What is the difference between learning how to plan a business, actively launching a business, and the reality of operating a business?
These are common questions of entrepreneurs, and it is interesting that the answers are not widely understood. For example, I teach Sustainable Entrepreneurship at Bainbridge Graduate Institute (BGI), and do my best to go beyond business planning, to simulate the launch of an actual business. At the same time, with nearly identical presentations, I teach the “fledgling” companies at Fledge (the “conscious company” incubator) how to launch their businesses, and try explaining what it will be like once these companies are operating.
To get to the bottom of these questions, I recently brought some of the Fledge participants into my BGI classroom, to help explain how it feels to them to be working on a product “for real.” Five of the eight visitors are BGI graduates, four of which graduated less than three months ago, with one pair (Rachel and Casey of Community Source Capital) launching the project they began in Marketing, worked on in Entrepreneurship I & II, and showcased in the finals of the Madrona League Business Plan Competition. The differences between business planning and launching boiled down to one word: “reality”. In the reality of launching a business, the positive feedback feels a lot better, and the negative feedback feels a lot worse. And the reality of the amount of work required to launch a company isn’t felt back in the classroom. It simply isn’t possible to simulate reality in the classroom.
It’s nice to see the “fledglings” learning that lesson so quickly, just five weeks into the intensive incubation program at Fledge, but none of the seven companies under incubation are yet truly operating their businesses.
To hear about that difference, I invited Carrie Ferrence and Jacqueline Gjurgevich to come visit the fledglings, and asked them to describe what it feels like now that Stockbox Grocers is operational. Their answer boiled down to “responsibility”. Their company is no longer the team of two. They have five employees, who quit other jobs to join Stockbox. They have a community to serve. More communities to expand into. A business to run. Every day! Operating the business means that they are now responsible to all these stakeholders.
All this sounds right to me. Fledge is the fifth company I’ve founded. Fledge itself was planned in early 2012, launched on April 26th, and invited the first seven fledglings on July 30th. It quickly moved from plan to “real” to “responsible” as these seven companies are looking to Fledge to provide guidance as they make the same journey beyond reality and into responsibility.
To meet these teams in-person, hear their visions, and support their effort, come to the Playhouse/Intiman Theater (in the Seattle Center) on Sunday, September 23rd for the Fledge “Demo Day”, an event of Seattle’s Next 50 celebration of commerce and innovation. Tickets are free, dinner is on me. Click to register.
Michael “Luni” Libes is a 20+ year serial entrepreneur, founder/co-founder of five companies. His latest startup is Fledge, the “conscious company” incubator. In addition, Luni is Entrepreneur in Residence and Entrepreneurship Instructor at Bainbridge Graduate Institute, and an Entrepreneur in Residence Emeritus at the University of Washington’s Center for Commercialization. To help these and other entrepreneurs, Luni is author of The Next Step: Guiding you from idea to startup.