Entrepreneurship and Dreams

Anyone who is an entrepreneur (current or aspiring) knows that passion and dedication are essential qualities to building a business. So is the ability to self-motivate. Nonetheless, hearing the stories of others can be incredibly inspiring and serve as a gentle reminder to look up from what you’re doing and stay connected to why you’re doing. Hearing Eric Lochtefeld speak at NYU on Tuesday night was one of those moments.

Eric is the founder and CEO of the University of Dreams, a company that provides professional development opportunities to college and high school students through internship placement and experiential learning. In listening to Eric speak, it’s clear that his mission in life is to encourage others to discover and pursue their dreams.


On his personal journey to building Dream Careers into the powerhouse it is today, Eric has gone from high to low and then back again. Several times, in fact. At various points in Eric’s career, he has worked with music legends such as Gwen Stefani and the Beastie Boys, slept on a warehouse floor, started multiple companies out of little but his own strong will and the ability to inspire others, experienced significant personal pain, and traveled the globe. He spoke to the students ‘” all interns in the program ‘” about the importance of following your dreams, and that as long as you do what you’re good at and what makes you happy, you’ll be successful.


We share Eric’s sentiment, as launching and building Urban Interns was truly our dream. Despite our own highs and lows, not a day goes by when we’re not proud to have chosen the path of the entrepreneur. We also share the view that internships are critical experiences for students and college grads, particularly those who aspire to one day work with or become entrepreneurs. The experience of learning from those who have taken an idea and from there built a business will not only give you a glimmer of what you might have to deal with yourself someday, but it will help you evaluate whether entrepreneurship is really right for you.


Another key point Eric touched on last night ‘” finding a mentor and the importance of maintaining personal relationships in our increasingly connected world. We can relate- there are several moments in our history where personal relationships opened doors that were game changers for us.


If this doesn’t make you want to run out and intern for an entrepreneur, how about this one? 75-percent of the Dream Career’s team started as participants in the Dream Career Program. Entrepreneurs value good people, and as organizations grow, so do the opportunities.


From two entrepreneurs living their dream, a heartfelt thanks Eric, for the inspiring words.

Kiva Connects Philanthropists with Budding Entrepreneurs

A unique Web site is bringing together aspiring philanthropists and budding entrepreneurs in the developing world.

Kiva, meaning “agreement” or “unity” in Swahili, is a non-profit, Web-based charity dedicated to microfinance, allowing private donors to provide small or “micro” loans to struggling entrepreneurs in the Third World. Since its launch in late 2005, Kiva has generated over $5 million in loans to those hoping to open or sustain small businesses in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

With most traditional charities, donors have little opportunity to follow the progress of their beneficiaries. Contributors to Kiva, however, can see how their money is used from the moment they invest, in addition to having the opportunity to reinvest their initial contribution as soon as it is repaid.

Applicants for the small loans are screened by Kiva’s local partners, existing microfinance organizations such as World Relief and Action Now. After approval by the local partner organization, a photo, business plan, estimated repayment time and some biographical information are posted on the Kiva site for each loan applicant. Visitors then browse the applications to select a recipient. Loan requests range from $400 to $1200, and although a donor can choose to fulfill the entire amount of an applicant’s loan request, donors usually invest from $25 to $125. Most individual loan requests are thus fulfilled by a number of donors.


Loans are distributed via Pay Pal, which does not charge Kiva for transferring funds; the first non-profit with which Pay Pal has made such an arrangement. Once an applicant’s loan request has been met, Kiva transfers the funds to one of its microfinance partners located in the recipient’s home country, which then disburses the funds, charging borrowers a reasonable rate of interest on their loans. According to Kiva’s FAQ section, the organization carefully screens its partners and does not work with those that charge usurious rates.


Microfinance is an expensive proposition for the lending institution, given transaction costs and currency exchange rates. Because there is little profit to be made in funding the poor, most traditional financial institutions do not make loans in the comparatively small amounts requested by Kiva’s applicants. Microfinance institutions, therefore, by lending money at reasonable rates to people with few existing resources, generally make just enough from their small fees to remain in business.


After disbursing the funds to borrowers, partner organizations provide Kiva with periodic progress reports that are then posted on the “journals” section of the site, along with comments from the loan recipients. Lenders are also encouraged to comment and to make their own journal entries. As the recipient’s business develops, the partner organization begins collecting payments, sometimes in amounts as low as $4, to return to Kiva. Once an individual loan is fully repaid, the money is redistributed to the original investors, who can then withdraw the money, or use the funds to invest in another small business.


Kiva’s entrepreneurs are a diverse group, representing countries from Ghana to Mexico to Azerbaijan. Their business ideas are even more varied, ranging from small food stalls and bicycle repair shops, to investment in a single payphone.


Loan requests are filled at varying rates, with some applicants reaching their goals within days of having their requests posted, while others wait for months as investments trickle in. African nations seem most popular with Kiva’s investors, along with Afghanistan and Mexico. Recipients in more obscure countries like Tajikistan and Azerbaijan see the slowest rates of investment.


Those interested in Kiva’s nontraditional investment methods should log on to www.kiva.org.

Disclosing the Secrets of Entrepreneurship

We have all experienced the anxiety of applying for employment, interviewing and inevitably proving yourself to be worthy of hire. We were all encouraged by guardians to go to college, get a traditional four year degree and “make something of ourselves.” Most of us worked our way through college dreaming every night about the big job that we are going to land after graduation. So when we finally obtain that degree, we get our first Direct Loan bill and we are employed by our initial jobs, fast food or waiting tables at restaurants. It had to be those horrific moments that helped us to appreciate the Blessing of a dream- seeking career.

Coincidently, we were raised observing our parents struggling everyday to maintain household expenses working for others. Therefore, we are apt to propel the tradition. So, the question remains the same. How long are we actually content with improving and implementing our skills as employees for minimum pay? Although promotions and raises are exciting and appear impressive on resumes, it is very uncommon for us to become CEOs of that cooperation. Incidentally, we are constantly fulfilling the employers’ expectations and goals. However, it is necessary to challenge the “norm” to build our economy and communities.


Entrepreneurship is defined as the act of launching or managing a business venture. The inclination of owning a business is often perplex as well as alarming to people who aren’t familiar with the concept. And to others who have contemplated the thought are apprehensive about resigning from full- time employment and job security. Yet, becoming an entrepreneur is inevitably rewarding and submissive to personal empowerment. Subsequently, we must seize opportunities that allow you to fulfill your personal dreams and visions. Fear does not have to rule our decisions we make or do not make. Bottom line, you only have one life to live!


Managing a business would be challenging and will require commitment and perseverance. Moreover, research confirms that the lack of a prominent mission statement and extensive preparation for entrepreneurship are the two (2) major determinants for failure. Therefore, it is important that if you elect to explore entrepreneurship, please be sure to establish what appeals to you and do plenty of research. You must have a passion for what you are selling, the business that you are attempting to establish. Don’t go into anything just for money value because there is a great chance that you will not be successful. You must have confidence and enthusiasm about your product and service. Be creative, and be sure that your product and service are in great demand. Considering a business plan will help you have an advantage over your competition. They are often required to assist entrepreneurs to think through their strategies, balance their enthusiasm with facts and recognize limitations. Marketing is certainly an imperative tool for exposure which is a major part of the business plan. It is recommended that you remember to set achievable goals for short-term success which, in my opinion would escort you to long- term inheritance.


Entrepreneurship Tips for Everyone

How do people come up with business ideas? There’s no single answer to this question. For some people, business ideas pop up while taking a shower. For others, it’s while walking. For still others, it’s while driving. The list goes on and on. Those types of situations usually generate new ideas. And as you know, great business ideas do not have to be new ideas. You can make a fortune out of just improving existing products. This article is about how to get inspirations by examining existing business ideas.

While the techniques I’ll outline apply to all types of industries, my primary focus is the Internet. A crucial part of online businesses is that you need to find a good niche. Why is this important? Well, let’s take myspace and facebook, for example. They are really 2 big social networking sites. You might be able to come up with a great feature for networking sites that will make you stand out – if you were to create a new networking site. But it’ll be only a matter of time before those major players integrate the feature into their sites. So your run will not be long – if in fact, it’ll even make it. In the light of this consideration, it makes sense to start looking into something that’s a little bit different from what those social networking sites offer. So what’s the effective way of doing that?


The first thing to think about is the underlying model or purpose of the existing product. Most business models follow a paradigm that usually has two components: a static framework or foundation and a dynamic target or audience. The static component refers to the “verb” used to talk about the business. That is, what the business does. The dynamic component refers to who finds the business useful. For example, Intel Corporation builds [computer] chips. They target personal computers. So I can have a company that builds chips for other electronic devices such as mp3 players, dvd players, etc. The idea is the same (build chips), but the target/audience varies (computers, mp3 players, dvd players). For social networking sites, it’s connecting people together – primarily to share trivial stuff. So the idea is to connect people using some sort of common ground. Well, what if we could use the idea of connecting people and top that with a very specific “ground”? That’s what LinkedIn.com did. They connect professionals.


Google set out to be the search engine for everything. Well, that certainly works. But what if we take the idea of “search engine” and apply it to some specific areas. Indeed.com did exactly that for jobs. They are a search engine for jobs. How time consuming can searching for jobs on various sites be? You go to all these job sites, fill out the same type of forms and clicking to go through the results! The founders of Indeed.com understood the paradigm we describe above and used it well.


So from now on, when looking at existing business ideas, you should ask yourself two essential questions:

1) what’s the foundation/framework of the business or what does it do?

2) who/what’s the target/audience?


Once you have clear answers to those two questions, you’ll be in a great position to determine how – if applicable – you can extend the business idea.


The second point I’d like to make deals with connecting multiple business ideas. You would agree with me that a car dealership is directly related to an auto insurance company. That is, I’ll certainly need auto insurance if I own a car. Thus, some business ideas just go together or converge to a common (well defined) point. If you are able to find that convergence point, then you can create a business out of it. And what makes it even better is that your business can be very viable/sustainable because business usually specialize in specific areas. In other words, the car dealership focuses primarily on selling cars – they are not into auto insurance. Likewise, the auto insurance company deals with insurance matters – no car selling. Let’s take another example. If I buy a new house, I’ll probably need some housing related services like tv, internet, cable, moving, etc. So it makes perfect sense for someone to create a connection point between a real estate agent and housing service providers. So right in there lies a viable business!


To sum it up, you can find business ideas using the following two methods: 1) use the static component and vary the dynamic target of an existing business and 2) create a connection point between directly related businesses. I hope you find these tips useful. If you are interested in the various web 2.0 projects, a good place to check out is feedmyapp.com. They have long lists of the different web 2.0 sites – new  amp; old. Look into the business ideas and try applying the techniques outlined in this article.


Good luck in your entrepreneurship endeavors.


Reference Letter Policies: Giving A Reference For Former Employees

When checking references, its important to try and get as much information about the potential employee as possible. But when giving references for a former employee many entrepreneurs aren’t as eager to provide the same information. Here’s some information about why it is important to give a reference no matter what the former staff member’s history with the company was, as well as some procedures for every small business to follow to avoid legal ramifications.

How To Protect The Company When Writing A Letter Of Reference

When offering letters of reference or giving references over the phone, sharing a former employee’s negative experience can have serious legal and financial consequences. Yet keeping mum isn’t the answer either, as entrepreneurs have been taken to court for staying quiet on this very subject. Why? Because the former company didn’t disclose important information to the potential employer. Therefore, keep the following information in mind when writing a letter of reference:

  • Offer information in a letter of reference that only covers factual information that can be backed up.
  • Ensure the information provided is limited and offered only by someone who is trained in providing letters of reference, preferably a human resources specialist.

Suggested Company Procedures For Letters Of Reference

Avoiding legal issues before they start is something all entrepreneurs strive for, no matter how large the business is. Providing references is one of those activities that can be highly litigious, so keeping in mind some policies and procedures before offering up a recommendation is sound advice. To establish a legal defense, an employer would have to prove one of the following points. Keep these in mind when creating a company-wide policy for giving references.


  1. The alleged statement was not made. To avoid this type of legal debate, make it a company policy to only provide a letter of reference with no exceptions.
  2. What was shared regarding the former employee in the reference letter is true. If this is the case, it will need to be backed up with lots of documentation, such as employee evaluation forms and performance reports.
  3. Occasionally a former employee will feel that a reference was defamatory. To avoid this situation, use a sample reference template that only offers information that was clearly documented, and that covers the former employee’s job skills, not character.
  4. To prove that the former employee gave consent to the letter of reference, entrepreneurs must get the employee to sign a letter of consent to release any job related performance information to potential future employers. Another way around this situation is to draft a letter of reference before the employee leaves the company and have the staff member review it before they leave the company, as well as making exit interviews with all members of the organization mandatory.
  5. Sometimes the wrong person will provide a letter of reference to another employer, which can open up a huge can of legal worms for small businesses. To dispute this allegation, ensure that company policy is to have only one person write the letters of reference, and never deviate from this practice.

Please note that this article does not construe legal advice, and does not replace the work of a qualified lawyer. Contact a lawyer regarding the laws in your jurisdiction regarding letters of reference should there be any concerns.