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Reflecting on ‘entrepreneurial impact’ – or, Why I still get a kick out of being a business owner

24 Oct

(Several fellow business owners and I were recently recognized as Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalists by the Boise Young Professionals. Part of the process was an essay about our entrepreneurial impact. I must admit, second only to talking about myself in public, I really despise writing about myself. It’s uncomfortable and always feels egotistical. But, I chose to embrace it and keep my ‘essay’ as a touch point to refer back to on those days when it’s rougher than normal and I wonder, ‘Now why the heck did I start my own business????’ 🙂

In my job, I’m fortunate that I get opportunities to share my story and what I have learned about communication and business with a variety of audiences. Oftentimes, I explain that I’m an ‘accidental entrepreneur.’ Circumstance brought me here. Circumstance combined with instinct, luck and serendipity. While many start their professional journey knowing they want to start or run a business, the thought had never entered my mind until three years ago.

As a Gen Xer in my 30’s, I’m on my 2nd career and sixth job. I used to chalk that up to having ‘itchy feet’ – never being satisfied with where I was planted. But it is a characteristic I now embrace as part of the entrepreneurial mindset. Always looking for the new challenge, the additional opportunity to make a change for the better or explore a new path.

We launched Red Sky PR with the belief there was a market opportunity for strategic communication services in our Valley, that the growth of area companies demanded it, and that the communication expertise living in Idaho could compete anywhere. As one of the fastest growing independent PR agencies in the country this past year (O’Dwyer’s PR Agency ranking), that belief has been validated.

Alongside my partner Steph I’m extremely proud to have built a company that has grown from three employees to 12 in less than three years, doubling revenues year to year. Our team’s work has won statewide and national awards. We’ve competed and won. We’ve competed and lost. We’ve had great days and really bad days, fantastic camaraderie and painful conflict. And we’ve grown… and grown…did I mention we’ve grown? (And it keeps me up at night but we continue to grow!)

But the numbers can’t encapsulate what I find most rewarding; sitting at my desk and signing paychecks for our team and payment for our network of strategic partners throughout the Valley. It’s a thrill I would have never imagined.

Through our vision and hard work, we employ people. We provide professionals at all stages in their career with a chance to be part of something dynamic. We grow our economy. We impact our Valley’s future. An idea that began at a dining room table with a brainstorm board three years ago has turned into a sustainable company that satisfies a business demand and provides opportunity and lifestyle for a dozen people…and more.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say those that doubted our company’s ability to succeed drove me. Only focusing on the positive would be misleading. Doubt, obstacles and hard times drive an entrepreneur as well. We love to prove people wrong. Take a situation and make it tougher. Give us a rotten economy and we’ll want to show you what we are made of. I’m a competitive soul and running a business feeds that beast.

To summarize what I believe is my entrepreneurial impact; providing opportunities for our Valley’s communication professionals, giving back to our community through knowledge-sharing, showcasing Idaho – and Idaho expertise – to the country, and seizing the chance for our agency to be a thought-leader in the rapidly changing communication landscape.

– Jess

Innovation and inspiration abound in May

11 May

Innovation and inspiration abound in May. A heads up on a few dates to save and registrations to get moving on!

What: Idaho’s Winery Startups
When: May 13 @ 5:30-7pm
Where: The WaterCooler

From the vineyards of Southwest Idaho to co-ops and incubators, Idaho’s wine industry has exploded over the past few years since the advent of the Snake River Valley Appellation. Join Kickstand as we hear from three startup wineries who are making their mark in the wine industry – putting Southwest Idaho on the map as the newest wine region.
The panel includes:
Cinder Wines – Joe Schnerr
Davis Creek Cellars – Gina Davis
Syringa Winery

What: TechLaunch 7.0
When: May 19-20
Where: Red Lion Hotel Downtowner
Think you have what it takes to be Idaho’s Entrepreneurial Idol?  Contact Idaho TechConnect to find out how you can qualify for TechLaunch 7.0, the early stage financing educational event. Participants can be new startups or existing companies with a new product.  Companies presenting will have generally mastered the uniqueness of their respective technologies and are now seeking to perfect the overall business model attributes.  The ideal company is one that will be seeking financing in the next 12 – 18 months. Two companies will be selected from each region of the state to compete for $10,000+ in prizes before seasoned entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, commercial bankers and angel investors. Interested in watching local companies and entrepreneurs give their pitches? Sign up to sit in registration.

What: Startup Weekend
When: May 21-23
Where: The WaterCooler
What can you accomplish in 54 hours? Startup Weekend brings together a highly motivated group of developers, business managers, startup enthusiasts, marketing gurus, graphic artists and more at a 54 hour event that builds projects, communities and companies. The participants that attend a Startup Weekend decide what they want to tackle over the weekend, input desire, passion and drive, and come out at the end with several developed companies or projects. Sound intense? It is.
Think you have what it takes to collaborate and launch in a weekend? Register now!

What: IdaVation
When: May 26
Where: Boise Centre
Early-bird pricing!
As Kickstand’s annual conference, IdaVation is a tremendous opportunity to learn from an ensemble of business luminaries and experienced, successful entrepreneurs

<!– (view speakers)–>. This year’s theme is: Fostering a culture of innovation.
The event includes:

  • Keynote by Mitch Ditkoff, Co-Founder & President, Idea Champions: Unleashing Creativity – How individuals and companies can foster a sustainable culture of innovation
  • Creativity and Innovation in Isolation – How Idaho companies are leveraging place to their advantage
  • Luncheon keynote by Shawn Shepherd, Ph.D., Head of School, Foothills School of Arts & Sciences: A Whole New Approach – The Future of Business Takes a Whole New Mind
  • World-Class Research Opportunities for Entrepreneurs and Innovators – Idaho-based ideas ready for commercialization
  • Disruptive Technologies: Risk taking and focusing on future markets
  • Innovation, Creativity & Entrepreneurship Roundtables
  • Afternoon workshop with Mitch Ditkoff: Entering the AHA state

Check out the full lineup & take advantage of early-bird pricing with discounts for Kickstand members.

Innovation Overload! (in a good way)

15 Apr

In the next month there are a slew (the official word!) of events, workshops, seminars and speakers set to inspire, motivate and support the growth and success of our entrepreneurial community.

Some of the events to Save the Date and plan to attend:

TechStars in Boise
When: Wednesday, April 21@ 6pm
Where: The Watercooler
What:  David Cohen, Founder and Executive Director of TechStars – a mentorship-driven, seed-stage fund based in Boulder, Colorado – comes to Boise along with Andy Sack, Executive Director of the newly formed TechStars Seattle. Each year, TechStars Boulder funds and mentors ten new companies over an intense three months, resulting in some finely tuned, ready to roll start-ups.  David and Andy will share their enthusiasm for entrepreneurship, the benefits of the TechStars program, its successes, the application process and tell you why you should apply for TechStars Seattle (FALL 2010). This event is presented by Highway 12 and sponsored by TechBoise and the Idaho Technology Council.
Cost: FREE
More information on Highway 12’s blog & TechBoise’s blog

Ignite Boise
When: Thursday, April 22 (Doors open @ 6:30pm, starts @ 7)
Where: Egyptian Theater
What: Ignite Boise 4 brings together an inspiring and unexpected blend of thinkers from business, art, technology, government and academia. All with ideas. And all willing to share them. 5 minutes, 20 slides, what would you say? Find out.
Cost: FREE
Early admission tickets are gone, but show up & get in line for open admission which starts @ 6:30pm
More Information

Startup Lessons Learned
When:  Friday April 23 9:30am – 7pm
Where: 8th Street Marketplace @ BoDo
What: In San Francisco, the first Startup Lessons Learned all-day conference is being held – dedicated to helping with your new idea or making your current business kick more butt. But it will cost you a hefty $750. However, local tech heroes Balihoo and 8th Street Marketplace @ BoDo are bringing you a live simulcast of Startup Lessons Learned right here in Boise. Seize this great opportunity to be part of a truly world-wide start-up event, and hear some cutting edge thinking on how to get started with your business idea or make better traction with one you are already working on. If you are a start-up founder, an employee engaged in customer or product development role at a company of any stage, or someone at a large company looking to bring the lean startup methodology to your company, this is your event. Here’s the stellar lineup.
Cost: FREE – but please register!
More information via  Kevin Donaldson’s blog post (

When:  May 19-20
Where: Boise Red Lion Downtowner
What: TechLaunch is an annual event that provides training and education to companies seeking financing.  Companies have the chance to practice and hone their pitch in front of potential investors. The event is organized by Idaho TechConnect, the Idaho National Lab, the Idaho Economic Development Association, as well as private and public organizations throughout the state.
Apply to present
Cost: Early registration $40 until May 12
More information

Startup Weekend
When: May 21-23
Where: The Watercooler
What: What can you accomplish in 54 hours? Startup Weekend brings together a highly motivated group of developers, business managers, startup enthusiasts, marketing gurus, graphic artists and more at a 54 hour event that builds projects, communities and companies.
Cost: $75
More Information

When: Thursday, May 26 7:30am – 7pm
Where: Boise Centre
What: Kickstand’s annual conference to inspire innovation in Idaho. Keynote by corporate innovation specialist Mitch Ditkoff of Idea Champions. Additional details, schedules and panelists from Idaho’s entrepreneurial community still being finalized. Keep an eye on Kickstand’s blog for the latest information.
Cost: $69 for Kickstand members / $89 regular price