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Corporations can harness the power of entrepreneurs

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Pg20_Jen-Groover1-211x300By Matt Sullivan
Special to Delaware Business Times

The Delaware Economic Summit will welcome serial entrepreneur Jen Groover as the keynote speaker for the summit on Wednesday, April 23.

Groover skyrocketed into entrepreneurial success with the creation of the Butler Bag, a compartmentalized handbag. From there, she developed a lifestyle brand that has sold products though prominent retailers. She was also a driving force behind the creation of Leader Girlz, a brand that teaches young girls the importance of empowerment.

What’s at the heart of entrepreneurial success? What does it take?
I believe that entrepreneurship is really a journey of self-transformation. Entrepreneurs are the kind of people who don’t want to play by the rules that already exist. They’re the type of people who are constantly saying why? Why does it have to be this way? And maybe there’s a better way. They are people who don’t need to conform to feel approval or to feel validated.

When I first became an entrepreneur in 1995, pretty much right out of college, entrepreneurship was really seen as what you became if you were unemployable, which is really kind of funny. For me, that was not the case at all. I instinctively knew back then that I had an issue with the fact that somebody else was going to be able to design my growth, and review me once a year, and give me a raise based on their opinion of my work, despite whether they had personal issues with me or not. It seemed like such a dysfunctional mindset to me, which I was not OK with.

Where did you start?
My passion was fitness at that time. I started a group fitness program in my college and I had a real taste of what it felt like to express your passions and turn it into a business model. The fitness industry really wasn’t an industry in 1995 the way it is today, so I really had to pave my own path. There was no clear description of how you become an industry expert. That’s why I believe entrepreneurs have to be really comfortable with not having strict guidelines. Entrepreneurs pave a new way, and create it through their own unique power.

What’s changed in the past 20 years?
Entrepreneurship is the rock-star scene right now. These college students are unbelievable. I speak at universities constantly and I am blown away by the fact that the perspective of what entrepreneurship was in 1995 and what it is today is vastly different. Entrepreneurship is so celebrated on these college campuses. There’s a statistic I heard last month that 79 percent of all millennials are entrepreneurs or entrepreneurship minded. I feel the biggest shift we have to look into going forward, and what I’m focusing on at the event, is the belief system. While we’re now teaching how to write a business plan and how to be inventive, what schools are not focused on is building the foundation of success, and the psychology of success. Even if you have a great idea, and you have a really awesome degree, and you have some really good contacts, if you don’t believe in yourself, and you don’t have conviction for your own self worth, your ideas will probably struggle to become successful.

Some businesses see entrepreneurial employees as competition. Would companies benefit from hiring them?
Massively. There’s innovation blossoming like crazy right now because of that mindset. What corporations need to do is, number one, get rid of old fear-based leadership models, the intimidation hierarchy model, because millennials do not thrive on that at all, entrepreneurship doesn’t thrive, innovation doesn’t thrive.

Focus on creating environment that are solution driven. You can’t have a solution-driven environment if you have an ego-driven environment. So there’s a shift in leadership that has to happen in order for corporations to benefit.

You worked in Delaware in your first years in your early entrepreneurial days. What impressions did it leave on you?

While Delaware is small, the resources are immense, and that was always something that left an impression as well. There are quite a few corporations that have had incredible success there, that are based on innovation and are breaking a lot of the old molds. I still have a lot of great friends and colleagues who own businesses in Delaware and work in Delaware. ♦

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