Know You. Know Why. Know What. Know How. Know Clarity Ventures.

3 min read …The 20th century was dominated by process efficiency. The first part of the 21st century has focused on technology innovation. Future success will be achieved by energizing people. Organizations that put people first by working with leaders and teams to solve people-related conflicts and maximize every team’s energy will radically improve team performance and more meaningfully achieve their overall mission. So said the founders of Clarity Ventures, Jonathan Schultz and Rommie Zats. The two will be at Innovation DuPage on Wednesday, September 25, for an ID Mentor Workshop to help ID Members understand and manage the most crucial of issues affecting the likelihood of achievement: relationships with others

Here are some examples of the people-related conflicts Clarity Ventures has already helped teams solve:

  • Rapidly onboarding and integrating new team members so they can drive impact immediately
  • Resolving team conflict amongst team members / co-founders / investors
  • Teaching leaders to empower their teams and get out of the details
  • Supporting leaders and teams struggling with burnout and rejection
  • Helping leaders build empathy for their teams to better align and storytell on their mission

Know Your Biggest Conflict

Participate in the interactive Clarity Ventures Energy Workshop to find solutions for the biggest conflict that is keeping you and your startup from achieving next level performance.

Clarity Ventures will help you understand what brings you energy and when you’re at your best

With their proven framework, Clarity Ventures will help you understand what brings you energy and when you’re at your best as well as the biggest conflicts holding back you and your company. Then they’ll design a solution that you will put into action the very next day.

You will work through the two-hour session with your co-founder/team or partner up with other founders. Following the workshop, Clarity Ventures will be available from 1:00-6:00 p.m. for 30–minute coaching sessions to follow up on the work you completed during the workshop and/or assist you with any remaining people-related conflicts you’re working through. Please email to book an appointment.

What Past Participants Said

A startup organization themselves, Clarity Ventures has already put their powerful workshop sessions to use helping a number of teams to energize and break down conflicts. Some of their feedback include:

  • “For the first time in several months, I now know why I’ve felt depleted, I have the vocabulary to talk about, and clear actions to bring me energy.”
  • “For my entire career, I’ve hated these team “kumbaya” sessions. I can honestly say that today’s entire session has given me energy.”
  • “That was a great session! Thank you guys. It couldn’t have come at a better time for me and my co-founder.”

More on Clarity Ventures

Schultz and Zats formed Clarity Ventures as people transformation consultants who bring out the best in leaders and their teams so they can make their mark on the world. They find out what energizes teams and remove what’s getting in the way through leadership development programs, team and individual workshops and executive coaching.

They have previously worked for some of the best companies in the world, including McKinsey and Google, where they observed extremely high-performing teams. They learned that teams are only able to maximize performance when they broke assumptions, supported each other and were enabled to be their best selves. Shutlz and Zats leveraged this experience along with extensive research to create a framework for both groups and individuals to enable maximum energy and performance.

Jonathan Schultz holds a Bachelor’s in Finance and Marketing from Augustana College and an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. He has a background in strategy consulting with expertise in enterprise-wide transformations working for top companies such as McKinsey & Co. He gets energy from building and creating, working in chaos and ambiguity, and being a part of an open and supportive team.

Rommie Zats holds a Bachelor’s in Industrial & Systems Engineering from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and is currently pursuing his Executive MBA at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. He has worked for a number of top organizations, including Google, where he has held strategy and operations roles leading and transforming global teams. He gets energy from challenging the status quo, tackling complex problems and surrounding himself with dreamers.

Let Innovation DuPage help you take your idea from concept to success with an open-to-the-public event, our Incubator program or the Owner-to-CEO Accelerator. To learn more, call 630-942-3340 to explore your next steps.

Get to Know ID Mentor, Chip Borkowski

Chip Borkowski is a proven growth counsel with for-profit corporations and 501(c)3 not-for-profits as well. His skills as an in-demand visionary and strategic leader that translates business strategies into maximum profit are well known. Currently, as the chief growth officer for several current entrepreneurial initiatives, Chip  leads the efforts for practical innovation via his proven enterprise models that work for SMBs as well as Fortune 50 organizations.

He leads the Innovations Teams which develop new business opportunities, markets and service models; drive brand value; and partner with the best of the best to enhance his unique offerings including for-profits like BeWell-USA® and Empowered Patient® as well as not-for-profits like BeFriends®. 

Borkowski’s responsibilities also include strategic alliances; sponsorship sales; and marketing and communications. 

As CGO, Borkowski created and directs a multifunctional innovation process for developing and monetizing new products and services, improving existing products and services, and optimizing customer experiences. He focuses on identifying new ideas and best practices that exceed customer expectations and accelerate sustainable, profitable business growth–-aka SCALE. Chip keenly understands that customers’ needs must be front and center to achieve long-term revenue growth and company success–even on B2B GoToMkt programs. He always views business through the B2B2C lens. 

Borkowski has a wealth of experience iadvising some of the nation’s top media, real estate, and financial companies as well as healthcare organizations and their related ecosystems / strategic alliances for customer acquisition through ambassadorship–whether with B2B or B2C strategies and tactics. He has spent over 30 years disrupting technological and consumer behavior and spearheading initiatives to engage consumers with authoritative content across media platforms. By leading from the front, Chip ensures all parties involved with his initiatives embrace a laser-like focus on the end goals.

For example:
•BeWell-USA® and Empowered Patient® – help connect those in need of chronic condition treatment with everyday and life-threatening health problem treatment and prevention facilities.
•BeFriends® – Aid the 20 percent of Americans who have a disability as a “Good and Faithful Servant”. 

Chip is both internally and externally focused on company culture, stakeholder accountability to market dynamics, customer needs and preferences, as well as consumer behavior. He ensures his initiatives and clients’ projects stay one step ahead and engage with all stakeholders and customers.

He can be seen often in Innovation DuPage’s headquarters in Glen Ellyn. Don’t miss Chip’s upcoming ID Mentor workshop Proven Models for Success on Wednesday, September 4 at 10:00 a.m. For ID Members only.

14,000 Reasons Why You Should Enter a Pitch Contest (or at Least Consider It)

3 min read…Getting a startup off the ground is not easy. Finding time amid other obligations (like your day job and your family), raising capital and developing your ideas is an enormous undertaking. Success takes hard work and in some cases a bit of luck (aka timing, hard work, perseverance, creativity) but you can help by making smart decisions. That’s why Innovation DuPage is here. To help you get started and nurture your journey. One of the smartest decisions you can make to increase your “luck” and the awareness of your startup is to enter a pitch competition.

A pitch competition entry is a fantastic way to focus the mind. It gives you a deadline, so you can stop procrastinating. It helps you build momentum for your ideas even if you haven’t filed all your paperwork yet. Winning is great, but even if you don’t win, a pitch competition is an exercise that provides lots of benefits.

The Chicagoland/DuPage area is chock full of pitch competitions. The ID events page offers several ID-sponsored pitch competitions you might consider like the upcoming COD/ID-sponsored Your Big IDea pitch competition for COD students, alums and area high school students.

Want even more opportunities to pitch? For a full list of pitch competitions in the Chicagoland area click here. Each competition has different qualifications and requirements, so you’ll need to do some research.


To be alerted when the details of the ID-sponsored pitch competitions become available, sign up on the form by each listing on the ID Events page. Each of these competitions will help you with feedback, promotion and maybe even cash (if you win!). $14,000 in prize money is up for grabs from the ID sponsored pitch competitions listed. In case you need a little more motivation than $14,000, here are….

5 More Reasons Why You Should Enter a Pitch Competition

  1. Entering a Pitch Competition Helps You Focus

    The actual process of entering the competition forces you to put your business on paper, organize your ideas and brainstorm the possibilities. It gets the creative ideas flowing. In some cases, application reviewers will provide you with unsolicited (and priceless) feedback.

    It’s not easy to enter a pitch competition and often that’s by design. You may need to answer thought- provoking questions as part of the application process. This helps you think critically about every aspect of your business, nail down your vision, assess the competitive landscape, define your value proposition and set short and long term goals. Re-reviewing your overall strategy may be one of the most valuable aspects of entering.

  2. Pitch Competitions Attract Others Interested in Entrepreneurs and New Ideas

    Pitch competitions often provide support and instruction from the organizers and judges. Some competitions require setup meetings with knowledgeable business advisors as part of the application process. Others match accepted entrants with exclusive business coaches and investors.

    You’ll probably meet incredible mentors during the competition events or awards ceremony. Pitch competitions are attended by people hoping to learn, gain contacts and get in on the next big idea. Remember, other successful entrepreneurs all started with an idea and built it from scratch. They’ve all made plenty of mistakes, acquired knowledge and skills along the way and have endless information and perspectives to share. Network with these folks, ask questions about their businesses and take note. Each interaction may just save you from having to learn lessons the hard way.

  3. Pitch Competitions Remind You to Practice, Practice, Practice

    If you don’t have your elevator pitch down perfectly (or don’t know what it is), now is the time to figure it out. While attending a pitch competition, you will have dozens of opportunities to tell people about your business.

    That 30-second spiel can make the difference between a potential investor giving you his personal email and phone number or looking around for someone else to talk to. We know that hurts, which is why you need to be top of your game.

    Your elevator pitch should be brief, unique, and memorable. Test-drive it with friends and colleagues. Watch people’s reactions as you share it. Are they intrigued? Do they want to know more, or do they change the subject? Don’t be afraid to test a few versions of it to figure out what works best. Remember how you get to Carnegie Hall: Practice, practice, practice.

  4. Everything’s All About Marketing and PR

    Pitch competitions are a great way to tell others about your business, gain exposure, and find new customers. Use pitch competitions to tout your idea and story, because, let’s be honest, no one else is going to do it.

    Here are some more marketing ideas you can leverage when you enter and participate in pitch competitions:

    • Email your past and present contacts and invite them to come and watch
    • Put together a press release and ask reporters at media outlets to cover the contest
    • Offer yourself as an interviewee to bloggers and/or offer to be a guest blogger
    • Write up a story for your own website about the competition and how you’re prepping for it
    • If the competition includes community voting, invite fam/friends/fans to participate

    Sharing your involvement in a pitch competition, whether you win or not, demonstrates your commitment to your company, how you are creatively growing your business and that you’re looking for ways to grow. 

    Everyone in the pitch competition has a story to share. If you happen to win, it’s a feather in your cap and something you can ride to future success, blog posts, etc. Even if you don’t win, you still have an interesting story to share and a lot of lessons-learned to talk about.

  5. Cash Is Often Involved

    Winning feels great and often involves some cash. Cash prize amounts range depending on the competition, but often non-cash prizes can include valuable resources such as free business services (a membership to Innovation DuPage, perhaps?) access to VC’s and mentors, mentions on social media and maybe even a newspaper article. Combined, the pitch competitions sponsored by ID and listed on the ID events page are giving away more than $14,000 in cash in addition to prizes.

Are you planning to enter a pitch competition? What do you hope to get out of it?

Entering a pitch competition and participating in the events and activities around it will kick your ideas into high gear so you can expand your vision and see how it flies. Listening to passionate business leaders and exposing yourself to new perspectives will inevitably spark your creative spirit. Usually, pitch competitions have final celebration parties. Have business cards/flyers on hand and prepare to network, network, network. You never know who you’ll be mingling with at the pre and post event gatherings. You’ll walk away with a notepad packed with tons of to-do’s… and even some lesson-learning don’ts. Get started and make yourself some luck!

Ladies Who Launch: Embracing Entrepreneurship with Confidence

Innovation DuPage was proud to sponsor Ladies Who Launch, a one-day conference for women in the pre-launch through startup (and just beyond) stages of entrepreneurship, hosted by SCORE of Fox Valley.

Walk away with a plan going forward

There were three engaging main sessions, and a topic-specific breakout session. Featured as a keynoter was North Central College’s own Karen Bartuch, a proud ID Partner and mentor. Check out her research team’s Ted Talk on “Funny Business: Humor in the Workplace.”

The other keynote was Rebecca Fyffe, who was named the 2018 National Small Business Person of the Year and who’s company Landmark Pest Control takes a gentler more natural approach to pest control.

Participants had the opportunity to learn how to launch, grow and build a business with:

  • Useful tools and strategies that focused on women’s unique business challenges
  • More empowerment to engage in entrepreneurship with renewed confidence
  • Connections with other women as founders, funders or team members
  • Business resources that focus on helping women-owned businesses
  • Tips to become profitable, successful, and establish effective teams
  • Ideas to refine a strategic approach to business and marketing

Take aways: It takes preparation to be empowered to engage and unite, put yourself first to succeed in business and life, and keep it real by coming together to conquer adversity and challenges through humor.

Participants worked to look inside themselves to walk away with a plan going forward. It was exciting to be challenged as the next generation of strong and fearless women entrepreneurs.

 

How Fly Fishing and Market Positioning Resonate with Dave Goetz

Dave Goetz is a little obsessed with fly fishing. He is so obsessed that he started a podcast (2 Guys and a River), now on season 5 with over 315,000 downloads. But, his day job is working with clients of his CZ Strategy  marketing company on positioning, messaging, content development and digital marketing to create valid sales leads. He’s seen a lot during the past 20 years of working with over 160 clients, 40 of them startups. He’s witnessed successes and failures of entrepreneurial startups, some even that were incredibly well-funded. Goetz shared his experiences with ID members during a recent ID Mentor workshop: insights that are not unlike the casting and mending of a line and the strikes that result with fish rise.

The Woes of Startups

Goetz said because generally it takes 1,000 days (or more) to start up a business, entrepreneurs should plan to survive that long without new revenue coming in. He also advised founders to spend at least 50 percent of their time on sales and business development/relationship-building, recognizing that founders would rather spend their time on “fun” things like product development and marketing. “I always say you need to load in 50 percent of your time on your marketing plan to sales. If you don’t do that, you can’t be successful,” he said.

founders should spend at least 50 percent of their time on sales and business development/relationship-building

He also said marketers must find a channel where their potential customers are hanging out and then capitalize on that, kind of like how fly fishers must locate the bend which is attractive to the most trout on any give day on the river. It may be a tradeshow, a publication or a trade association for business-to-business (B2B) customers, or a network, radio station, magazine or blog for consumers.

But First Find A Category

“Trout are very sensitive to unnatural movement.” So says a website designed to attract travelers to West Yellowstone in Montana. Like trout, markets are also sensitive. The market is sensitive to the position of a product in the marketplace. Goetz said there are only eight market positions within any market category. Defining the category is the hard part. Once you’ve done that, the position within the category will be obvious and it will be one of the following:

Leader «-» Innovator
Generalist «-» Specialist
Premium «-» Discount
Performer «-» Service

Goetz said the market position is determined not by the marketer, but in the minds of the people who would be its customers. It’s their perception of the company/product/service. And that perception is based on their experience and impressions. And they’re sensitive. Like trout, they’re not going to strike at just any fly. However, once the market position is identified, if it’s not to the liking of the business owner, it can be changed.

Carving Out Real Estate in the White Space of Customers’ Minds

Defining a category and a position is the work marketers must do before hiring for creative. Only the marketer can define messaging architecture and create a messaging blueprint. And just as a fly fisher is constantly mending his line, the marketer must constantly evaluate the market position and be prepared for change caused by any number of factors: a change in a competitor’s position perhaps, or the addition of a new product or service, or growth or shrinkage of the company.

“Positioning decays over time,” said Goetz so he advised marketers to set transition points to conduct research as to the perception of the company in the minds of the most recent customers and prepare to shift. Constantly.

Branding Is Not Your Logo

Goetz said, “Branding is not your logo and not your website. It’s the experience people have of you. Branding is a memory of what people have of their experience. As your organization matures, it becomes your story. You want to make sure when people have a memory of you, it’s accurate.”

He said your biggest challenge is to create a prospect pool in a well-defined channel (what people read) and then build a marketing/sales funnel. The market position your company has within that prospect pool is what sets your company apart from all the other ideas and initiatives competing for any particular customer’s share of mind. It’s like finding the perfect river teeming with fat trout. You’re not going to catch them all, but the one you do catch is going to be valuable.

Ask at the ID front desk for Goetz’ Messaging Blueprint worksheet to help you craft your own positioning statement and marketing message.

 

Michael Medema Mentor Workshop: Flip-flops and Fast Facts

For a man who has started seven companies (with four successful exits) and is currently running three companies simultaneously, Michael Medema seemed pretty chill. Medema sat down in t-shirt and flip flops to chat with ID members about his experiences scaling startups. His resume includes company sale prices valued at a cumulative $54 million.

His current company, Keono, a digital marketing company which he started in 2011, claims revenue of $18.5 million and has been listed on INC. 50 four years in a row as a “Best Workplace in the U.S.”, among other accolades he said. Medema is a serial entrepreneur with chops. As an ID mentor, he’s willing and able to help others, so ID members were listening closely.

Stay Debt Free
In a staccato delivery style, all business and fast facts, Medema advised ID members to avoid debt if at all possible. He said organic growth is the best growth and the way to achieve organic growth is through personal selling. He said it’s okay to start small, and not to spend a lot of money on marketing at first. For super small companies, if there’s a little money—like $500-$1000 per month to spend–founders are better off hiring sales reps, even 1099 sales reps, to follow up on leads and close deals.

Hook a big client, do something great for them and then leverage that success on to the next. He said to be realistic with financials and remember “Cash and data are king. Debt is crippling.”

Focus on One Thing
No one can be all things to all people. As an example, Medema said his particular strength is on building great companies and teams—fast—and then getting out. “I’m not the CEO to take a company to the next level. My sweet spot is from scratch up to $25 million.” He said to focus on doing one thing great and figuring out how to scale fast.

focus on doing one thing great and figure out how to scale fast.

Get a Great Team
While you’re lasering in on the thing you do best, he advised company leaders to hire slow/fire fast to cultivate a capable team, a powerful network and a high-functioning company culture. Founders have to do everything alone at first. But when it’s time to hire, he said to try to pay on results as much as possible (see paragraph three). Use consultants and 1099 them. Find and hire interns to help. They’re willing and able to work to gain experience. (Hint: the ID partner colleges and universities are full of them!)

Be Ready to Change
“If you’re not changing, you’re dying. I change quickly. I’m always looking over my shoulder,” Medema asserted. The people in the team change, the customers change, the product changes and the markets certainly change. Founders need to be prepared for that. Founders also must “Constantly share their vision, direction and plans with clients, vendors, team members, investors and so on. Keep the vision strong and continue to ask questions and challenge the norm,” he said.

Use the Network
Medema was impressed with the level of talent and vision in the room. He recommended that business founders and owners at Innovation DuPage take the headphones off and work together. ID members could share knowledge and resources and even combine resources to hire needed talent, if possible.

He said, “Most of the companies all have similar issues so leverage the group and discuss key issues together (i.e. prospecting, hiring, etc.). Although the companies are unique and in different stages, sharing ideas would be greatly beneficial. I’ve learned a ton from business partners, friends and other business owners, so network more so you too can learn the ropes.”

This rope is one every ID member will want to swing on! ID Member Symone Lewis, founder and CEO of Barelastics, said “This was amazing and worth every minute.” Stay tuned for the next mentor workshop on Tuesday, July 16, from 10:00 a.m. to noon with Dave Goetz.

 

 

Thank you to everyone who came!

ID’s Grand Opening Open House Was a Big Success

An estimated 300+ people stopped by Innovation DuPage’s new headquarters at the Glen Ellyn Civic Center, 535 Duane Street, Glen Ellyn, Illinois, on Wednesday, May 22, for a Grand Opening.

Be sure to visit Glen Ellyn retailers who are helping celebrate the Grand Opening of Innovation DuPage

People were able to meet some of the start up businesses that are incubating at Innovation DuPage. Also, ID staff offered tours to show off the renovation of the former Glen Ellyn police station and explained how this business development incubator and small business accelerator that is Innovation DuPage will make a big impact on the economic development of the region in the future.

The space is beautiful, the tours take just a few minutes and there are dozens of trendy restaurants and delightful shops to explore in downtown Glen Ellyn!

Participating retailers are offering a free gift through Sunday, May 26, with a minimum purchase of $25 for anyone who stopped by the ID Grand Opening and presents the flyer from the goody bag takeaway.

A big thanks and shout out to these retailers who helped us celebrate our Grand Opening:

Alla Moda Boutique
Blonde Boutique
The Bookstore of Glen Ellyn
Cabernet & Company
Courier Travel
Glen Ellyn Sweet Shoppe
JAYNE
Larc Jewelers
M and Em’s Boutique
Marcel’s Culinary Experience
Marche
Norabella Boutique
Olive ‘n Vinnie’s
Shawn Sargent Designs
Sign of the Whale Antiques
String Theory
Treasure House
UPTOWN

When you go, be sure to take a photo and post to social media with #GO_ID #MyID

How COD Graphic Design Students Created for GOtivation

Portfolio Night 2019 is where design students from College of DuPage and high schools in the community were invited to present their work to a panel of judges and the public. Portfolio Night presents an opportunity to review the work of each student and talk with each artist in person.

One emerging company that worked with COD graphic design students was GOtivation. GOtivation worked with student designers at College of DuPage through their professor, Gautum Wadhwa, to create a series of icons and animated graphics to be used on the GOtivation mobile app. The app helps people get more fit by providing mental motivation through texts and messages to stick with a fitness plan via a game-like interface.

The students did a phenomenal job! Not only were they easy to work with, but they provided some great designs in a short period of time. Their effort has already been put to good use.

GOtivation Founder and CEO Dennis Timpanero said, “The students did a phenomenal job! Not only were they easy to work with, but they provided some great designs in a short period of time. Their effort has already been put to good use. We immediately started using the medals, badges, and other game graphics in the training course this week. Customers replied with comments like ‘ooooh,’ ‘nice!’ and even ‘fancy!’ Customers reached out unprompted and were really impressed with the professional level of the design. We really appreciated how the students worked this project into their busy class schedules and their other commitments.”

GOtivation plans to continue working with College of DuPage students in the future and was visible cheering them on at Portfolio Night 2019.

Portfolio Night 2019 at College of DuPage, an annual event, featured creative work ranging from a graphic design and illustrations to packaging and website designs. Graphic design students were recognized with awards and prizes in the following categories: Portfolio, Identity Design, Publication Design, Illustration, 3-D Design, and Web Design.

Learn more at http://www.cod.edu/design/portfolioReview.htm