Thursday, March 5, 2009

Late Stage MBA-Josh Moritz-Babson Boot Strap Panel

Gee Wiz, another diversion from the application process.

One of the great things about Babson is that their secret sauce is teaching people how to start businesses and to teach and encourage people to network. Babson will supply all the coffee you need to keep going. You want to have dinner or lunch with someone in the Babson community and all you have to do is flash your student or alumni ID and bingo you have lunch.

If your were a shy person going into the program, you learn how to talk to walls by the time you leave.

In the undergraduate community, there is almost a requirement for teams to put together proposals, get money from the school and start small businesses. It's the Obama Stimulous package on steriods.

With my classmate and fellow entrepreneur Mary Sandro (Babson Fast Track Section 2, October 2008) owner of a ProEdge Skills, we put together a panal on how to start your business with boot strap financing. Tish Costillo and Dan Marques of the Babson Blank Center ( hosted the event. Panelists included my wife, Jane Moritz, owner of the, Karen Couto, owner of http://www.newgroundpublications/, Steve Lehman, owner of, Mary, At the last minute I was recruited as the moderator (my website:

The Blank Center is one of the many nexus of entrepreneurship development at Babson. Headed up by Patricia Costello, the Center's mission (from the website) is to "lead the global advancement of entrepreneurship education and practice through the development of teaching, research, and outreach initiatives that inspire entrepreneurial thinking and cultivate entrepreneurial leadership in all organizations and society."

To me it is like opening up a pint of Jerry Garcia Ice Cream from Ben and Jerry's. Delicious, innovative, forthcoming, friendly and extra-ordinary helpful--which I know is hard to say about Ice Cream. Including Ms. Costello and Dan Marques, I have been networking like a fiend with various Blank Center people as a means to build my contact list for new assignments and new business opportunities. I soon realized the plying various people with cookies from my wife's business wasn't enough and that volunteering my time was probably the best avenue to say thank you and get in the kitchen to meet even more people.

I learned this lesson during some volunteer work I was doing in the early 1980's. What I found was that literally working in the kitchen prepping food and cleaning up was a great way to network with people of similar concerns and bearing. While then it was more to build a network of friends, applying this concept to business seemed natural, only it took me another 20 years to figure it out.

Thus I volunteered to do this panel, recruited Mary to help out, convinced Jane my wife to be the first panelist and voila we are rocking along.

The purpose of the panel was to demonstrate how entrepreneurs start businesses without any outside venture money, face credit short-falls, credit cut-offs and dip into savings and retirment accounts to start and maintain businesses. Many of the start-up stories were downright funny, but the critical lesson was that you always have to find a way to keep your credit rating great by paying all your bills on-time, even if you have to pay the minimums due. Negotiate with vendors when shot with cash, but pay everyone something every month.

We were not talking about just the credit cards, but all bills.

We all had great stories to tell about using retirement accouts, savings and credit cards and friends and family to help get the business rolling. We all faced the moments of dread when we had to pay bills (kiting from one credit card to another was a popular example) and the need to apply for credit when the going is good. When the going is bad there is no way to get credit.

One of the best stories was the time one of the panelists used a 401K to start a business without realizing that you can't just take the money our of a retirement account out forever without penality. The panelist recalled that they were single when they did this. By the time the IRS caught up with the mistake, they were now married -- it took about 18 months. As you know the IRS does not look kindly on these mistakes and assesed a pretty hefty penalty on what was now a couple not a single person. Talk about a marriage tax penalty!

The moral of the story: timing is everything. To secretly share your start-up costs with a significant other, do it during the dating phase but don't admit to it until you are contractually committed to each other and the IRS notice comes due.

To the point about networking, the students attending the panel had preprinted business cards to hand out. I never had a business card as a student -- to the Babson folks it is their badge. Two undergradates flashing these badges: Evan Morkawa and Marco Morales who started a company called Alight Learning ( and are taking a 1 year sabatical from the Olin College Engineering school --which my classmate Kam He says is like MIT only better. Whipping out business cards faster than muggers with handguns on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the mid-1980s, these two guys were on the hunt for information from marketing to money.

Fast Tracker classmates in attendence included Kam, who arrived from China about 20 years ago with two suitcases and was now flashing a card promoting himself as a venture capitalist --last month I thought he was a software engineer. Ilaya Ilyin from Russia who commented on the fact that things were a bit more liberal in the USA than Russia when it comes to finance, Mary of course, and Sal who is in a class ahead. Sal is actually bidding on using incubator space at The Blank Center to start a business while he is in school and working. But more on that in another Blog posting.

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