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Exit: Mock Draft Central

For many software entrepreneurs, growing their company quickly and selling it to the highest bidder is the end goal of all their long days and sleepless nights. It may sound easy, but upon successfully exiting his company after growing it for nearly eight years, and going through two rounds of funding in the process, Jason Pliml needed one thing: a break. “You can only put in so many 80-hour weeks before it catches up to you,” Jason said.

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High Growth: Mutually Human

Technology is meaningless without people to use it. The partners of Mutually Human Software recognized this and designed a software development firm that tailors its services to the people who use technology. Since 2006, founding partner and CEO John Hwang, along with partners Mark Van Holstyn and Zach Dennis, have asserted their software strategy and design consultancy in the competitive software market. Thanks to a common philosophy, user experience and compatibility is the primary design imperative and the resulting technologies inspired by Mutually Human become ‘ergonomically comfortable’.

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Venture: Grand Angels

As entrepreneurs begin to explore funding options, Grand Angels provides an application process for potential investments. The Grand Angels group is dedicated to finding appropriate businesses that will cultivate the local market. Mentoring from experienced professionals and a relatively patient exit strategy make Grand Angels a standalone between all regional investment groups.Founders Charles C. Stoddard and Craig T. Hall, combined their banking and entrepreneurial experiences to establish the angel investor group with a vision to make “investments with a difference.” Community leaders were recruited to join the investing group, and in 2005, Jody Vanderwel was named president of the organization. Grand Angels now has over 30 active members with professional experience in an array of industries.

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Early Stage: Flip Learning

Chris Spielvogel’s path to becoming the CEO of a tech startup started on sabbatical from a position as a tenured professor at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.  Two seed accelerators, two business partners, and a few employees, Chris’ product, “Flip Learning” is on its way to mass commercialization.

In the classroom for over 12 years, Chris Spielvogel could not help but see a need for a more compelling way to teach students.  The traditional model of a lecturer talking to students about material from a textbook, despite all efforts, was simply not connecting with students.

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Gilda’s Club: Laughfest

Tailoring Talent Recruitment in Social Entrepreneurship

What do 55,376 people, 925 rubber chickens, 228 events, 10 days, worldwide media coverage, and Grand Rapids, MI have in common? The answer: social entrepreneurship.

Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids (GCGR) celebrated its 10th anniversary by flexing its entrepreneurial muscels with Gilda’s Laughfest.Gilda’s Laughfest is an example of successful social entrepreneurship geared toward increasing cancer awareness and benefiting the numerous cancer, grief, and support programs offered through GCGR.

Volunteers serve as the majority of the talent base for nonprofits and social entrepreneurship ventures, creating some unique challenges. The development of an organization’s volunteer base is typically condensed into a 1-2 hour sessions, because volunteers are temporary or contracted for specific events. As this is the case for many organizations, talent development of the individuals involved can pose a much larger problem.

For nonprofit organizations, talent recruitment could be considered a type of fundraising, a process known as friend-raising. In 2010, each volunteer hour was nationally valued at $21.36,.  Having recruited more than 1000 volunteers, Laughfest saved $21,360.00 in potential personnel expenses, using the estimated dollar value of volunteer time. Based on the numbers, this figure is comparable to early stage seed capital offered by investors, angels and incubators; the difference lies within the method of delivery – the people.

Talent recruitment is an important facet of social entrepreneurship. Nonprofits and social enterprises lack the ability to hire and compensate a large staff, so they rely on volunteers. Nonprofit organizations and social enterprises face hurdles that are foreign to traditional for-profit businesses, because the recruitment process relies not only on quality, but also quantity.  The issue of recruitment for social enterprises becomes a question of marketing.

Laughfest is a great example of how the power of community, social media and a good cause can resonate with people all around the world. Furthermore, it depicts the recruitment strategies and successes of social entrepreneurs and nonprofit organizations as a potential standardized model for sizeable talent recruitment projects.

Word of mouth is still a force to be reckoned with in the world of social entrepreneurship. Gilda’s Laughfest revolutionized the power of word of mouth with talent recruitment, by focusing on the impact of a smile.

Laughfest 2012 is slated for March 8th – 18th.

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URBAN LINC

Engineering a Community of Entrepreneur

Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerber serve as prime examples that entrepreneurship can be a very lucrative career choice. In 2011, The Kauffman Foundation estimates that the 11.9 million self-employed business owners in the United States represent only 6.5 percent of the adult population. With so much to be gained in starting a business, why is it that most Americans decide not to pursue a life as an entrepreneur? Simple answer: lack of talent, knowledge and risk.

Talent development has become a centrifuge for investment firms and individuals looking to maximize ROIs from their investments. The magnitude of great ideas has left investors overwhelmed to spend too much attention on funneling funds on many great ideas.

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Question & Answer: Bonnie Wesorick

Bonnie Wesorick founded the CPM Resource Center while working as a nurse in a local hospital. The center has developed a field-tested and effective way to improve all elements of the care process, from point-of-care clinical decision support to healthy work cultures and interdisciplinary team relations. CEI caught up with her to learn how she managed success without a business background.

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Forging a Pipeline

Driving Growth With Collegiate Talent

Over $6 Billion dollars in investments have been funneled into the Grand Rapids infrastructure since 1980.  In just the past eleven years a third of that amount, roughly $2.6 billion, has reshaped and retuned the vibrant city to a new beat as it continues its unprecedented growth.  However, economic and physical landscape in West Michigan have changed as they have throughout the nation.  It begs the question, how is the city strategically oriented to move forward, and what role will universities play in regards to the city’s continued growth?

Kurt Kimball, former Grand Rapids City Manager, described his views on entrepreneurial innovation driving economic development. “I think we will see innovative independent thinkers driving economic growth. Do we have the innovators we need is the question?”

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Putting the “Ability” in Disability

The Successes of Entrepreneur James R. Albright

Rain poured down his face as he waited outside an entrance on Grand Valley’s campus. He was cold and wet. The broken handicap button separated him and his wheelchair from the dry inside. At this point, he knew something had to change.

This describes the event which prompted James R. Albright (Jim), to develop Albright Insights. The technology driven problem-solving organization focuses on creating cutting-edge mobile accessibility and navigation applications. Albright Insights’ first project is a mobile application called XcessAble; a wordplay referring to the handicap accessibility features it provides. Architectural specifications for a building are detailed in the application database: accessible building entrances, location of restrooms, heights of faucets and more. As a user accesses the application, the database of specifications is cross-referenced against the user’s physical capabilities to deliver a custom layout of the building. The mobile application, though a powerful tool, is only the first step to raise awareness for people with disabilities.

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Uptown Kitchen

Food-preneurs Get a Kitchen

Her idea stemming from a business class at Calvin College, Kelly LeCoy soon acquired the seed capital needed to create a kitchen facility that helps food inspired entrepreneurs create their own culinary venture.

The National Restaurant Association estimates that roughly two-thirds of each dollar earned is allocated to food, beverages and labor for a restaurant. This figure does not include cost of facilities, equipment or the learning-curve needed to meet regulatory standards.