Category Archives: philanthropist

THE SAY/DO RATIO

Jack 2by John Jonelis

You lose him. Jack Heyden was your father, your brother, maybe your son. A deep, intimate relationship. You know his profession—not the details, just what he did for a living. Normal so far. Then things start to turn.

His business colleagues invite the family here, and you all come, nerves raw from the shock that death brings. You arrive early, numb from the flurry of duties, people, and rituals that clutter such times and obediently take your seats in front, gazing about the room.

You have no idea what to expect.

 

A Place for Ideas

One thing’s certain—this doesn’t look like a place of business. The walls burst out with a massive and eclectic assortment of memorabilia. It’s visually overwhelming and you need just one place to anchor for the first time in days.

Perhaps you select a photograph, a poster, a toy on on a shelf, and focus on that. It makes you think. You wonder why Jack always spent his Saturday mornings here when the family wanted him at home.

20160726-Joe Levy - Flintmobile 500

The Flintmobile

The atmosphere is the genius of Joe Levy, one of Chicago’s prolific entrepreneurs and philanthropists, who started this group about 60 years ago. The assortment of unique items stretches from Joe’s early days—before they started naming streets and buildings after him. Business people meet in this hodgepodge every week, air opinions, ideas, and stimulate thought, and much of the collection speaks directly about luminaries in this group.

Joe Levy by Natan Mandell

Joe Levy

Before you fully collect yourself, over 30 professionals take seats facing you. This is the Levy Group, that boasts some of the most brilliant business thinkers in Chicago. Jack Heyden was their leader. Today, they’re here for Jack and for you. Unusual, right?

QUESTION: Is the way you conduct business meaningful to those left behind?

 

Who is Jack?

The moderator calls the meeting to order: “We lost a friend this week. Jack led this group for 20 years.” Many in the group sigh and nod and he turns to the family. “And maybe you didn’t know what’s special about this room that kept him coming back.”

The moderator singles out Jack’s son. “Why don’t you introduce the family? And then we’ll have Jack’s Saturday morning family introduce him to you.”

 

The Son

Your dad invited you to these meetings, so you’re the one member of the family with an understanding of what this means. Everyone in the room is with you in spirit as you halt for a painful moment, then begin to talk: “It’s easier to speak at a funeral than in front of you guys,” you say, choking back emotions. “He loved this so much.”

Then you indicate your family: “I’m looking forward to hearing afterwards what they thought this was really going to look like.” Everybody quietly laughs.

“Normally you guys start with introductions and an elevator pitch. Dad would always say, ‘I’m Jack Heyden and I help leaders win,’ and today, my best elevator pitch is—‘I’m just the son of Jack Heyden.’”

 

The Group

After the applause, the moderator calls on individuals via some hidden, efficient system, and they testify about Jack one by one:

  • “When I first came to this group, I looked around at these eclectic surroundings and said to myself, ‘Okay, there’s gonna be a lotta character in this group.’ One thing was magnetic—one of the big differentiators—it was Jack. He’s very to-the-point and structured and it was always very productively efficient, always in a good vein and in a good way. How impressed I was! That made me want to come back and give back. As you grow older there are two sets of people you meet at a very high level. Those that you admire for whatever reason, be it charm, achievement, financial success. But there are very few people you want to model. There’s something about this person—what they do, how they interact—I want to deconstruct it and figure out how I can absorb it into what I do, how I interact with people. Jack is one of the people about whom I’ve said, ‘I want to model this guy.’”
  • “In life, you meet a lot of people. When they say things, you think, ‘…Uh huh.’ But when Jack said it you really understood what he meant, then he showed you how to do it.”
  • “He always talked about the ‘Say/Do Ratio.’ Successful people have an incredible Say-Do Ratio. Don’t say things to your family, to your co-workers and clients and not follow through. If you say something, do it.”
  • “Whoever he was with, he gave 100% of his attention.”
  • “The first thing when I came to any meeting, he’d give me this big giant smile, whether it was last week or six months since I’d been here.”
  • “At an event, Jack asked me to introduce some of my friends because he wasn’t sure he’d know anyone. I figured, okay, he’s done so much for me and he’s bound to know someone. Pretty soon there’s a gathering at our table. It appears that Jack was the hub of a wheel—and some of the spokes didn’t know each other. So Jack spent the evening introducing me to all the spokes I didn’t know.”
  • “When I started coming, it was a low time in my business life. I’d say, ‘I’m a member of the CIO—‘Everybody I see I owe.’ And Jack was so welcoming. ‘I’m so happy to meet you. I’m so glad you’re here,’ and I’m looking over my shoulder like, ‘You’re talking to me?’”
  • “I grew up with giants in my industry. Since I’ve left, I’ve met a few people I consider giants. Jack was that leader. We all looked up to him.”
  • “Like all first companies, mine was a struggle. Jack said he’d come to my office and talk. He wound up interviewing all seven of my employees. He came back with this big document that showed, here’s the guy that does this and the gal that does that and here’s what needs to happen. He was spot-on. When he came to me for help on technology, we had that going. So we had a relationship.”
  • “When he put on his mentor’s hat, he’d say, ‘You got 10 minutes. Tell me why I should spend more time with you.’ He was trying to draw you out.”
  • “When I joined this group, I had a lot of patents. I mentioned to Jack that the odds of a little guy commercializing a patent are about 3%. Jack said, ‘Don’t think about the obstacles.’”
  • “I looked very hard for a word that encompasses what Jack was. The word I found is “Olympian.’ Jack was above the crowd. A wonderful thinker. Very important to me as I consulted with him many times. I can’t say enough about him. To me, he’s a towering presence.”
  • “I asked him to have breakfast and talk over a problem I had. His advice was really outside the box. I had not realized the wealth of experience he had—what you had to do next and how to deal with that—and I said, “Wow, this is good, Jack!”
  • “I’m very fortunate in my life to have great mentors at a very high level. Jack was of that calibre.”
  • “In a few days it will be the second anniversary of my wife’s sudden death. Jack sat in the back yard with me talking with me about the tree house, his problem with the landscapers, and he took me to a level of understanding that life goes on.”
  • “A man who was very giving. He helped people understand what they were and what they could do. Gregarious people can give cheer, but they don’t have that depth. And it’s that depth of character we all really embrace.”
  • “I had a great affection for Jack. I feel honored to be here.”
  • “I wanna make a difference. I think that’s what Jack looked forward to every day.”

The moderator stands to close the meeting. “We’re hearing stories about how giving and how public and how embracing he was. One of the things I found remarkable about Jack—he would not let us know how sick he really was.

It wasn’t an issue. He was gonna be here. He was here 4 weeks ago—strong, present. He was a very sick man at this particular point but he did not let it be known. Being for the other person is very, very powerful. And that’s what this group’s all about—giving and sharing.”

QUESTION: Is the way you treat people meaningful to those left behind?

 

 

Graphics courtesy Joe Levy, Nathan Mandell, and the Jack Heyden family.

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2016 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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Filed under Big Corporations, Characters, chicago, Chicago Ventures, Consulting, Education, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Mastermind Group, new companies, philanthropist, philanthropy, Social Entrepreneur

THE HIDDEN DANGER IN YOUR DATA

Howard Tullman B&Wby Howard Tullman

From the Journal of the Heartland Angels

Today, entrepreneurs have tools and technologies to collect, monitor, and document more data than ever before. You’re likely swimming in data, since customers leave a trail of it everywhere to be captured and analyzed in real time. As I’ve often said, in business, what gets measured (and acknowledged and rewarded) is what gets done. I haven’t changed my belief about that, but I have come to see that we are putting too much emphasis strictly on the numbers. Numbers don’t lie, but they never tell the whole story. They can only take you so far before they top out and you need something qualitative and experiential to get to the right conclusions.

Pie Chart Hesitation

Peter Drucker’s dictum “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” has created a whole generation of leaders so focused on perfecting their company’s processes that they lose sight of the company’s purpose. I hear managers all the time talking about the need to get more work out of their people when they should be trying to get the best work out of them. Optimizing (not maximizing) the team’s output is what matters most to the ultimate success of a business. Working smarter and more effectively—not necessarily longer or harder—is how you ultimately move ahead of the competition.

You need to be exceedingly careful these days that you don’t let the ease of access and the ubiquity of massive amounts of quantitative performance data cause you to over-emphasize the math and measurements—and thereby lose sight of the far more important qualitative attributes of what’s going on. Not everything is easy to measure or quantify, but that doesn’t make these things less important; it just makes your job as manager tougher. But when you get so wrapped up in the measurement process that it becomes the goal itself, it loses its effectiveness. It’s easy to confuse movement with progress, but not all motion is forward. And lots of activities that run up the numbers aren’t remotely productive. Measuring is easy; measuring better is tough.

When you let the numbers drive the train, you give up two important advantages that are critical to your success. First, the goal isn’t to be the thermometer; it’s to be the thermostat. It’s not about measuring the heat; it’s about generating and controlling the heat. You don’t want the analytics to lead you; they’re a useful benchmark and a guide for course corrections, but it’s your job to set the direction and move the business forward. Second, when you get so focused on specific and concrete financial results (sales targets, growth rates, etc.) and you direct all your team’s energies toward getting as close to achieving those numbers as possible, you actually limit your ultimate upside because you lose the ability to think and see beyond those immediate goals. When a game-changing opportunity arises or a quantum shift occurs in your sales prospects, your team will likely be so heads-down chasing those numbers that someone else will come along and grab the new brass ring.

Black Hole of Data

Here are three principles that have helped me resist the temptation to get too caught up in the numbers—and focus on what truly matters at my company:

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Elaboration is a form of pollution

Tell your team to keep it simple. No one gets paid by the page, and shorter is almost always better. I’ve found that when people expand and extend their plans, proposals, and presentations, there’s a high degree of likelihood that they’re concerned about the value of their pitch, so they try to bury it in a boatload of facts, figures, charts, citations, and everything else that just hides the hard truth. It’s better for everyone when your people put things right out there—front and center—and take their medicine if that’s what’s called for. If you torture the numbers long enough, they’ll say whatever you like, but that’s not any way to get to the truth or the right result.

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Not everything is worth doing well

Tell your team that everyone’s always on the clock. There’s an opportunity cost associated with everything you do, so choosing what not to do (and how extensively to do the things you need to do) is critical in any startup which has scarce resources and time. Some things just don’t warrant the full-court press, and it’s important to make sure that everyone knows that that’s okay with you. Other things shouldn’t be done at all, and you should never try to do things cheaply that just aren’t worth doing. It’s never easy to turn people down or say, “No,” to marginal choices, but it’s part of the job.

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No one’s ever measured how much the heart can hold

Ultimately, the value of the critical connections your people make every day with your clients and customers can only be roughly approximated by even the best math. But it’s those daily personal and emotional interactions with your empowered employees that build crucial engagement as well as the lifetime value of those buyers for your business. You need to give your team permission to do what’s best for the customer in the moment that the opportunity arises. If they need to consult a rule book or have a calculator handy to do the math, they’ll lose the value of the moment every time. The best businesses don’t worry about the number or sheer volume of moments–they work to make each moment matter.

Ω

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Howard Tullman is a philosopher, investor, and Chicago entrepreneur.   For more from Howard, go to

http://tullman.blogspot.com

www.1871.com/

Read his bio: http://tullman.com/resume.asp

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This article appeared in the following publicatons:

News From Heartland  http://news.HeartlandAngels.com

INC Magazine  http://www.inc.com/

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Graphics: Getty Images, MS Office, H Tullman

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2015 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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ARISE 2.0

DSC_5954by Loop Lonagan

Whadaya think happens when 15,000 people get behind the entrepreneurs in their own neighborhood?  Good things—that’s what happens!  Energy.  Enthusiasm.  Stuff gets done!  Lemme tell you about it:

This is Loop Lonagan reporting and tonight I’m watchin’ a guy pitch his new venture like a Gospel Preacher workin’ up a frenzy on da pulpit!  I hear his bold words.  This guy believes in hisself—and why not—he’s growing a thriving business!  This is the Arise 2.0 accelerator and it’ll change our city fer the good.

(Hey, this thing gets my Irish up.  So ‘scuse me if I don’t sound smooth.)

Arise 2.0 gives Chicago a whole new slant on business.  They ain’t here to make a few people rich.  No, they build up local business so they can build up da local community.  Business is just a means to an end.  The goal is healthy neighborhoods, jobs, prosperity all around.  That’s the real end game here

DSC_6011

Arise already put together all the stuff of success plus a big kicker:  They got Investment—half a million in seed money.  They got the University o’ Chicago.  They got Tony Wilkins from Hyde Park Angels.  They got 1871—a great space to birth an accelerator.  They got a Ten-Year Action Plan that’ll pump out four new companies every year.  Yeah, they got all o’ that.  The kicker is da power of 15,000 people from the Salem Baptist Church because Rev. James T. Meeks figured out this great way to help his community.

You wanna bet against them odds?  I’m here to take yer money if yer patsy enough to try.  We’re talkin’ Free Enterprise nurtured by Da Church.  There’s a whole lotta motivation and commitment here.  This model could spread across the map!

 

Mentorship

Tony Wilkins runs the Arise 2.0 Accelerator.  I know Tony.  He’s smart.  I figure him for the brains o’ the operation.  Tonight he gives us a story about how to drive success.  Lemme say this slow so I get it right.  Here it is in his own words:     

DSC_5913I’m on my 537th business flight.  Southwest Airlines.  Isle seat.  A gentleman comes in last and squeezes into window seat beside me.  He looks jittery and nervous.  I ask him, “Are you okay?”

“Sorry sir.  This is my first time on a plane, I’m a little nervous.”

“It’s okay,” I say.  “It’s fine, don’t worry about it.”

The plane goes up.  But half way through the flight, he’s having problems.  He’s sweating.  He’s fidgeting.  I say, “Hey, the hard part’s over.  We’re in good shape.  The pilot wants to land just as much as we do.” 

“I understand, but I had something to eat last night and I have to apologize to you in advance, ‘cause this is not gonna work out well.”

DSC_5914So in my best mentorship mode I say, “You know…there’s a bathroom on the plane.” 

“PRAISE THE LORD!  WHICH WAY IS IT?”

 So mentorship worked out for him.  And it worked out for me.

If people knew better, they’d do better—like my travel companion on Southwest.  Everybody’s had somebody in their life who’s made a comment, performed an action, did something that made them say, “I can do that!”  So just presenting them with that information is often the most powerful thing in the world.

And they’ll become mentors to successive companies.

DSC_5915Accelerators across the country do the exact same thing.  We bring in mentors who, because they once had mentors, come and say, “I’ll spend an hour and a half.  I’ll spend an evening.  I’ll sit and talk to these companies.”  And many stick with them. It gives folks a higher perspective. 

Tony also passes on the knowledge to run a business:  How to hire and fire.  Marketing.  Funding.  Legal.  Operations.  Pitch practice.   “But,” he says, “the most important thing is mentors because that means contacts and business relationships and exposure to risk capital so these businesses can expand, become sustainable and scale.  If you remove barriers to mentorship and capital, good things happen.  We don’t know exactly what’s gonna happen—we’re just gonna have good things happen.” .

 

Church Business

I figure all o’ youse is wondering about the same thing.  The Church and business working together?  DSC_6147“Absolutely!” says Jamell Meeks, the pastor’s wife who oversees this bold initiative.  “The Bible says where your treasure is your heart will be.   So you can know a person’s heart by where they put their treasure.”  I gotta read that book fer myself.  Father Lonagan always said to leave it to da professionals, but I dunno.  Maybe I sound ignorant once in a while.  But I hate to actually be ignorant.

DSC_6133David Storch from AAR CORP is backing Arise with piles o’ da green stuff.  “It’s the entrepreneurs that make things happen,” he says. “They’re the lifeblood of the community.  Politicians talk about buzzwords like education.  But it’s really hard to talk about that when you don’t have food on the table or a roof over your head. But if you touch more people, you will build more successful businesses, which will create jobs, stimulate the economy, allow for education, which creates equality, creates opportunity, which we desperately need as a city, as a nation.

Steve Rogers from da Harvard School o’ Business once said, “The transformation of a community really begins with people within the community becoming great entrepreneurs.”

After that great quote, Pastor Miles Dennis of Second Baptist says, DSC_5995“We’ve almost forgotten—forgotten that entrepreneurship is the great transforming agent to turn around our communities.  They will change lives and yes, they will employ many people.  They will help others to become entrepreneurs.  The entrepreneurial spirit is alive!” .

 

Da Companies

Da competition fer each spot is super fierce.  A thousand companies wanted in but they whittled it down to these four.  These is Chicago-style companies—small outfits with allota upside and da gumption to grow.  Lemme tell you a little about ‘em:

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DSC_5939THE FROCK SHOP—Chicago’s Designer Rental Service

Jennifer Burrell Jen@frockshopchicago.com

Visit their website [click here]

How come us guys can rent tuxedos but da women gotta buy them fancy dresses?  And after a gal spreads her photo all over Facebook, she won’t wear that dress again.  But there’s something about da confidence beautiful designer dresses give women. Gals used to buy an outfit, hide da tag then return it after an event.  But nowadays the department stores is wise.  So Frock Shop’s got the rental business figured out and they’re thriving.  They’re gonna use online sales to scale fast.  Jennifer says, “Visit the Frock Shop where you can borrow the dress and keep the memory.” .

 

DSC_5983RS INDEPENDENT HOME HEALTH CARE

Ted & Reena Williams rena.williams@rsihhc.com

Visit their website [click here]

89% of seniors prefer to stay home and age gracefully.  30% need some kinda help.  This company goes into the home, cooks meals, gives meds, does laundry and housekeeping, takes ‘em to the doctor, and acts as companions—a whole lot more service than the usual rent-a-nurse.  And that means you can spend quality time with yer parents during those last years. They already got a contract with the veteran’s administration and they partnered with the Cancer Foundation.  This one’s creating jobs. .

 

DSC_6008

MA’S BEST

Brian Smith  brianearl2001@yahoo.com

This is a traditional baking operation, but when this guy describes eating his dinner rolls, it makes yer mouth water.  They already sell at 18 Chicago outlets.  Competitive advantages:  Better product.  No middleman.  Direct from oven to the store. Their direct competitors each do $137M a year and Ma’s Best outsells them 2:1 wherever they get shelf space.  Industry as a whole is $115B.  As Brian puts it, “That’s a lot of bread.” .

 

 

DSC_6084bSWISH DREAMS

Kenya Mercer  kdrew@swishdreams.org

Visit their website [click here]

Kids do lousy in school ‘cause they’re bored.  Kenya says, “Let’s give our kids the core academic values and let them have fun doing what they love—all at the same time.”  So they teach literacy, leadership, and physical fitness as one program.  And they get double-digit gains in literacy, fitness, and leadership on da assessment tests.  This one plans to expand nationwide. .

 

 

Salem Baptist Church LogoSALEM BAPTIST CHURCH

Pastor James T Meeks  info@sbcoc.org

……………………………………………..Visit their website [click here]

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DSC_5921ARISE 2.0

Tony Wilkins  tonywilkins76@gmail.com

Visit their website [click here]

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The accelerator strategy has three distinct components:

  • Remove barriers to mentorship.
  • Give broader perspective, contacts, and knowledge.
  • Structure risk capital to expand.

Check ‘em out.  Maybe be a mentor.  Maybe an investor.  But don’t sit on yer hands—da future’ll pass you by. .

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Loop Lonagan’s articles are verbatim as told to John Jonelis

Photography by John Jonelis

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money. .Copyright © 2014 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved . .

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Filed under 1871, angel, angel capital, angel investor, big money, chicago, Chicago Ventures, Education, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship and Politics, Hyde Park Angels, philanthropist, philanthropy, The City, University of Chicago, vc, venture capital

TOUGH LOVE

Sandee 15TTechbash – Part 5

John Jonelis

This is a story about raw love. Tough.  Rugged.  Unashamed.

I’m at i.c.stars—the premier social incubator in Chicago—and I find myself a bit overwhelmed by it all. I stop in to thank Sandee Kastrul, their President and Co-founder and she pours me some hot coffee.

“I think,” She says, “that at the end of the day, there are three things that you should know about us:

  • We’re positioned as an opportunity, not a charity.
  • Rather than exploit our interns, we exploit our CIOs.
  • We’re funded by the technology industry—not the government.

Those seem to me rather interesting assertions for a social venture. But she goes on to explain:

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It’s a Business

“If we were a charity,” She says, “it would ruin the product—destroy the brand. If you say, let’s give these poor kids a chance, give them a job—it’s charity, not business. Their job each day is not just to learn the technology—not just to learn the software—but to change perceptions about what it means to be a young person entering this field without a college degree. To be a person of color. To be someone who’s overcome adversity. icstars-hq11

“And so everything is about, not what Johnny WAS, but what Johnny DOES. We never exploit the stories in the past. One person is homeless or 30% of our folks are ex-offenders, or whatever it is—we never discuss that. It’s what Johnny DOES. That’s a very important differentiator.”

I sip my coffee. So that’s why I didn’t hear any personal histories in their introductions. I thought at the time that it was intentional but hadn’t known the reasoning behind it.

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Don’t Exploit the Talent

“Another thing is that I would much rather exploit the CIOs than our interns. We have an agreement. We give the CIOs jobs. For instance, at the TechBash event, we make them into celebrity bartenders. We get them to blog and sell sponsorships to all their potential customers. Just to be with the interns for that period of time cost them extra money and the ticket price is already $250. And so they know that they are doing their share and lending their name. That’s hard for the introverted CIOs but they do it.”Sandee 19

That takes me by surprise. “Those C-level bigshots from major corporations are introverts?”

“Oh sure—they’re technology people.”

She makes it sound so plausible, like—Of course, what do you suppose? But now she’s moving on:

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Industry Funded

“The third thing is our economic engine: We don’t have any government funding. We’re funded by the technology industry. And so this CIO network is what keeps us afloat. We’re able to leverage those relationships.”

“They see it as an investment in their own companies?”

“In talent, yes. And they’re able to grow their leadership. icstars-hq10And each of them remembers when they first started out in technology. They all went to boot camps. Whether that was GE or Continental Bank—it’s this idea of an intense experience. When they come to Tea—if that’s their first step—they’re blown away by the reciprocity, by the passion, and they say, ‘I wish my team could do that.’

“I actually heard one of them say that.”

That gets a big smile from Sandee. “When they ask our interns their questions, they get a real surprise. This is not typical. It’s not like going to business school and saying, ‘Well how did you do this?’ You know—that sort of interview routine. Here, it’s really about having intimacy and building a connection with someone.

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Alumni Evangelists

“Then the interns become evangelists for the organization.Sandee 13 That’s a very important part of changing perceptions. It’s also an important part of building our network. The more CIOs we have that are connected and engaged, the more we’re able to go after service providers, to engage with the organization.”

This I like. She’s talking about building a self-sustaining social venture. “How often do you run these—these crash courses?”

“We typically do two cycles a year. We have capacity for four but it depends on market demand. Say CDW wants to hire 10 QA analysts. That tells us, ‘All right—Jerry get your recruitment engine going again.’

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Tough Love

Do interns drop out?”

We fire people.”

I sit up in my chair and almost spill my coffee. “Fire them? After what they went through to get here?”

“We have a very strict attendance policy. You can’t be late or absent for four months.”icstars-hq2

“Not once?

“One and you go on probation. The second one, you’re let go. It’s the idea of, ‘How do you learn to take care of yourself—to show up on time?’”

I can hardly believe what I’m hearing. After that rigorous selection process, fired for missing a couple days? That’s what I call real tough love.

“What it really does,” She says, “is shine a spotlight on all those things that keep us from being reliable. And I mean substance abuse. Violent relationships. I’ve had boyfriends unplugging alarm clocks so that the woman would be late and lose her position because it was such a threat—she was learning so much—she was speaking differently—he was worried that she was going to outpace him or not need him.

“And so what that does is give us a real insight. icstars-hq8We might say, ‘Okay—here’s what you need to work on. Take six months. Fix this problem. Here are some resources. And then come back.’

“It’s not easy to come back though. They’ve got to go through an alumni interview. That’s rough. There are 13 things they have to do including a reading list. It’s rigorous. It’s not a free ride. Then the alums decide, ‘No this person shouldn’t represent our brand.’ That’s intense. But it’s important because it’s back to that idea that you’re fighting for something bigger than yourself. Can you really stake that claim?”

This calls for commitment level even higher than I realized and I seriously doubt I could stand up to it myself. icstars-hq6Getting in takes a special kind of person. Getting through is even tougher. No wonder Fortune 500 companies are so eager to hire i.c.stars alums.

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Growing the Venture

Sandee passes a hand over her brow then changes expression and I sense a change of subject.

“I’m working on expanding to Detroit, Milwaukee, and Denver.” She says. “I have a very interesting process that’s organic. Grass roots.”

What about growing this one location?”

“We’re looking at expanding the number of interns as well—getting up to about a hundred per year. But local expansion is about partnering with more organizations—it’s more of a channel strategy than trying to bring more people in here. We’re thinking through how we might plug in other organizations that are in the community. We’re exploring the concept of what a partnership would look like because there are certainly tons of opportunities in the market. It could be a primer—before i.c.stars—or a post i.c. stars plugin.

That make a whole lot of sense and it also occurs to me that more than one university graduate programs would be delighted build a program for candidates of this caliber. “So other people see your success—start up similar organizations—and that’s a good thing. I know you turn away people and it breaks your heart. I know you feel that way.”

She nods slowly. “It’s hard.”Sandee 11

Before I go, Sandee hands me some brochures—what she calls “propaganda.” But later I read it all and it’s some of the best material I’ve come across. You can download it below.

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DOWNLOAD I.C.STARS BROCHURE – (500K PDF)

GO BACK TO PART 1 – TALENT HIDES

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Contacts

i.c.stars – www.icstars.org

Sandee Kastrul, President and Co-Founder – sKastrul@icstars.org

Photos credits: i.c.stars.
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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link . This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2014 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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4 Comments

Filed under Big Corporations, big money, chicago, Chicago Ventures, city, Conflict, Education, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Events, i.c.stars, Impact Investing, Innovation and Culture, jobs, philanthropist, philanthropy, Social Entrepreneur, Software, TechBash, The City

HIGH TECH HIGH TEA

Thomas EdisonTechBash – Part 4

John Jonelis

I’m at Chicago’s premier social incubator – i.c.stars. Fresh faces of their current crop of interns rim this boardroom-sized table. All neat. All professional. As the tea makes its rounds, I hear well-crafted introductions. Mannerly. In-depth. Heartfelt. Spoken by people who have known each other during months of intense struggle. It’s more like introducing family than business associates. icstarg 35And I notice something else that’s significant. The interns introduce each other—not themselves—and they do it with a high level of trust, mutual respect, and selflessness.You can’t help but be moved by the way they describe each other. This is High Tea—a curious ceremony that takes place each day and has such a big impact on those who attend the i.c.stars program. icstarg 31The introductions are for the benefit of two guests at the end of the table. They’re today’s starsC-level executives here to relate their personal stories. The man to my left takes my hand in a solid grip and explains the protocol in a low rumbling tone. “When it’s your turn,” He says, “Just tell them my name and pour the tea.” I signal thumbs-up for thanks and peek at his business card: Quashe’ Granville. Hey, this is Loop Lonogan’s friend from TechBash! I’ve read enough about this guy to cobble together a decent introduction. My cup gets filled. Now it’s my turn.

At the risk of embarrassing Quashe’, I relate Lonogan’s impressions of him. Quiet strength. Quashe GranvilleThoughtful to others but a powerful presence. An overcomer who’s looked adversity in the eye and conquered. A quick study and self-learner in this high-tech environment. A great spokesman for the i.c.stars program.

I pour his tea. Now Quashe’ is pouring and it’s just like Lonagan told me—he really does sound like James Earl Jones. The tea continues around the table .

Real Success

The two guests present themselves as ordinary individuals and tell remarkably personal stories. It occurs to me that hearing such histories from C-level executives every single day must instill an instinct for the many ways to succeed—because success is something reached by a different path every single time. Everybody is taking notes. Quashe’ slides over his personal notebook for my use. icstars-hq4 The formalities finally come to an end and regular conversation breaks out. One of the speakers talks of his first job—the mouse at Chuck E Cheese’s—then washing dishes to earn his way through college. The interns tell about i.c.stars experiences but nothing prior to that, and I take it as intentional. I hear about subjects taught by the program: Leadership. Communications. Networking. Public Speaking. And then a surprise—Civics—they teach Civics and that changes attitudes. Doing what’s right. Becoming a change agent. Asking yourself why people should want to work for you. Asking yourself what your legacy will be. How can you give back to the community? I hear about respect, trust, pride, and a passion for helping those who get overlooked. Time’s up and high tea is over. The interns take their guests on a tour of the facility. We visit a private lair for the interns—a room set aside for free thought, free expression. Whiteboards, brown paper, notes all over the walls. Raw ideas. A song of the day. A person of the day. Avatar Joy Now we’re looking at the mobile app this team is building for a major corporation. At this point, they’re making the software bullet-proof. Layering encryption. Improving the user experience. . .

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The Project

The target audience is age 5-8, and the kids learn safety before they get to do science. Avatar SalThe software makes it engaging with Better-Than-Disney avatars – Sal, Joy, Ned & Pippiand they interact in a game environment. I hear a lot of oohs and aahs in the background. I ask Quashe’ how they can build a mobile app for a Fortune 500 company after just a week of training and only three months to complete the project. “We’re using Ruby on Rails,” he says. “It’s a really easy language to learn.” I happen to know better than that and try to argue the point, but he brushes my objections aside. Avatar Ned “Everything is on the fly,” he says. “The first step is Fast Feed. We throw that code up and if it fails, we instantly stop. ‘What’s wrong? Let’s debug. Let’s get it.’ Then we throw it back up in there. If it passes, now we’re in Staging.”

The terms are new to me but I get the concept. Quashe’ continues: “If it fails at Staging, we stop. ‘What was the difference from Fast Feed to Staging? Let’s fix it.’ Avatar PippiWhen it passes that, we throw it to Production. Once everything is complete and we’re at Production and we’re passing, now it’s lunch time.”

So they crack the problem first—then stop to eat! Sounds more like the Thomas Edison approach than the Microsoft way of doing things. I like it. I hear one of them say they used to call this project their ugly baby, but it’s not ugly any more. icstars-hq7Now they’re using four laptops to show me how they broke the project into four different segments. They’ll bring those together and launch it. Before this article hits the presses, this crop of interns has graduated. What became of their mobile app? So far, the client uses the graphics and ideas but not the game itself. It’s worth checking out the site. Or see the video:

And before I leave, I have a few serious questions for Sandee Kastrul, who heads-up this organization. .

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GO TO PART 5 – TOUGH LOVE

GO BACK TO PART 1 – TALENT HIDES

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i.c.stars – www.icstars.org Sandee Kastrul – President & Co-founder – sKastrul@icstars.org Quashe’ E Granville – QuasheGranville@gmail.com

Photo credits: i.c.stars, UL Labs, Wikipedia .

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link . This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money. .Copyright © 2014 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved . .

2 Comments

Filed under App, Big Corporations, big money, chicago, Chicago Venture Magazine, Chicago Ventures, city, Education, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship and Politics, i.c.stars, Impact Investing, Innovation and Culture, Mobile, Mobile App, Mobile Marketing, philanthropist, philanthropy, TechBash, The City

THE APPRENTICE MEETS DIGITAL BOOT CAMP

icstarg 1Techbash – Part 3

VERBATIM – John Jonelis

This is a story of high expectations, high reality, and high energy. I may as well give it to you straight, because Loop Lonogan would want it that way. He’s in the lockup. Too much hard partying on Twelfth Night. His guests spilled into the street and all kinds of trouble erupted—part of it involving a policeman he knocked cold.  So I’m here at i.c.stars headquarters.  Here to finish Lonagan’s series of articles.  I’m talking to the president and co-founder, Sandee Kastrul.

The location—downtown Chicago. The workspace—all business. I start by throwing out this question: “Can I call i.c.stars a social incubator. Is that fair?”

Sandee bursts out in a smile. “I love it—I love it. It’s all about transformation. Technology is a tool of transformation. Sandee 2We teach technology because it’s creative. It doesn’t know what you look like. At the end of the day you can be a rock star.

“But what really gets us jazzed about technology is the systems thinking and the process that’s embedded in it. If you can take that and apply it to community leadership, to organizing, to service leaders, to entrepreneurship, we can literally make a change in the communities that we come from. And so we sit between the leadership and the technology side. Our vision is 1000 community leaders by 2020. So everything is about the leadership angle.”

This gal is for real and genuinely creative and intellectual. I’m going to enjoy this conversation.

Then she pauses and cocks her head. “Why was the TechBash event so special for Mr. Lonogan?”

icstarg 14

High Expectations

“When Loop visited TechBash,” I say as I lean forward, hands clasped, “he met people that deeply impressed him. Everybody wants to give back—both interns and alums. They’re all wonderful evangelists for your program. He convinced me that you’ve really got something terrific going on here. I also think he feels a deep empathy with the people he met because, as you know, he grew up in a tough neighborhood—and he profited by it. Of course, with Loop we always have to consider the open bar.”

Sandee 16Sandee laughs at that and I ask her to fill me in. 

“Reciprocity is one of our seven tenants.” she says. “It’s embedded in everything we do. Our model is all project-based learning. You spend a week doing team building, leadership training, trust exercises, cross-cultural communications, and then that Friday the team is divided up into three teams that form their own consulting companies and they’re literally competing with each other for their first bid on a project.”

Now I feel a grin coming on.  That’s the kind of interactive hands-on education that I always loved and seldom experienced.  I ask her if the project is a simulation.

“It’s kind of like The Apprentice meets Digital Boot Camp,” she says. “Leadership objectives are baked into their project. There are monkey wrenches all the way through, and those things are scripted, but the software they’re building is real, the requirements are real, it’s all very real.”

How many of your people find work in their field in six months?”

90% placement rate for our graduates—within six months probably 95-100%.”

That’s a significant statement.  Amazing in any economic climate.  So I ask her for the details. 

“Four months of an intensive, twelve hour a day, project-based learning environment.”

“Homework?”

She comes right back. Sandee 6“You do the work until it’s done. I always say the difference between school and work is: School is all about you and work is about everybody else. Sometimes they’ll be here till one in the morning working on deliverables.”

“So twelve hours or even more.”

“Yes. It’s project-based learning. The student is in a meeting and client will say, Okay, we want you to build this mobile app.”

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High Reality

“Corporate sponsors come in with real needs?”

“That’s right. And then the interns figure out how to do it. Then in the last hour, we have a subject matter expert who will come in on a parachute from the sky and help them over the last mile. And what’s important about that from a pedagogy standpoint is that you are learning how to learn—how to figure things out—how to learn quickly—and how to apply that information. Sandee 7It’s not pre-teaching for later—it’s literally learn-for-the-month. What’s interesting is that our whole program is built on the premise that people who have overcome adversity have developed resiliency. And they wouldn’t be sitting at our table without it. Resiliency is the number one thing we’re looking for in our assessment process.”

That makes so much sense to me. I know she’s right.  Of course, not everybody thrives in such a setting and it takes strength of character.  So I ask her where she finds her intern candidates.

“We recruit from all over. Most come from the South and West sides of Chicago.”

Consider the magnitude of what she’s saying. Those are some of the roughest neighborhoods in the country. So I relate to her what Lonagan described last night through the steel screen: “Some of the alums told Loop they felt helpless till they found i.c.stars. Angry. No expectations out of life. No hope. No reason to have any. But each of them somehow had the drive to try this program and somehow got accepted. Does that describe your students?”

“I think so. We’re looking for people who are fighting for something bigger than themselves. That and the resiliency piece. Sandee 9So at some point, they faced adversity in their life and said, ‘I’ll show you. You’re not gonna tell me no.’ And it’s that fight—that resiliency—that develops this tool kit that has creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, all these things. We’re taking that toolkit and providing different context for them to learn. Our assumption is they already have all the raw materials. The project-based learning environment says, You already know—we’re just giving you this other context.

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High Energy

“But you train them first—before they go into a project?”

“A little bit. A week.”

I sit straight in my chair. A week? Who can do that? She must be describing the hottest recruiting ground in the world. “So they learn to program while doing?”

“Yes. We also have night classes. Experts come in and teach a concept.”

“Where do you find the experts to teach?”

She grins. “We have about a thousand volunteers plugged in. The training program manager handles that. A technical coach is on staff. It’s a busy place.”

She’s describing a training program on steroids.  “How many recruits do you accept for a four-month internship?”

“We have capacity for 20 people at a time. We err on the smaller side.”

“I heard that you start with 3,000.”

“That is a very interesting statistic. The top of the funnel is about 400 people who are interested enough in i.c.stars to show the necessary commitment. Sandee 10What happens in that pipeline is quite rigorous: Four phases of assessment tests. At each level, people drop off. They self-select out. They might say, ‘It’s a little too intense—I’m not ready yet.’ It’s not as if we’re kicking people out all the way through—they’re saying, ‘I’m not ready.’

“The last leg is our panel interview. That really looks at resiliency. It is nothing more than seven existential questions in a panel setting. That interview has been THE greatest indicator of people’s success in the program. And on the job. And in the community. It really is looking at, ‘How do you see yourself in the world?’ Are you coming from a locus of control, like, ‘I’m a victim,’ or are you at, ‘This is what I want to do.’ Where do you sit? It’s very powerful. It’s like, ‘What are you gonna do about it?’”

Sandee 8Then she abruptly stands. “High Tea is going to happen now. It’s something we do every day. We have a different business or community leader come to the table and share their story.” She ushers me in and gives me a seat. “You’re going to introduce the person to your left.”

Introduce who—how? Suddenly I’m getting a small dose of what it means to learn while doing and it doesn’t feel comfortable at all.

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GO TO PART 4 – HIGH TECH HIGH TEA

GO BACK TO PART 1 – TALENT HIDES

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Contacts

i.c.stars – www.icstars.org

Sandee Kastrul – President & Co-founder – sKastrul@icstars.org

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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link . This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2014 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

.
.

4 Comments

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TALENT HIDES

icstarg 10aTechBash – Part 1

By Loop Lonagan,

as told to John Jonelis –

 I feel the bite of Christmas in the air. It’s the season o’ giving. I’m here at TechBash coverin’ fer Da May Report but I never seen an event like this before. Right away, I get hit with pounding music, flashing lights and maybe a couple thousand er more people. Place is fulla bigshots.  So many C-level execs at one party—mosta them CIOs o’ big corporations. And the food and open flowing bar. I mean, this is a HUGE party that puts Dennis Koslowski and Tyco to shame—but this one’s legit. Lemme tell you about it:

icstarg 2b

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Talent Hides

You know where talent hides? In places where people got no hope. In the tough neighborhoods with lousy schools, worn-out housing, and alotta crime, gangs, ‘n’ drugs. Yeah, talent hides real good in them places ‘cause so many people don’t know they got potential.

A gal named Sandee Kastrul came across this idea:  There’s more talent here than in all o’ them comfy middle class suburbs or even at the universities. And there’s people here with a whole lot more inner strength than them soft-living places, too. We got lotsa neighborhoods like this right here in Chicago. Yeah, it’s still a city o’ neighborhoods—nothin’s changed much since the FIRST Mayor Daley.

What that means is there’s a huge population o’ smart people them big companies don’t know nothin’ about. And the companies wanna find out who them people are. They wanna do that in the worst way. That’s the genius o’ this thing. So Sandee co-founded i.c.stars to make it happen and throws dis big TechBash party every year along with alotta other events.

i.c.stars is a place where raw corporate greed and avarice can do some good in this rough old world. That’s right—this ain’t no charity organization—it’s an opportunity fer big business.  A company that wants in on this thing hasta participate and support i.c.stars if dey want a good outcome. And why not?

  • It’s better than outsourcing yer executive search, ‘cause you get to know the applicants up-close ‘n’ personal.
  • You get yer tech projects done cheap ‘cause them projects turn into curriculum fer the i.c.stars interns.
  • And that means the interns get paid t’ learn, so it’s a big opportunity fer them too. Thousands apply every year.

Big business knows a good deal when they see it and so do smart people looking fer a career. The whole idea’s brilliant! What we’re lookin’ at here is somethin’ that’s gonna grow into a self-sustaining social enterprise.  That’s like a gift to ever’body.  Hey—like I told ya, it’s Christmastime!

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Da Event

So all deeze huge companies come to this party fer what they want most—TALENT. That’s somethin’ that’s always hard t’ find.icstarg 9a And at dis TechBash event, Da Talent can talk one-on-one with Da Top Brass—if they can make themselves heard in all this hubbub. I’m talkin’ here about executives that most folks never even get to meet. Believe it er not, these C-levels bigshots even cough up their contact info and follow up with these interns personal-like.

i.c.stars stands for inner-city computer stars, and from the look of it, there’s lotsa them kinda folks here. All the interns and alums is wearin’ star-shaped badges that flash colored lights so it isn’t hard t’ spot ‘em.

QuasheI meet one intern that’s built like a football player in a good suit. Name of Quashe Granville [pronounced QUAH-SHAY] ‘n’ he’s got a voice dat rumbles like James Earl Jones. I’m expectin’ to hear somethin’ like “Luke, I am your father,” but he’s real professional. So I asks him, how does i.c.stars really work? Is it some kinda incubator?

“Yes. It’s not like a traditional college,” he says.  “You get the tools and everything you need but it’s largely self-taught. When it comes to computer languages—jQuery, CSS, JavaScript, Ruby on Rails—in order to learn those, it’s about what you put into it. You get out of it what you put in.”

Man, I love listenin’ to that huge voice.

icstarg 1b

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Who Gets In?

I run into Jerry Johnson, their Candidate Relations Manager, ‘n’ ask him how hard it is to get into dis program.

“It’s 20 out of 3000.”

That sends me reeling ‘n’ I almost spill my free scotch ‘n’ soda. A waiter comes by with a tray o’ food ‘n’ I wolf down some carbs ‘n’ protein. “Hey Jerry,” I say, “That’s a hellovalot tougher than getting into the U of C.” I say that while munching on somethin’ that tastes real good. I don’t know what I’m eatin’ but it’s great.  Summa them Hors d’oeuvres, I guess.

Quashe pipes in: “It might be hard, but out of those 3000 I can genuinely say 2600 eliminate themselves because they don’t want to go through the process. So then it’s Jerry’s job to sift through the other 400.”

So I ask: “The ones with enough hope dat you can make ‘em believe?”

Jerry comes right back: “The ones that have the fortitude to do what we ask them to do.”

“So whadaya look for in yer applicants?”

“Resiliency—that’s the best thing. Creative thinking. We have a lot of different logic puzzles. We have coding exercises if people have never done it. It’s all resiliency built.”

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Da Result

VeraI meet an alum named Vera Shabazz [pronounce SHUH-BAAZ] and what she says is somethin’ worth hearin’:

“Anything i.c.stars does, I’m behind 100%. Before them I lost my job and had no inkling of what I was going to do. Then I found i.c.stars. They pay you $150 a week just to come and learn.

“It’s not easy. This is a tough job and they treat it like a job. It is very, very tough. You have to go through a lot of training. At first I was afraid. I’d never done it before.”

I look her in the eye and decide this gal means what she says. So I put it to her, “Ain’t that an awful huge learning curve to overcome.”

“It was huge. It was HUGE. And to tell you I was afraid is an understatement. But my colleagues were so phenomenal. They helped to bring me through what I did not know and they erased all my fears.

“I didn’t know anything about technology. Now, I work with United’s 55,000 employees. Whenever something goes down, they call us. A ticket agent might say, ‘The computer isn’t working—the printer isn’t working—I’m getting an error message or I’m getting this or I’m getting that.’ With i.c.stars I learned how to drill down. How to ask, ‘What are you seeing? What is happening? What did it do first? What did you do first?’ And it calms them down that we know what we’re doing. They can help their passengers board their airplanes on time.

Whatever they call me with, I’m able to decipher and figure out what they need, all because of i.c.stars.

Now Vera’s givin’ back by supportin’ Virginias House. They help survivors of domestic violence.

Checkout dis great video on i.c.stars:

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GO TO PART 2 – GIVING BACK

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Contacts

i.c.starswww.icstars.org

Sandee Kastrul – sKastrul@icstars.org

Jerry Johnson – Jjohnson@icstars.org

Quashe’ E Granville – QuasheGranville@gmail.com

Vera Sabazz – vaShabazz@VirginiaHouseInc2.com

Vera’s outreach: Virginias House – http://VirginiasHouseInc2.com
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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link . This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2013 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

.
.

14 Comments

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