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travis luther denver law father msu

This year, the MSU Denver Alumni Association honored the top 10 Alumni of the past 10 years, and an Alumni Philanthropist of the Year. Travis Luther (2008, Behavioral Science) was one of 10 Alumni honored for his professional success, charitable involvement, and continued contributions to Metropolitan State University of Denver. To learn more about all the awardees, click here…

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Every year, in the days after Christmas and leading up to the New Year, I start writing out a list of all my goals for the next 12-months. I usually end up with about 10 goals, which vary from personal to professional. Then I set to work paring those 10 goals down to a more manageable list, usually 2-3; one big business goal, one big personal goal, and maybe something small and strictly for myself.

I am definitely a creature of habit. Perhaps that’s why I am so successful when I am practicing good ones and so damn destructive when I’m not. For the last few years my brother-in-law Robb has come to stay with our family for the holidays, arriving a few days before Christmas and leaving on New Year’s Day. Robb and I really look forward to these trips.

Dear students,

students-2Most of you know by now that this was my last semester at Metro. As the CFI department has been absorbed by the Management department, the Management department faculty will assume the duties of teaching the Entrepreneurship courses, getting your minors completed, and building up the new Entrepreneurship major (which sounds like will be one year in the making). I had a chance to talk to the Management department chair and she seems very excited about continuing to inspire young entrepreneurs at Metro. It sounds like she has some pretty experienced staff and that you will be in good hands.

After nearly 4 years at Metro, I have met almost every student on campus interested in entrepreneurship. For most of you, I have come to know you on a very personal basis. I hope you understand how special that relationship was (and is) to me. It has been a real honor to know I have been someone that others have been willing to share their dreams with. I value those relationships very much. I understand that mentorship is a privilege and not just a right bestowed upon me because I am called “professor.”

Over the last four years, I have tried to impart on you as much as I could about what I have learned during my own 20-year journey as an entrepreneur. A lot of what I said, and the way I said it, was not what you will find in traditional business textbooks. That is because business textbooks that hold you accountable and demand that you think for yourself will not sell very well. So when it was time for the truth, and time for you to face some uncomfortable realities in your business, I was happy to be the guy to show you where you were fucking up. But trust me when I say I did this to protect you and not because I loved hearing myself talk. I know at times I was not always the most easy-going professor on campus. I know from other professors and people in the department that I had developed a well-known reputation for being a hard ass that expected a lot out of his students. This is a reputation I proudly accept.

For all the things I tried to teach you, there was always one secret I kept to myself: I was never the smartest person in the room. You were. That is because the true talent of any professor is not about what they are able to teach you – it is about what they are able to get you to learn about yourself. And in that spirit I was never going to be the person who was going to be able to make you a success or a failure: only you were. I was never going to be the person who was going to be able to tell you exactly what you needed to do and how to do it: only you were. The best thing I was EVER able to do for any of my students was to get you to dig deep into your own heart, to look at what you pulled out, and to believe it was good enough to create something amazing.

Every single one of you is amazing. And because of that, as you move forward in school and in life, please remember one thing I have always said: “Entrepreneurship is an exceptional journey that deserves exceptional rewards.” Do not pursue a business to “break even” or to “just to get by.” Pursue your dreams because you know you are the best possible person to solve one of the world’s problems, and because you truly believe you deserve an exceptional life. I always knew you did.

Take care,

Travis Luther

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travis luther denver entrepreneur

Entrepreneurship saved my life – and I don’t say that to be funny or make a joke. For me, it’s the truth.

I had a pretty tough life. I grew up in poverty – in a family that was completely dependent upon welfare and state assistance.

From a very young age I always seemed to know that owning my own business would be my only way out. As a kid, I really couldn’t tell you why I knew that – but as an adult it’s become crystal clear.

See, entrepreneurship is not about money. It’s not about fancy cars or expensive dinners. Entrepreneurship is about self-reliance.

As a young kid I sensed this, but I also felt the weight of the deck that was stacked against me. Children are not supposed to worry about these things – lord knows I would never want my children to – but I did, everyday. And I knew that if I was going to have a different outcome than the other kids I stood with in the free lunch line, I was going to have to do something they may never dream of.

I was going to have to ignore the world that was created for me and create a new world for myself. I was going to have to be completely self-reliant. And because I realized that, I moved out of a broken home when I was 15-years-old and began what has now been an over a two decades long adventure in entrepreneurship.

The most important lesson I have learned during this adventure is that the market does not care. The market does not care if I am poor. The market does not care if I am rich. The market does not care if I went to Harvard or if I dropped out of community college. The market doesn’t care if I am black or white, young or old.

The only thing the market cares about is if I am able to solve real problems. And so long as I am able to do that, the market will reward me – and those rewards will allow me to create a world around me that is completely of my own making.

Nobody can take that world away from me. There is no longer any single person who has the power to steal what entrepreneurship has given me – my freedom.

Entrepreneurship is scary to the doubters. It is scary to your co-workers, to your friends, and to your bosses because it takes their power away. You become someone who will never need these people again. The doubters don’t want that. These people don’t want to live in a world full of self-reliance. They don’t want to hear about your success. They don’t want to find out that their 40-year careers are going to equate to a total loss of their freedom. They don’t want to live in a world where self-reliance is the norm. They want to be dependent. They want things easy. They want to be told what to do. So when you succeed, you hold a mirror up to them. And the doubters don’t want to see what’s in that mirror. They don’t want to see the crumbling mess they have become. They don’t want to stare into eyes that no longer have hope. They don’t want to see the person you have refused to become.

Be at peace, but share the good news. Let them see the person who is holding the mirror. Put it down and let them see you as the person you have become. Let them see somebody who has not only saved their own life through entrepreneurship, but someone brave enough to be an example to them. Be a lighthouse to your critics. Remain a lifeboat to your friends. Treat them with love. Encourage them towards self-reliance. Together we can shepherd them to freedom. We may even save a life.

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This is the second post in my series about what recovering from my recent back surgery is reminding me about entrepreneurship. To read previous posts, click the links at the bottom of this article.

#2 – Building trust in others is YOUR responsibility.

In the face of the unknown, someday we will have no other choice than to trust the advice of experts. This was certainly the case when it came to choosing back surgery. It is also the case when we, as entrepreneurs, arrive at a point on our journey completely foreign to where we have been. If we want to continue forward, we have to remind ourselves that we are not always the only person who can lead. But do not let your loss of direction feel like permission to blindly turn over trust and control.

When we talk about why we trust certain people, especially experts, it is usually because they seem to say or do all the right things. Unfortunately, when we leave the responsibility of building trust in the hands of those experts, more often than not we end up disappointed. In fact, too often we take zero personal responsibility for building a trusting relationship. We look at trust as the responsibility of the person who wants to be in our favor and none of our own.

Real trust should spring from all the things we do to discover the true nature of a person. Trust should never be a conclusion derived from all the things a person says to us. Real trust should be built from that time we are willing to invest on our own. Get referrals. Ask around. Make sure your expert is someone trusted by others. My surgeon is someone who came highly recommended by my family, friends, and colleagues. He was not someone I picked simply because he advertised. I trust him most because I had other choices to evaluate him against.

Trust cannot exist when there is a lack of choices. That is not trust. That is a hostage situation. Do your part. Be responsible for building your own trust through some comparative analysis. Do not be afraid to be a difficult client (in fact, during a medical crisis being a difficult patient could save your life!). Ask questions. Listen, but give more weight to the answers you receive to your specific concerns over the success stories you hear about others. And while it’s great to work with someone who has experience in many different areas, make sure your expert can also address your very specific needs. Not only has my surgeon performed my specific procedure thousands of times on total strangers, he has performed it on people I know (including my mother). He has also had it preformed on him – another sign he is willing to go to the bank on his own advice.

I trusted my expert not because he was the only person I knew who could perform the surgery, but because I knew I had choices. I was willing to invest in the process of building trust with him and together we were able to decide on the best path forward for me.

READ PREVIOUS POST: #1 Progress is painful. What back surgery has reminded me about entrepreneurship.

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More and more institutions of higher learning are implementing college entrepreneurship programs to help their students become successful. St. Clair College is one of the latest, as they recently announced the opening of a center designed to help students start their own small businesses before they graduate.

The Genesis Entrepreneurship Center is slated to open sometime in 2015, and will be housed inside the main building of the school’s South Windsor campus. This center will provide students wishing to start their own business with mentorship, networking and other assistance to ensure they have the best possible chance at success.

The program is open to any St. Clair student who expresses a desire to start his or her own business, regardless of major. Faculty members are also encouraged to help identify students who could potentially benefit from this program. At the present, there are no plans to award a certificate or diploma to students for participating; however, college president John Strasser acknowledges that fact could change in the future.

The college felt an incubator program was needed if they were to provide their students with the programs they needed to enhance their careers. According to Strasser, there is a great deal of “entrepreneurial spirit” in the Windsor area, and tapping into that spirit is essential for the area’s economic growth. He lamented that failing to tap into it could be disastrous for the region in the years to come.

Local businessman Chris Ryan will head the Genesis Entrepreneurship Center. Ryan was chosen for his extensive business background, in addition to his extensive list of contacts that could be used for networking purposes. The college also plans to tap into the networking resources of its more than 85,000 alumni to help students become successful.

After its launch, the next phase of the project will be evaluating how successful its student-entrepreneurs become. If all goes as planned, the center will provide a much-needed boost for the local economy in addition to providing job opportunities for St. Clair graduates.

To find out more about college entrepreneurship programs in general, contact us.

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According to Entrepreneur magazine, minorities own about 15 percent of all U.S. businesses. Of those 15 percent, nearly half are in the services industry. Last week Google announced it’s donating $775,000 to increase the percent of minority-owned businesses, specifically in the technology industry, through Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) programs. Where is the money going and who can benefit?

Code2040

Google is donating the money to a San Francisco-based nonprofit called CODE2040, who is facilitating the EIRs. The nonprofit focuses on cultivating entrepreneurs in the technology field among underrepresented minorities, with a special focus on African-Americans and Hispanics. The name comes from estimates that indicate by 2040 minorities will make up the majority of America. CODE2040’s goal is to make sure by that year minorities are adequately represented as entrepreneurs, especially in the technology industry. CODE2040 Residency Director Jason Towns says the nonprofit’s aim is “to support the development of diverse entrepreneurial ecosystems nationwide.”

Helping Around the Country

While based in San Francisco, CODE2040 helps cities around the country establish programs centered around minorities in entrepreneurship. One program is at Chicago’s 1871, an entrepreneurial hub for digital startups in the city. One minority entrepreneur will be selected to get one year at 1871, $40,000 in seed capital, a training trip to the Googleplex in Silicon Valley, networking opportunities and mentoring with Google and CODE2040 representatives, and many other resources. Google’s funds are also establishing similar programs at the American Underground in Durham, North Carolina and the Capital Factory in Austin, Texas.

Entrepreneurs can apply through CODE2040. Applicants must be African-American or Hispanic and live in the city hosting the EIR. They must be the founder of an early stage technology company and have a specific desire to reshape the racial and ethnic dynamic of the technology sector.

travisluther.com is dedicated to providing resources to entrepreneurs through information and collaboration. Contact us to find out more about entrepreneurship programs.

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Last week, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and the Goldman Sachs Group held a joint press conference to announce two exciting developments for women entrepreneurs in Atlanta. First, Atlanta is launching the Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative (WEI), a business incubator for women. Secondly, the Goldman Sachs Group is awarding $3 million through its 10,000 Small Businesses program to Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs, a Georgia-based nonprofit group. Both announcements have the potential to stimulate tremendous growth in the metro Atlanta area, illustrating the power of entrepreneurship and government partnerships. “It’s exciting to be part of a community where both the city leadership and business folks are all so supportive of creating an entrepreneurial environment and taking seriously the one entrepreneur at a time approach that it really takes for job creation,” said David Fox of the Atlanta office of Goldman Sachs.

About the Incubator

The city and the business community have pulled together to create this opportunity. The WEI incubator will be located in the historic Flatiron building in downtown Atlanta. Arun Nijhawan, a businessman with Lucror Resources, purchased the building last year with the goal of turning it into a collaborative place for “makers, thinkers and doers.”

Women selected to participate will be able to take advantage of the free office space for 15 months. WEI hopes to provide an atmosphere where a network of seasoned mentors, consultants, entrepreneurs and some of Atlanta’s prominent female executives can come together to help “incubate” these businesses. At the end of the 15 months, the women-owned companies will be prepared to transition into the Atlanta business community. Other resources available at the WEI include assistance with business plans, marketing and branding, strategic development, financial education, legal advice, funding opportunities and creating growth and progress metrics. In addition to being an incubator for existing business owners, the WEI will serve as a community outreach program, providing educational workshops and mentorship opportunities to emerging entrepreneurs.

Who Can Apply?

Only 15 women will be selected through a competitive process. Candidates must be a woman business owner that resides or is licensed to do business in Atlanta. Additionally, the business must have been in operation for at least two years, have a total profit of at least $30,000 and employ one to five persons. After applications have been submitted, applicants will participate in a pitch competition before the selection panel.

Travisluther.com provides resources about entrepreneurships and incubators around the country. Contact us to learn more.