Virtuosity 11.11

Where words become worlds…

Archive for the category “Virtually Living”

3 Books that Every Entrepreneur Should Read on How to Start a Business – Part III

In addition to talking to people and accessing networks, prepare to spend days and weeks consuming YouTube videos, watching courses, and of course, reading books. Here’s the books that I’ve found that were most helpful to me on my journey:

Start with the Business Model Generation book! It’s a quick and easy read, but the Business Model Canvas will help you organize your thoughts and develop a working (and constantly evolving) business model for your company.

Cover of the Business Model Generation Book
Business Model Generation by Osterwalder and Pigneur

Kawasaki’s The Art of the Start, is next on my list. This book gets your head in the game, and gives you the mindset that you need to be an entrepreneur. You’ll get a surface view of entrepreneurship, and links to help you dive deeper.

Cover to the book, The Art of the Start by Kawasaki
The Art of the Start by Kawasaki

Startups run on a completely different model than other companies. The Startup Owner’s Manual will help you truly understand what running a startup entails, and it includes great advice and guides for building your company and how to get started. I also highly suggest that you take the free complimentary course by Blank called, “How to Build a Startup” which is hosted on Udacity. Chock full of great advice, and it will give you more details than the manual.

Cover to the book "The Startup Owner's Manual" by Blank and Dorf.
The Startup Owner’s Manual by Blank and Dorf

Well, that’s my top 3 book picks to start you off. There’s tons of other books out there, and you’ll need to choose them based on the style that speaks to you. However, I’d say that I built my business foundation from the three books that I’ve mentioned right here. Happy reading! ~Y

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How to Start a Business and Where to Go for Help – Part II

In my last post, I shared how you should share your ideas with friends and family. Once you’ve got a fairly good idea of what you want to do, and have practiced communicating this idea clearly to others (incidentally, clarifying what you want to say about your business is an ongoing process that never ends), it’s time to leverage your local community support systems. Here, I list a few places you can go to help you get started.

Connect with your local Small Business Development Centers (SBDC). You can go to the website, and find your state and region. Reach out to them, and schedule an appointment to come in and talk to someone. They will give you really good advice on how to move forward on your business. The local SBDC gave me a complete step-by-step guide on the applications and technical pieces for getting started. You’ll also find that they have experienced business people who can give you good advice on starting your company.

Tap into your local university or community college business networks. Oftentimes, academic institutions will have services to help out entrepreneurs. For example, Iowa State University has the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship that acts as a hub to connect entrepreneurs from across the state. See if your local institutions may have similar things.

Tap into your state resources! See, states realize that growing local business is good for local economies. That’s why they all have resources for getting entrepreneurs started. For example, when I Googled, “Legal assistance in Iowa,” I found a site that had links to affordable legal help all over the state. Believe me, at some point, you will need a lawyer to trademark, protect your intellectual property, or get your business paperwork in order. These resources help to get you started. If you Google the term, “Entrepreneurial support for (put your state name here),” you’ll find a host of localized state links to help you. D

Don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to people for help. Oftentimes, you’ll get connected to a whole host of other resources and people who will be there to support you. Plus, the more people hear about your business and what you’re trying to do, the more they can spread your message through their own connections. So, get out there, and get connected!

How to Start a Business and Where to Go for Help – Part I

I’ve had a few friends of mine who have been interested in my entrepreneurial journey reach out to me about their ideas. While there are a lot of resources out there, it can be very difficult to vet out good information, and info that is specific to what you need. Because there’s so much advice I could tell you, I’ve broken up this blog into 3 parts so that you can get that red pill in smaller doses (because you are about to embark on the journey down the rabbit hole). Here’s how I got started:

Talk to friends, family, and people about your idea.

The goal of talking with others is that it will help you solidify your concept and clarify just exactly what you want to say about your business idea. However, do it with a grain of salt, and be selective about the advice you take and don’t take. You’re going to get SO MUCH advice, it’s going to be scary, at first. Listen to everyone with a critical lens, and as they give you advice, evaluate it based on:

  • How much expertise they actually have on the subject. If they’re not an expert, then be careful about taking their advice as if they understand your market. I had two businessmen lecture me about what education really needs, even though they’ve never taught in a classroom. Yeah, thanks but no thanks.
  • Whether they actually understand the concept you’re trying to convey. Some people will totally understand and advise accordingly. Others will understand your concept in a completely different way, and their advice may not fit what you’re trying to do. In these cases, you have to ask yourself two things: (a) Am I being clear (and not confusing or vague)? and (b) Have I already considered what they’re saying (or is this some aspect that I really need to give some thought to)?
  • Whether they are encouraging you OR discouraging you for the wrong reasons. You’re going to get a lot of naysayers and cheerleaders on this path, and you’ll hear plenty of advice from both sides. Some of it may be helpful, and some of it will be total BS. Listen with an open mind, but then see whether their information will help you.

As you talk to people, give yourself time to think and reflect on these conversations. Each convo, whether good or bad, should help you think more deeply about what you are trying to do, and it can help you grow if you are willing to change.

Also, don’t take things personally (even if the person you’re talking to had intended for it to be personal). Entrepreneurship is rough, and you will find yourself frequently in a Shark Tank environment where, if you haven’t grown a thick skin by this stage, it could spell disaster for your business. Remember, the criticism is about your ideas/business, and not about you, personally (and if they are, then stay away from people like that).

Stay tuned for Part II of this blog in how to leverage your local resources and networks.

How to Find Your Tribe, No Matter How Weird You Are

I’ve been following a blog entitled, “Sweatpants and Coffee.” The title of the blog itself was enough to grab my attention — I mean, it IS about coffee, and all. What’s not to love about people who love coffee? Substitute sweatpants for pajamas, and you’ve got me on any given day (yes, I’ve found that I am most productive working in my PJs — habit I formed from my days as a grad student).

Recently, a guest blogger, Lauren Dykovictz, shared a post there that was entitled, “I Don’t Have a Tribe.” Her post lead me through an entire range of emotions; I felt frustration and anger from past experiences where I never fit in, to appreciation for where I am now. Her post helped me reflect on my journey in a different way. Although the next part of my post started off as a Facebook comment in response to Dykovictz’s blog, I thought I would share it with you. After all, this “finding my tribe” thing seems to be a fad like kale and quinoa. Only, its roots run deep, and it pulls on that very human need of wanting to belong and to find one’s niche.

I’ve spent half a lifetime not fitting into one tribe or another for multiple reasons. To put this in perspective: I’m a workaholic. When I’m not spending time with my kids and husband, I’m at my desk, doing the work that I really love. I don’t go out drinking, I don’t really socialize, and I find small talk and “hanging out” a waste of valuable time.

The number of people I call true friend is small: less than ten. The number of people I call close friends: two. I don’t remember their birthdays, I don’t call all the time. In fact, I haven’t talked to my best friend in over a year, and I know that things will still be okay — when I call him, I know we’ll just pick up where we left off. 

I’ve learned, after lots of rejections and of not fitting in, that my tribe is who I define as my tribe, and they don’t fall under anyone’s expectations, and they don’t fall under anyone’s expected numbers. If you have one close friend (even if it’s your pet cat, or a houseplant, or a book), then that is all your tribe needs to be. Your tribe is what you want it to be, and not to what everyone says it should look like.

Funny thing is that once I let go of wanting to belong to a tribe, and of trying to make myself fit into a particular tribe or niche, the more I actually found a tribe of my own. I focused on just discovering who I truly was becoming (although that’s always it’s a work in progress). And, in the act of simply enjoying the things I like to do and in finding and being myself, I came to know my tribe as the people who accepted me for who I am. It’s a tiny number, to be sure. But that’s okay. I’d rather have two quarters who love and accept me for who I am than fifty pennies who try to make me into a penny like them.

How Instructional Design Can Help With Teaching

People wonder about what I do, so I decided to make a short video on at least one aspect of my job: instructional design.

Instructional designers help people structure information in a way that makes it easier to understand. They also help instructors reframe how they teach so that their lessons are more interactive and relevant to students’ interest. While I don’t talk about it in this video (but I’m sure it will come up in others), I have a unique spin on instructional design because I think in terms of the ways that we learn; and, as we have all experienced, how people teach isn’t necessarily the same as how people learn. But, if you can structure information (and activities) to take advantage of natural learning processes, teaching becomes much easier, and the lessons are far more meaningful to students! Do you have a question about instructional design, or teaching that I can answer? Go ahead and put it in the comments.

Thank you, and happy designing!

Page 1 of the Next Chapter

Hi everyone!

I’ve been taking large breaks from this blog in order to focus on where I was going, and what I needed to do in order to get there. During that time, I’ve had tons of support from people, both old and new. I had to think about my personal identity, and how it relates to the company and brand that I want to build. I am at the point now where I’m ready to share again. I wanted to say, though, that in sharing this very new chapter in my life, I’m out of my element. Entrepreneurship, content marketing, and business are all very new to me, and because of that, I will (and am) making lots of mistakes – rookie mistakes – along the way. But, to take a quote from a colleague, “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not going fast enough.” So here’s me, going very fast!

Below is a video I recorded this morning. I will be making a lot more of these in the up and coming days, because people have been curious about what I do, now, and what my entrepreneurship journey is like. I had been wanting to make one for some time, but had always been waiting until that time was perfect. However, 2018 taught me a huge lesson about perfection: perfection is really just a set of standards or expectations that we use to view the world, others, and ourselves. When I took on this perspective, I realized that perfection is transient, and it’s different for everyone. So, I changed my idea of perfect for these videos. Here’s what I will try to do:

  1. Post regularly
  2. Post spontaneously – no scripts (although I’ll focus on a point or two so that I don’t ramble)
  3. Keep it to 15 minutes or less (unless it’s an instructional video, in which case, I’ll break things up)
  4. Captions

Enjoy the video, and let me know in the comments if there’s stuff you wanted to see, or questions you had that you think I could answer. Thanks for reading and watching, everyone!

~Yen

Living the Dream

It’s been a few months since I successfully defended my thesis and received my Ph.D. I convinced my dear classmate, Marcy Berger, to walk on the stage with me as we received our degrees and hoods on May 19th from the University of Rochester.

HAF_4531

On graduation day, doctoral candidates are “hooded” by our advisors. Here, my advisor, Professor Jayne Lammers places the hood over my head and on my shoulders, which signifies indoctrination into the academic community.

However, I did not wait until graduation day to pursue my ultimate dream, which is to change the world through education. On April 5th, I started my company, Paragon Learning Research Group. Although the company is new, it represents the culmination of my lifetime of work in biology, education, business, learning theory, and program evaluation. In a nutshell, I built this company to bring science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education to elementary school teachers through a digital community platform. What I’ve learned through my research at the Builder’s Brewery, I am using its best practices to design a new interactive space to help support elementary school teachers with STEM. I will save the long story of this development for another post, because it took me many months (and it is a continually evolving project) to figure out my new identity as an entrepreneur and as a company.

To bring everyone up to speed on my work since April, I am now learning business entrepreneurship at an accelerator program through the ISU Startup Factory. This one year program is designed to help new business owners develop and grow through a network of mentors, events, and classes. Every six weeks, a new cohort begins at the factory. I am in Cohort V. Each week, we present on the work and progress we’ve made to our businesses while receiving a host of mentoring advice on moving ahead.

Thanks to my mentors at the Startup Factory, I was able to have a very successful presentation about my business at One Million Cups in Des Moines. You can see the presentation below, which gives you a good idea of what I’m doing now, and why I’m doing it:

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2F1MillionCupsDSM%2Fvideos%2F436424726882153%2F&show_text=0&width=560

This month represents the sixth month that Paragon has been in existence! Upon reflection, I’ve already made some pretty significant milestones in the company. The large milestone that we’ve accomplished is that last week, Paragon was awarded a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation- MiSK Foundation Grand Challenges Grant, which helps to kickstart our work moving forward! This has been such an exciting journey, and next month, the MiSK Foundation will sponsor my travel to the MiSK Global Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia!

I hope to be able to free up more time to keep this blog updated on my new adventures, and to share lessons learned on this journey into entrepreneurship! Until next time, live your dreams, and speak your truth. You’ll people there to support you!

Moving Forward

I took a long break from blogging and my online community to concentrate on the final steps of dissertation defense. This weekend, I graduated with my Ph.D. I could not have accomplished this without all the help from the Builder’s Brewery, my advisors, my family, and my friends. People have asked me about what I will do next! There really is so much to do, and now, I’m in a very good position to do it all. I’ve listed bullet points here of my five-year plan, but this is in no particular order…

  • Present my work to the Builder’s Brewery community – once my thesis is released publically, I will present a lecture to the communities in Second Life to share the foundation for my learning theory, which I call Interactive Spatial Learning, or ISL.
  • Attend the Connected Learning conference in Boston in August, and the Association of Internet Researcher’s conference in October. I present parts of my thesis to these conferences.
  • Publish ISL in at least two journals.
  • Begin my work at Paragon Learning Research Group as both the CEO and the STEM Education Director. This work is a culmination of all that I’ve learned from the Builders Brewery in combination to attending to the needs of teachers here in my local district. Thanks to No Child Left Behind, many students no longer have solid foundation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) because the focus was on literacy and mathematics. Unfortunately, STEM cannot be taught without context and “doing” of things. My goal is to create a digital support system to help with this work, and to help spread STEM education everywhere and to everyone.
  • Continue the direction of Virtuosity, but perhaps thinking of ways where I can make this blog useful. I’ve learned so much from listening to peoples’ stories. My goal now is to continue sharing those stories, with the hope that they are useful.
  • Continue my mission to change the world in positive ways by pushing the different ways we think about learning and education.

Thank you for those of you who have supported me. I would not be where I am, accomplishing this very large life goal, without your help. This was one of many large mountains that I need to cross. Hopefully, I hope you will join me on this journey!

Also, if I can be of any help to you, please contact me. I’ve learned by helping others, we also help ourselves, and the world shines just a little brighter through these partnerships.

Week 0 – Wrapping it up!

Today’s post is brief because I’m literally counting away the hours before must have everything written by this Friday, January 19th. After that, I work on the little details — table of contents, formatting, cross-checking consistencies, and small revisions from people who have been kind enough to review parts of my chapters for me. I finish all the writing this week, then will release these chapters for further comment, since I want to ensure the integrity of my work.

I have my very last chapter to write this week. Once that is finished, I know that graduation will finally be on the horizon!

Adopting a saying from my dear friend Marcy, “It takes forever, then you’re done.”

My One New Year’s Resolution

While 2018 brings new promise, and a rebirth of old meshed with new, I continue to chip away at this thesis until it is finished.

At this point, it feels as if I’m lost in the deep woods, and I will emerge when the work is done. I’ve grown quiet, which is not an unusual practice for me in the winter, but unlike my normal pattern where my work blooms in the spring, I only have one month left to complete this monstrous task ahead.

In the past week, I have continued to type sections of my thesis. It is perhaps, a more arduous task for me because I am very particular about detail and clarity. Also, the Builder’s Brewery community holds me to a higher standard — my work must be rigorous and accurately reflect the views of my participants.

I learned something very valuable this week, though, in that I am blessed with the ability to go back to the Builder’s Brewery community when I need help! Two nights ago, I was stuck on trying to explain the common phenomena known as lag in my thesis. It bothered me that I did not know enough of the technical terminology to write about it. So, I hopped into Second Life, and asked the folks at the Builder’s Brewery. By the time I left, I knew so much more and felt far more confident about writing that section, because of everyone’s help that evening.

This week, I continue to write, knowing that each day and each hour is even more precious as that timeline nears. My dissertation has moved from the (expected) 150 pages to being over 230 and growing. In part, this is because of my attention to detail and rigor.

What’s funny is that for the first time in many years, I approach 2018 without a list of resolutions. Instead, I have focused intently on just one: Finish writing the thesis in January 2018.

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