Cheryl M. Pruce
On January 23rd, this year’s ConnectGens Fellows had a chance to hear from two young Jewish entrepreneurs; Jonathan Schilit, founder of Waveborn which donates glasses for every pair of sunglasses sold and Morgan Greenhouse, founder of VerdeHouse which barters deals with corporations to rent space for people such as artists and performers in an effort to bring the corporate and creative spheres into conversation with each other.
I appreciated that both Jonathan and Morgan were so open about their experiences. Morgan said that she decided not to attend architecture school in order to follow her venture which had become very successful in a short time. It reminded me that part of being an entrepreneur is grabbing opportunities and that there is value in sometimes reevaluating one’s life course.
Jonathan said his venture was based on the concept of conscious consumerism, which resonates with me. I like that he wasn’t just trying to make a buck, he was also trying to produce some good in the world. Jonathan also talked about understanding the market context and his journey of figuring out how to be unique within his market competition. I didn’t realize how many organizations donate something for every product sold. It’s cool that Jonathan wasn’t intimidated or scared off by his competition, but that actually encouraged him to find a way to stay competitive with the other companies out there in his field.
Both of the young entrepreneurs stressed the importance of establishing and maintaining meaningful relationships with people who a) have helped them along the way, b) are interning for them now, or c) are their business assistants or partners. It made me realize that being a successful entrepreneur isn’t just about having a great vision, it’s about getting people excited and on board with your vision so you can get them to help you along the way. As an entrepreneur you have to be endearing and likeable, especially if the help is coming in the form of volunteers.
Even though the night was super positive and upbeat, it wasn’t sugar-coated. Morgan let us know that in her case there have been a lot of ups and downs, peaks and valleys as she calls them. That was comforting to know because it helped manage my expectations that this journey requires assiduousness and determination that is sometimes easy to lose in the face of challenge or adversity. I’m happy that Morgan has received such positive responses from the community, which she said helps keep her motivated during the challenging times. Jonathan shared with us that Waveborn fluctuates in priority level for him, especially given that he is still in graduate school. That’s part of life, things are always changing priority level, and I appreciated that Jonathan was honest that he experiences this with his business venture.
Morgan and Jonathan had a lot of great tips for us, but they each had one point that particularly struck me. Morgan said “just get out there and do it” and Jonathan said “stay hungry.” I think we all felt inspired and motivated by the panel, and maybe one day we’ll be in their shoes. Basically they reminded us that it’s time to GO!