I’m in the midst of meeting all kinds of cool, interesting, and helpful people. To keep it brief, this is only a sampling. I hope to get more posted soon. Let’s cut to the chase.
- Bill Shipley, Founder/CEO of now-defunct Air2Access. Bill was a live case study of a start-up I used in class periodically from 2004-2008. His company installed wi-fi hotspots in outdoor locations, primarily marinas in the midwest. Bill thought his company would take off once it secured a large municipal contract. He believed he was on his way when he got word in 2008 that Air2Access won the contract to install wi-fi in all Chicago marinas. Through a combination of Chicago politics, business fraud (by others, not Bill), and just plain bad luck, the deal fell through. Leaving Bill saddled with costs he had to incur that had no revenue potential in a recessionary environment, Bill learned the lesson of “be careful what you wish for”. He’s now trying to resume his former career in financial services consulting.
- Gaye van den Hombergh (President) & Diane Stoneman (Director of Consulting & Training), Winning Workplaces. Gaye and Diane lead this amazing non-profit organization that does amazing things. I attended their annual conference last fall, having the honor of moderating a lively panel discussion. At the conference were dozens of business owners from around the country who have built strong workplaces and take great pride in having done so. Gaye and Diane are authentic professionals who genuinely care about doing good for good business. Everyone I meet who knows them can’t say enough about each of them. I look forward to continuing the Coleman Center’s partnership with Winning Workplaces.
- Steve Johns, Hitmaker.com and overall renaissance guy. Before becoming an entrepreneur, Steve was a corporate executive and venture capitalist. He’s been a mentor in our Blueprint program for a couple years and has just been a terrific supporter of the Coleman Center, in general. As a music buff, I’ve taken a special interest in Steve’s start-up, which webcasts live concert events. It’s been fun seeing the venture develop, hear Steve’s stories of being on the other side of raising money (he successfully closed an angel round in this economy), and learn insider tales of how the music business is evolving. I’m looking forward to Hitmaker.com becoming a Chicago success story.
- Sean Corbett, Founder/CEO of HaveMyShift.com and Co-founder of ScaleWell.com. I met Sean when he was in junior high, as the son of one of my former clients when I was in business for myself. Today, he’s a young entrepreneur who’s also out to make a difference. Along with his co-founders, Sean is building ScaleWell into a Chicago micro-incubator. It will make $1,000 seed grants to entrepreneurs with great ideas, with the grants funded by “trustees” who donate $100 each towards ScaleWell. Grant recipients will also gain access to a network of service providers who will provide pro-bono services, as well as the impressive rolodex that Sean and his co-founders have already built in the 20s. Sean is a “graduate” of the well-known TechStars program.
- Everyone at OfficePort, a co-working facility where independent professionals and entrepreneurs gain access to collaborative work space. I was honored to speak at their monthly TechThursdays event last month. Although my talk had little to do with technology, and more to do with Chicago’s entrepreneurship scene, their members and guests were unbelievably engaged, interested, and welcoming. I had the pleasure of meeting OfficePort’s founders, Schaul and Mike, who are from Kansas City, where the first OfficePort was set up. To help me prepare for my talk, I asked their members to post questions on my blog, and I was impressed by the range of what they asked. If you’re a small business looking for collaborative work space downtown, check out OfficePort.