At MeetAdvisors we’re looking to make sure that both beginning and seasoned entrepreneurs can get mentorship from people with valuable experience in the field, helping them with whatever tasks they’re looking to do next. The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), a startup operating out of New York City, is on a similar mission, with a whole slew of programs and resources aimed at helping beginning entrepreneurs navigate their way through launching and building a highly successful business.
The StartupLab, YEC’s latest online project, is helping 50,000 people find virtual mentorship for their growing companies every month. In the midst of a tough economy and record unemployment rates, YEC founder Scott Gerber is hoping to get young people interested in the entrepreneurial track.
We chatted with Gerber about his successful organization, why being realistic is the best advice he can give, and the YEC’s origins as a way to prevent young entrepreneurs from making the same mistakes he did.
What was the inspiration behind the YEC?
When I started my first business I failed miserably. I had basically gone from creating a business that was profitable to a business that almost bankrupted me in two years. I didn’t have a single lesson -- I didn’t understand entrepreneurship.
I didn’t want someone else to go through the pain and the struggle the way I did, when most of the problems, while looking back, were highly basic or would be solved by having connected with the right person. I made that pledge to myself that if I became a successful entrepreneur one day I would give back by ensuring that young people would never have that issue again.
The YEC was formed years later, seeing the general need to have elite members of the entrepreneurial ecosystem give back in a way that’s powerful and meaningful. We also wanted something that connected folks to create hyper growth opportunities; to create stronger business ties, to create more value between folks that really not only understand business but are also excelling in changing the world.
Whether you want to think of it as a professional organization 2.0 or just this new age network of Gen Y entrepreneurs and Gen X entrepreneurs coming together in all new ways, it really has become an authority in the entrepreneurial space. I was happy when people like Forbes say that we’re America’s most elite entrepreneur organization.
Things like that really show that when great people come together in a certain industry or a certain space with like-minded interests and a real passion for doing something that has a potential to change the world, real change can happen.
When were you sure that you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
It’s funny. I’m not one of these people that believes there’s an “aha” moment. I just think it was in me. All my life I’d been in a leadership role in one way or another. In school, whether it was leading the mock trial team or when I started my business in college.
Just thinking about, Oh my god, I have to get a job in two years? I don’t want to do that, I want to do this -- I want to take over the world. Whether that’s enthusiasm, egotism, or anything else that has led to the hard knocks reality life of entrepreneurship I lead now, that I’ve learned from mistakes and excelled despite them, I think that it’s a life’s journey to be an entrepreneur.
I think that there are a lot of things that you’re born with, a lot of things that ultimately you decide later in life. Mine was just a series of coincidences and innate skill sets and behavioral trends that I’ve had all my life. I guess the perfect storm was created in me wanting to consistently beat my head against the wall for the rest of my life and love every minute of it.
What advice would you give to any beginning entrepreneurs out there?
Be realistic. The best advice I ever got was from a friend of mine who said, “Life happens in real time.” Especially for entrepreneurs like myself, who want to have change happen yesterday and nobody say no, and make it that you’re going to get people out of the way that are in your way and just get to the goal.
The idea that this stuff takes time, it’s sort of like that kick to the teeth. But the reality is that that’s my biggest lesson. Entrepreneurship, like I said, is a life’s quest. Sure there are milestones along the way. There are revenues you have to hit, there are employees that you have to hire, and there are customers that you have to satisfy.
But at the end of the day you just have to have both feet on the ground, realistic expectations, and hustle every day, but realize that while you can speed up many different things, you can’t speed up real time.
If you had all the money in the world, what would your days look like?
I’m sure many people would say, “Oh yes: beach, boat, plane, and resort,” but that’s just not me. I’d probably do all that for about a hot minute and then start figuring out more businesses I can build and ways I can get back directly to startup entrepreneurs.
If you could add any person to your team right now, who would you choose?
A dangerous question. There are a lot of them out there that I want to work with. I have to say, I have one of the best partners in Ryan Paugh that I could ever ask for, so I’d really be looking for just another series of mentors and advisors.
Thanks to YEC, the access that myself and other members of our organization have is probably unparalleled in many instances, or on the same level as what you would expect from most of the highest level of highest caliber accelerators and such out there, from our space anyway.
I don’t have a good answer, and it’s not because -- I just don’t think that there’s any one person that would embody everything that I would love to learn in this lifetime. I would love to have a lot of people giving me little bits of their best advice, so I’ll refrain from saying that there’s anybody that’s perfect, including myself or anyone I work with currently.
What is your idea of happiness?
I try my best, but I think that having a family now with children, and realizing that there is more to work I wish I had started earlier on. Realizing that the pursuit of consistently trying to make yourself better, your business better, and all these things drive you.
But then when you realize that there are other, bigger things in life, it really just adds another level of completion to you and I think that’s something that makes me really happy, when I’m holding my kids and my wife.
What does 2013 have in store for the YEC?
Our goal from an aspirational and startup community perspective is to continue to provide incredible resources, mentorship through our StartupLab program, which people can sign up for at MyStartupLab.com, and continue to provide ways to have it become easier to start and run your business.
From a YEC internal perspective we’re launching a lot of incredible products and services for our members to help them better connect and get smarter about the ways that they’re interacting now with one another, in getting resources, and other such things that can help them in their business.
If I had to say the one big thing that’s going to be the trend of anything we do, whether it’s internal or external, I would say continuing to create high level access to what people need when they need it.