Saturday, June 30, 2012
Thomas Friedman says the world is getting flat. From 1492 to 1800 countries went global. From 1800 to 2000 companies went global. Now individuals are going global. What does that mean? We live in a networked world. More and more information is available for free. There are more and more opportunities for entrepreneurs--the people who can do things with ideas. Maybe an example will suffice. Let’s listen to Camden Brieden’s story.
“At age 15, I was intrigued by the stock market and the stories of entrepreneurial companies. When my father allowed me access to my college fund, I used the money to help me learn the basics of doing research and stock trading. Soon I experienced the adrenaline rush of making and losing money in a short amount of time.
“After making some lucky bets on Ebay and Starbucks, I was eager to learn more. I devoured book after book, learning everything I could about market indicators and how to evaluate a company within an industry. My infatuation for the market led to day trading and then to options trading.
“During my freshman year at Hope College, I became consumed by the market. The stress of trading began to affect my studies and I was unable to focus on pursuing my long-term goal of getting into medical school. I liquidated my portfolio and dreamed of investing in a local company with some of the proceeds. I wanted to find a company to invest in that would combine my passions for business and medicine.
“To pursue my dream, I began attending networking events. I met my first business partner, Phillip March, at a networking event sponsored by Lakeshore Advantage. At that time, Phillip was CEO and lead engineer of DO-Engineering, a medical device firm located in Zeeland. Phillip and I exchanged business cards and a few days later exchanged ideas.
“One of his ideas was a non-evasive DVT pump to help protect people from blood clots of the legs. Another idea was completely unrelated to medicine, yet also on the forefront of a technology-related trend. Phillip wanted to pursue alternative energy by building Michigan’s largest wood pellet plant. Because I had learned how to do research in my stock-trading days, I was able to perform the necessary due diligence. I learned that wood pellets can be used for heating residential homes and businesses, creating savings on heating bills of up to 50%. Wood pellets are made from the waste of managed forests and land clearings, and excess saw dust from lumber yards and saw mills.
“After obtaining a loan, we moved forward in selecting a location in Holland and procuring the necessary equipment. I was 19 years old when we started Michigan Wood Pellet Fuel, LLC. It took us 12 months to build Michigan’s largest wood pellet manufacturing facility, capable of producing over 70,000 tons of wood pellets annually. I was involved with managing the operations of the company, drafting financial projections, hiring employees, creating a sales team and marketing strategy, assisting certain building and contracting projects, and developing partnering strategies.
“In pursuit of our partnering strategy, I invited executives from a German company that was planning to build several wood pellet plants across the USA. They were very pleased with the quality of the plant and offered to purchase the entire company. I think I learned as much from selling the company as I did from starting and building one.
As more and more individuals get connected into a single global network, we have to adjust our thinking. Forget about attracting countries and companies. Think about attracting, educating, and retaining creative and collaborative individuals.