If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It

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Recently I got the opportunity to attend an event called American Dreams Academy hosted by HSN at The University of Tampa’s John P. Lowth Entrepreneurship Center. It was an interactive, educational and hands-on two-day experience for emerging entrepreneurs. To my surprise, it ended with a full day of product presentations by entrepreneurs. They presented their ideas and products to a small panel of experts (from HSN, Quirky and Viatek) for future consideration on HSN. What an amazing opportunity! It’s HSN American Dreams.

Randi Zuckerberg, entrepreneur, investor, bestselling author, and founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media led an opening conversation for the event. If you follow the Zuckerberg family, you obviously know how inspiring and entrepreneurial they are. It was such an honor to be in the same room as her!

Some of the topics discussed included how can we all contribute to society and have a sense of authenticity. If you read many blogs or listen to podcasts, I’m sure you’ve noticed a trend regarding authenticity. It’s definitely a buzz word these days! Be yourself, essentially.

Takeaways from Randi’s talk

“If you can see her, you can be her.” That’s totally true! We usually tend to dream big, but are afraid of going after what we want. If it’s on your mind and you can picture it, I’m pretty sure you can accomplish it. Why not?

It will definitely take time and lots of effort, but as Randi says “I’m an overnight success 15 years in the making.”  I’ve been hearing this quite often. Someone may come “out of nowhere” and it may seem like it was easy, but in fact, they have had a long road.

Randi worked at Facebook for 10 years as their spokesperson. While working there she noticed the gap between men and women working in Silicon Valley. Randi desperately wanted change and decided to play the long way to increase women in tech. Therefore, she decided to leave Facebook and work on her own projects.

Many arise, including an opportunity with Bravo TV to produce an entrepreneur reality show. First episode was good and the rest not so good. Her advice: “a ripple of failures actually lead you where you need to be.” Just stick with it!

“I rather own 50% of something amazing than 100% of something terrible,” one of my favorite quotes from her.

Fun Fact about Randi

She’s the creator of  Facebook Live! It all happened during one of Facebook’s “Hackathon.” This is where everybody would pull an all nighter. The rule was no one was allowed to work on anything besides their passion. Isn’t this interesting? She mentioned most of the features on Facebook right now came from those “hackathons” and this is where Facebook Live came to life. Who knew!

Entrepreneur Tips by Randi

  • Make friends
  • Ask questions
  • Form partnerships
  • Every entrepreneur should have an advisory board
  • Learn how to say no

I also had the opportunity to interview Debbie Saviano (to the right), co-founder of Women’s Leadership LIVE. It’s a community equipping women to become leaders in their respective industries and overcome challenges.

1. Which challenges do women phase when they are embarking on an entrepreneurial path?

As entrepreneurs they need management help and capital.

2. Which age group does the agency serve?

We don’t have a specific age group, but I will say right now it’s between 25-65.

3. What are the benefits of joining the Women’s Leadership LIVE community?

We help women who are struggling to start or develop an idea. Many don’t know where to start or the resources out there. We help and guide them throughout their entrepreneurial path.

4. Is there a specific industry many women are gearing towards?

Not necessarily. Women tend to go where they have a personal need.

My favorite takeaway

Millennials don’t necessarily take the traditional route. They don’t look at things the same way. You decide what to do when you want to do it. YES!

In addition, I chatted with Gina Waldhorn, president of Quirky. A company that helps inventors bring their ideas to life through collaboration.

1. How is Quirky redefining/embracing a collaboration environment?

Inventing is really hard. It requires a selective skill set. For example: sketching, product development, distribution and marketing. It’s hard to be good at everything. Therefore, it shouldn’t stop you. We want to simplify it and to make invention accessible.

Quirky is geared to inventors who don’t want to be entrepreneurs.

2. Besides items being sold on Quirky, which stores can we find these products?

Target, Best Buy and Ace Hardware

3. How did HSN come to the picture?

We were big fans of HSN’s American Dreams Academy. HSN’s VP Business Development Dara Trujillo, reached out to us and we naturally accepted to be a part of it. It’s a great fit.

4. How many staff members are apart of Quirky?

20 members

5. How has been the transition in your career? From working with big companies, starting your own venture and now being the president of this collaborative platform?

It has been a smooth transition. It taught me that starting your own company is starting from the ground level up. Starting with a company that is bankrupt is below sea level.

Hope you found value from these amazing individuals. Feel free to expand on the topic and ask any questions below!

The interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.