Profiles

Stories of Entrepreneurs who go against the odds

A Blog Post About Pens

I’ve always been fascinated with the art of writing, which is strange considering I have writer’s cramp. My love began in middle school when I became bored of the standard issue BIC pens my parents bought me. Every week, chewed-up pens filled my pockets and pencil cases, many of which ‘spontaneously exploded’ in my book bag, on my homework, and in my coat (sorry mom).

Pens were my blessing and my curse, and it seems like I was always holding one.

Around 7th grade, I became more interested in what pens do, when I picked up a book on graphology in the public library. In case you aren’t familiar, graphology is the study of handwriting – an art heavily dependent on pens. As I read further down the rabbit hole into ink pens and cursive, my hand became increasingly uncooperative.

By the time I was 14, I could no longer use those BIC pens, and I moved into the comfort grip models. I started investing in $5 pens, ugly therapeutic writing devices that did not fill my need for expression. They looked like the pens my doctor used – not something a 14-year-old girl would hold while scribbling down poems on the back of her notebook.

And so, the collection began.

I began collecting the oddest pens I could find. I had bendy pens, a carrot pen, furry pens, giant pens and smelly pens. I have a pen made from wood and a pen made from metal. I lost pens and bought more pens. It was an obsession that made writing with my increasingly damaged hand more fun.

I discovered the internet at 16 and began typing all of my writings onto a floppy disk. Soon, all of my pens faded away to the background, as did my study of graphology. The keyboard saved me from pain but took me away from my love of handwriting. I mourned my lost hobby but was grateful for the technology that allowed me to keep writing.

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Stop Reading about Everyone Else, Be Who They Read About

When I think of inventors, I think of shy, calculating geeks that lock themselves in their basement laboratory with Pinkie and the Brain lab rats, and a refrigerator full of low- quality beer. That’s why I was really surprised when inventor Peter Ginzburg asked me via email if I’d like to interview him.

His willingness to self- promote is probably because Ginzburg doesn’t classify himself as an inventor. No, if you ask him, he’s an entrepreneur.

Ginzburg created the Ginzvelo, a prototype human-electric hybrid vehicle that effectively blurs the line between riding a bike to work, and having one of those over-priced miniature electric cars. This is just one of many ideas he has – but, it is the first one he is trying to sell. What motivated his entrepreneurial aspirations? It was a combination of public support and blind optimism.

Why In The World Did You Make This Device?

I’ve always liked fast stuff. I used to race Go-Karts and make mini bikes and get in trouble for them not being street legal. When I got to college, I built a 3-wheeled go-kart that went really fast, but I knew it was going to need to be street legal.

Cool, But Why Did You Decide To Sell It?

Well, at first it was something just for me, but then I entered an entrepreneur competition at school. I didn’t win, but I did pretty well with the marketing aspects. Plus, the judges really liked my design.

What Were Your Plans Then?

I was planning to sell only a couple hundred, but they told me I was thinking too small-scale. So I considered their advice and thought big. I took it to the Internet to get more publicity and funding.

Is This Your First Business?

Sort of. It is my first product-based business. I had a landscaping business when I was a teenager.

So You Have No Formal Business Training, Do You Think You Are Being A Little Unrealistic?

Well yeah – to many people think my business idea may seem a little far-fetched. But I looked at the people I look up to, and their ideas seemed far-fetched as well at first.

So You Need Publicity; Have You Been Doing It On Your Own?

I have a Kickstarter campaign that has done wonders for my publicity because freelance journalists read about it and wrote stories. Now, I am even being casted to appear on Science Channel’s All-American Makers. I’ve . I’ve realized though that my lack of media is limiting my success and I’ve hired help to get me more exposure. They are going to be re-doing my Kickstarter really soon.

You Seem Like A Smart Guy, Couldnt You Just Get Some Well-Paying Job?

I thought about the alternatives. I could have spent 60+hours per week working, but I would still be creating my Ginnzvelo on the side – and for what? So that I could hang out with my friends and drink beers in the bars? That would have been a waste of my talents.

But Being An Entrepreneur Is Not Easy.

It has been so much more difficult than I could ever have imagined. I came close to quitting multiple times.

Why Do You Still Do It, Then?

People don’t do anything anymore. They don’t go outside. They are only thinking about what other people are doing. I don’t want to think about what other people are doing. I want to be the person that other people are reading about.

 

Do you dream big and take chances? Well, you might be an entrepreneur.

The Ginzvelo is currently a prototype vehicle. Learn more about how it works and donate to its crowdfunding efforts by visiting www.Ginzvelo.com.

Freeway Rick Ross: The Entrepreneurial Hustler

Why did I choose Freeway Rick Ross, an American Drug Kingpin, as my first entrepreneur to profile on my blog? Well, because I believe he set the stage for a new type of entrepreneur- the kind that I’d dare say didn’t exist before him- the entrepreneurial hustler.

But Freeway Rick Ross wasn’t an immigrant in American history who worked his way up to success. He didn’t receive the financial backing of relatives or investors. He was a poor black kid who couldn’t read in a post-Civil Rights era Los Angeles. He grew up among pimps, drug users, low- wage workers, and gang mentality. The only thing he was passionate about was getting out of poverty.  He talks about it with me in this video:

See, the real Rick Ross was never a big fan of drugs. He actually told me he always wondered why people were so attracted to them. In his mind, cocaine and crack was a better alternative to the drugs already being sold in his neighborhood by people outside of his community. I mean if cocaine was good for rich Hollywood, why not for those who lived by the freeway? He followed the simple principle of sell what you know and had access to.

But this isn’t a blog on drug policy.

Because Rick Ross did not care about selling drugs; he cared about making money, and that he did very well. Like the moguls ahead of him, Ross built an empire of profit, investments, and brand saturation. By 1990, his name had become synonymous with drug dealing success. For Ross, money was the goal, making it was just a means to an end.

What did he learn for the experience? He explains it in this video:

Now the real Rick Ross is no longer selling drugs- but he is still hustling for big money. This time, he is using his street knowledge as a legal entrepreneur. It was his time in prison that changed that- (and no, it wasn’t the fact that he couldn’t sell drugs from there). It was while he was in prison that he learned how to read. According to Ross, it was only after he was exposed to education did he realize the many ways to make money outside of selling drugs. He now writes books, fights to protect his brand, owns Freeway studios (film) and Rick Ross Music Group, sells his own apparel and is planning even more business ventures.

Why does he do this? He discusses his motivation in this short clip:

Based on what he’s done so far, Rick Ross is well on his way to becoming a “Black Economic Coach”. Even if he doesn’t make a million dollars a day again, his messages of education, entrepreneurship and the real possibility of economic success for anyone are being heard.

Learn more about the Freeway Literacy Foundation, Rick Ross’s nonprofit, focused on education here.

Purchase his book, Freeway Rick Ross: The Untold Autobiography from Amazon.

Visit the Official Site