Save The World Or Make Money?

Save The World Or Make Money?

A wise friend of mine asked me a question last month: do you want to save the world or do you want to make money? My initial reaction was, both! But, I took some time to ponder this question, and I realized that I want and need to make money. We have two sons in college, so money is important.

There is a new type of corporation in 11 states (not my state yet) called a B Corp, or Benefits Corporation, that was created for entrepreneurs that want to use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems (see the Certified B Corp website). So, maybe soon there will be a way for me to set up the company to both make money and change the world.

Every entrepreneur needs to have a vision and here is my vision: I want to create an outrageously successful company, one that is as cool as Google, one that every kid getting out of school wants to work for. I want cool meeting spaces and a foozball table and a meditation room. And, I envision a diverse team of really smart people who can continually help to evolve the way students learn. To make this vision come true, I had better focus on making money.

That said, making money cannot be my only driver. If you are going to be successful as an entrepreneur, you need to solve a problem. As my friend and advisor, Bruce, always tells me, “create a painkiller, not an aspirin.” You need to solve a real problem, and do it in a way that is authentic, and is differentiated from all the other organizations that are trying to solve this problem. Keep in mind, if you are solving a real problem, there are a lot of other smart people trying to solve that problem. So, cut through the clutter and make sure you are unique and provide value.

This Girl Is On Fire

I love Alicia Keyes! She is smart, beautiful and passionate. Her song, Girl on Fire, is my mantra.

To be a successful entrepreneur, you need to be on fire! You need passion. It is the only thing that will sustain you during those many weeks and months ahead of you as you conceive, launch, build and grow your business.

Being on fire, to me, is one part emotion and one part energy. A few years ago, an executive coach told me, “you are too emotional”. I thought long and hard about that comment, and ultimately disagreed wholeheartedly (no pun intended). When it comes to being Dilbert, maybe emotion is a bad thing. But, when it comes to being an entrepreneur, you need emotion to fuel the fire. Steve Jobs expressed it beautifully in his 2005 Stanford Commencement Address (full transcript in the Huffington Post):

“You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”

The other key ingredient in entrepreneurial fire is energy. I learned long ago, while moderating hundreds of focus groups and strategy sessions, that energy can light up a room and infuse a conversation. If you channel your energy productively, and consciously, you can literally make things happen. More on that later…

I Have A Dream

What an appropriate day, on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday, 50 years after his famous speech, to begin this blog. I too have a dream…that all of the children in this country, no matter the color of their skin or the neighborhood they live in, have the opportunity to shape, as Dr. King would say, “the content of their characters” by completing college.

So begins my journey to create the company that will help schools transform traditional courses into engaged, individualized and collaborative 21st Century learning.

I am Carrie O’Donnell, an ed tech entrepreneur with a unique perspective, having spent 20 years running a business that helps education companies design, develop and launch new brands and products. In those years, I learned a lot about what to do, and what not to do, lessons that I am planning to explore as we launch this new venture.