Key Takeaways from This Year’s FOUNDER FACTORY / A Startup Summit

By Beth North, Director of Business Development

“Being a woman-owned business has its challenges – but most worthwhile things do. Is it always fair? Nope, but if you surround yourself with the right people and apply some grit, anything is possible. I still believe that.”

— Deb DeFreeuw, President, Founder, Owner of Force 5

Keynote speakers Amanda Brinkman, Luke Cooper and Emma Willis, with Regina Emberton from South Bend / Elkhart Regional Partnership

This blog post is filled with the energy and insights gleaned through my participation in FOUNDER FACTORY 2021 | A Startup Summit.

The Keynote Speakers, the food trucks, the participants, support team, facility, signage, parking access, promotion, price, communication, and the many contacts renewed and made were beyond whatever it was I had expected.

AND, it was all about supporting, birthing, scaling, exiting, pocketing, then doing it all over again as one powerful way to close the wealth gap across our nation, and right here, too.

Small businesses…whether “mom and pop,” to provide product or service, to solve the next global problem by applying intelligently designed technology solutions, whether retail, online, or factories or tech hubs selling products or services to other businesses… they all start out small. It takes guts to start, especially knowing most fail in year one, and only a few more percentages of the first-year survivors will survive past year five.

The most important “Regional Take-aways” for me were that small businesses are the foundation of community vitality…they employ; their employees spend money, rent or buy places to live, create relationships that sometimes spawn new businesses, sometimes new families, and on, and on, and on. They give life and energy to the communities where they are born.

COVID taught, and took, and forced, and favored… small businesses out how to do things… and fast… or they didn’t survive – those with zero cash reserves and zero lines of credit, and without a financial institution relationship struggled mightily… and many of those were small businesses owned by women and people of color. Resilience, resourcefulness, collaboration, sheer grit and determination, and communities around them cheering for them, depending on them, and finding creative ways to invest in them for the short term so they would be around for the long term were all celebrated together at FOUNDER FACTORY.

From Amanda Brinkman’s Keynote we heard “Do well, by doing good.” Telling stories encourages support, help, promotion, and loyalty from those around you in the community. When small businesses are hired by other businesses in their community, everyone wins. And every small business MUST find and pay people to do the necessary functions of running a successful business, so the founders can focus on doing what they’re passionate about and expert in. If you’re not good at designing and building a website or running a digital campaign, maximizing the effectiveness when people search on line for what you sell, HIRE it done… from another small business near yours.

From Emma Willis we heard the lessons she learned about supply chain, thinking through all the details, and keeping your eye on all of the balls of supply and demand. We learned of investment money available and mentoring for people of color from a fund she has created. And, how important honesty is with yourself and from those assessing your viability before they invest in you.

From Luke Cooper we heard that it IS possible… if you are African American, as he is, to raise millions in investments, then sell for tens of millions in an exit. And when you have been successful, you can invest in other growth opportunities for people who look like you. And, how important alignment with potential investors is, and how “when you’re not feelin’ it” it may be best to return or turn down THE MISALIGNED source of funding.

Force 5 is small+smart™ for a reason… we right-size the team for the work to keep the value of our work aligned with the needs of every client… not just our biggest, most profitable one. And, when you make us the extension of YOU, rather than hiring a “marketing person,” you get expertise in seven directions, in addition to a new perspective… a perspective closer to that which your prospective customers see.

For a conversation about how we can help YOUR business grow visit or email [email protected].