Jacqueline Summers

Startup Week 2019: King Tech jumpstarts entrepreneurship

“It sucks when the money isn’t there and you need it to be.”  Any entrepreneur waiting for that critical check knows exactly what Kaleb Babcock is talking about. Babcock is lucky though; Kings Kustomz got the money and he and his partners are well on their way to learning how to launch their own startup as part of the King Tech Entrepreneurship and Enterprise class.  Led by instructor Stacy Miller, the class ventures include businesses selling tye-dye apparel, keychains, candles, dog treats, facial creams and upcycled shopping bags. Once the students form their teams, they go through similar steps familiar to other startups, including seeking investment. As part of the curriculum, well practiced but nervous students present their businesses to adult experts who drill into their ideas, their financial models, and their assumptions. Along with feedback, student teams are given an investment of between $50 to $100, a loan they must repay before receiving any profit. According to Miller, the variety of businesses highlights the variety of backgrounds students bring to the class.  “Students come with fantastic skills from other classes,” Miller said. “We have filmmakers, artists, welders, vet students and cosmetology, and each brings in a perspective from the work they’ve already completed in another industry.”  The hands-on experience required in the Entrepreneurship and Enterprise class is invaluable and provides an entryway for business ownership many, prior to the class, had not considered before. Although students are fresh, full of passion and eager to throw themselves into things, the open and collaborative format can be uncomfortable compared to a more common straightforward formula for class success. Still, like most entrepreneurs, Miller’s 17- and 18-year-old students have a natural drive to want to do things differently and are. “Natural rebels who buck against rules,” Miller said.  Like their adult peers, it can take some pivots before they find their footing and figure out what it will take to be successful.  Along the way, they often surprise themselves and others by showcasing skills and capabilities unrecognized elsewhere. It is a big achievement and also important for those interested in seeding future startups in the American economy. According to a U.S. Census report on entrepreneurship, “business startups play critical roles in innovation, job creation, and productivity dynamics.” For more people to consider entrepreneurship as a viable career option, it needs to be endorsed as a valuable contributor to job creation, something that isn’t happening now. Despite the veneration of many famous entrepreneurs, the rate of entrepreneurship is actually down and currently comprises only 7 to 8% of the economy, a big shift from the 1980s when it was 12 to 13 percent. Encouraging students to take an early leap into entrepreneurship is one solution. As many entrepreneurs will tell you, genuine understanding occurs when running a business, not when getting an MBA. Furthermore, hands-on learning is recommended for all students to become more job-ready in the future.  Real-world learning is an essential part of the Entrepreneurship and Enterprise class and instills the students with skills and confidence to embark on future business ownership. The class becomes a safe place for students to learn the many twists and turns to being a successful entrepreneur and the accompanying difficult education resulting from failure. To Dye For, a business providing tye-dye socks, baby booties and scrunchies, participated in King Tech's Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Class (Photo/Courtesy/Jacqueline Summers) To Dye For, a business providing tye-dye socks, baby booties and scrunchies, learned poor quality socks didn’t take the dye and had to spend precious resources on new ones. SRIBLEZ stayed committed to getting an actual toy vending machine to dispense their stickers, but almost missed a critical window for the holiday bazaar. Now that’s here, it is making money when the other students’ businesses aren’t open. A seat-of-the-pants decision that has paid off. As the students have now learned, a successful startup can take a few attempts along with the right team and means staying networked with the creative, active community members committed to starting new businesses. To make sure students stay connected, Miller has integrated her students into the Alaskan entrepreneurial ecosystem and into Alaska Startup Week. Bag-Boozled, the upcycled bag business was invited to have a booth at the Visit Anchorage Tradeshow and both Bag-Boozled and SRIBLEZ, a sticker company, will be part of the Anchorage Startup Weekend pitches. Students have customized Startup Week swag for sale and, as part of Global Entrepreneur Week, the Entrepreneurship and Enterprise class will host an event with a King Career Center and University of Alaska Anchorage graduate who has built a computer business in Mexico and in Anchorage. Closer to home, Entrepreneurship and Enterprise students and the Young Alaskan Solopreneurs will have a Student Tradeshow to close out their participation in Alaska Startup Week. Involving young adults in entrepreneurship early is important. Entrepreneur Magazine author Ankur Jain points out, “entrepreneurship is the one place where some of the youngest people are at the top of the food chain. Why? Because young entrepreneurs’ inexperience is their greatest asset. They can come into an industry and ask questions about things that, for everyone else, have become unquestioned assumptions.” Not all of the Entrepreneurship and Enterprise students are sure they want to start their own businesses after the class is over, but many do. The Alaskan entrepreneurial ecosystem is fortunate they are willing to take on the challenge. We need them: their viewpoints, industry, and visions will lead us toward an exciting future. Jacqueline Summers is a connector and catalyst in the Alaska Entrepreneur Ecosystem, a Program Specialist at the UAA Business Enterprise Institute, an owner of Paxaro Solutions, and the proud mother of Malin and Shay Shumaker. Jacqueline is a co-founder of Health TIE, an Alaska-based innovation hub encouraging start-ups and innovative entrepreneurs to tackle “wicked problems” specific to health and human services and is also a member of the Fungi Alliance, a joint venture exploring the use of fungi for environmental bioremediation in northern regions.

Entrepreneurship: the Right Kind of Midlife...Opportunity

Think quickly, envision three successful entrepreneurs: who comes to mind? If Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, or Sergey Brin pop into your head, you aren’t alone. American culture celebrates maverick, young upstarts who upend industries while leading their companies toward unprecedented success. While Silicon Valley and the image of ping-pong playing, youthful CEO’s have become an iconic part of the national consciousness, they aren’t an accurate depiction of a typical entrepreneur - or at what point in their lives they’ll successfully start their companies. Information from the Kauffman Foundation shows Americans aged 55 to 64 consistently start businesses at higher rates compared to those aged 25 to 34. Further, recent research by the University of Alaska Center for Economic Development in their Alaska: State of Entrepreneurship report shows half of Alaskan entrepreneurs are 55 or older while only 6% are younger than 35. At age 39 Alaskan Andre Horton reflects the characteristics of many entrepreneurs. He’s close to the median age of 42, but like almost half of Alaskan entrepreneurs, he’s previously pursued other businesses. Along with his commercial photography enterprise, dReFoto, a sampling of Andre’s businesses include those in marketing, advertising, public relations, software, and general contracting. Compared to someone younger, his experience and expertise will prove valuable as he launches his newest one, a light manufacturing co-working hub in the center of Anchorage. Unlike Andre, Kim Champney and Dr. Birgit Hagedorn are first-time business owners but previously spent significant time in their industries before starting their businesses in 2016 and 2017. Kim Champney discussing Alaskan Direct Support Service Professional development. (Photo/Ciara Servantian) Kim Champney started Champney Consulting after working 18 years in nonprofit social services agencies. Kim started her business for a mix of personal and professional reasons but her main catalyst was not being excited about walking into her agency’s office any more. Currently quite successful, Kim doesn’t believe she would have been able to maintain her business if she’d started it earlier: “Most of my consulting work uses the experience I gained in the field and, equally important, many of the relationships. It was definitely the right time; I could not have done it earlier.” Along with financial stability, Kim’s experience underlines another key factor older entrepreneurs bring to their endeavors: human capital. Human capital is comprised of a person’s education, experience, knowledge, and skills. There are few shortcuts for gaining these time-tested assets and they prove to be important for making strategic business decisions. Dr. Birgit Hagedorn doing fieldwork in Alaska. (Photo/Eva Enkelmann) Similarly to Kim, internationally known Dr. Birgit Hagedorn has found her years of research, field work, teaching, and serving on boards has helped her operate her business and gain clients. Social capital, like human capital, is an important differentiator because entrepreneurs rely on their contacts and social networks to make key alliances. Birgit finds that her many connections throughout Alaska, along with other Arctic regions, help her quickly establish trust and work on projects. After years in academia, Sustainable Earth Research has allowed Birgit to see the industry side of the geochemistry and geology and besides offering workshops in environmental data collection, Birgit also provides research analysis, consults with analytical chemistry research laboratories, and works in environmental remediation. Although she’s still adjusting to being a business owner, Birgit is thrilled she finally took the leap: “After having a successful career, it felt exciting to change my lifestyle and to have the freedom to develop my own ideas.” Besides the entrepreneurs themselves, those who support them — the institutions, investors, and economic development organizations — need to make sure they aren’t being swept away by youthful enthusiasm. Compared to younger entrepreneurs, older entrepreneurs have almost twice, 1.8 times, the average return on investment. Released in April 2018, data collected for the National Bureau of Economic Research working paper shows venture capitalists tend to bet on relatively young founders when: Our primary finding is that successful entrepreneurs are middle-aged, not young...we find no evidence to suggest that founders in their 20s are especially likely to succeed. Rather, all evidence points to founders being especially successful when starting businesses in middle age or beyond, while young founders appear disadvantaged. (p. 5) Alaska Startup Week is a good opportunity to correct course and re-examine who we envision and support as entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurial ecosystems often seek to predict the entrepreneurial traits which lead to the creation of successful new firms. When this is done, it is important to understand that age does predict success but in quite the inverse way of current popular thought. According to NBER, “The highest success rates in entrepreneurship come from founders in middle age and beyond.” (p. 29) Learning valuable lessons through failing fast, mentorship, and developing minimal viable products provides younger entrepreneurs opportunities to develop human and social capital and catch up with their older peers. Still, with all other factors being equal, the next time you predict the success of a new venture, your best bet is to go with the older entrepreneur. Alaska Startup Week is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to connect across the state and is a collaborative effort by multiple organizations to diversify Alaska’s economy, largely led by entrepreneurs. This year, Alaska Startup Week has grown from three communities to ten, with over 70 events in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Sitka, Kenai, Soldotna, Palmer, Bethel, Homer, and Seward. Alaska Startup Week is on Facebook. Jacqueline Summers is an entrepreneur advocate who is an active member of the Alaskan Entrepreneurial Ecosystem through her contributions to Alaska Startup Week, Alaska Startup Weekend, the Global Entrepreneur Network and other entrepreneurial events. She works for the University of Alaska Anchorage Business Enterprise Institute, owns Paxaro Solutions, and serves on the King Tech High School Entrepreneurship and Enterprise board. Her absolute favorite job title is “mom’ and she is inordinately proud of the two amazing people in the world who call her that, Malin and Shay.
Subscribe to RSS - Jacqueline Summers