Young Entrepreneurs Provide Real-World Advice at First Wednesdays


Photo credit: Ben Gruber

On October 5, three young innovators spoke to students in a special First Wednesdays entrepreneurship panel.

Moderated by Zach Pettet (B.B.A. ’15) and Regnier Institute Advisory Council member, panelists included:

Katie Boody, CEO and Founder of the Lean Lab, an innovation laboratory to help educators, entrepreneurs, and community leaders develop early-stage solutions for challenges in K-12 public education focused in Kansas City.

Chris Costello, CEO and Founder, Blooom, a registered investment advisory firm co-founded by three financial services professionals with over 30 years of experience.

John Fein, Managing Director, Firebrand Ventures, a venture fund that combines a strong brand, vast network and deep experiences to invest in exceptional early stage software startups.

Below are a few pieces of advice these leaders offered UMKC students looking to launch their own entrepreneurial careers.

Why is community so important for an entrepreneur?

KB: “The people with the best ideas for solutions are those closest to the problem. And in Kansas City especially, you can get a meeting with almost anyone if you use a little bit of hustle.”

As an investor, what do you look for in young founders?

JF: “A track record is nice, but it’s not required. You have to want to build real relationships. Some of the best startups are founded by those obsessed with solving a problem close to them – they’re in tune with the issues and trying to solve something they’re personally affected by.”

What are some things students should know that they can’t learn in class?

CC: “You have to be social and network. Most anyone is willing to give their time to a college student. Also, figure out what you don’t want to do; really get a vision for what you see in your profession on a day-to-day basis.”

JF: “Startups are hard, and that can be underestimated. Be obsessed with what you’re doing, and you’ll be able to withstand the hardship.”

KB: “Do anything that tests your leadership abilities. Try things outside of your comfort zone, and really zero in on what your core values are.”

If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice as you were graduating college, what would it be?

JF: “Don’t worry about the money when you graduate. If you know you won’t be happy, don’t waste your time. Go after your passion. There’s always a chance you’ll fail, so why not fail at something you’re passionate about?”

CC: “Don’t burden yourself with unnecessary debt. It limits your choices, and you’ll find yourself stuck in a job for the money. Living below your means opens a lot more opportunities.”

KB: “Learn to think and follow what you love, and be willing to pursue it at all costs.”

The Nov. 2 First Wednesday will give attendees the chance to learn from Barnett Helzberg, a longtime local entrepreneur and community innovator.

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