Losses are lessons every time.

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During my junior year at Indiana Tech, I received an internship from a small sports agency down in Dallas, TX called Mack Sports Group, which is now Proverbs Management. I learned a lot while I was there recruiting athletes, managing pro camps, speaking with professional coaches, etc. I was with the company for about two years, and I heard this voice in my head say, “It’s time to bring it home and make a difference.”

For every yes, there’s 30-40 no’s from an athlete. In order to win, I had to get comfortable with losing.

I had questions and doubts, even cried, because I felt unworthy for this calling or purpose God had called me to do. As I cried my senior year at Indiana Tech, I heard the voice again saying, “No need to cry or worry or doubt yourself. I chose you for this because I know you’re more than qualified and strong enough to handle what will be thrown at you.” Since then I’ve started my own agency Capture Sports Agency here in Fort Wayne. I’ve definitely had my ups and downs for sure, but what successful business person doesn’t?

I’ve attended Agent School, Pro Scout School, Sports Business School, and more to gain more knowledge and understanding of the business and the industry. I’m certified in the WNBA (Women’s National Basketball League), FIBA (Federal International Basketball Association), and the WKBL (Women’s Korean Basketball League). I’m studying for my NBA license now. The hardest part about my job as a sports agent is recruiting an athlete for months or even a year and being told he/she is going with another agent. I lose more than I win, but those losses are lessons every time.

For every yes, there’s 30-40 no’s from an athlete. In order to win, I had to get comfortable with losing. I will lose over and over before I come up with the big win, but that’s just God shaping and molding me for this business. I thank God and appreciate every single loss because it makes me appreciate the few wins along the way.

My winning season is coming around the corner, and I’m ready for it. Everyone thinks this job is so easy and that things should happen in a snap of a finger, and it’s not even close. This business is not for just anyone, otherwise, everyone would be doing it. In this business, in order to be successful, you have to get comfortable with LOSING! That definitely doesn’t stop my grind, passion, motivation, hunger, grit, perseverance, or push to keep going until I’ve fulfilled what God has called me to do.

Article written by Chauntiel Smith, Farnsworth Founder and founder of Capture Sports Agency

Announcing Coffee Circuit 11!

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Once a month, Farnsworth Fund Program Manager Steve Franks will be making a complete “coffee circuit” throughout all 11 counties of Northeast Indiana region.  In the afternoon from 2:00 to 5:00, he’ll be at a local coffee shop to talk with…

  • Existing Farnsworth Fund Community members from that county who want to connect with their peers.
  • Early stage entrepreneurs who want to learn about the Farnsworth Fund, its Community, and the potential for a $1,000 business grant.
  • Young entrepreneurs as young as high school age who want to explore starting an entrepreneurial project, a side gig or maybe even a part-time business.
  • Potential entrepreneurs curious about starting their dream business.
  • Business leaders from the county who want to give back to their community’s emerging entrepreneurs.

No appointments or RSVPs necessary – just come and hang out.  You don’t have to love coffee, but you do have to love entrepreneurship!

Here’s January’s schedule. Remember, each coffee circuit is from 2:00 to 5:00 PM (unless stated otherwise)!

Monday, Jan 7 DeKalb Auburn Jeremiah’s
Wednesday, Jan 9 Noble Kendallville Five Lakes Coffee
Friday, Jan 11 Steuben Angola Five Lakes Coffee
Monday, Jan 14 LaGrange LaGrange Huckleberries
Wednesday, Jan 16 Wells Ossian Crimson House
Thursday, Jan 17 Adams Decatur The Java Bean
Tuesday, Jan 22 Wabash Wabash Modoc’s
Wednesday, Jan 23 10:00 – 1:00 Kosciusko Warsaw Wire and Steam
Wednesday, Jan 23 2:00 – 5:00 Huntington Huntington The Party Shop
Tuesday, Jan 29 Whitley Columbia City Brew Ha
Thursday, Jan 31 Allen Fort Wayne Fortezza

Why conform when you can transform?

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This past January 2018, I spent three months in Denver and Birmingham working for my previous company. I lived the traveling life, filled with long days and short nights, hotel food paired with late night calls and texts with friends and loved ones where too often I dozed off after exhaustion during the call. This had been my work life for the past fifteen years, coupled with a lifetime as a touring musician traveling the world.

I spent nine hours driving home all night from Alabama on Easter Sunday in April of this year, and the following Monday, turned in my notice to leave my corporate job permanently. The next day I penned this hashtag with one extremely vivid theme: #makingadifferencein2018. Like catching lightning in a jar, I had now caught the entrepreneur fever and was ready to drink the shine! Goodbye paycheck, so long conference calls, adieu to hotel rewards “perks”, ciao to canceled and delayed flights. Hello to home, so nice to meet you finally!

“If you’re not making a difference in people’s lives, you shouldn’t be in business, it’s that simple…” ~Richard Branson

This past year, my partner and I have been refining our business plan that started as a dream several years ago. We’ve morphed from what was to what will be by combining both of our lifelong passions. We’ve sought guidance, feedback, funding and a home all while pitching our idea to many in the entrepreneur/startup community, as well as potential investors. What was a dream is slowly becoming reality, and I emphasize the verb with careful superlative caution.

I was asked to pen an article that would inspire other entrepreneurs, possibly sharing the innovation our brand brings to the events industry. Rather than self-promote our business plan, pitch deck, presentation or whatever we choose to call it this week, I am choosing to become gut-level and go against the grain by sharing how I’ve gone all in to make this dream a reality.

Although the excitement of our venture keeps me up at night, takes command of conversations in coffee shops, restaurants and networking functions, I’d rather share the pain, hurt, and road hazards, coupled with hope brought on by my own personal faith that you aren’t just beginning to make a difference in people’s lives by starting your own business. You’ve been doing it all along. Now it’s time to wake up and make a difference in your own life.

So Long Travel, Hello Entrepreneurship

In just one year, I’ve sold my house and moved into a small studio in the town we look to launch our first location. I sold almost all of my furnishings, pawned my touring drum set, liquidated what little I had in savings and retirement, and now I’m selling my car to get something more affordable. I’ve driven for Uber, taken on a handful of consulting opportunities (one that cost me dearly and still amazes me!), helped a local deli owner cater events (who has become a cool friend), and lastly, been the driving force of a new restaurant desperately looking to establish a forward-thinking culture (both on the floor and on social media). I’m constantly setting up meetings in coffee shops, where we all know refills are free and I’m not afraid to ask for the handout of the muffin or sandwich that is being tossed at the end of the day. I am that guy that has given up everything to see this dream take flight.

I’ve been blessed to travel all my life. So often, these “blessings” come with a personal price. I’ve been to every state, Mexico, Canada, Europe. Anyone that knows me past one cup of coffee or glass of wine knows I have a story or an experience from all these travels. But the experiences I received came with a personal debt. Two divorces, countless holidays on the road, and far too many relationship could-have-beens.

To go all in, I’ve chosen to give up most all personal travel this past year. Travel has become walking two or three blocks in my town to have a conversation about growth plans for the community or a business pitch. Although I’ve performed as a musician on stages all over the country and Europe, I’ve chosen to turn down every gig opportunity given to me this year. I’ve scaled back culinary and live music outings to something I can count on one hand. In short, I’ve completely scaled back the same passions I look to add to our combined venture. In an odd way of sorts, I’ve felt like I’m cheating on a loved one.

Perplexing Passion…

This journey from comfort and conformity has quickly turned into a daily sort of perplexing passion, yet what we look to gain far outweighs what has been given up. The hope of waking up every morning and living out this dream is stronger than ever after nearly a year. Like a candle, this wick runs deep. This past year, I was recognized for a grant from the Farnsworth Fund, interviewed for TV, radio, social media and multiple news articles. We held multiple focus groups testing and refining our eventual brand with packed houses each night! I had a handful of speaking engagements, including two city council meetings. I was the kite flying effortlessly all year with so much attention paid to this dream. Thankfully, I had a trusted loved one holding on down below! What has been a struggle more than anything financial (although that weighs heavy daily…) are the confusing and misrepresented relationships (both personal and professional). The many emails that are never returned, the promised follow up from local groups, the friends and family that showed support when my paycheck had a few extra zeroes attached that are now near silent, and finally, the handfuls of close relationships that awkwardly have chosen to remove themselves.

Compare and contrast this vision: Little Johnny grows up playing on Grandma’s ole upright piano banging out an array of fist-pumping chromatic chords of chopsticks that instantly make dogs howl from two houses down. These mashed up melodies were never brought to light with honesty as Johnny’s elder refused to stifle the sensation of his nightly performances. After the final bow, and the clapping from the “crowd”, a distant sigh of relief from anyone around, be it two legs or four! It would be many years later when Johnny would meet a true professional with balls, and next thing you know, Johnny is now learning paradiddles, rhythm, and meter and kissed the keys goodbye. Yes, I was Little Johnny and this story makes sense for a five-year-old. Yet as hungry entrepreneurs, we’ve run into a handful of elders in the entrepreneur community that finds their transparency stops once the show is over.

Finding true, honest, gut-level, and transparent supporters is the key and should be kept to a minimum! Like any long-term relationship or marriage, there must be true honesty at all costs. Hand claps, fist bumps, toasts, and hugs are temporary feel-goods and completely lose their sincerity and value when you’re faced with challenging decisions that could lead you down the wrong path. When a potential consumer, investor, or networking partner says they like your idea, drill them with the open-ended questions. Refuse to let them get away without giving you their true honesty. I’ve made this comparison in my professional life for years: compare the marriages around you now that are satisfied versus loyal. I’ll take loyalty hands down all the time. Build your dream on loyalty!

Seek This Pain Out

Have a solid partner that you trust to be faithfully honest with you even when you’re feeling the glory of perceived support. Even if you’re on your own, I highly recommend someone who balances you out, even an equity partner. Be wary of tunnel vision and self-promotion of the masses. Ask what, why, and how from your true supporters. Challenge yourself to get more than just market research, or the allure of the latest group of potential consumers who can’t wait to buy your product or service. Like a new app on our smartphones, these relationships will replace themselves with somebody else if they are not true supporters. Don’t be afraid to challenge the entrepreneur community to expose their own pain and hurt past a weekly/monthly support group. There are many out there that do and are willing to share, but I’ve found you need to seek this pain out.

In my personal experience, those who have gone all in have scars that can help a startup guide their way through the a”maze”ing minefield. There will most definitely be personal attrition along the way, but a true sense of support will extend no matter what the circumstances may be, and the removal of some will be better going forward. Many of the close family and friends I had when I held a big corporate paycheck have completely gone silent. I was prepared for this, and my belief is anyone who has truly been successful in following their own dream will share this same story. Just be prepared for the ones you never thought would walk away. It will hurt!

Keep a daily journal of every meeting and conversation you have with those you are choosing to share your dream with at such an early stage. (I’m personally terrible with this as I’m concentrating on pitching the dream. My partner is dead-on with this and truly shines during our recap sessions.) These notable notes may be your lifeblood, and like a transfusion, could be the jumpstart on the next leg of your plan.

Have a solid partner that you trust to be faithfully honest with you even when you’re feeling the glory of perceived support

Lastly, keep your “why” firmly out front, rock solid and bulletproof! As you grow in your venture, your support groups are strategically bragging your “why” for you. Like a songwriter hearing a crowd of thousands sing his song back to him, it’s the most amazing part of the dream! Look at every aspect of your business plan, pitch deck, presentation or coffee conversation, and ask yourself, “Does this venture continue to answer the ‘why?’” This shouldn’t stop once the doors open, either. You must be financially sound, profitable, and prove that you can scale, yet my belief and experience has shown if you put people before profit, all of the above comes naturally. Your venture’s culture is the modern-day sustainability when it comes to people!

Less Certainly is More

Finally, I have surrounded myself with a “less is more” group of transparent supporters. My many years of corporate leadership gave me a sense of false confidence as if there was a hammer waiting somewhere if a vendor or client relationship went south. I now look to my business partner and a select group as a tool to keep me balanced and on track. My “why” goes back to Richard Branson’s quote, and I get up daily with the commitment that our venture will make a difference in people’s lives. That is the most transparent reason why I went all in and chose to go down this road. It was not for money, fame, or fortune. It is because my passion and drive in life has and always will be about seeing that child smile, that awkward teenage couple out on their first date that could use a lift, that weekly book club that just lost a woman to breast cancer, that only child with dreams far past the surrounding cornfields, and so many more.

This venture will make a difference not only in one person’s life but will help propel a community in a forward-thinking direction. The life of a founder is not easy. Yet we stay focused and are not afraid to keep communication open and honest with the few that honestly support our dream! They will be your first marketing team!

It only makes sense that this journey to making a difference in people’s lives started with making a difference in me first.

Why conform when you can transform?

Article written by TK Kelly, Farnsworth Founder and Co-Founder Lucky Dog Books and Bistro

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#RealTalk: The Truth About Competition

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L et’s talk about the C-Word. Competition, that is! Think for a moment about your relationship with your competition. Is it one rooted in fear? If so, I challenge you to rethink your approach. With very few exceptions, most small businesses can benefit from amiable relations with other companies who are fighting for the same piece of the pie.

most small businesses can benefit from amiable relations with other companies who are fighting for the same piece of the pie.

Allow me to explain. Depending on the industry, you may find that working with someone you perceive as a credible threat might actually help you. He or she (or they, in the case of larger entities) can serve as a reality check—challenging perceptions or ways of doing things that no longer serve you. It’s easy to get stuck in our own silos and sometimes it takes an outside perspective to give us an extra incentive to innovate and grow.

That said, I think all small business owners should check in regularly with themselves (or team members) and ask questions like:

  • What is something a competitor does better than you?

  • How might you learn from their strengths or advantages?

  • What is something you do better than they do?

  • And finally, this calls for some soul-searching. Who has the bigger market share? You or them?  What can you do to either maintain your position or grow?

Once you’re honest with yourself, you can set goals in the form of solid deliverables that specifically correspond to your business.

What about if your competitor seeks you out for advice? How flattering! Welcome it with open arms! You never know when you’ll need them to return the favor. Helping someone else develop can position you as a leader in your industry (and an all-around good person) and may allow them to succeed. And our business community is stronger when everyone succeeds. Going back to the pie metaphor, there are enough slices for everyone!

So, I challenge you this week to invite your competition to coffee. Show up with no agenda other than to learn and grow. I assure you you’ll leave more enlightened than you did before.

Article written by Lauren Caggiano, Farnsworth Founder and President of WriteOn!

Farnsworth Fund Social + Emerging Entrepreneur Event

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Community Ideation Fund
Launch Night

+ Farnsworth Fund Social

Community Ideation Fund Powered by Elevate Ventures

We recently hosted the announcement of our first three Emerging Entrepreneurs while helping them launch into their next stage of business! The Community Ideation Fund invests in entrepreneurs to the tune of $5,000 to $20,000; this particular announcement includes three Farnsworth Founders, who earlier this year, received community, mentors, and money to launch and grow their business.

The Emerging Entrepreneur Launch Night was also shared with another Farnsworth Fund Social where many entrepreneurs were able to connect and share their ideas with others.

What is the Community Ideation Fund?

Fueled by Elevate Ventures, the Community Ideation Fund is a statewide fund specifically created to help ideation-stage high-potential companies move closer to a specific, measurable technology or product development milestone through an investment between $5,000 and $20,000. Eligible applicants include Indiana-based companies with headquarters in communities/regions under a partnership with Elevate Ventures and with no more than $50,000 in trailing revenue over the past 12-month period. Elevate has designated up to $200,000 per community over the next three years. The funding is sourced through the Indiana Economic Development Corporation’s 21st Century Technology and Research Fund.

The Farnsworth Fund is powered by elevate northeast indiana.

Entrepreneur & Investor Round Table Recap

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On Wednesday, July 18, we hosted entrepreneurs and investors from around the country. They engaged in a discussion about how community, mentors, and money impacts their businesses and the entrepreneurial ecosystem in this region.

We had an excellent crowd – the room was filled with discussion and networking well after the event ended.

Thank you to our investors and entrepreneurs (see below) for your participation! And thank you to the great crowd that joined us.

National & Regional Early Stage Investors

Victor Gutwein
M25 Fund

Nick Arnett
1517 Fund

Aaron Gillum
50 South Capital

Robert Clark
Elevate Ventures

Regional Entrepreneurs

Ashli Pershing
Parkview Health

Victor Lopez
Global Medical Industries

Kyle Craig
Apollo Dynamics

Melanie Watson
Blaire Biomedical

Photo Gallery


Announcing Cohort 2 at Fort Wayne Soup

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On June 14, the Farnsworth Fund announced its second cohort of Founders.  12 awesome entrepreneurs received $1,000 grants.

We collaborated with Fort Wayne Soup, a crowdsourcing dinner to help people doing projects that will make our community a better place.  4 presenters vie for a cash award that can reach over $2,000.  This particular version of FW Soup was devoted to presenters 18 and under.  In keeping with their theme, we featured the four teen Founders from Cohort 2, while announcing everyone of course.  Read about each one under the Stories menu.

We were also very pleased to see cohort 1 Farnsworth Founder, Sean Rassavong on stage as one of the presenters!  And, of course, we were happy that Farnsworth Fund Advisory Board Chair Nick Arnett of 1517 Fund was on hand to be our MC!

Enjoy some photos from the evening!

Takeaways – from Fuse50

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Steve from the Farnsworth Fund attended Fuse50, a recent tech and innovation conference in Cincinnati produced by Powderkeg and Cintrifuse.  Here is a short read of four key takeaways.

Takeaway 1: “Mediocrity is chronic inconsistency.”

This one phrase by itself was worth the 3-hour drive to Cincy. Think about it in context of your purpose, Being chronically inconsistent with your purpose will lead to a lack of focus, will confuse people, and will generate inconsistent (if any) results.

Takeaway 2: “Frentors”.

We all need frentors in our lives, people who are both friends and mentors.

Takeaway 3: Do your mentor homework.

An experienced mentor described having a meeting with an entrepreneur who was totally unprepared and who just sat down and expected the mentor to drive the entire meeting. It was as if he came in, plopped down on a chair, and said, “Here I am – fix me.” Don’t expect the mentor to lead – come with an agenda, come with a goal to learn something that helps you with the work you have already done, be the leader in the meeting (since you are the leader in your company), and do your homework about the mentor so you know that your agenda is within the mentor’s domain to discuss. In other words, don’t walk in cold and expect the mentor to both discover and solve your problems for you without you doing any work.  Sorry for the long rant.  tl:dr – be respectful and do your own work first.

Takeaway 4: What do you REALLY have, beyond an idea?

For those entrepreneurs who think that an idea by itself, or an idea bolstered by a few pages of written business model text, is enough to approach investors – think again. Build something. Always build something. First and foremost, build something. Did I mention that it is important to build something?  Execution is what is important to moving your venture forward. Anyone can say, “We see a need to ______ and are creating a disruptive technology that will do _______.” But, for goodness sake, don’t say that unless you have already built it.  Because the next thing you hear will be, “Show me.” And if your answer to that is, “Well, we really haven’t made anything – but we will some day if you give us money”, then the conversation is over.