Thursday, May 28, 2009

one thing that never goes out of business

I’m writing from the dark place.

The dark place happens when deadlines are looming and weekends fill up with errands and the trash needs to be taken out but there is very little time to do so and there seems to be so much more ahead of what one really wants to do – fun things like catching a good summer blockbuster movie, or scouting out cheap tickets to a summer concert, reading a good book, visiting with friends or letting a mind turn to mush in front of pointless television.

The dark place happens when problem solving takes the front seat and innovation takes the back.

In matters of business, if economic pressures of a changing socio-economic climate is the dark place – it is, as a matter of fact – that innovation that is the light to help us find our way out of the tunnel.

I have a thing for entrepreneurs. Maybe it's just the fancy title or the fact that they have their own magazine. But then, writers and musicians and sock puppets have their own magazine, so come to think of it...that's probably not it. I have a thing for entrepreneurs. Because it seems like such a rush to, one afternoon, be sitting in a leather arm chair somewhere, pondering one's business, one's direction, possibly a glass of scotch in hand and the next day – putting that plan into action. Developing that idea into a bona fide business, scouting out space and strategies, turning one simple idea into the next big thing.

There are probably plenty of ways to describe an entrepreneur, but that seasoned figure, sitting in a leather arm chair…mind as electric as a lightning storm…that's how I romanticize them. I could romanticize a turkey sandwich, but still... I have a thing for entrepreneurs.

When I first thought up a series focusing on some of the area’s own savvy business minds, I thought the least I could get out of it was a handy mini-slate of stories. At the very least, maybe a better idea of whether or not all the talk about the nation’s innovators would have a strong impact generating new business throughout the country, thereby aiding in a rebound of the economy, carries any weight.

What I got, however, was one of the most inspiring projects I have had a chance to work on yet.

Some businesses may be faltering. Car sales are down and home sales are down and they trickle down to the machine shops and the real estate firms and before you know it you’re muttering to yourself as you head home, thick in the dark place, that you’re lucky to have a job.

But one business that will never suffer – one commodity that will always be in demand – are ideas. Good ideas. Brilliant, creative, innovative ideas.

Walking into Veni’s Sweet Shop to pick up a few delicious treats at the end of a hard day, driving past Tem-Pace’s facility in the heart of Niles’ industrial area on Terminal Road, peeking at the products being thought up over at G&H Machine Group – and as you’ll hear Monday, learning about how the guys at Thesis in Three Oaks are taking other people’s ideas and giving them tangible identity to make them visible to their target markets, may all sound like business as usual. But it is not.

Each has, standing behind the curtain, an innovator whose passion is evident in every aspect of their business. Each is a brain child of an idea that was thought up in living rooms, libraries, offices or during a break from work when a little stress needed relieving.

Through the cultivation of these ideas, businesses are created, a need is provided for and sometimes – just sometimes – our world is changed by the products and services these entrepreneurs put their blood, sweat, tears and dollars into creating. Without such innovators – we might not have an automobile industry just waiting for us to re-imagine it. We might have an industry of news just waiting for a creative new way of getting to people. We might not have television or movies to lose ourselves in. We might not have that designer handbag that we covet or our favorite pair of tennis shoes – or Starbucks.

I have a thing for entrepreneurs because they are risk takers. Savvy in their industries and tireless workers. Their passions are their business. And it shows. It shows in a unique quality. In a desire to constantly make their businesses better. Be it through finding stronger methods of human resources, finding good financial advice to weather a tough economy, developing a diversity or even just hanging on to a faith that keeps them going when they fear they’ve put everything they have into something that the masses just need to be exposed to.

Their businesses are true reflections of themselves.

Each month, Entrepreneur Magazine highlights businesses such as these. They offer up advice on everything from venture capitalists to building a better website. I read up their articles like candy.

Because they’re all based in ideas.

No matter what your passion is – whether it is what you do every day – or just what you long to do…there is something to be learned from these brave businessmen and women who are one by one, storefront by storefront, office space by office space and endeavor by delicious endeavor – changing our world.

Instead of focusing on what is not working – on what the masses no longer seem to be drawn to – innovators focus, rather, on what might entice. And they go after those ideas with reckless abandon.

It is a warm thought. A light in the dark place. That dream business you always wanted to start, the nonprofit organization you always wanted to put your time into, the product you always thought would look good on a shelf in a store somewhere – now is the time to pull out the drawing pad, even as the sun sinks below the horizon and the day’s hours grow long – and just start sketching it out a little bit. The idea of an entrepreneur, for some, for me anyway, has always emitted a “lone ranger” quality. Those seasoned men and women work tirelessly and furiously on their own to turn their vision into tangible reality.

But that’s not true. Ideas breathe in the like-mindosphere I’ve mentioned a time or two before.

Take the chance and begin throwing them out there – and you might just find a talented resource in the form of a counterpart, or a colleague or a supportive spouse. Each of them a face you’ll see when you look back at the forefront of your dream. Be sure to read about the guys at Thesis ( on Monday and check out the next time you’re in the mood for a little inspiration.

Better yet – tempt your sweet tooth at Veni’s, indulge in the art of glass at Tem-Pace’s Carapace, take a second look at or step inside any of the unique businesses right here, right outside your door.

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