A variety of local entrepreneurs gave students at Midland a look into what it is actually like to take the leap and open your own business during the Forward Fremont entrepreneurial conference on Friday.
The Fremont Creative Collective, in partnership with Midland, held its fifth annual entrepreneurship conference which featured six entrepreneurs who shared their various expertise on entrepreneurship.
The theme of this year’s conference was “Move.”
“Last year’s theme was ‘cultivate’ and we had all of our speakers talk about what it takes to cultivate an entrepreneurial community,” organizer Brock Ellis said. “This year’s theme is ‘Move’ — so we focused on people who have done things and gone out there and made action happen. Having a bias toward action is just an inherent part of being an entrepreneur and starting your own thing. You want to get out there and do stuff: fix a problem, talk with people, provide a service.”
During the conference, held in the Presidential Dining Room on the campus of Midland University, entrepreneurs shared some of their successes and struggles —as well as what made them finally take the leap and “move” toward pursuing their own business dreams and goals.
One local entrepreneur who shared his story was Fremont resident Brandon Zobel who left his stable career to start his own consulting company Intel Spark.
The services Zobel provides through Intel Spark include data modeling and interaction, process refinement and improvement and operational and financial analysis.
In a nutshell, his business is helping other small businesses make better use of their data.
“There can be a lot that goes into just creating a spreadsheet,” he said. “I have to change the format, add a formula, create a chart, then I need to export that to a PDF and send it to 10 people.”You may say Brandon that only takes me five minutes — it’s not that big a deal. But it is a big deal.
That five process every day is costing you 20 hours a year and that’s just one person — if you extrapolate that out it’s a lot of money and a lot of time.”
Zobel spoke about the challenges of finally taking the leap — saying one of his main driving factors behind going into business for himself was wanting to do something he loved.
“I saw my dad who worked for a manufacturing company for 30-some years; it was a job he didn’t necessarily love but he made that sacrifice to take care of his family,” he said. “I said to myself I want to do something I love — because life is short — it will end.”
Zobel encouraged those looking to start their own business to stay focused on their main objective — because it can be easy to get caught up in all of the details you have to be on top of when you are the CEO of your own company.
“I’ve learned a lot over the last eight months coming from a business with a lot of resources to being the CEO, sales representative and janitor,” he said. “So it’s a little different. You wear a lot of hats when you go into business for yourself.”
He also said one of the first steps any potential entrepreneur should take is to share their idea with friends, family and colleagues to gauge their interest.
“If you have a great idea, you have to validate it; you have to find out if there is a market for it, is it something people want, is it something they will pay for,” he said. “To move, you have to have a reason to move.”
The conference also featured Fremont City Councilmember Susan Jacobus, Bulu Box Founder Paul Jarrett, Brandon Peterson, and local road race timing start-up company Run Nebraska, LLC. as well as Midland eSports Coach Nathan Ragsdell.
Ragsdell shared his story about what led him to become Midland’s first eSports Coach and spoke about the cutting-edge entrepreneurial opportunity that eSports, in general, has become — especially for young people throughout the world.
“There’s not really any structure behind it; eSports just kind of started and only now in the west is it becoming a more legitimized thing,” he said. “In South Korea specifically they knew it — they said this is the next thing — it’s going to trump regular sports very soon and in South Korea it has.”
It is more popular than soccer for instance over there. There are players over there that are more popular than any traditional sports stars. They are on TV, doing exclusive interviews, making a lot of money.”
Ragsdell said he sees eSports as an opportunity for young people who are passionate about video games to do what they love for a living.
“This is an opportunity for those that have this passion; we want to be able to harness that and let that thrive here at Midland,” he said. “Midland was one of six schools to start this varsity program and I have no doubt that within the next five years you will be able to see our program compete on ESPN.”
More information about this year’s Forward Fremont can be found online at www.fremontcreativecollective.org/forward-fremont/.