How do successful entrepreneurs turn ideas into action? It’s a question that every entrepreneur asks and one that 31-year-old Mario Schulzke is seeking to answer through 50 events in 48 states over the course of three months. His company, IdeaMensch, partners with local organizations to provide the venues, where local entrepreneurs take the stage for 10 minutes to share their stories with audiences.
“When you hear how other entrepreneurs brought their ideas to life, it could inspire you to bring yours to life,” he tells the audience at his Manhattan event. Schulzke came to the U.S. from Germany as an exchange student when he was 16, attended college in Montana, and then worked in advertising in Los Angeles for 10 years. But he longed for the entrepreneurial life. So he quit his job and began doing interviews with successful entrepreneurs and posting them online. “I began to wonder if the concept would work as an event,” he recalls. “So I did one in Los Angeles and 250 people showed up.”
He decided to take the concept around the country, and loaded his gear and two friends into a red Honda Element and hit the road in July with the intention of hosting an event in each of the lower 48 states, two in California, and one in Washington, D.C. Event planners take note: These guys nail down their venues two weeks in advance and their speakers just 10 days ahead of time. It can be nail-biting, and not every event is a success. However, Schulzke says the tour is “completely bootstrapped and profitable,” with a handful of sponsors chipping in and ticket sales contributing to positive cash flow.
He hopes, though, that the biggest profit goes to his audiences, who get the benefit of tapping into the valuable wisdom from seasoned entrepreneurs.
Here’s a sampling of what attendees learned from IdeaMensch’s six speakers at its Manhattan event:
Author, blogger and life coach. “When I was at Google, on paper it was my dream job, but every day I would sit at my desk and say ‘something isn’t right. Something is missing.’” says Jenny Blake. A year ago, she packed up her car, moved to Manhattan and started her own coaching business. Her advice: “Honor your gut instincts” and “say no to the good so that you can yes to the great.”
Founder and CEO of eMinutes. Jeff Unger is somewhat of an anomaly in his profession. He’s an entrepreneurial attorney who “wanted to create the world’s most efficient law firm.” So his firm, he says, knows the answers to just three questions: Should I incorporate? Where should I incorporate? Should my company be an LLC or a corporation? And he’s invested over a $1 million in technology to help him streamline the process of answering those question. By the way, Unger will file incorporation papers for any first-time entrepreneur, free of charge. His advice: “Narrow your focus” and invest in technology that drives efficiency.
Fearless magazine founder. Ishita Gupta, the founder of Fear.Less Magazine, founded her company after attending Seth Godin’s Alternative MBA program, and after many false career starts and, well, a lot of fear. Fear.less, an online magazine, features interviews with people who have triumphed over fear. Her advice: “Identify a deeply personal need” and “put yourself in highly uncomfortable positions where you cannot hide, because innovations lies in the moments when you are cornered.”
Owner of a charter jet company and executive center. Christopher Kelly, the co-founder of Sentry Centers, started his executive conference center with a college friend. He also owns a charter jet company, Evojets, with his wife, Adriann Wanner. Compared with the tech companies that many of his contemporaries are starting, he admits that his companies sound “boring.” But that, in fact, is part of his success strategy. His advice: "Pour your heart and soul into a business that other people do not find inspiring, and apply technology and a youthful perspective to brick-and-mortar businesses.”
Serial entrepreneur. Author and motivational coach Bassam Tarazi has started several companies. His best piece of advice: “Choice paralyzes us. We over-predict where we’re going to go. So pick a door and walk through it, and pay attention. A hallway will open up that you didn’t see before.”
Contently cofounder. Shane Snow co-founded Contently, a Web platform that connects journalists with brand publishers. He finally met his goal of writing for Wired by writing free content for obscure blogs and then leveraging that experience up the publishing food chain until publications like Fast Company and Wired gave him assignments. His advice: “No matter what you’re doing, think about how you can turn your current assets or success into something bigger and better.”
Schulzke is now headed south, and then west, and will end the IdeaMensch tour in Las Vegas on October 24. And then what? “I’m not sure where it will lead,” he says. “You learn a lot when you organize 50 events in 115 days.”
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