entrepreneurship

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.

What Everyone Can Learn From Ruff Ryders, Roc-A-Fella, and Wu-Tang

I grew up loving Hip-Hop. In South Carolina, when the latest rap song blasted through my radio, it fueled excitement in an otherwise simple and uncomplicated day-to regime. Although I had never walked the mean streets of Philly, sold drugs on the streets of Brooklyn, or ran the streets of New York, I knew about it because of these famous rap labels.

As a business owner, that experience has shaped how I approach marketing. They used a strategy that every business should be using if they are online. The fact that these record labels were able to reach a small town teenager 100s of miles away is not only due to huge financial backings. It’s due to something a bit less obvious.

Branding

What these labels did is create an identity for themselves outside of their music. They created something bigger than the product they were actually selling. By doing that, not only were they able to be more memorable, they were also able to make money off of their brand.

How many times did you see Ruff Ryders apparel in the mid and late 90s? Could you hold up the hand signal for Roc-A-Fella if prompted? Maybe you own some Wu-Tang branded merchandise?

Branding gives potential customers something to remember your business or product by. It helps customers forgive that mistake you made last month…

Remember when Old Dirty Bastard got in a little PR trouble? It didn’t kill the brand.

Your business can do something similar – with a little effort.

We’re Not All Rap Stars

This is probably a good thing too because my free-styling skills suck. However, we can all brand ourselves.

Seattle branding event

Which is why I am proud to be an ambassador for Tribe of Zero, a Canadian company helping small businesses and entrepreneurs find their way. This month, they are hosting a one-day event focused on branding for small businesses and entrepreneurs in Seattle, Washington.

Not only will I be attending, I also have discounted tickets to give away. If you would like to join me at the event, enter code JMCK307 to receive more than 30% off of your ticket.

Learn how to stand out from the crowd and be memorable, without having a crew of extra rappers who never actually produce anything…

And if you need any help with a writer to put it all together for you, you know who to call =)

Buy your discounted tickets here. Hope to see you there!

From Prison to the Boardroom

I like to write about entrepreneurial motivations, partly because of my experiences, and partly because of the entrepreneurs I have been able to meet. So when I received a text message about Defy Ventures, Inc., it definitely piqued my interest.

What is Defy Ventures? Well, simply put, they are a group of motivated Americans trying to help those with criminal backgrounds become entrepreneurs.

Wait, what- you don’t want hustlers trying to scam you out of your money?

Well, before you judge, consider this fact.

5% of Americans have a criminal background, and the majority of those people return to prison. Even if you don’t know someone who has been to prison (with those odds you probably do), if you are American, you are paying for their crimes.

How? It costs money to prosecute crimes, run prisons, and rehabilitate a large amount of people – money America does not have. As a result, we have under-paid, over-worked police officers, for-profit prisons, and rehabilitation programs that are destined to fail. It’s a cycle that feeds off the most disadvantaged communities in America- the poor.

Defy Ventures attempts to break this cycle by reducing the likelihood of returning to prison. By giving those with criminal backgrounds business skills and corporate connections, they hope to empower these people with the tools needed to keep them out of a life of crime.

Will it work?

Well, it’s not exactly a new concept. Immigrant communities, often arriving in America with little to no money, have always embraced an entrepreneurial mindset. They understood the need to build their own futures, rather than be defined by what was expected of them. Perhaps it was because they knew the odds were against them and they wanted to put up a good fight.

Now, a new class of American outsiders –those with criminal backgrounds- are preparing to use entrepreneurship as their stepping stone toward success.

Hey, it beats stealing cars and selling crack.

The hope is that with proper education, these ‘criminals’ can come up with a ‘hustle’ that adds to society; not take from it. They could learn how to start their own businesses, small and large and stay out of prison. Their children would learn the benefits of self-employment and stay out of prison as well. In other words, entrepreneurship could reduce our growing prison economy.

Is small business a cure for our society? Defy Ventures seems to thinks so.

Learn more about Defy Ventures on their website.