Staff Insight and Federated Sample in New Orleans. They’ve taken it to another level and decided to make an impact beyond just working hard and helping those companies succeed. They have build a program in Startup Effect that will positively impact students in New Orleans and is scalable across Venture for America cities.

It’s a virtuous cycle of paying it forward, and we’re fortunate to have Venture for America & Startup Effect in New Orleans.

Work Smart! Act Now! & Dream Big!

Keeping up with the Fellows

Even while our fellows are off in their cities working hard to contribute at their startups, they’re never too busy for a guest blog post or two…

Max Nussenbaum, who now works at Are You a Human in Detroit, recently wrote a blog post called “Are You a Human and Me: A Love Story”. His story, guaranteed to give you a good laugh, details his journey from lost college senior to VFA fellow to his company’s newest “Human”. (Photo cred to fellow Kathy Cheng!)


Ovik Banerjee also recently shared his “quarter life crisis” story in a guest blog post for The Good Men Project called Adventuring Forth. He never imagined that he’d be working at a startup, but Ovik explains in his post why he feels lucky he found VFA and now has the opportunity to become a “catalyst of change”. Currently, Ovik is working as a “Swiss Army Knife” at the Downtown Project in Las Vegas, helping with their education initiative while dabbling in a little bit of everything else.

Check back regularly to keep up with our fellows and see what they’re doing in their cites!

VFA Newsletter: Time Article, New Fellows and June Event

 

 

There’s a lot going on here at VFA! Check out our most recent newsletter below for more info on our recent press, the newest additions to our Fellow Class of 2012, and our Summer Celebration fundraising event in June:

April 2012 Venture for America Newsletter

If you don’t currently receive the newsletter and would like to stay up to date on what’s happening at VFA, just submit your e-mail address under the “Keep in Touch with VFA!” section to the right. 

VFA Founder & Board Member featured on Forbes.com

 

Venture for America’s founder Andrew Yang, and board member/inspiration Charlie Kroll of Andera are featured on Forbes.com today!  Entitled “An Entrepreneur’s Big Idea to Boost Struggling Cities,” it’s a tale of how Andrew and Charlie’s search for fulfilling and exciting careers led them to entreprenurship and to getting involved with VFA.  The article includes nods to some of our wonderful 2012 Fellows (check out their bios to see if you can guess who:).  There are a couple little mistakes – the city of Detroit is not, in fact, paying for Fellow housing, and our fellows are going to be doing a lot more than just making phone calls and getting office supplies – they’re going to be building products and businesses!  Follow this link to read this great piece written by Forbes entrepreneurship reporter Helen Coster. 

VFA Company Spotlight- The Brandery

Venture for America Company Spotlight with The Brandery located in Cincinnati, Ohio:

Founded by J.B. Kropp, Dave Knox, Bryan J. Radtke and Robert W. McDonald, The Brandery is a seed stage consumer marketing venture accelerator, which was ranked as one of the top 10 programs in the United States. The Brandery runs a three-month-long program in Cincinnati, Ohio that is focused on turning your great idea into a successful, brand-driven start-up. Started in 2010, they annually select 8 – 10 companies for the program, with each receiving $20,000 in seed funding, three months of mentorship, and the opportunity to pitch to angel investors and venture capitalists at the end of the program.

General Manager of The Brandery, Mike Bott, tells us more:

1. Tell us about The Brandery.

The Brandery was started out of a need to support local entrepreneurship. We found start-ups needed a place to get help with their ideas, as well as connect with other resources and mentors. With Cincinnati’s reputation as a leading branding and consumer marketing hub, we decided to focus our effort by helping consumer-focused companies. We have established great relationships with the leading branders and marketing strategists in the world to give our start-ups the resources they need to build powerful brands and experiences.

2. Name a fun fact about The Brandery.

The “tap” in the Brandery’s Tap Your Idea is certainly alive in the office. Both the Brandery logo and tagline were inspired by the rich brewery heritage of the area, and Cincinnati’s Christian Moerlein Brewing Co. ensures the Brandery companies always have a fresh keg on tap. And, it’s not just for the regular happy hours!

3. What does your ideal Venture Fellow look like?

For the Brandery, the ideal Venture Fellow is someone who’s interested in marketing and start-ups. They should be an outgoing, self-starter who wants to help build cool user experiences. Its imperative that they’re the right combination of an ideas person and someone who can drive something to completion.

4. What is the daily office routine like?

There’s lots of activity. Budding entrepreneurs with ideas, current and former Brandery companies, Greater Cincinnati business partners, mentors, investors, and potential customers come and go throughout the day. Some are scheduled meetings, some are just drop-ins. It makes for an energetic, collaborative and supportive environment. Epic foosball matches can breakout at any time – day or night. Brandery businesses help each other problem solve and have a good time. Definitely a high-energy place.

5. Additional thoughts and comments.

Applications for the Brandery Class of 2012 will be accepted from March through May.

To find out more about The Brandery:

Web: http://www.brandery.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Brandery/116938575027685
Twitter: @brandery

WSJ – For Grads Seeking to Work and Do Good

 

 

 

For Grads Seeking to Work and Do Good

By EMILY GLAZER

Ivy League senior Ethan Carlson recently turned down a job with a global-energy consulting practice and instead pledged to spend two years working for an entrepreneur, perhaps with a focus on renewable energy, in a struggling U.S. city.

“I want to make an impact not only on myself, my career and my finances, but also society around me, and my local community,” the 21-year-old mechanical-engineering major at Yale University says.

The project he plans to join, Venture for America, was founded by Andrew Yang, the former chief executive of Manhattan GMAT, a test-preparation company acquired in 2009 by Kaplan, a Washington Post Co.

Venture for America says it was inspired by Teach for America, which places recent college graduates at schools in low-income communities for two years. This summer its first crop of about 50 “fellows” will be placed at small businesses such as Drop the Chalk, an education-software firm in New Orleans, and Andera Inc., an online-account-opening firm in Providence, R.I.

The companies will pay participants $32,000 to $38,000 a year, plus health benefits. The program includes a five-week program at Brown University that mimics training for consulting and investment banking.

Firms with fewer than 500 employees created about 65% of the nation’s net new jobs, or jobs created minus jobs eliminated, according to the most recent Small Business Administration data.

The goal of the program, Mr. Yang says, is to help start-ups and early-stage businesses get off the ground, and its target is to create 100,000 jobs by 2025. The program has drawn commitments to donate services and about $500,000 in cash, he says.

Mr. Yang believes there is a disconnect between small businesses seeking to hire successful college graduates capable of wearing many hats, and graduates, like Mr. Carlson, who want to learn about the basics of starting a new company.

Fifty-four percent of the nation’s 18-to-34-year-olds either want to start a business or have already started one, according to a survey by the Young Invincibles, a group focusing on young entrepreneurship, that was funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a research group.

Some of the struggling cities selected by the program have burgeoning start-up scenes but still need talent. Cincinnati, for instance, has a fairly vibrant consumer marketing and branding industry, partly because Procter & Gamble Co. and Kroger Co. are based there.At Andera, the participating fellow will be expected to work as part of a team to conceptualize a new product and to create a business case for it, says Charlie Kroll, the company’s founder and chief executive officer.

The Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, a nonprofit strategy and research organization based in Boston, Mass., estimates that 460,000 U.S. businesses are located in inner cities.

Jen Medbery, founder and CEO of Drop the Chalk, says the program will serve as a “professional recruiting firm, picking the best and brightest from the top colleges and making it affordable for me to hire and mentor them.”

VFA Board of Directors member Darren MacDonald in The Daily Californian

Check out the opinion piece by Venture for America Board of Directors member Darren MacDonald in UC Berkeley’s The Daily Californian.

 Read the article on The Daily Californian’s website here: Exploring a new path to entrepreneurship