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Entrepreneurs Show and Tell

Entrepreneurs Show and Tell

For bright-eyed entrepreneurs, starting a business is much like a three-ring circus.

For bright-eyed entrepreneurs, starting a business is much like a three-ring circus. The ringmasters of their own livelihoods need to choreograph efforts, manage moving parts and – without a visible hitch – deliver a product or service to an audience that waits (hopefully) with bated breath. Simply put, there are a lot of balls floating in the air.

“It’s almost manageable. But soon, it [can get] out of control,” Lisa Albin BArch 90 warned students, alumni and others attending last Saturday’s Entrepreneur Mindshare, a full-day conference/inspiration session hosted by RISD’s Career Center. Mindshare brings together experts in design and technology to speak to future entrepreneurs.

“You can be seen as a slave for your service – and it can be backbreaking,” Albin went on to explain. But there is a way to make it all work – and get a bit of shut-eye in the process, said the founder of Iglooplay, an award-winning design company that makes “playful furniture for all ages.” For those nurturing start-ups, remembering to balance demands is the name of the game, she said.

“You have to know when to put [the work] down” – before it becomes “an obsession.”

The alum, who majored in Architecture at RISD, knows a little something about becoming obsessed with work. Iglooplay quickly gained recognition thanks to positive reviews in the national press, including a shout-out from New York Magazine, which named the company’s “mod rocker” the best child’s chair in 2008. Enjoying the wave of acclaim, Albin even sent samples of her work to First Lady Michelle Obama. “It doesn’t hurt to shoot for the top. You can’t be shy, right?” she asked with a wry smile.

The real-time testimonies shared at Mindshare are invaluable for students and future leaders hoping to run their own business one day, notesGregory Victory, director of RISD’s Career Center. “It’s a springboard for RISD students and alumni. They can tap into the entrepreneurial spirit of successful artists and designers.”

Linda Holliday, CEO of Citia, a company that works with publishers to develop speed-reader versions of their books in app form, also told Mindshare folks that they need a business plan with a vision – in fact, one that includes a frank understanding of the power of capital.

“People in the arts are allergic to [money]. But if you want to run something, you have to get over it,” Holliday said, adding that in order to start her own business, she needed serious capital. “If you want to do things on your own, like I am, you have to be clear about money... [without being] greedy for it.”

Holliday was also quick to point out that bringing in the Benjamins shouldn’t be the only thing on an entrepreneur’s to-do list. In every job, she learned valuable skills that she has deployed later. For example, during her waitressing days, she got a crash-course in human psychology. While editing commercials for a broadcasting company, she gleaned the importance of attention to detail. Even learning how to change oil shouldn’t be a missed opportunity, she said.

“Nothing is not worth learning,” Holliday pointed out. “You can put those skills in your bag of tricks. It ends up connecting, the more things you know how to do. Curiosity is your natural gasoline.”