IFEL 2011: Believing in the genius of your dream

by: ellis j. still

It seems like yesterday that I was a finalist for the 2nd Annual Institute for Entrepreneur Leadership Business Plan Awards. I can still feel the nervousness… the clammy hands and sweaty fingers, feeling like at any moment I would pass out while on stage standing in front of my peers, potential investors, city officials, and media. But I got through it, and I did the best that I could with what I had at the time.

Since then, The Burning Bush Christian Bookstore (TBBbookstore.com) has grown to the point of being able to giving back to the institution that helped start it all by way of being a marketing partner and prize sponsor. For the first time I can just sit, relax, enjoy the festivities, and reflect on things as they happen. Here are some highlights of the afternoon:

  1. Opening remarks by Newark, NJ Mayor Cory Booker: Mayor Booker comes from a line of entrepreneurism in his family, and therefore appreciates all that entrepreneurs have to fight through in order to be successful. Statistically speaking, most businesses fail. But it is in your failure that you gain experience. Likewise, small business is the engine that drives America in that small business creates the most wealth. Wealth not only in terms of money, but in terms of quality of life, of your well being, and of your contribution to others. As an entrepreneur, it seems like the whole world is against you. People will think that you are crazy for being an entrepreneur, saying that your idea is to bold or that it will never work, or having people around you that does not get your vision. However, when you stand up and out, you will inspire others to stand with you. Believe in the genius of your dreams!!!
  2. The visionary behind IFEL, Dr. HenryJohnson, Sr. will be stepping aside as CEO of the Institute for Entrepreneurship Leadership and Jill Johnson will assume the responsibility. IFEL is a trailblazer in that Dr. Johnson had the foresight to meet the need to provide a platform from which entrepreneurs can flourish and grow. While there are other successful business / entrepreneurial programs in the regional area, IFEL is different in that it focuses on laying the foundation for creating successful businesses. Nothing can survive or prosper if it does not have a solid foundation from which to stand on.
  3. Of course, the main event was the entrepreneur finalists. Drum roll please…  
  • Diamond Doobies (Heather Kollar, Owner) is a boutique organic salon in Downtown Newark offering affordable luxury to women who want rich, healthy hair. (Newark, NJ).
  • Family Travel Marketing Services (Luisa Frey, Owner) brings parents and children together through shared travel and leisure experiences. FTMS then brings this influence to its travel company clients via: social media including FTMS’ teen-written blog, www.teentraveltalk.com; family travel fairs; and consulting. (Nutley, NJ)
  • My Salon Scoop (Veronica Woods, founder & CEO) is the ultimate beauty matchmaker for women of color. It publishes an online magazine and salon directory, and provides salon marketing services. (South Orange, NJ)
  • Pebbles Playhouse (Michael Amegashie, Owner) brings a mix of awesome inflatable structures, a clean, climate controlled environment, incredible customer service, and non-stop excitement in a private-party and open play atmosphere. (East orange, NJ)
  • And the winner is… fohawx! (Jocelyn Fine, Kelley Dineen, Co-Founders) is a product development LLC. Fohawx! Will design, manufacture and sell a line of helmet accessories. Our vision is to become the leading brand of helmet accessories made by moms for moms. (Bayonne, NJ)

My takeaways from the afternoon:

No one can survive as an island in itself. It is in our failures, success, and growth that we encourage others to be better. Before the luncheon began, one of this year’s finalists told me how much he appreciates that I have already been a finalist, and that TBB is still growing. He labeled me as a role model of sorts from for those who are coming after me. I took these comments to heart, as if at that moment a burden was placed on my shoulders. Not ‘burden’ in a negative way, but as a responsibility to build wealth not only for my family, but for the greater society as a whole as well.

Every year the competition finalist luncheon is held in a great space with a great atmosphere of networking and mutual support. I had a great time, and connected with some people that I will undoubtedly keep in contact with, as well as reconnected with those who have helped me along the way. If you are an investor or in a position to support, IFEL [501(c)(3)] is a great institution to partner with. Likewise, if you have an idea that you are serious about bringing to life, or if you already own and operate a business but need a focus to take it to the next level, visit IFEL’s website, and then contact them to see how they can help you.

Question:  Do you take your dreams seriously? What are your thoughts?

© 2011, Ellis J. Still. All rights reserved. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255


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