Just yesterday…

by francine Hardaway on November 9, 2006

Just yesterday…
It’s the day of the First Annual Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference, and I’m so excited!!!! 450 people have signed up. The first keynote, by William Cockayne, Associate Director of the Humanities Lab at Stanford, is about innovation and creativity.

Have I made people waste their day?  Will they like this event? How could I have done this without my friends Joan Koerber Walker, Ed Nusbaum, and Peter Burns? And the guys who signed on to sponsor a "First Annual?" Grand Canyon University, which is starting a College of Entrepreneurship here in Phoenix, the Business Journal, Shea Commercial, and the City of Tempe all gave us REAL DOLLARS to hold this conference.  I try to blog as much of it as possible.

Bill’s keynote sets a great tone for the conference, because he talks mainly about how innovation happens by reaching out to people with different ideas. He also talks about how it’s important to work with people you like. In his personal world, there are several entrepreneurs who had to quit working with each other because they found that they really didn’t like each other!

We move on now to a panel talking about how to hire the right service people and consultants for your business, and how to market a service business. This panel has an attorney (my old friend Lucia), an interactive marketing professional (Ben Smith), Julie Johnson, a commercial leasing specialist, and Tim Shaffer, a turnaround specialist. As I walk into their breakout room, they’re talking about personal guarantees and about exit strategies.

They inform the audience that landlords make you sign personal guarantee on a lease because they are putting money into tenant improvements. As it turns out, many in the room are trying to move into a different space within the next year, but I bet they have never thought from the landlord’s perspective.

I bet many of the attendees don’t even know that a commercial broker works for the landlord unless you hire him/her personally as a tenant representative.

And now they are going on to how to market a service business. Interestingly enough, all the attendees in this breakout session are themselves in service businesses. This should help them.

There is actually a twelve-year-old child here at the Conference.  He is being home-schooled, and he has a million business ideas, so his mother brought him.  This might be the highlight of the entire day for me. I started all my efforts so my own children would have exciting things to do in Arizona, but I didn’t get it going soon enough.  Now there are at least two  dozen student entrepreneurs here, and one product launch, Jumpbox.com, has taken place here — the company’s founder is the son of an old dear friend of mine. Another student entrepreneur from ASU, Corey Kossack, just wrote a book on how to become a millionaire selling on EBay, and he showed up and brought copies of his book and his mother.! These are the things that give me joy.

Corey is speaking now about his experience with EBay after he became a top seller. They put him on a panel of Power Sellers at their Power Seller convention.  He was 19 at the time. Everyone on the panel spoke about the look of their products, but Corey spoke about minimizing costs to increase profitability. Afterwards, he had a huge number of questions from people twice his age, and was offered the opportunity to train EBay account managers in business processes.

That let him to develop a piece of software called ‘Profitbuilder," and then to write a book called "EBay Millionaire or Bust." He credits his success to his "relentless pursuit of guidance from people who walked before him" like Peter Burns, and Joan who helped him publish the book himself. And to his lack of fear. He says many young people feel that older people won’t respect them.  That’s wrong. Once you accomplish something, Corey says,  even 50-year-old men begin to respect you.

But the highlight of the day was the luncheon keynote by Michael Gerber, author of "The E-Myth and the E-Myth Revisited," who spoke about awakening the entrepreneur within you. Michael was the most incredible speaker, a person who believes that every entrepreneur wants to transform the world and everyone has an entrepreneur within them.  This goes right along with my vision of giving entrepreneurship skills to at-risk populations through the Opportunity Through Entrepreneurship Foundation, a foundation we started this year.

Entrepreneurship is transformative…or it should be. For this inspiring speech, Gerber gets a standing ovation. He has given the entire speech while suffering from laryngitis, and the audience does not care.  It is with him anyway. Now I can relax.  Lunch is over.

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