About the blogger: Brandon Banks (@brandonbanksbiz), a serial entrepreneur began his entrepreneurial adventure at a young age and currently travels to educate students on the possibility of seizing the day and moving toward their dreams of being their own boss. Together in collaboration with his network, Banks disrupts common traditional barriers and exposes that, through proper support, anyone can be an entrepreneur regardless of their age. Check out more of Banks’ blogs here: www.brandonbanksbiz.wordpress.com
Behind every successful entrepreneur are two things: a strong support system and a stronger story. This is the story of how working with support programs took a normal 15-year-old boy and turned him into a young successful entrepreneur.
Success can be measured in many ways to different people. Some credit success as money, status, growth, staffing, etc. No one is truer than the other for a measure of success. However, I consider myself successful but I will be the first to admit, my numbers for growth aren’t outlandish, revenues are nothing outstanding, and many other avenues along my entrepreneurial journey have been rather simple. My aim hasn’t been to grow a company to vast sales. My motive through entrepreneurship has been one single target, summed up in one word: impact. If I can make an impact on one person, one business, one program, or such, I consider myself a success. I am modest enough to understand and admit, that while I could focus on growth or money, I don’t. I value others over myself. So I suspend my energy to help others rather than grow my own ventures exponentially.
To begin, I was a 15-year-old, typical student, with what many people acknowledge as a sleeping fire inside me. I had no clue what I could be. I had a feeling one day I would do something great. I had no clue it would start to unfurl at the age I was. My story starts at the end of summer, 2009. I had been given a flyer about a summer camp program. I narrowed my picks and finally decided upon the Build-a-Business Camp, which is part of the Summers @ Mizzou program, sponsored by University of Missouri Extension 4-H. Undoubtedly, it was one of the best decisions I’ve made.
This camp is geared towards awakening the entrepreneur inside of youth hopefuls. They enter camp with little to no business experience, but they leave with a new world in front of them. The weeklong camp introduces youth to campus faculty, business advisors, and student and community entrepreneurs. It engages them in hands-on activities to develop their own idea and plan for a micro-business they can start at the age they are, and then teaches them how to pitch their idea to an audience. The camp prepared me to launch the first of my three current businesses, and was the educational background I have founded my entrepreneurial journey on.
As I stated earlier, my goal as an entrepreneur is nothing more than leaving a mark, making an impact on others. The Build-a-Business Camp coordinator, Steve Henness, with the 4-H Center for Youth Development office in Columbia, Missouri, has been essential in helping me fulfill that dream. Each summer, I return to the camp that gave me my start. Working with the camp training team gives me the opportunity to pass on my experiences, mentor youth hopefuls, and leave my mark each year on over a dozen elite students.
Shortly after the start of my first company, Spot Light Stars (a children’s theatrical production company), I was introduced to another opportunity: the MADE in Missouri statewide entrepreneurship competition. The competition allows entrepreneurs of any age a chance to present their idea at the Missouri State Fair and take home seed capital to further their venture. Though I have taken home “Youth Entrepreneur of the Year” two years in a row, and runner-up the year before, MADE gave me another larger contribution to my journey. Along the process, MADE Competition Coordinator, Cheryl Zimny, offered suggestions provided by the judges, including contacting the Small Business Technology and Development Center (SBTDC) in Warrensburg, another MU Extension program. Upon connecting with the center and my mentor, Lynette Watson, I was able to access resources and counseling to ultimately make my idea better.
Following connecting with the SBTDC office, I was invited to their office on the University of Central Missouri campus. Upon collaborating with the Director of the office, Darrell Brammer, I decided to attend school and eventually become a student worker with their office. This interaction with the SBTDC has helped me reach new people and resources, understand complicated situations in business, and have an opportunity to give back to other businesses.
In my opening, I began by telling what my motive in business is, to leave an impact. The reason I tell this is because, anyone can make money. With the right setup, anyone can succeed in business. It takes a specific alignment of people, ability, and support to create an impact. I believe, that my experiences and connections with the MU Extension Program – Build-A-Business Camp, the MADE Competition through the Missouri Valley Community Action Agency, the SBTDC, and others have put me in a proper position to help others. I own and operate three businesses. Each year I mentor and educate dozens of young minds on the opportunities in entrepreneurship (over a hundred in the last 5 years). I tour and speak to youth and adults on how to engage and further entrepreneurship, as well as attend many events each year to network with others I might be able to help in some respect. These programs have been essential in my success as an entrepreneur.
If one thing can be taken from my story, I hope it is this: go out, venture forth, and find your support, whether that is other entrepreneurs, the SBTDC near you, the MU Extension office, or other consultation firms. Build a support structure with many people and branches for you to rely on. These structures will help you become who you are meant to be. But remember to continue to add value to them as well, give back what you can, where you can, when you can.