The weekend of September 27th was full of interesting and intriguing personalities that were eager to share their experiences within the entrepreneurial/startup world.

Since I am a soon-to-be graduate as well as an intern at SproutBox, I was just as eager to expand my knowledge on the industry and learn as much as possible throughout the jam-packed weekend.

This jam-packed weekend was titled, “The Combine” and was the 3rd year that creative thinkers from across the country came to Bloomington, Indiana, to learn, network and be inspired.

I was fortunate enough to attend most of the events that were happening and mingle with everyone from fellow college students enthusiastic about starting their own business to professionals in their field who came from places such as Chicago, Michigan, California and Indianapolis.

The weekend consisted of workshops, speeches and pitch sessions. For a quick glimpse into my experiences of the conference I have provided an overview of some of the workshops I attended as well as some of the speakers I heard.

  • “How to Ignore your Clients”

Jeb Banner, creator of SmallBox (Web Design Company) spoke about his idea to create a week in which everyone on his team took time off to work on internal or individual projects. He calls this time “Factory Week”. Banner believes that the employees become empowered; the group as a whole improves communication and the time off creates efficiencies.  Banner suggests 3 tips for any organization to be able to succeed:

1. Be willing to fail

2. Create do-able project scopes

3. Encourage debates within the organization

  • “Getting to the Elevator”

Mike Trotzke, one of the co-founders of SproutBox spoke about creating a successful and appropriate high concept pitch. Having a pitch that perfectly articulates what a company stands for is essential in gaining investors as well as customers. Trotzke gave a few tips on how to achieve this:

1. The pitch should be the company’s vision, in one sentence

2. The pitch is a tool to spread the word – create word of mouth and buzz

3. Be consistent

4. Pitches are critical to raise money

  • “It’s Okay to Have Questions”

Leah Jones, Vice-President of Social & Emerging Media at Olson PR, spoke once in a workshop about social media and again on her career path. Regarding social media, Jones summarized the over-arching goal to be connecting great content to the right community. This is the key to growing buzz for any company/product/person. Social campaign production is an aspect of any PR firm and Jones made a list of what to do to accomplish a campaign from start to finish:

1. Pan for gold: listen to everything and research trends/current events

2. Formulate ideas and process

3. Amplify news, PR and outreach

4. Measure and learn

In addition to speaking on her experience with social media, Jones also talked about pivoting her career. Jones coined the term, “pivoting your career” and described it as how she approached her current career in PR. She did not start out in this industry, or even thinking she would be in PR but she pivoted her interests and experiences and ended up at Olson in Chicago.

  • Dmitri Vietze aka “Crazy Pants”

Dmitri Vietze is the founder of StoryAmp, a platform connecting musicians and the press, as well as the CEO of Rock Paper Scissors, a music PR firm. He gave an extremely innovative and exciting speech about the aspects that a business needs to be successful. However, the great thing about his speech was that he incorporated many musical instruments and gave the audience a preview of his talent and expertise.  One key point that he made was that resourcefulness leads to innovation. In order to become an innovator 5 things must happen:

1. Associational thinking

2. Questioning

3. Observing

4. Networking

5. Experimenting

P.S. his nickname “Crazy Pants” perfectly describes his personality as well as his wardrobe. He wears the craziest, patterned pants and just exudes spirit.

  • Ari Weinzweig aka “The Deli Man”

Ari Weinzweig is the co-owner and founding partner of The Zingerman’s Community of Businesses as well as 8 other family businesses in Michigan. He is also the author of a variety of books ranging in topics from food, preferably bacon, to achieving a successful business. He coined the “12 Laws of Business” and teaches annual seminars in these laws.

P.S. the nickname “The Deli Man” was something I made up after hearing him speak because he founded a deli in Michigan and had so much passion when talking about his life there, so I now think of him as the deli man.

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Posted by Sarah on October 16, 2012

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