New Jobs, Cities and The Open Door

It’s crazy to reflect on the beginning of this blog and see how much has changed. Much has stayed the same; I still love startups and high-growth companies, I still believe the millennial generation is powerful and I am still passionate about startup ecosystems.

One thing that has changed is where I ended up after receiving my diploma. I spent all this time planning and making the right connections to land in Cincinnati. But, my intuition and opportunities took me on a new adventure to Indianapolis with the Orr Fellowship, and my host company within the Fellowship, Studio Science.

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Monument Circle in Downtown Indianapolis. The view from my office is quite spectacular!

Yes, I was shocked too. The Cincinnati Startup Ecosystem has evolved incredibly, and I considered it a second home. Big things are happening within that community, entrepreneurs are thriving and the area is becoming more and more recognized…what the heck was I thinking?

Well, what they don’t teach you in entrepreneurship class, and what I am assuming is impossible to teach, is how to choose your career journey. Where should I go? What should I do? Do I want to move far away? Which job will give me the most opportunities? How much money do I need to live on (I asked my student loans to pay themselves and they said no)? What feels “right”?

After going through my job search process, I realized one very important thing: there is no such thing as the “right” choice, but there is such a thing as The Open Door. Every couple of weeks, I get together with a group of my peers in the Fellowship and we discuss the concept of The Open Door. The Open Door is realizing the opportunity in front of you and being willing to take it in order to live a more fruitful and meaningful life.

There is the misconception that taking The Open Door is taking an opportunity that is fun or an opportunity that will be effortless and automatically successful. On the contrary, The Open Door is often ambiguous, difficult and emotional. The Open Door reminds us that nothing worth living in life comes without struggle and a growth period. The Open Door is about taking the chances that are in front of you and striving to get through the tumultuous times knowing that this opportunity will change you for the better.

Moving to Indianapolis has been completely out of my comfort zone. While I have loved my job thus far and getting to be a part of Orr Fellowship, this adventure and enjoyment have not come without struggle. New cities, jobs and experiences come with a learning curve, and the curve is steep. The Open Door concept reminds us that even if things are rocky, we took the opportunity because in the end, great things will happen. You just have to put the work in and make the most of what you have signed up for in life.

While my current Open Door has taken me to Indianapolis, I look forward to all my future doors. Whether it be continuing in Indianapolis, returning to Cincy or doing something completely new, I feel ready to make the tough career choices knowing the true meaning of The Open Door. To match my continuation of taking the opportunities in front of me, be on the lookout for a blog rebrand.

Oh, by the way, The Open Door concept is not mine, although I wish I were that perceptive. Actually, it’s a book. And you should check it out.

 

Living out passion: When will we get a chance?

As college seniors, we are told there is opportunity awaiting us after graduation. We are reminded that if we work hard enough, meet the right people and say the right things in the interview, we can land our dream job. Have your passion, live your passion.

As any millennial will tell you, we have a variety of interests and a thirst for curiosity and exploration. We will try and experiment with many different activities, majors and lifestyles. Therefore, our passions change, and one day, we will find the career path that gives our souls a “jolt”.

I am lucky enough to have found my jolt early, but, what’s a college kid to do when they discovered their “thing” second semester senior year with over 100 credit hours and 3 internships all dealing with a career path they thought they wanted? Right as you found the type of life you want, you have to start back at square one because you have nothing to back up your new-found passion.

We all know it: no entry level job is really “entry level”. A lot of companies require a few small things before giving you that job…a few years of experience/exposure to the field, some portfolio work, recommendations from professionals in the field, a 5 course dinner and your first born child.

We want to pursue the life that gives us air. We will work hard to make it happen, but where is the proof? We can’t blame employers…they want to make sure that with whoever they hire that they can trust the new employee will get the job done and move the ball forward.

I’m not sure what the right answer is. When you find your passion late in the game, is starting back at square one worth it? Do you take those “college” internships after graduation in order to work your way up? Are there employers out there that are willing to risk taking a person with lack of experience in order to gain large amounts of passion? When will we get our chance?

 

Creativity Consulting in San Francisco

This January, I had the opportunity to spend 3 weeks in a creative consulting class. My client was Cincinnati Startup OROS Apparel, an apparel company that uses NASA aerogel as the insulation for their jackets. With my team, our charge was to find business opportunities for the company, ranging anywhere from social media campaigns to product design (#ambiguity).

To accomplish this task, it was important that we had all the right tools for creative thinking. So, my class set of to San Francisco, the startup/innovation hub of the U.S, for a week to learn from some of the best in the business. We had the chance to visit with professionals from companies such as D. School, IDEO, Pilot 44, Disney and Twitter. These companies helped us to gain knowledge in brainstorming, competitor landscaping, social media utilization, branding and storytelling.

After our amazing and jam-packed week on the West Coast, we made our way back to Miami University to spend two weeks using what we had learned paired with creativity heuristics to find truly amazing opportunities for OROS. This class was truly an amazing opportunity, but the benefits did not come without some amazing moments of learning. Here are my three takeaways from my first experience in consulting:

  1. Embrace the ambiguity. This may be obvious, but in practice, being able to move forward in a project when you feel like you don’t know anything is kind of hard. When it comes to consulting, your client may not know what they need. It is you and your team’s job to study their performance, resources and competitors to know what the company needs to make more money and accomplish their mission/goals.
  2. Everyone on the team can be a leader. Just not at the same time. When working in a team, it is important that you all discuss your strengths and weaknesses. If you have an “A” team, you will be able to makeup for where your teammate falls short, and vice versa. This means that everyone has the ability to step up and lead the team during a different part of the consulting process. Whether you are good at clarifying the problem, coming up with ideas or developing an action plan, you can play a big role in your project.
  3. Have fun! Consulting is hella stressful. Like, 14-hour days stressful. This can cause your brain and body to just shut down and then everything just continues to go downhill. Remember that you are helping a company to grow through innovative solutions…that’s so freaking exciting!! Play around with your team, find fun games, do a quick YouTube workout or eat a good dinner. Nothing will get done if you are dying.

Learning these simple things helped me to become a stronger thinker, ideator and lover of creativity. I am looking forward to my next chance to do work in consulting!

The Entrepreneurial “F-Word”

As more and more responsibilities get added to my plate, I am reminded of something – you will never be perfect at everything. It is just not possible. As someone who is (overly?) self-motivated and excited to take on life, the thought of under achieving is a hard pill to swallow. I like taking on challenges, rising to the education and getting to say “I can handle this!” But, what happens when you can’t? What happens when the book pile just becomes too high and falls over?

You fail. You fail hard. All you have is a big pile of failure.

Did anyone else just shutter at the “f-word”? It’s normal to cringe at the thought of not succeeding at the things you are most passionate about. You put in all this work, time, effort…and you just couldn’t pull it off? What the hell went wrong? Why do I suck? Why can other people do it while I can’t? This is where my head automatically goes While it is normal to think these questions when all the books fall, I have a little secret…you are dead. wrong. Every entrepreneur will tell you that all great products and brands have come out of a bajillion pivots and failures. Here is why failure is bad-ass:

1. It stops you from the first right answer. When you fail, it’s usually because whatever you were testing didn’t work, and it wasn’t the right solution. Having failures helps you to keep asking questions and exploring new ways of doing things so that you can see many possibilities and turn to 4th and 5th right answers. The results of failures are usually the break through ideas.

2. The life lessons. It is natural to be scared of failure. Who likes knowing they did something wrong? But, one of the best ways to embrace it is by knowing how much you will learn from it. Looking at failure as positive can help you to see what you can improve for next time so you can be (cue Kanye) harder, better, faster stronger.

3. The adventure. When you get to learn, reflect, challenges processes and explore new options, it can be kinda fun! As someone who gets so destroyed over the thought of failing, I am constantly trying to picture the small failures in life as a little roller coaster. There are a lot of bumps, times you are scared, screaming and wondering what’s going to happen…but that’s all a part of the ride! Enjoy it.

Love failure. Live failure. It’s hard, because I know I fail at failing. But, sometimes blogging about things helps you think them out and hold you accountable. I know that for me, along with a lot of other people, the fear of the “f-word” is what stops me from my best creativity, thinking of ideas and being the entrepreneur I truly want to be. It’s time to get a little risky!

What is ProductCamp?

Ever with there was a relaxed space to talk to different entrepreneurs and business lovers about the stuff they are working on. Well, you’re in luck! In less that 3 weeks, Cincinnati will be hosting it’s 2nd annual ProductCamp (PCamp) on Saturday, September 26th! Let me go through some of the basics about why this event is important to attend:

What is PCamp? PCamp is a nation-wide un-conference for passionate product people. It is called an un-confrence because it is hellllaaa chill…participants in the event get to hear the talks they want to hear about product design, development, innovation, etc.

What is a ‘talk’? Good question! For weeks now, Cincinnati’s best and brightest entrepreneurs, CEOs and product developers have been submitting talks on their journeys in product creation. In fact, participants will have the chance to VOTE on the talks they want to hear. There will be a wide range of talks on every facet of product creation from product design to wire framing. Also, because the point of PCamp is to be relaxed and real, they won’t kid you with only happy success stories. You are going to hear from real people, about their real products, both the good and the bad.

Why is this event important? Your Saturday at PCamp will allow you to get together with people from companies all over the region to talk about building and sharing products in a very relaxed setting. The speakers are also giving very real, actionable talks about how their product creation is going, their stumbles and their triumphs. Cincinnati is also a very unique place because we have some of the largest BigCos (P&G, Kroger, Macy’s) and a wide range of hot new startups. Both groups will be working together at the event to share their stories and help spark new innovations.

What’s in it for me? You will be ASTOUNDED by the value of this event. Not only will you get to hear stories of product development, but all participants have the chance to engage with the speakers, and each other, to create a very active learning environment. Also…NETWORKING. At the event, the team has set aside spaces for participants and speakers to chill out in for some meeting, greeting and idea sharing. Because of the wide range of companies, you will have the chance to talk one-on-one with some amazing connections.

Also…did I mention free food and swag?

Last year’s event was incredibly successful, but this year will be even better! With more companies, stories and ideas involved, PCamp is the number 1 event for all types of people (including students!!) to come and get their product love on!

How to Get Hired at a Startup

As Miami’s career fair slowly approaches in roughly 19 days and 20 hours (not that I’m counting) the senior class is diligently working on their resumes and practicing their interview skills in hopes of landing that perfect job in that perfect city. Although, not all companies hire through traditional methods. Today, a lot of organizations are ditching the formal job descriptions and strict hiring requirements to be able to focus more on passion and culture fit with employees. One area of business that takes on this new method is startups.

So, you have decided you want to throw yourself into a life of agile scrapiness and new creations? Good for you! But, how do you get hired by these companies? Here are three key things vital to the startup hiring process:

1. Know yourself. If you want to work in the startup world, there is no such thing as just “taking a job”. You have to know what you are interested in working on, what kind of worker you are and what type of environment fits you best. If you aren’t passionate about the job at this level of a company’s journey, it will NEVER work out…there is a reason why they call it “startup LIFE”.  Knowing your dream job will help you go into the company search with more confidence and certainty.

2. Network. Hate to break it to you, but if you see a job posting for a position in a startup, the company is probably just doing due diligence. Most small companies are hitting up who they (or their network) know because they want to see proven skill level and hire someone they trust. It’s important that you spend time getting to know people in the startup circles by going to events, talking about your interests and well as showing interests in the companies. Once you have built up your repertoire of contacts, you can get the word out about what you are looking for. The good news is…startup people are awesome and LOVE to help hardworking people achieve!

3. Show them they need you. Startups are all over the place and that’s what makes them great. Even though they might have a strong growth plan and already have good team members, that doesn’t mean they aren’t missing anything that is vital to their success. If you can show a company what they are missing and how you can help, you’re golden. For example, I would say:

“Hi Blah Blah, I have really been enjoying following the journey of Blah Blah & Co. and I think your team is headed for success. Although, I noticed that in comparison to your competition, you are getting two times less organic search traffic, which has caused you to fall behind in social media followers. Since the largest demographic of Blah Blah & Co. is 20-24 year olds, we can expect that they are heavily relying on social media to help them in their purchasing decisions. With my strong writing skills and experience helping companies grow their social media, I can help Blah Blah & Co. gain more organic search through relevant blogging and raise social media by X amount this month. Hire me.”

Most of all, it takes confidence to work in a startup. In the words of one of my great professors, OWN IT. Know yourself, know your skills, know where you want to work and jump in. Scary? Yes. Risky? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely.

The Summer of Kasey

As I sit here writing this, I cannot believe that this summer is coming to a close. Next week at this time, I will be in classes. What is over is the summer of my amazing internship, networking, hanging with friends and gallivanting around the city I hope to call home upon graduation: Cincinnati. This summer has been so completely wonderful, life changing and inspiring! Want to know the best part? It has only just begun.

Back in April, when I was starting to discover my passion for entrepreneurship and startups, I decided this summer would have a title: The Summer of Kasey. Why? I was living on my own with very little adult responsibilities, I was starting Miami’s Altman Summer Scholar Program…why not take full advantage? This was the last summer I would ever be able to really explore everything Miami has to offer. I knew this was my chance to rise and show the world who Kasey really was.

I wanted to show the world that I was passionate about learning from others and that I was passionate about finding opportunities in unknown spaces. Creating Cincy Mentors did just that. Through my blog, I was able to learn from a lot of people…over 20 people in 8 weeks, to be more specific. I made some great contacts and learned a lot of growth hacks that I could have NEVER learned out of a book or online. Hearing people’s experiences was so invaluable, and I enjoyed making genuine relationships along the way.

I also loved getting to showcase Cincinnati! People, there is sooooo much going on here! The tech space is growing, the talent is growing, the funding is growing. The pride for this area is strong (just look at the 1-day demise of Chilicon Valley) and #startupcincy is a movement. Joining the Cincy tribe was the best thing I could have done, and I am excited to jump in to upcoming startup opportunities this Fall. Thank you, Cincinnati, for being so welcoming to a girl straight outta Cleveland.

This summer had so much success, but it didn’t come without its challenges. There were days when I thought no one would read my blog but my mom, times when people questioned my voice, even more times when people were very critical of what I was trying to accomplish. I appreciate every challenge because it made the journey more exciting. Every wrong turn downtown, aggressive amounts of money spent on parking, every single bothersome email I sent…it was all worth it. It was all worth it to be able to show readers what insights the wonderful creators of Cincinnati’s economy had to offer.

Now, having had such an amazing journey with The Summer of Kasey and Cincy Mentors, I am ready for the life of Kasey. I am ready to take on my opportunities and just about anything life throws at me. I am ready to live out my dream of being a growth hacking guru for a startup company. I am ready to continue writing, making connections and doing what it takes to be the best Kasey I can be. Look out, world! The Kasey sunshine is moving in.

Meet Jeffrey Shepard

Entrepreneurs find passion for their business in a lot of different ways. Maybe it’s a venture they have always wanted to try or maybe they are trying to discover a brand new space. Or maybe, you could be passionate about the startup journey itself. Jeffrey Shepard, CEO of MedaCheck, finds his passion in knowing that when he starts his idea, it will grow into a great brand and great culture.

Jeffrey Shepard, CEO of MedaCheck. Photo via LinkedIn
Jeffrey Shepard, CEO of MedaCheck.
Photo via LinkedIn

This is not Jeffrey’s first startup rodeo. Having started 13 companies already, he is excited to see MedaCheck, a medication reminder system in the form of an app, becoming a sustainable model that can now grow. Which is awesome. But, the idea of breathing MedaCheck 24/7 is not what keeps Jeffrey excited about entrepreneurship. In fact, the MedaCheck business model is built to be one that can scale and then be acquired easily. What keeps him going is this: creating businesses through being a good listener and having good people by your side.

Jeffrey is awesome because he believes in the same mission I do…learning from and listening to as many people as you can because, that’s the best way to get good at something. Jeffrey admits that he was not truly successful until he opened up to what was surrounding him and truly listened to other entrepreneurs. What you learn from others and their experiences (good or bad) is invaluable. You can have 3 doctorate degrees and still have so much to absorb from those who have succeeded, failed or gone through whatever you are trying to do.

Jeffrey said that one of the biggest things he learned from others and his own experiences is that the type of people you bring into your business is THE #1 priority. People will make or break a business and if you chose to start your own, you have to define your culture. Along with listening to others, the people who are supporting your dream are invaluable and true success cannot happen unless those employees feel like they can succeed with you. Create an environment that helps to excel employees in their personal and professional growth so that they know they are able to open up with you and your company. On the flip side, if someone is obviously not a great culture fit, don’t keep them around. As harsh as that may sound, too many companies suffer because their team is toxic, and in the end, you are hurting the person that doesn’t fit.

While passion for startups may come in different stages and ways, every entrepreneur wants to see their business scale and succeed so others can be impacted. There is never a shortage of opportunities in the startup world, and according to Jeffrey, it’s up to you to make sure the future is a successful one.

New Company? Salivate over the New Grads!

I made my pitch as to why new grads should head to new companies, but it’s only fair that I address a major question on the minds of startup companies: what’s in it for them? Why would they hire someone who has never done a startup before? Why should the CEO of a new company continue to take major pay cuts to afford a kid who does not have the same level of experience as others?

These are real, valid thoughts. As someone who has spent…more time than I would like to admit…scrolling through the Cintrifuse/Brandery company job openings, it was hard to see phrases like “must have three years of experience in marketing and branding”. MUST? I get why it says that, buuuuttttt good thing I am bad at taking no for an answer! So, what I have to say is this: what new grads lack in experience, we make up for in passion and hard work. From startup restaurants to architecture firms, that statement stands true for all business areas. NewCos, this is why you should hire me and other new grads hitting the pavement in 9 months:

1. Determination. When it comes to the thought my first full time job, I’m a kid in a candy store. The excitement is unreal. As much as we will miss hanging with friends on campus and drinking a little too much beer on Saturday afternoons, new grads are truly excited to become contributing members of society. When you hire a new grad, you hire someone who is beyond ready to jump into whatever you are working on and add fresh perspective. We are excited to put in the brain power, long hours and new ideas.

2. Mold us. New grads are, well, new. We don’t have any prior experiences to base off of. You won’t hear us saying “well, at my last job, we did it this way…” because, other than internships, we haven’t had an experiences to set our ways. If you have the itch to mold the minds of the next generation, hiring a new grad can be a great way to talk about your past successes, mistakes and lessons. What we learn from you, we can apply in our future experiences!

3. What is money? Yes, our experience levels are lower, but if your company is running real lean, hiring a new grad can be a great way to have someone achieve great things while not having to pay them the same way you would pay a web developer with 10 years of experience. There are  times and situations where companies need to hire someone who has certain levels of experiences, but…new grads are fast learners and hard workers. We can take it upon ourselves to get to the level of experience your company is looking for, without breaking your bank.

4. For the sake of the ecosystem. New grads go where the jobs are, and if growing companies won’t hire us, we won’t be sticking around. It is imperative for emerging startup ecosystems (CINCINNATI, OHIO!!!) to see the value in keeping talent in their area. New grads and millennials ARE the new movement. We will make amazing impacts. Keep us around so that we can help the community flourish.

New grads are not to be underestimated! We have big plans for our futures and we want to work for companies that see the value in helping us rise and achieve. You never know! You could be hiring the next Mark Zuckerberg! But, new grads cant get there without having the chance to make an impact.

New Grad? Head to the NewCos!

Summer is coming to a close and as I was sitting around the other day, color-coding my semester schedule and planning out shortest walking routes to campus buildings, I realized that dorky as it is, it is my second-to-last time getting to do it. In fact, in 9 months, I will be a full-fledged adult! It’s so exciting! Do I know how to cook or or fix sinks? Hello no! But being the expert compartmentalizer that I am, I know I will figure that out when the time comes. What’s on my mind right now? EMPLOYMENT.

Like the other 3.2 million college seniors projected to graduate in 2016, I. Need. A. Job. If I sound aggressive, that’s because I am. Being a classic millennial, I have big dreams and some requirements to get there. I would like a job that I enjoy while also getting to work hard, learn a lot, make instant impact, and have some cool work benefits that don’t necessarily have to be monetary.

One job area that I have noticed a culmination of all these millennial requirements is in startup companies. Small, new businesses have not yet been bogged down by bureaucracy and are able to offer a totally new culture that is very attractive to new graduates. Here’s why:

Small team, quick impact. Unless 100 people are on the same page and jointly decide to start a company, chances are the startup you work for will be small…like, 5 people chillin’ in a room, small. Meaning, it’s your time to shine! Anything you do will be making a direct impact on the bottom line and moving the needle of the business. There is no  such thing as doing a small project that will eventually reach your boss’s boss’s boss in 6 months. In a startup, you are most likely playing accidental footsie with the CEO under the work table and doing projects with he or she, not FOR he or she. What a cool way to get things done so early in your career!

Less resources, more learning. A long with less people, startups just have less things in general. When you are working for an agile, lean business, that means you are doing a lot of learning on your own. There is not enough time or people to sit with you and make sure you properly know all the tools to do your job. If you like to self-start things, this is the space for you! The “figure it out” attitude will be your new best friend. Also, startups need a lot of different people with different passions. No one will ever ever hire you based on your major, only on your skills.

Less money, more creativity. I guess less money counts as less resources, but it was worth making it’s own bullet point because, when you work for a startup, you can’t expect to be making what you might make at a big company. It’s just not going to happen. But, that doesn’t mean the job is any less difficult, prestigious or rewarding…you just get thanked differently. A lot of millennials today are craving perks like fun office cultures, time off, gym memberships, dogs in the office, etc. Startups offer a lot of flexibility to their employees and make sure their employees feel valued with fun little things like, I don’t know…equity?

Are big companies awesome? Yes. Do you learn a lot working for them? Of course. Is there a little more security? Obviously. But, another unique thing about new millennials in the workforce is that we crave things beyond benefits and stability…we crave passion. We crave following our hearts, doing what we could do 24/7 and living life with utmost fulfillment. When you work for a startup, you surround yourself with people who are working endlessly to make their dreams happen and change the world. To me, surrounding myself with that kind of environment sounds just as rewarding as climbing the corporate ladder.

This sounds good, right? So, entrepreneurs…why should you hire new grads? Stay tuned.