Lifting many boats
Collaboration isn’t just a buzzword. It can and does do great things. One special collaboration here in Fort Worth is building on the idea to make Fort Worth the greatest entrepreneurial city in America.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. There’s something special going on in the Fort Worth business community. I’ve been covering the job sector in this town for the past five years and what started out talking about trends in various DFW industries has evolved into (what I hope is) a valuable tool for people to get more out of their work lives. No matter what industry we work in, no matter if we’re fresh out of school, starting a new career midway through our work lives, or looking for something to keep us busy in retirement, work can and should define who we are. In that regard, whether we work on an assembly line, teach our community’s children, or are even the CEO of an internet start-up, we all can and should have ownership of our jobs. We have the responsibility to make sure that we are using the latest tools and techniques available to us to deliver the best product to those we serve. In other words, we all have the opportunity to be entrepreneurs.
Wait…hold up. Aren’t entrepreneurs those that are in business for themselves? Yes and no. In a recent Forbes article, author Brett Nelson wrote as to the true definition of being an entrepreneur: “Consider the following two definitions of "entrepreneur,” one found in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, the other from Dictionary.com: Merriam-Webster: “one who organizes, manages and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.” Dictionary.com: “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.” The difference is subtle, but fundamental: It’s the word “any.” Dictionary.com has it right: Entrepreneurs, in the purest sense, are those who identify a need —any need — and fill it. It’s a primordial urge, independent of product, service, industry or market.”
THE SILICON PRAIRIE AND THE VALLEY OF DEATH
So as we all continue to try and fill business needs here in Cowtown, we’ve got a lot of resources to help us do that. And while Fort Worth may still conjure images of cattle, cowboys, and oil rigs, many of these resources have gone high-tech. Organizations such as TECH Fort Worth, Cowtown Angels, and the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce all embody the fact that Fort Worth is making the change from cow chips to silicon chips. In fact, back in 2016 I coined the phrase “Silicon Prairie” to describe our city as the high-tech jewel of the high plains (I’m still waiting for that term to catch fire, but just wait and see!). To foster entrepreneurship, many local organizations have begun hosting contests that award entrepreneurs and their best ideas. TECH Fort Worth has their Impact Award, which celebrates local innovations that are impacting our world, the City of Fort Worth's Office of Small Business has a business plan competition, and The United Way has its KERNEL contest, which awards resources and seed funding for organizations that comprise a combination of social impact, a sustainable revenue model, and an innovative approach to solving the social challenges in our community.
A relatively new Tarrant County organization, Rising Tide Initiative (RTI), a nonprofit hub for innovation within our local community, also has a new award designed to support entrepreneurs when they need it the most. “The FORT is a place where resources are available to cross the "Valley of Death." In a new business, the "Valley of Death" is the area between business launch and profitability. It can be challenging for a new business to sustain the amount of time it takes to reach profitability. There's a lot of ground to cover during this time. It is for this reason that the valley needs a particularly strong focus,” said Kevin Grace, Chief Executive Officer at AME, and Managing Partner at Catalyst Partners. As part of the FORT award, RTI partnered with WeWork Companies Inc., a global network of workspaces where companies and people grow together, to provide entrepreneurs a free place to start and grow their businesses for six months in an effort to help them successfully cross through the valley from start-up to profitability. “Through this partnership, the organizations will assist in increasing the odds of success for our region's entrepreneurs,” said Grace. “By offering the space and resources at no cost, the opportunity is passed along directly to the entrepreneur. In addition to a collaborative environment, the entrepreneurs will receive mentors and coaches according to each business. The recipients will be held accountable for measurable goals for business growth.”
As part of being in the first FORT cohort, the fifteen selected entrepreneurs will also be participating in a unique giveback program where a small number of hours weekly will be given back to the community.
THE FIRST FIFTEEN
The fifteen area entrepreneurs selected to be in the first cohort include: Securing Life Today, a veteran-owned finance software company designed to help secure your financial future, Neuro Rehab VR, a virtual and augmented reality training exercises for physical therapy leveraging breakthroughs in neuroplastic- ity, Rollin' n Bowlin' Fresh Foods, a fresh food company started by TCU students in their senior year, and Flourish, an app that helps you give to causes every time you swipe your debit or credit card and tracks the impact of you donations. So what does it mean to be a part of this first group of winners? “As a founder, I'm eager to learn and implement actionable items as part of the accelerator curriculum and looking forward to meeting the team members of all the companies selected for the cohort, working along with and helping each other out as we all go through the accelerator,” said Veena Somareddy with Neuro Rehab VR.
RTI is an all-inclusive nonprofit organization that anyone can join. It strives to match the needs and resources in every industry from the solopreneur to the major industry leaders in North Texas.
You can connect with RTI members every month with events aimed at building relationships between community assets and entrepreneurs and also at their weekly happy hours every Thursday at 5:30pm at HG Sply Co.
For more information on RTI, including reading about the complete list of the RTI first FORT cohort winners, visit http://risingtideinitiative.com/.