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“You are an entrepreneur.”
Those were the words Marnie Forestieri’s dad told her as she was about to go to college.
He knew who his daughter was at her core.
But his daughter wouldn’t listen.
“So what do you do when you’re 18? The opposite of what your dad tells you.”
INDUSTRY: Technology (Education)
Opened Amazing Explorers school – Oviedo: 2015/Re-branded to Young Innovators Academy: 2019
Sold other Amazing Explorers schools (franchises): 2019
Started Hopscotch - 2020
Started Young Innovators Technologies - 2021
Marnie Forestieri – Born in the Dominican Republican
Mother – Dominican
Stanford University – Latino Entrepreneur Leaders Program
University of Tampa – Master’s degree in Business Administration
Huron University – Bachelor’s degree in Business Admin. & Management, General
DREAM JOB AS A KID: “I wanted to be a reporter. I wanted to work for a big network.”
BIGGEST GOAL YET: “Find the leadership that’s going to take them [Young Innovators Technologies & Hopscotch] to the next level and... step out and keep on creating.”
“Keep on innovating and challenging myself to make this world a better place.”
BECOMING A DOCTOR – SCRATCH THAT
For 2 years Forestieri studied to be a doctor before realizing that really was not her cup of tea, and it would not be in the best interest of any future patients, either.
“I probably would’ve killed a lot of people.”
JOURNALISM & ENTREPRENEURSHIP – THE CONNECTION
So Forestieri shifted gears and became a journalist. She worked in Asia for CNN En Espanol. And it was that training that she thinks helped her with what she’s doing today, ed-tech (education technology).
Forestieri says journalists “… have a special intuition for when the market is changing.” She believes that’s what makes them unique and successful entrepreneurs.
That’s right. She came back to entrepreneurship, the career path she specifically tried to avoid.
Two things made her realize that was the road she was meant to take.
THE PERSONALITY TEST
First, she took the INFJ personality test and found out she was what’s described as an “advocate”. “I’m very mission-driven.”
She was determined in her 30s to choose a career that would not only allow her to make enough money, but she wanted to pursue something that would also fulfill a personal mission. “That’s help other people, especially women.”
She chose education.
BOSS AT 23
The second thing that profoundly shaped Forestieri’s life and career choice happened in 1995.
That was the death of her father, an entrepreneur himself, who distributed film and photography products and developed film.
She took over his business at the ripe old age of 23 and made a bold decision that she knows was the right decision, even though it was a painful decision.
She closed all of her father’s stores.
THE PARTY’S OVER
She knew film developing was a dying industry. Forestieri says, an entrepreneur has to know “when the party’s over.”
The party was over. She needed a reinvention strategy.
She opened a school called Amazing Explorers in Oviedo and built it into a chain. But here’s the kicker: She didn’t believe in it.
As time went on, “I was seeing the difference in quality in every center. So you would... go to one center - and it was terrible. And the other was good.”
She asked herself, what was going on? How could there be such an inconsistency?
“It was the business model… Not everybody had the same vision I had for quality. And not everybody had the mission,” she concluded.
MY SECRET SAUCE
She realized she needed to sell the schools.
But here’s where she was strategic. She kept the original school, which was the best school. She says that’s where the innovators were. It’s where her core team worked. It's where she now tests her new programs and projects.
Forestieri re-branded the school and called it Young Innovators Academy.
“Even the name, Young Innovators, pushes us to not stay the same.”
She has such a focus on innovation that she says, “My secret sauce is, I’m crazy… I love innovation.”
Forestieri made sure that she embedded innovation in the school’s name as a daily reminder that, “If you don’t push your brand to go to your next level, it stays behind.”
Forestieri had big plans for Young Innovators Academy and the umbrella company, Young Innovators Technologies. She envisioned the tech-focused enterprise as this all-in-one platform where she would sign up childcare providers and offer them both, administrative services and curricula.
That was until she surveyed 40 childcare providers and found out they didn’t want a one-stop shop type of platform.
They wanted each separately.
So Forestieri’s son, Oliver, told her to build a new business and suggested the name, Hopscotch.
The experience taught her a few things that she thinks are important for any entrepreneur to grasp.
The first is humility – humility to listen to the customer and give them what they want. And humility to understand that an entrepreneur doesn’t have all the answers.
That’s why she has coaches and mentors to keep her in check. She says they’re her secret weapon.
Forestieri explains, “I have a very solid group of people that I network with that can call me out.” She actually gives them permission to call her out when she’s doing something wrong."
WHEN TO DO THINGS “ON THE CHEAP”
The experience of going all-out with her platform also taught her a very expensive lesson about prototypes: Don’t spend a lot of money on them.
Either “do it less techie” and use props to show the proof of concept during your market survey - or find a company that can build a cheap prototype.
If you hire a technical cofounder, do your research.
“I educated myself enough to understand the process of building it, so that I can call out when somebody’s not really an expert.”
On a professional level, the experience resulted in her founding two start-ups: Young Innovators Technologies and Hopscotch.
NEW GENERATION, NEW DYNAMICS
On a personal level, it resulted in her having a similar experience with her son as her dad had with her. She learned from her son about how "play" and the learning economy will take over, just like her dad learned from her that computers were here to stay and would be more efficient for his business.
“This cross-generation collaboration allowed me to step back and say, you know what? He’s right… There’s a brand-new generation that’s going to come on board. And I needed to understand the dynamics of the new generation to embed that into Hopscotch.”
Forestieri is grateful for the business lessons her father taught her and the start-up funding he set up for her. Now, she looks forward to having her son take over Hopscotch as CEO when the time is right and the program is out of pilot testing.
In the meantime, the ambitious young woman who was determined not to do what her father told her to do, ended up discovering, “That was my gift to the world. I was an entrepreneur.”
THE TIP JAR (tips passed out courtesy of Marnie Forestieri)
STARTING OUT: “Join a community – that would be #1.” (Note: She suggests attending meetups)
"If you watch an inspirational video on Instagram and you decide that you want to change your world and you want to become an entrepreneur, that is not going to turn you into an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs are risk-takers. They are people willing to challenge the status quo and change their lives and are humble enough to understand their weaknesses – and put other people in those seats so that the boss can drive far.”
STEEPED IN SKILLS (mid-career): “Assess [your] financial situation. I have seen so many people just wanting to start a business. And that’s the American dream, right? But they don’t have enough savings in the bank. So you have to be realistic. How are you going to pull it off? Do you have enough savings? Entrepreneurship is never like you think. If you think you’re going to start making money in three months, double the time.”
“You have to be willing to strengthen both… sides of your brain. So… when your creative side is telling you, oh yeah, we’re going to sell a lot, then your other side has to be telling you, oh, what if it doesn’t?”
“I would not leave my job. I would start something on the side. I would start building a business plan. Join a community. Join a group. I would start learning. I would not just quit a job because you just decided to be an entrepreneur because, a lot of times, it doesn’t work… Then, that affects the self esteem. Then, that causes a lot of other negative effects.”
STARTING OVER: “The best thing to do if you’re changing careers is to spend time researching the industry. Spend time – volunteer in this new venture, or this new career - to see if you really like it. So I think it’s all about soul-searching and exploring and experiencing if this is a good fit for your life before you actually… decide to go into a different career.”
I’LL NEVER DO THAT AGAIN: Forestieri says, she won't blow money on costly prototypes. Instead, she advises, “Build a less-expensive prototype. Unfortunately, in the U.S., it’s very expensive.”
“To try the concept, I would maybe invest in a good focus group... with [non]-technical assets.”
She says her mistake was building a very expensive prototype because, after she found out it wasn’t what the market wanted, she had to build another one. All that money on the first one went towards a concept that wasn't going to work.
BEST ADVICE FROM “LA CASA”/BEST “HOUSE” ADVICE: Forestieri says the best advice she got from her parents wasn’t so much a quote or a saying.
It was what she saw them do that shaped her – their work ethic. Her mother was an accountant and her father was an entrepreneur.
“I grew up helping them, you know, count…. Seeing that example from my father and… how responsible he was for the next generation and how mission-driven he was allowed me to have a good foundation, not only financial, but also in terms of my experiences.”
NO NEED TO GO IT ALONE
HELP ON THE OUTSIDE...because we can all use a helping hand:
WIN CUSTOMERS WITH YOUR WEBSITE
You know how important a website is in today’s world. Just think about the relief or frustration you feel when you go to a website to buy a product or service. But do you know how your website would specifically relate to your marketing strategy? Do you know what the key is to making sure your website traffic engages customers and converts into actual sales? Learn how in this FREE webinar from SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives). Here’s more info: https://www.score.org/event/win-customers-your-website
SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives)
Thursday, December 2, 2021
1 p.m. EST – 2 p.m. EST
WORKING ON THE INSIDE...because we know our culture has a hard time asking for help:
THE ART OF SAYING "NO"
Do you load your plate of “things to do” with more items than you should probably take on? In other words, you say “yes” more often than you should? I hear you loud and clear. I’m definitely guilty of it, too. But, it seems, as I get older, I’m able to say “no” more than before. Even though this class relates to business, I think the principles could apply to our personal lives where many of us overextend ourselves, especially women. This blog post from SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) helps you reframe the decision-making process on when to say “no” when it comes to business opportunities. The 8 reasons to say “no” can help you carve out more time to say “yes” to the activities that can enrich your life.
INSPIRATION BEHIND THIS ISSUE:
These days, it seems like becoming an entrepreneur is the thing to do. With factors such as the so-called “creator” economy, gig work, remote work and the pandemic, more people seem to be going out on their own, anecdotally.
But what’s interesting is that, for years, so many people believed the number of entrepreneurs was increasing when it actually was not. Just look at the numbers. A recent Forbes article by John Caplan cites the Congressional Budget Office to show how, in 1982, new businesses made up 38% of all companies, compared to 29% in 2018.
Fortunately, there’s been a resurgence in people deciding to go out on their own. Forbes points to the recent rise of new entrepreneurs from 31% in 2019 to 38% in 2020 (Source: Kauffman Foundation’s National Report on Early Stage Entrepreneurship in the United States: 2020).
Either way, it’s interesting that people told Marnie Forestieri that being an entrepreneur is “super easy”. I’ve heard that before, too. It’s funny how people seem to think that – until they actually become entrepreneurs themselves. There’s nothing easy about it.
Forestieri classifies two different types of entrepreneurs – the ones who start companies and the ones who become CEOs and manage companies. I’ve always differentiated entrepreneurs – the Richard Bransons of the world who take big risks – with small business owners, who are far more conservative with their decisions and their money. They both go out on their own, but the personality type is very distinct.
What people go in believing about entrepreneurship vs. reality can be a rude awakening. Numbers don’t lie. That’s why it’s no surprise Forestieri doesn’t start a new venture without doing a market study.
She admits mistakes, stresses the importance of recognizing that other people can have better ideas and is open to those points of view. That’s why I found her perspective of applying the left side of the brain (more logical) with the right side of the brain (more creative) to be a great thing to keep in mind when you’re considering a new venture.
As with many things in life (jobs, relationships, etc.), it comes down to how well reality gels with your “expectations”.
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🌴 Sending you good wishes as you get ready for Thanksgiving!