February 23, 2018
Twelve years ago, a sister and brother team of entrepreneurs asked a bold question: What if online shoppers could save money by saving the world? What if the time and money they spent shopping online could be used to support the charities and causes nearest and dearest to their own hearts? JJ Ramberg and her brother Ken decided to put the idea to the test. In 2005, they started GoodSearch.com, a search engine that donates 50 percent of revenue to causes of its users’ choosing.
Fast forward 12 years and their company, now called GoodShop, has facilitated more than $12 million donations to more than 114,000 non-profit organizations and schools. But this success did not come easy.
At the time, “Small Business was going under” Ramberg recalled while moderating a recent symposium hosted by HSN and the University of Tampa. Meanwhile there were few resources available to aspiring entrepreneurs.
Today, things are different. As the barriers to entry come down, it’s been estimated that more than half a million Americans start a new business every single month. One study found that 27 million Americans are starting or running new businesses.
“For the past 12 years I’ve gotten to see how so much has changed,” Ramberg, the host of MSNBC’s Your Business, told the dynamic cross-section of Floridian business and community leaders in attendance. “Over the past 12 years we’ve seen that entrepreneurs have become the rock stars. The thing that everyone wants to be.”
For four decades, HSN has helped entrepreneurs bring their products to life by giving them the platform to share their product and their story. Today more than ever, HSN believes in the powerful role small businesses play in building communities and local economies. It’s passionate about helping build the economy, one entrepreneur at a time.
To bring these efforts to the next level and cultivate a new generation of “rock star” entrepreneurs, HSN created the American Dreams Initiative. The idea is to tap into the joy and excitement of discovering new entrepreneurs, while collaborating with strategic partners to find, educate and train inventors as they bring their products to market.
As part of the initiative, HSN teamed with the University of Tampa to host an American Dreams Symposium focused on “Cultivating Small Business in the 21st Century.” Sponsored by Quirky, the event followed a similar conversation that HSN and the University held in Washington, D.C. this past November to coincide with National Entrepreneurs Month.
The attendees came from the private sector, non-profits, universities, government and business advocacy groups throughout Florida. They shared ideas and experiences while discussing some of the most significant challenges and achievable solutions for small businesses and entrepreneurs. They also had the opportunity to hear directly from HSN President Mike Fitzharris, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor and Todd Reid, a representative of U.S. Senator Marco Rubio. The participants included Randi Zuckerberg, the Founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media.
While there was broad consensus that the obstacles facing small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs are stark, there was also a general feeling that there are more resources available to aspiring entrepreneurs than ever before.
“The rebounding economy, low interest rates, less expensive technology and the state of regulation are all fair winds blowing in favor of new small-business owners,” writes NerdWallet’s Cindy Yang in Entrepreneur magazine. “In short, there’s never been a better time in America to go out on your own.”
“On a practical level, it’s easier to start a new business than it has been in the past,” Debi Keiman, the Executive Director of Babson College’s Arthus M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship told the Christian Science Monitor.
“I wish I had the resources that are available now in Tampa back in 2001 when I started my first company,” said a self-proclaimed “serial entrepreneur” in attendance.
Among the greatest resources available to would-be entrepreneurs is HSN’s American Dreams Academy, an interactive, educational and experiential two-day scholarship-supported summit for emerging entrepreneurs looking to launch or expand their businesses.
HSN and The University of Tampa’s John P. Lowth Entrepreneurship Center, Sykes College of Business are hosting these academies on a quarterly basis across the United States. They consist of two full days of instructional, informational and educational programming designed to help entrepreneurs understand important lessons in the areas of manufacturing, legal, quality assurance, branding, marketing, pitching/presenting concepts, and social media. To be eligible, applicants must have a product or business concept either in development or already established.
The most recent Academy was held in Tampa at the end of January 2018. Like the American Dreams Symposium, the academies are sponsored by Quirky, a free community-led invention platform that brings real people’s ideas to life.