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 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. “If you could offer one piece of advice to a budding entrepreneur what would it be?”
David Howitt ’90
Founder & CEO, Meriwether Group, Author of Heed Your Call
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, products, marketing and story, purpose, meaning, design, intuition, and connection.
James Clear ’08
Author & Speaker
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.
Heather Stouffer ’96
Founder & CEO, Mom Made Foods
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 0.01 percent, and the work the entrepreneur puts into it is 99.99 percent. Don’t be afraid to share your idea with others, as well as your struggles, after you launch. You’ll be amazed at the help you receive, and the collective input will be invaluable.
LaForce Baker ’10
Founder & Executive Chef, Moon Meals, Inc.
Create a business around a problem you personally have. You will be the best focus group. Then find out if there is enough potential customers that share that problem to scale the business to meet their needs based on your strengths.
Terry Jones ’70
Founder of Travelocity & Co-founder of Kayak
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.
Chris Wolfington ’90
Former CEO of CityCar Service & co-founder of Ecount
For early-stage entrepreneurs, 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. Soon 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. Be intentional and transparent about creating culture. Every organization has a culture, even if they aren’t consciously creating one. Do all that you can to make sure the culture is one that contributes to your success.
Emily Merrell ‘09
Founder, Six Degrees Society
Talk less, and listen more.