A panel discussion regarding the qualities that make an entrepreneur successful was hosted by the Peter T. Paul Entrepreneur Center (ECenter) on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 6:30-8 p.m. in the Memorial Union Building’s (MUB) Theater 2. The panel featured three entrepreneurs and was moderated by UNH lecturer in English and ECenter Faculty Fellow Meghan Heckman.
Included on this panel were Wagz, Inc. Founder and CEO Terry Anderson, ezCater Co-Founder and CEO Stefania Mallett and Koya Leadership Partners Founder and CEO Katie Bouton.
Heckman described Anderson as someone who looked at the internet and decided to focus his company on the $60 billion dog market. He also founded NitroSecurity, Trunity and Gemr.
Mallett uses her company to solve a common problem that many companies face with food at business meetings. Prior to the founding of ezCater, she spent over 25 years building and growing technology-enabled companies that solved business problems.
Bouton (UNH ’96) recruits talented leaders for nonprofit clients. Bouton studied journalism at UNH, where she shared some professors with Heckman.
According to ECenter Director Ian Grant, the ECenter is the hub of all things ideas, innovation and entrepreneurship at UNH. He stated during the “infomercial” introduction to the event, that the center sits independently, despite their name of Peter T. Paul Entrepreneur Center. He also said that the Entrepreneurship Club, TechX and Marketing Club all call the ECenter their home.
“Our goal is to help facilitate students, faculty and alumni interacting together on an interdisciplinary standpoint,” Grant said.
Anderson said during the discussion that the inspiration behind his entrepreneurial idea came from his children’s dog who ran away. He said that he began to deconstruct the dog industry and figure out how to contain and measure health information of a dog. Anderson then developed a smart collar that has a streaming video camera built into it and is bark activated, meaning that the owner and dog can communicate through their voices.
The smart collar is connected over Bluetooth, which allows the owner to activate an invisible fence and walk their dog without a leash. Other features include measuring the dog’s habits, health and activity, what to feed the dog and how much to feed the dog.
“The natural instinct of everybody is to be conservative and think of every single reason why something won’t work,” Anderson said. “You just have to have the convictions that it will work and the willingness to put yourself on the line to prove it. You’re going to be wrong a few times, but hopefully, over the course of a lifetime, you’re going to be right more than you’re wrong.”
In Mallett’s case, it was the willingness to fail that led her to be successful. She said that the conviction of survival is most important.
Mallett said that her business is a portal website and runs similarly to GrubHub or DiningIn, where an individual can order food online, but her business focuses on corporate catering. Mallett explained that she worked for other people for 20 years before she “got the entrepreneurial bug.”
“I’m not the idea person,” Mallett said. “I’m the make it happen person. I follow idea people around.”
According to Mallett, one of the strengths of working for other companies over 20 years was that it really helped her “learn about other people’s nickels.” Working for both small and big companies, she saw how humans could come together to make something work or not work. Mallett also said that finding a partner in entrepreneurship is a lot like dating.
Bouton said that she refers to herself as an “accidental CEO” because of how much she thought she hated risks. Originally, she wanted to be a journalist rather than an entrepreneur. Ultimately, she decided that she didn’t want to work for other people, and wished to start her own business instead. Bouton further said that she spends her free time trying to help women and minorities get through challenges to have their entrepreneurial ideas funded.
In the past, Bouton said that she went to a loan officer hoping that she could obtain a very low line of credit because she was in the services business with no assets or product the bank could leverage. After only a few minutes of discussion, the loan officer wanted Bouton to mortgage her home.
According to Bouton, the loan officer basically said, “‘You should just go back, your husband is employed in the pharmaceutical industry. You should just go back and figure out how to get some money from him to start your business.”
“This was not 1972, this was 2010,” Bouton said. “To be frank, that made me angry and I thought, ‘Are you kidding me? I’m not going to ask my husband for money.’ That really lit a fire in me to look around more and say, ‘Why don’t I see people that look like me running business?’”
“It turns out, I don’t like risk that much, but I am capable of it,” Bouton said. “The reason I’m capable of it is because I like to know how things work. I like to understand why things happen the way they happen.”
Following the panel discussion, Heckman opened up the floor to audience questions. One such question asked was what daily habits make a successful entrepreneur.
According to Mallett, if an employer negatively impacts an employee’s health, sanity or relationships through work pressure, being toxic to others throughout the day or simply by being too demanding, they have failed.
“If you were a cocaine sniffing philanderer before I met you, I’m not responsible,” Mallett said. “If you picked that up because I drove [it], then we are responsible. The point is, you don’t have to grind people to dust to be successful.”
Anderson said that he finds activities such as biking for 20 minutes an effective way to think about the business in a good way. For Mallett, habits such as embroidering or cutting wood outside with a chainsaw are calming ways to go to a different place and not think about the business.
Anderson said he is very impressed with the entrepreneurship vibe at UNH and hopes to get more involved in the program through his participation in the New Hampshire Innovation Research Center (NHIRC).
According to UNH junior Nikki Swartz, it was really good to hear from three different people with three very different backgrounds.
“I was a little lost what the central topic was, but it all connected back to being an entrepreneur and it was pretty inspiring,” Swartz said.