Monthly Archives: November 2013

Fall 2013 Jpreneur Demo Day December 2

On Monday, December 2, at 5:30pm Central, students in the online graduate entrepreneurial journalism course will present their final pitches for the startups they’ve been working on all semester. 

You can watch their pitches and offer feedback here; just sign in as a guest on Adobe Connect. Please be sure to mute your mic when you aren’t speaking or sometimes there is feedback. 

Each pitch will be about 10-12 minutes, plus time for questions/feedback and there are three groups. 

This is an online class with students from as far away as Darfur, so in some ways, co-working in teams has been more challenging than the on-campus class, even though we are lucky enough to have a number of digital collaboration tools.

Among our startups this semester we have a team working on online education in Nigeria; a site that will make it easy for event planners and bands to find musicians; and ITVNewz.com, a hyperlocal television news product offering original content from non-professionals. 

We are almost finished, with class and our project

Our update for the class project this week allows us to say the power point is almost finished, the facebook page is created and the website is up and running (although we aren’t making it public until the night of the presentation).  We are supposed to be meeting tonight to finalize the presentation and clean up anything necessary for a great week of preparation for next week’s final pitch.  Until then, that is all.

Young Entrepreneurs in Atlanta


“The two best days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”

Takeshia Rhynes, a vibrant, young black woman, lived a tough life in south Chicago. The day she found out why she was born is the day many foster children in Georgia got a second chance for a better life.

Takeshia is one of a few young entrepreneurs at an IXOYE Global Entrepreneurship Network (IXGEN) workshop held Saturday, November 23, 2013 in Decatur, GA. CEO Emmenette Mason founded IXGEN, a Christian-based nonprofit organization that encourages, promotes and facilitates global entrepreneurship among and between micro entrepreneurs in the USA and Africa. Mason’s vision is to change lives through micro-entrepreneurship and to expand global perspectives.

“Entrepreneurship has a huge global reach,” said Mason. “It isn’t just local. Every time you start a business, it affects the global economy.”

The one-day empowerment workshop for youth and young adults from around Metro Atlanta taught them how to link their stories to entrepreneurism. They learned how to tell their stories, see how those stories influence their lives, and how to use them to create, develop, and grow their personal or business brands. The theme of the workshop was story telling: “Your Story Matters — Tell Your Story, Build Your Business.”

We got to hear the stories of three young entrepreneurs, one not even old enough to drive a car. According to Kimberly Oberheu of PFI and one of the facilitators, each story contained the same thread we are all familiar with: The Hero’s Journey — classic stories of success while overcoming obstacles. These kids have something else in common: they understood themselves and their skills, a much needed ingredient for entrepreneurial success. Each shared their experience of how they became an entrepreneur; each touched me in a different way. One had me on the verge of tears.

Young Entrepreneurs

Takeshia Rhynes with facilitators Kat Altine and Kimberly Oberheu.

Takeshia Rhynes with facilitators Kat Altine and Kimberly Oberheu.

Takeshia Rhynes was raised by her grandparents on the south side of Chicago. She attended three different high schools, but managed to graduate on time. Parents didn’t want their kids to hang out with her because she was an undesirable. Despite her poor conditions, she knew she wanted to be successful. After a successful run in sales with Comcast (#1 salesperson in Atlanta), she figured out her “why”: teaching young people to use the experiences of their past to build their future. She is the CEO and founder of A Change Generation, where she strives to change the lives of young people, one generation at a time. Her organization provides services that enable youth 18 – 21 who have transitioned out of foster care to live a better life. They provide them with a residence and food, and teach life and social skills. Their goal is to teach those who are down in the face of adversity (primarily foster kids) and teach them how to live a self-sufficient life no matter how much travail they’ve been through. Takeshia, a certified life coach, encourages at-risk young adults to find the one thing they do well, to find the skills that makes them unique, and use those skills to make a difference.

“You may have to go through different other skills for you to find out what you’re really good at,” Takeshia said. “Life is about risk. If you don’t take a risk, you never know where you can go. It’s like a game without a loss.”

Takeshia, who compares her life to a boxing match, takes her difficult life to inspire others to reach for success even if they’ve been knocked down and out. It’s always possible to come back as a reigning champion.

Bruce Phifer got his start as an entrepreneur at his mom’s yard sale in 2005. When she put one of his toys out he didn’t want sold, he took

it back to his house. But a woman stopped him and offered him $1 for the toy. He took the dollar. That began his career shipping toys across the world through his shop God’s Personal Property on eBay, and by January, his company’s total sales will have earned $200,000. He said that financial independence should come at an early age.

“The more young people with their own stream of income will provide a better understanding of finances,” said Phifer.

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Trent Williams, CEO of Jewelry Funds, who has a heart of gold, started his business at the tender age of 12 to help his mother pay for his tuition at Woodward Academy. He wasn’t the best speaker in the house, but he knows how to listen. As an Atlanta vendor of jewelry, Trent gets to meet a lot of different people. When customers don’t see what they’re looking for, he tries to find it, and then let that customer know when he has what they want. Once he saw a woman looking at earrings who didn’t make a purchase because she didn’t have pierced ears. He made it a point to add clip-on earrings to his inventory.

The Leaders

Each of the facilitators have entrepreneurial backgrounds that contribute to the success of young entrepreneurs: finding your passion, discovering what you’re born to do, empowering women, and building strong economic communities. Stephen Zehnder brought his talent as a homeschool enrichment specialist (TrueNorth Homeschool), pastor, engineer and dynamic speaking skills to compare the story of Moses to entrepreneurship. Farah Akbar of Scribe described her first experience with entrepreneurship at the age of 9 when she read a children’s finance book that inspired her to open a newspaper route. Kat Altine is a confidence coach for women and an award winning businesswoman. In addition to being a personal coach, small business strategist, facilitator and motivational speaker, she runs a few of her own businesses in the travel industry (The Dream Travel Group) and custom jewelry (The Origami Owl).

The workshop was geared toward youth, but anyone can take a lesson away from this experience. Personally, I was inspired by the young entrepreneurs who shared their stories, impressed by the teens who showed up to learn how to build their future and encouraged by those who are enabling them.

Religion is laced throughout the workshop, but it isn’t the primary focus of the lesson. Using stories from the Bible is a way to associate familiar stories with a concept that doesn’t come naturally to everyone.

“It’s allowing people to see value in entrepreneurship,” said Oberheu. “Everything in life is fodder for good stories.”

YEP 2012For teens, entrepreneurship can show them that they have a story to tell. The Youth Empowerment Program (iYEP) is designed to interest kids to tell their story. It also helps kids find their identity and accept where they are in life, and inform them that it doesn’t take much to start a business.

“We try to catch them in the time when they’re most impressionable,” said Zehnder. “We ask questions like ‘who are you?’ and ‘what make you unique?’”

The workshop identified the need to ask for help when need and seek out free resources like Score that can be a useful catalyst when starting a business. Though everyone can’t be an entrepreneur, iYEP teaches kids the skills of an entrepreneur.

Words of advice from young entrepreneurs:

“Get up. Go out. And go get it.” Bruce Phifer

“Beg everyone you know to help start you up.” Trent Williams

“You got to be your own coach sometimes. Motivate yourself. You’re your number one fan.” Takeshia Rhynes

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Women in Business get an EDGE

West Tennessee women entrepreneurs were recently given the chance to rub elbows with like-minded women at The Edge Conference for Women held in Dyersburg, Tennessee.  Edge stands for Encouraging, Developing and Gaining Connections.

Women owned clothing and jewelry boutiques, women artists, and craft type home based women business owners were just some of the over fifty vendors who set up at the vendor fair at The Lannom Center.   The vendor fair was open to women from all over West Tennessee to browse and shop.
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Held just before the start of the holiday season, it was a great chance for the women entrepreneurs to make extra money, get their name out to the public and make business connections.

Following the vendor fair a luncheon was held featuring Lisa Whelchel whom you might remember as Blair from Facts of Life, a popular 80s TV show.    Ms. Whelchel herself is an entrepreneur.  Her first book, “Creative Correction” was released in of October 2000 and has sold over 200,000 copies. She went on to write thirteen other books including, “The Facts of Life and Other Lessons My Father Taught Me,” “The ADVENTure of Christmas,” “The Busy Mom’s Guide” Series, and her most recent, “Friendship For Grownups.”  Whelchel founded her own business MomTime Ministries.
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Ms. Whelchel is also an international speaker and has toured with “Women of Faith,” “Extraordinary Women” and “Women of Joy.”  She was also a vendor at the EDGE Mart signing copies of her latest book.

Organizer Landy Fuqua, director of the Regional Entrepreneurship and Economic Development and Tennessee Small Business Development Center of Martin, TN said the name of the conference reflects its purpose.   “EDGE is designed to aid local women in encouraging, developing and gaining excellence,” she said.

Mrs. Fuqua said vendor booths were available for $55 and tickets for shopping the vendor fair and lunch were $29.  Jean Mathis of Union City attended the vendor fair with her friends from church.  She said it was a good chance to do a little Christmas shopping and she liked the idea of supporting local businesses.  “It’s hard to find gifts that aren’t made overseas these days.”

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Vanessa Bell bought a vendor booth to showcase her homemade goat’s milk products from the Shepherd’s Farm.   She sold soaps, lotions and bath products that she makes by hand from milk that she gets from her goats on her farm.  “The $55 vendor fee is very small compared to what I get in return.”  By mid-day she had already sold $400 worth of products.  “Every customer today also gets my business card with a link to my website and a coupon for free shipping if they order over $50 worth.”

The conference is sponsored by the Tennessee Small Business Development Center, the University of Tennessee at Martin Reed Center, Dyersburg State Community College and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Following Ms. Whechel’s keynote address at lunch, a fall fashion show was held featuring clothing from several vendors at the EDGE Mart.
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Nine Media Startups Present in Atlanta

Last month I had the opportunity to make a quick trip to Atlanta for the PBS MediaShift Collab/Space workshop. I’m behind on blogging about it, but I wanted to share some of what I learned here.

I highly recommend checking out all of  these startups. Mark Glaser of PBS MediaShift offers an excellent short description of each one plus links here. It’s inspiring to see innovation in the media space; these are exactly the kinds of businesses/nonprofits I’d like to see my entrepreneurial journalism students creating. A few quick takeaways:

#CollabATLI was especially taken with Clear Health Costs, which aims to bring transparency to this notoriously opaque industry in ways that not only help patients but perhaps help to force reform of our often inefficent and overpriced health care system. What a great idea! I think we need to see more examples of using journalism skills in ways that don’t just involve producing a traditional article or video but can be extremely useful for audiences.

I also enjoyed brainstorming possible solutions to challenges faced by Andrew Haeg of Groundsource, who is working on a simple system to ask people questions via text message that works even on feature phones and as thus can be used throughout the globe. Not only is the latter of obvious use to journalists seeking to broaden their source base and do better reporting, it is easy to imagine how pollsters and other experts in public opinion or market research could also use the tool and perhaps subsidize its journalistic and pro-social aims.

It was interesting to learn that California Public Press is operating on a budget of about $60,000 per year and San Francisco Public Press on about $75,000. Both of these are small,local nonprofit investigative journalism outlets that often work with public records and data to get stories. Clearly this is a shoestring budget and they would love to/need to increase it, but I thought it was valuable to know a ballpark of what might be needed to at least get going for others interested in similar work.

AdGlue strikes me as the type of thing more publishers need to look into as an easier way to work with local advertisers. Most interesting to me was that if you have a hot story that’s getting lots of traffic, AdGlue will pick up on that in about 10 seconds and adjust the pricing accordingly. CollabATL 1

The other startups not mentioned here are equally compelling – read more about them.

I also enjoyed the way the workshop was set up and I think it would be fun to replicate elsewhere. Startups spent the morning pitching and discussing their biggest current challenges, and then we broke into small groups to tackle solutions. The processes we used in collaborating and brainstorming had some similarities with design thinking.

Completely unrelated bonus to being in Atlanta: Purchasing some Sweetwater beer. And a doughnut.

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Patrice Worthy — Atlanta Writer, Entrepreneur

It’s art, it’s fashion, it’s music. Pworthy.com is a platform that showcases the work of African-American artists in a way they know best: through their art.

Patrice Worthy has been running the website for about a year. As a fashion writer and arts editor, she realized her interest went beyond fashion. She wanted to show the world the uniqueness of how Black artists express their views of life.

“They convey Black thought and talk about it,” said Worthy, a young Black woman who grew up in the suburbs of Illinois. “Art brings it out. It gives them a platform to express views they find wrong with society, and the things they love.”

Worthy is meeting Atlanta’s need for quality coverage for upscale Black events. Once she began researching more Black blogs and newspapers, she realized no one was covering Blacks in the arts. The response to her articles was explosive.

“Before I knew, it I had way more demand than I could handle. I began to scale back and only write about the arts, such as fashion, music, painters, film, etc. I still received the same response. I provide arts coverage with a contemporary voice including art forms like hip hop, fashion and graffiti that interest the young reader.”

Her content strategy is to provide the Black reader with information and content they can’t find anywhere else.

“There are a ton of Black blogs and websites out there so I have to stand out. Right now, I interview artists and cover events that are not covered by mainstream bloggers who tend to cover celebrities and gossip. My plan is to become a top authority on Black art forms as well as provide a platform for artists to express themselves. As a result, be a credible source for the next hot or big thing in fashion, music, film, and the arts in general.”

What I admire the most about Patrice is her bust-ass-edness. She works full-time as a customer service representative for a cable company, and then comes home, gets dressed up, grabs her camera and note pad, and hits the hot spots of Atlanta. I can barely keep up with her as I sip on a martini at a BET event one Thursday night.

“In Atlanta, they party Monday through Thursday,” she said.

I’ll stick to my occasional Saturday night outing, thank you very much.

Another unique feature about Patrice is her keen eye into American Black arts and culture. She says design is the strongest area in fashion and finds it fascinating that most designers in the fashion industry are mostly white, while the support is mostly black.

“Here in the states it can go from the bottom up,” she said. “Fashion can be influenced by black culture, hoop earrings, or grunge. What’s more interesting is how fashion can be translated from runways — the white ideal image — by black or Latin women wearing high fashion in their own way in a Black aesthetic.”

As for Black music, she became fed up with rap and its degrading culture.

“They are role models who do not live up to any kind of standards,” she said. “They’re showing our kids how to jump off a cliff.”

Patrice has come across Black men who are misled about life; who look to rappers and emulate them. She has become discouraged by those who want to do everything rappers do because it’ll get them the money rappers make. She says these young and impressionable men should open themselves up to other areas within music.

“Doctors and lawyers have houses just as big, if not bigger, than the rappers in the same neighborhood. They don’t know that blacks have already paved the way for them. It’s important to understand you can make money by not being a rapper.”

On the edge is one of those areas that’s very edgy. At first glance, you may question the brusqueness of the articles in this section, but Patrice says it’s designed to expose black hip hop culture for what it is.

“Love & Hip Hop producer Mona Scott-Young makes blacks look terrible,” says Patrice. “On the other hand there are people who do live that life. ‘What is going through your head to direct this reality show?’ It’s rough (and sad) to watch.”

Patrice likes to focus on artists like Rashid Johnson and Aaron McGruder , and has interviewed famous people Ludicris, George Clinton, Forrest Whitaker, Lee Daniels, Big Boi, and Big Krit. She attended Indiana University where she majored in arts/humanities and minored in African-American studies and sociology. She wrote for the Indiana Daily Student though she never took a single Journalism class.

“It never crossed my mind to write. I did it and loved it. Once I got into it, discovered how powerful it is, that’s when decided what I wanted to do.”

Memphis book publishing startup Screwpulp shares some #jpreneur insight

Richard Billings, founder of Screwpulp, was kind enough to speak to students in my entrepreneurial journalism course Monday about his experiences creating a new eBook market that helps authors get published and readers find great new books.

You can read more about Screwpulp at their site or see Billings pitch at Seed Hatchery Investor Day. Here is a quick recap of a few of the thoughts he shared with us.

  • Amazon has really crushed the price for eBooks; Screwpulp hopes to put the value back in. By offering the first 25 copies of a book free to users willing to rate it, Screwpulp leverages the crowd to build higher demand for its top-rated books. This also allows it to operate with low overhead – it’s not paying editors to sift through manuscripts  to find the best ones to publish and feature.
  • Screwpulp is at an early stage, but is hoping to ultimately have multiple revenue streams, offering authors a variety of services such as cover design and auto-translation. It also hopes to offer best practices, writing tips and other useful info to potential authors. Screwpulp
  • The main thing that authors need is people to read their books. So Screwpulp focused on readers and their habits. When they talked to readers, they found that most weren’t as concerned with having a rigorous editorial process as one might think. Many wanted to get their hands on new books more.
  • Interviews trump surveys for getting rich information in customer discovery.
  • To hone your pitch, practice it a lot. And practice in similar situations/locations to where you will pitch investors.
  • Launching a startup would be very different in Silicon Valley, where many startups have larger valuations but also higher costs and noise in the market. Billings is happy to be starting up in Memphis and thinks it is a great place to do so.
  • If you have a good idea, go do it. Entrepreneurship is addictive and teaches you a lot.
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Update on Keys and Cost Structure

Please update us on your group’s progress on these building blocks by class time Monday, November 18. If you have questions and need feedback from me or others in class, I would suggest that you add them here. 

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Making Hyperlocal Work in Harris County, Georgia

University of Memphis graduate student Pam Avery will discuss her MA project, “The Community News Website: How to Make Hyperlocal Work in Harris County, Georgia” on Wednesday, November 13 at 3:30PM Central in room 300 in the Meeman Journalism Building; you can also attend her presentation online here. If you sign in online (anybody should be able to do so as a guest), please be sure to mute your mic once you have connected it so we don’t get feedback noise – there is a mic icon in the top bar. There is also a chat box in the bottom right for questions.

Pam Avery

Pam began her project with a central insight: Communities still need news and information, and they are often underserved in this area of legacy media cutbacks. As she writes:

“Since people have inhabited the earth, communication has been vital to the structure of and maintenance of communities. Whether via drum beats in a rain forest or tweets, blogs, and text messages, it is the glue that holds a people together.”

She utilized what she learned in our graduate entrepreneurial journalism course and her experience working in media and as a business owner to investigate the potential for a hyperlocal site in her home country in Georgia, building on lessons learned from other hyperlocal websites around the country. Pam surveyed locals, interviewed small businesses owners who might be potential advertisers, and did focus groups to learn more about what people need and want from a hyperlocal news site. She’ll discuss what she learned and what a viable and vibrant site might look like in her town in the presentation.

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Group updates on customer relationships, channels, and revenues

Please leave a comment on this post updating us on your group’s progress on these building blocks. 

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