Starting a Startup with Rob Nicholson

Rob was awesome this week. If you weren’t able to attend you missed out on a highly energetic talk and simulation of what it’s like to start a business from virtually nothing!

To be your own boss, it helps to know a little bit about how you get to that point. Rob took us on a little role-play adventure, explaining the process of assigning your company a certain status (LLC or C Corporation etc.) and the ins and outs of hiring a lawyer for help with that. He also explained the difference between Venture Capitalists (investors with a lot of cash), Bankers (bureaucrats from whom you borrow money, to be paid back at a later date), and Angel Investors (financiers who might ask for a stake in your company or just expect a return on their investment).

“Now, now,” he cautioned, “not everyone might support you in your venture.” Chad the Dad certainly had his doubts about his daughter’s ambitions  to start her company. However, if it’s something you’re passionate about, there’s [almost] always a way to make your dreams and plans come to fruition. Most importantly though, you should never be afraid of asking for help. Hard work, a dedicated team, and innovation tend to be rewarded with success of some sort.

Make sure to follow Rob on Twitter! @rjncarpediem

Finding Your Mojo With Brian Reed

We had a great time this week with Brian Reed, founder of Mojo Tago, a local food truck company that just recently opened its first brick and mortar location in Powell. Brian’s path wasn’t a straight one, he dealt with several hardships including the loss of one of his dear friend and cofounder. For a while he was feeling like he lost his Mojo and this inspired Mojo Tago, the thrill of this Mexican food truck helped him to find new meaning and pick himself back up from such a tragic loss. Throughout his story there were many twists and turns he encountered before reaching the level of success he has today. Some key lessons from his talk are:

• Having a single focus is really key, if it’s something you have a passion to do, unexpected things will happen out of no where, people will support you if they feel your passion
• Find health in the business on a smaller manageable level before you find growth
• It’s important to know when it’s time to change, when it’s time to adapt
• Strive for that unique edge, what gets you up in the morning and keeps the business alive
• As for the path to finding your own mojo, there’s no clear path, it seems to come in a myriad of ways, just explore your interests and try to follow the signs that you receive

We can’t thank Brian enough for coming out during such a busy time for his business!

Entrepreneurship à la carte with Joe DeLoss

This week Joe DeLoss shared his succulent story of Hot Chicken Takeover. After experiencing the hot chicken craze first hand in Nashville, him and his wife thought there may be an opportunity to bring that delicious and scrumptious menu back to midwestern Columbus. Using friends as a test market, DeLoss served up his brainchild every time they came over to watch UFC on pay-per-view. Once validated, they started doing pop-up events outside. Uniquely, they made it a goal to waste no food which meant predicting demand for the whole day and often selling out right before the day’s end. Everything was going well with the outdoor gigs, but as the Ohio winter creeped upon us, Joe realized they needed to change models to support a year-round business. They made their next move to raise money for a food truck on Kickstarter. As support flooded in, it became apparent that managing the campaign, questions, and fulfillment would be a full-time job. Needless to say they were very successful, exceeding their goal of $40,000 by more than $20,000. After giving Kickstarter their share, paying for prizes, and fulfillment of those prizes, they were left with around $40,000. Still, they realized shortly after that a physical presence was necessary for them to better develop their teams and control costs. When they first approached North Market about getting a space they were told the business was still too infant to be placed among the top tier brands that North Market has to offer. But, a few months and 46,000 customers later, they now have their very own space in North Market.

Today, they have 26 employees, all of which they heavily invest in. Their workforce is approximately 40% high school and college students and 60% individuals with barriers to employment. Whether their barriers are their past or their current circumstances, Hot Chicken gives them the opportunity to grow their skills from entry up to management and establish the home and habits needed to maintain a consistent job.

Some key takeaways:
• Kickstarter campaigns are more expensive and time consuming than one may think
• Traction trumps all, if you need money, space, or anything else, numbers make you believable
• If you spend the time to develop your employees, make sure there is room for them to grow within your organization

A big thanks to Joe for serving up a great talk! If you want to check them out they are open Thursday-Sunday, 11:00 am – 3:00 pm at the North Market.

What is Success and How Do We Achieve it?

We had a great time listening to Chris Hock, Founder of Griffon Partners, who shared a hip presentation on entrepreneurship with funny memes and stories about his work in startups. We got to explore differences between our generation and his, as well as compare the differences between successful and unsuccessful companies. Some of the insights he wanted to leave with our generation were:

• The sooner you can make your own definition of success, the happier and more successful you’ll be
• Be competitive
• Remember your reputation – during bad times you can fall back on it
• Focus on micro goals, even though macro goals “feel” better
• Even if you don’t know what your career will be or how long you will stay, do an awesome job wherever you’re at
• Young entrepreneurs need to appreciate gravity of situation/source of investment that older generations have worked their whole life to earn
• Own your career and life, live below your means so you can quit your job and start out on your own

When you do start out on your own, the factors that led to a successful business in his experience were:

• They didn’t use hyperbole or puffery
• Instead, they asked, how do we build a great business and how do we grow?
• They had a clear value proposition
• They took care of their customer

Chris was very excited to share with us and come visit our club. When he was in school at Ohio State, there were no entrepreneurship outlets like BBC. We thank Chris for making it out to speak with our club!

From Kickstarter to Kegs

This week we enjoyed having Ohio State Alumni, Walt Keys, as our guest speaker. Walt is the Co-founder and Creative Director at Land-Grant Brewing Company, which him, and co-owners Adam Benner and Quintin Jessee, have been working on since 2012.

Initially they branded themselves as Oval Brewing, a slight nod towards their alma mater. Not long after launching a successful Kickstarter campaign, they found themselves in the right place at the right time when they were introduced to a pharmacist in their network who wanted to invest in a brewery. They were a perfect fit and with even more capital they could now begin the search for real estate that could suit their needs. When they had finally found the perfect place in Grandview, the deal fell through and they were left holding the bag. On top of this, they discovered that a British vodka company had the name Oval, so they asked Oval’s lawyers if they could still use the name since they are not in the spirits business and they basically told Walt’s team to scram. With less legal power they knew that the smartest move was to rebrand. After much brainstorming and discussion they settled on Land Grant Brewing, which still alluded to the land grant which gave birth to Ohio State.

Through the fire and flames, they continued searching Columbus for the perfect spot for their brewery. Two and a half years after their Kickstarter campaign, Land Grant Brewing welcomed beer enthusiasts for a grand opening last October, downtown in Franklinton. Here are some of the key takeaways from Walt’s story:

• Position your brand wisely, try not to alienate potential customers that have different views
• Check the federal trademark website for every name that’s close to yours to avoid branding obstacles down the line
• When obstacles get in your way, fallback to your core mission to get through them
• When big problems happen, say oh well, look forward, and get over it

It was great to hear the story of a local entrepreneur and we’re very glad he could make it out to share with us. If you’re 21 or older be sure to checkout their tap room downtown!

Taking the Leap with Kelley Griesmer

This Wednesday, we had the pleasure of welcoming Kelley Griesmer of Pelotonia to share her story and the craziness that goes with managing such an enormous social enterprise.

As a graduate of Ohio State’s Moritz College of Law, Griesmer began her career at Jones Day, a highly respected and successful law firm. The work that she involved herself with was complicated, intellectually challenging and provided an opportunity to learn about large litigation with industry-leading lawyers. Griesmer was surrounded by colleagues she met while at Ohio State and they quickly climbed the ranks at Jones Day together. Before she knew it, she was a partner at Jones Day, an accomplishment that most lawyers would dream of.

It was at this point in her career that she began to feel the ever-so-familiar feeling of being unfulfilled with work. It was time to explore other opportunities. Research began with a focus on non-profits in the Columbus area and beyond, but nothing seemed to stand out. It wasn’t until she was approached by a dear friend, Tom Lennox, that she felt the need to leave her incredible gig at Jones Day. At the time, Tom Lennox was dreaming up an idea to bring cancer research funding to Ohio State through a grassroots bike race in central Ohio.

She recollected on her experience with Tom. Just when she thought she was certainly crazy and there was no chance of leaving her job, Tom would remind her of his incredible vision and the great value it would bring this world. Griesmer was hooked. She left her full-time job and began working with Tom as the Chief Operating Officer for Pelotonia in 2008 and has never looked back since then!

It was a pleasure to hear Griesmer tell her inspiring story of chasing something beyond just job security and a nice paycheck. Some of the key takeaways from Wednesday night:

  • Things will go wrong, but you’re an entrepreneur, you gave up your job, your life, for this, so get back in the office, stop throwing a fit, and figure it out
  • One of the best ways to build a woman friendly business is by eliminating gender norming and evaluate all employees on the same playing field
  • Raising money through a bike race is not an original idea, but ensuring that 100% of funds raised go directly to the cause is, and it’s that concept that makes Pelotonia extraordinary
  • Branding matters and should not be forgotten, even in a non-profit environment
  • Remember to execute discipline – requiring people to reach a fundraising goal only works if you have the courage to charge their credit cards at the end of the day
  • And finally, things never go as expected the first time, but just learn from it and keep going

What Pelotonia has accomplished in Columbus in nothing short of extraordinary. The Business Builders Club strongly encourages you to consider riding and supporting our community in an effort to reach One Goal: ending cancer. We thank Kelley for coming out and sharing such an inspirational story.

The Meaning of Capitalism with Jack Cassidy

This week we were extremely lucky to have Jack Cassidy as our speaker. His charisma and boldness were enlivening. He’s had multiple executive positions and is a board member for several companies. Most noteworthy, at Cincinnati bell, he turned around the multi-billion dollar company that was on the brink of annihilation and bankruptcy into a very profitable business. Throughout the night, he boiled business down to its basics and redefined some misconceived notions. Here are some of the important definitions he shared with us:

1. The purpose of capitalism is to get a return on your investment
2. The purpose of business is to make a profit
3. You create profit by attracting and retaining profitable customers

He went on to define the typical American consumer, stating that there are 2 things we value more than anything on the planet:

  • Convenience (time)
  • Entertainment (rather than work)

Cassidy points out that, in America, people have more money than they do time. Which means, they are always in a hurry to be entertained. If you can capitalize in one of these two areas, you can have a successful business in America.

Although, he points out that it is still extremely difficult to start a business of your own and he’s proud that students, like those at the BBC, believe in taking charge, leading, and being responsible for their own success, or failure. Chances are good that there are already companies going after your same target market. He says, “To get into a market you have to innovate, to innovate, you must seek diversity of thought. If you don’t surround yourself by people who disagree with you, and find ways to agree, you can’t innovate.”

He ended the discussion by saying, “In business, it’s okay to make a profit, it’s the purpose, but you have a moral responsibility to the world to share the profit.”

We had a fantastic time listening to him, if you want to hear more, check out his book.

Q&A with Wil Schroter

This Wednesday, we had the pleasure of welcoming Wil Schroter, serial entrepreneur and Founder of Fundable, to be our final speaker for 2014. He engaged us with stories of his own experience, starting 7 companies, and the experience he’s had interacting with thousands of entrepreneurs through Fundable. A few key takeaways:

  • Not knowing enough to start a business is an excuse, you don’t need to be the smartest, or even have a degree.
  • Find something you’re so passionate about that it makes you jump out of bed in the morning. Successful people are tenacious, no matter what happens they keep running at the wall with an idea until they fall.
  • You have to be willing to get the problem wrong 100 times in a row and iterate like crazy until you create something valuable that you can charge for.
  • As an entrepreneur, at times you will feel like a fraud and ask yourself, “what the hell did I get myself into?” In the early stages there are very little indicators of success, often it breaks until it works or works until it breaks.
  • It can take 1-3 years to even find out if you’re in the right market, 3 years to get a footing, 7 years to build a real company, and 10 years to IPO.

Bottom line is that it takes an extraordinary amount of time, persistence, and problem solving to be successful.

As for Columbus, Wil said it’s so easy to live here, almost too easy for people to not go out of their comfort zone. In coastal cities, like San Francisco or New York, there are more stressed, but also enterprising, people because the cost of living is so high. On the other hand, Wil says Columbus people are awesome and some of the nicest people in the country! He sees an upward trend for entrepreneurship here at Ohio State, but thinks it is still in its very early stages. He also gave the Business Builder’s Club a tremendous compliment, calling it the “MIT of Ohio State” because it has the highest concentration of tenacious people. He and Fundable are waiting for the next big startup to put Columbus on the board, will it be yours?

Artie Isaac

A Night With Artie Isaac

Last night, we were pleased to welcome Artie Isaac to the Business Builders Club. Artie kept the crowd laughing while sharing a few stories about his career and life lessons he has picked up along the way. A few of the important take-aways:

  • You need to empty your cup before you can fill it with more tea – meaning that if you are searching for more fulfilling work or tasks, you must first reconsider the responsibilities that you have stacked on your plate. If you are not truly passionate about them, dump them and dump them quickly.
  • Forget all of the passwords – In this world, there are long term planners that think out 30 years, short term planners that think out to only one day, and everywhere in between. It is important to fill your team with people who plan at different intervals. If you miss the mark, you will end up doing the work of someone else.
  • Choose what matters to you – things like social drinking and watching football on Saturday may be the cultural norms, but they may be a big waste of time. Be judicious with your time and remember that you do not need to listen to social norms to be liked by your peers.
  • Many of the beliefs we’ve created simply aren’t true – trivial anger is often sparked by an activating event, but the real reason that anger exists within us is that something has violated our beliefs. If you want to rid yourself of anger, change your beliefs.
  • Creativity is a process, not a natural born ability – everybody is creative at their core, it’s all about realizing that creativity and letting it overcome you



Artie has graciously shared a collection of documents that he suggests using when a tough problem stands in your way. Feel free to browse and use accordingly.

  • For brainstorming or training, here is how I might be engaged
  • My promises, “the handshake document,” which he pledges to everyone he meets
  • Carry Forth!, the way to plan a creative adventure or lifetime legacy
  • Go [Artie]!, the complete 60-minute brainstorm tool, including “Company A / Company B”
  • Aritie’s Blog, on creativity, ethics and life — with a bookshelf of favorite books
  • A brief guide on how to run a brainstorm
  • Other organizing documents are here

We extend a huge thanks to Artie for joining the rest of the Business Builders Club to share some valuable lessons! Now go out there and get creative!

As always, Make Millions, Change the World, Wear Jeans.

To Tie It Up with Nate Demars

Nate DeMars, MBA Grad, CEO, and OSU professor, shared a great deal about his hyperlocal Columbus startup, Pursuit. Originally pitched as an assignment for class, it now has a permanent storefront in the South Campus Gateway and has garnered a lot of local support for its progressive approach to suit shopping.

  • For Nate, it’s regularly good and bad at the same time
  • Getting a corporate job isn’t “selling out,” you can gain good experience and a consistent income
  • Nate loves Columbus because there’s enough people here to start a sizeable business but it’s a small enough town and community to get to know all the people who are doing really cool stuff
  • In the beginning it’s easy to wonder, is this even going to work? Scale down to test the business idea, if it goes well you can put more resources into it

Thanks Nate for coming out to speak to the BBC!