I should start off by exposing my bias – I do not believe that entrepreneurs are born.  No, I don’t believe entrepreneurs were born with some chromosome that others were not.  I do not believe they come out of the womb ideating, testing, and implementing.  No, I believe Entrepreneurs are made.  I believe they became entrepreneurs over time, forged in an ecosystem that included:

(1) a PLACE where it is safe to test, experiment, and fail (without shame)

(2) a PERSON or PEOPLE that acknowledged them and provided support

(3) LEARNING in many forms and environments


(4) OPPORTUNITY to experience things outside their own world

Almost every entrepreneur I know had the benefit of this ecosystem.  And if you know me, you know that it is my absolute mission in life to see to it that ecosystems like this are born in every nook and cranny of this world, to provide access to every possible person. To provide real college and career readiness.

Where must we start?  Believe it or not, we need to start with mindset.  So many people, young and old, experienced and green, shy away from even dipping their toe in the water of entrepreneurship.  To most, entrepreneurship is a big, vast, hairy, often intimidating, and downright scary subject.  “I have this great idea, but I wouldn’t even know where to begin.”  I hear that often.  Finished before they even begin.  At BuildEd, this is our starting point.  To help people reach their potential, we must help them get past their fears.  We must demystify the entire subject.  We must make entrepreneurship clear and simple and actionable for everyone.

I am pleased to report that we are successfully doing this with people of all ages, including children as young as 7 years old.  We start with three basic, powerful principals: (1) everything is an exchange of value, (2) entrepreneurship is simply participating in this exchange by offering value to others, and (3) you only need to do three things to be an entrepreneur or to advance in a career.  Let me explain…

Everything is an exchange of value.

At the most fundamental level, everything that is going on around us is simply that-an exchange of value.  When I wake up in the morning, I exchange my dollars (currency value) for coffee (a product of value).  I head to the dry cleaners and exchange my dollars (currency value) for services (time and expertise value).  I recently traded ski equipment for a roof rack, trading two objects of value, also known as bartering.  Even when I make a donation to cancer research, it is an exchange of value.  In this case I have the dollars (value), but not the time or expertise (value) to make an impact in this space.  We are participating in this exchange of value all the time, and it is happening all around us countless times an hour.

Entrepreneurship is simply participating in this exchange of value, offering something of value to others.

That’s it!

Three (3) steps to create value.

BuildED developed the Value Launch Formula™, and it simply states you must (1) Identify Opportunity,(2) Create Value, and (3) Capture the Created Value.  It is truly as easy as 1, 2, 3 and it is the basis of our Value Launch Platform™, a comprehensive step-by-step method of launching a venture or becoming a value-adder within an organization (or most anywhere for that matter).  Let’s take a quick look at this.

  • Identify Opportunity. Sound vague?  Unclear?  Well hold on.  Identifying opportunity is simply finding an unsolved problem or and unmet need.  It is literally that simple.

  • Create Value. Okay this one is big but the simplicity remains.  It is solving the problem, or filling the need in a unique or superior way.

  • Capture the value. This just means you get the value you created to your customers (or beneficiaries if you are a non-profit or social enterprise) in a financially feasible way.  The great part about this one is that it is easy.  If you created something of value (solved a problem, filled a need) capturing the value will come easily.  Struggling here?  You need to go back to 1 and 2. 

True to our commitment, let’s not over complicate things.  Find a problem, solve it, and get it to your customers or beneficiaries.  Simple.  Powerful.  Accessible to everyone.

Hopefully the power and simplicity of how anyone can use the Value Launch Formula™ to start a successful venture is clear.  But what about if you are like most people, working for an organization?  How could this possibly apply there?  Humor me if you will.  Say for a moment you are a busboy or busgirl and you are paid to clear the tables and do only that.  You will not advance fast or far, if at all.  But if you take the time to identify opportunity (unsolved problems or unmet needs), you might see that some of the silverware needs to be straightened, and that certain areas of the restaurant need deep cleaning.  Maybe the baseboard trim could use a fresh coat of paint.  What if you then took matters into your own hands, took action, and solved those problems / filled those needs (created value)?  Is it reasonable to expect you might receive a raise, be promoted, or both?  Any reason you can’t apply these same steps, the Value Launch Formula™, again in your next higher position?  Any reason you cannot rise to the top, and run this restaurant?

This is a powerful formula.  Anyone can use this to transform careers and lives.  And my favorite part?  The reality that there are not prerequisites and there are not time constraints governing or slowing your advancement and success.  You don’t have to have a prestigious degree, or be the top of your class. It isn’t about tenure, or special job certifications. It is all about the value you bring, period. Value is the currency.  There are countless examples of people that added value and rose through the ranks, from the mailroom to the head of massive organizations.  From Helen Gurley Brown, who moved from secretary for an ad agency to become one of the nation’s highest paid copywriters of her time and the Editor in Chief for Cosmopolitan Magazine, to George Bodenheimer, who worked in the mail room for ESPN and strategically moved up to become the president of ESPN and head of ABC Sports.  It was value that made their climbs possible.  They simply added more value than anyone else could or did.

Whether you are starting a venture, landing a job, or advancing within one, it is VALUE that brings the progress or advancement.  If a venture will be successful, it will only be so because it delivered value.  If you are hired by an organization, it is because they believe you will add value.  If you advance in that organization or in your career, it is because it was believed you could add value, justifying each move up.  Value, Value, Value.

I wholeheartedly believe that we must train a generation of value adders. This comes down to a mindset, a set of skills and competencies, and resilience. This is entrepreneurship. We need to start this trained mindset early with our students. Doing so will not only help secure the future of our next generation, but it can empower student to help solve the world’s problems.