Lessons From the Entrepreneurial Front Lines

Alumni

This September, Denison hosted its first-ever ReMix entrepreneurship summit, offering alumni startup vets and aspiring students a chance to connect and share ideas. The alumni speakers who ran the gamut—ranging from CEOs to chefs and founders to funders—and we asked some of them to share a little bit of advice and their ReMix takeaways.

LaForce Baker ’10

Founder & Executive Chef, Moon Meals, Inc.

If you could offer one piece of advice to a budding entrepreneur what would it be?

Create a business around a problem you personally have. You will be the best focus group. Then find out if there are enough potential customers that share the problem to scale the business to meet their needs based on your strengths.

What did YOU take away from the Remix Summit?

The conference illuminated that the challenges that I am facing in my business are shared by other smart people as well. This gave me confidence in the days after the conference that I could overcome the obstacles that came up no matter what.

Terry Jones ’70

Founder of Travelocity and co-founder of Kayak

If you could offer one piece of advice to a budding entrepreneur what would it be?

Be deeply, crazily passionate about your idea, but listen to what the market says and be flexible after you deliver. I’ve seen too many great ideas fail when they weren’t tweaked to the reality of the market.

What did YOU take away from the Remix Summit?

Denison is producing awesome entrepreneurs and the new emphasis that President Adam Weinberg is pushing on entrepreneurial skills will produce even more.

David Howitt ’90

Founder and CEO, Meriwether Group, author of “Heed Your Call”

If you could offer one piece of advice to a budding entrepreneur what would it be?

The best entrepreneurs are those that can seamlessly toggle between left brain linear thinking and right brain creativity. You need to embrace operations, profit, best practices, sales, product, marketing and story, purpose, meaning, design, intuition and connection.

What did YOU take away from the Remix Summit?

Denison is authentically a place for entrepreneurs, it runs in the school’s DNA. We are a school of and—academics and experiences. Science and art. Music and economics. The Denison way and its students, staff, and alumni are a living embodiment of the heart and soul of entrepreneurship. ReMix was a powerful example of this at work.

James Clear ’08

Speaker and author of “Atomic Habits”

If you could offer one piece of advice to a budding entrepreneur what would it be?

Continue to experiment. A good piece of advice I received early on was, “Try things until something comes easily.” This can be applied to nearly all aspects of a business. Try different sales strategies until one clicks. Experiment with different products until one takes off. Share your business with different markets until you find the right fit.

What did YOU take away from the Remix Summit?

I just enjoy being back at Denison and contributing to the community. It’s wonderful to be surrounded by such amazing students and alumni. I’m grateful I had the opportunity to participate.

Emily Merrell ’09

Founder, Six Degrees Society

If you could offer one piece of advice to a budding entrepreneur what would it be?

Talk less and listen more.

What did YOU take away from the Remix Summit?

The liberal arts education at Denison is a good foundation for entrepreneurial thinking, yet there are some tactical skills and challenges that you encounter as an entrepreneur that so far haven’t been taught in universities and could be offered through programs like ReMix. It was wonderful bridging the gap between the students and alumni through the theme of entrepreneurship.

Heather Stouffer ’96

Founder & CEO, Mom Made Foods

If you could offer one piece of advice to a budding entrepreneur what would it be?

Many entrepreneurs feel they need to keep their idea a secret until they bring it to life. What they don’t realize is the idea is .01% and the work the entrepreneur puts into it to bring the business to life is 99.99%. Don’t be afraid to share your idea as well as your struggles after you launch with others. You’ll be amazed at the help you receive and the collective input will be invaluable.

What did YOU take away from the Remix Summit?

I came away from Remix with renewed energy for my business and many new brilliant, entrepreneurial-minded friends.

Chris Wolfington ’90

Former CEO of CityCar Service; co-founder of Ecount

If you could offer one piece of advice to a budding entrepreneur what would it be?

Well, context is everything, especially the life stage of the entrepreneur and the business. For early stage, it would be to iterate, iterate and iterate. Experiment as quickly and inexpensively as you can and capture learnings from those experiments.

Primary research from this type of process is the most valuable because it helps you gather information that nobody else is gathering (unless they happen to be doing the exact same experiments!).

After you do this for a while, you will be an expert and be able to develop something of value. Once you get past early stage, finding the right people will be the biggest opportunity. Be prepared to iterate here. Hiring mistakes will happen. Recognize them and fix them quickly or move forward with someone else. You may hire five people (or more) who do not work out for every one who works best for the long term.

Be intentional and transparent about creating culture. Every organization has a culture even if they aren’t consciously creating one and it may not be a healthy culture, do all that you can to make sure the culture at yours is one that contributes to your success.

What did YOU take away from the Remix Summit?

That the community of entrepreneurial alums at Denison is a valuable and underutilized resource. I learned new insights into how investors look at opportunities, such as the lifestage they target and profile of the entrepreneur. There is a lot of diversity of opinion that drives different strategies for both investors and entrepreneurs.

Posted Date 
Friday, November 2, 2018

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