Every now and then something happens to completely re-energize us in ways unexpected around a topic we may have tamped down to the back of our minds. For me this week, that topic is ENTREPRENEURSHIP. Now, don’t get me wrong, entrepreneurship is and has always been a really big deal to me. In fact, ever since I was a little girl, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my standard response was, “I want to own my own company.” So, frankly, I’m living large these days with a startup of my own and really pleased beyond compare that I get to get up and do what I love to do – to connect, inspire and empower community – every day… for a living!
That said, the notion of entrepreneurship itself has been a quiet one in my life lately. Yesterday, however, I was reminded of how much I love entrepreneurship, entrepreneurs and the messy, wonderful, creative, passionate, optimistic, crazy lives they lead!
Here’s what happened: TechStars, the famed and highly reputable technology accelerator program announced plans to open an office in the Kansas City market. This is great news for our city. TechStars’ leaders, David Cohen (Co-Founder, CEO) and Brad Feld (Co-Founder), held a press conference/launch event to mark the occasion. In his remarks, Brad reminded the audience of his great book, Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City, in which he says the following: A rich and vibrant startup community is possible in any city of 100,000 people or more. Here’s what that startup community must include:
- Entrepreneurs must lead the startup community;
- The leaders must have a long-term commitment;
- The startup community must be inclusive of anyone who wants to participate in it; and
- The startup community must have continual activities that engage the entire entrepreneurial stack.
Well, to bring that to fruition, I think a true believer must be at the helm. Someone with a strong network, who is willing to share that network. Someone who can evangelize the merits of the city, the community, entrepreneurship and the resources available to anyone who wants to participate. David and Brad found the perfect person to do so in Kansas City as Managing Director: My dear friend and long-time mentor and champion, Lesa Mitchell.
I met Lesa nearly a decade ago at a conference I attended in Chicago on, what else? Entrepreneurship. She was a keynote speaker talking about “Network Theory.” At that time, she said that if people leverage their networks, not only can they expand global economies, but they can improve human welfare. Well, suffice it to say, that talk is what prompted me to leave my corporate job and venture out on my own… to build a personal network and a networking platform (yes, Coffee Lunch Coffee)… and, low-and-behold, to begin promoting networking as a key to personal and professional success and happiness.
From yesterday’s event, here are some of the big lessons from which we can all benefit as TechStars solidifies its position in Kansas City and other cities around the world:
- #GiveFirst. When you invest your time, talent and treasure, you don’t know when or what you’re going to get back from the investment. However, if you trust the process and simply commit to participating, the rewards will come.
- Life is a long-term game. Whether investing in companies or relationships, think long-term. Don’t focus on instant gratification, keep looking out 10, 20, 30 years ahead… focus on the forward momentum and the rewards to come.
- Share your network. Inclusivity is critical. Allow everyone to play a part.
I’m bursting with pride and admiration for Lesa and the TechStars team. Their announcement and approach and commentary at yesterday’s event really helped to re-energize me around entrepreneurship. So lucky to be part of this fabulous entrepreneurial ecosystem. Can’t wait to participate!
P.S. – Global Entrepreneurship Week is coming (November 14-20, 2016)! Jump in and check out all of the wonderful events going on in your city.