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Business 101 in one day -- Entrepreneur University

I recently attended Entrepreneur University, held at the University of Washington and came away with a renewed respect for all entrepreneurs. Hearing experienced and successful entrepreneurs share their stories is inspiring. These are individuals who persisted with that great idea until funding and customers created a profitable company.

What is Entrepreneur University?

This annual event, presented by Northwest Entrepreneur Network , is a day filled with workshops, networking and insight. The day covers business start-up, operations, and selling your company. Attendees are not limited to current business owners. The auditorium is filled with students, service providers, and individuals considering a start-up company and, of course, the entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs: “If you build it, they will come”

One highlight of the day was talking with Guy Kawasaki, CEO of Garage Technology Ventures, a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley. The legendary Kawasaki recently released his eighth book, “The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything.” He’s also known as the original Apple evangelist for his part in helping make Macintosh a household name.

When asked about outsourcing, Kawasaki responded by stating that version one of a product can’t be outsourced. The optimal distance from the creator of the product is 30 feet! After the initial phase, the company should do whatever it needs to do to be competitive. His view is that hiring locally to keep jobs in a community doesn’t always make sense for the company.

Kawasaki sees the swing from the irrational exuberance in the dotcom bubble to the irrational depression in the dotcom bust moving back to center. The Google IPO has given a lift to the industry. Companies are starting again and creativity is moving. The success of a company is influenced by human capital, intellectual capital and quality of the product.

The primary key to a company’s success, according to Kawasaki, is the entrepreneur. Everything falls from there. He states that being an entrepreneur is not impossible for anybody because entrepreneurs are made, not born.

He’s a strong believer in “If you build it, they will come.” Of course, what is built must be of quality, be better or more creative, and have a fit in the marketplace. If so, marketing is easy according to Kawasaki.

Real World Entrepreneur Success Stories

Experienced entrepreneurs shared their stories of success throughout the day. One such presenter, Fred A. Crosetto, refers to himself as the King of Gloves. As CEO of Ammex Corporation, he helps his company sell one billion gloves per year. Crosetto’s story is part right place, right time and a strong will to survive. Ammex has no investors and its financial beginnings are based in bootstrapping. According to Crosetto, successful bootstrapping goes hand in hand with sales — every great CEO is a great sales person. Crosetto states, “There is no marketing or business development — it’s all sales.” He goes on to note that a company’s continued success is dependent on teaching all employees what the bottom line is and where they fit in.

Mark Vadon, CEO of Blue Nile, offers ageless advice, “You will probably fail.” He notes that to be an entrepreneur, you must be passionate. He sees entrepreneurs as the artists of the business world. He offers five lessons for success:

  • When looking at a business, look at it from the customer’s point of view. Find the unmet need and fulfill it.
  • Think differently. Be creative in your approach while grounded in reality.
  • Build a great team. Create your business culture with your team. And answer the following: Do you like working with them? Are the right people in the right places?
  • Bad times can forge great companies. We’ve heard it before — let the hard times make you stronger.
  • Focus… Relentlessly. Because you’ll be bored with your strategy before anyone knows you have a strategy, stay focused.

Guy Kawasaki, Fred Crosetto and Mark Vadon are only three of the entrepreneurs and venture funders who shared their stories and experiences at Entrepreneur University. The day was filled with other equally compelling presentations and of course, networking opportunities. If you are either an aspiring or current entrepreneur and you want to learn about the challenges in family owned businesses, preparing for IPO or when it’s right to sell, don’t miss this event in 2005.

In the meantime, take advantage of the monthly events held by Northwest Entrepreneur Network . You may meet the person your business needs to make things happen.

 
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