An overflow crowd of young Seventh-day Adventist entrepreneurs listened captivated Wednesday as a serial entrepreneur who fled Iraq as a child and a Sabbath-keeping clothing boutique owner shared their secrets for success at a first-ever conference of young Adventist entrepreneurs.
About 120 people attended the opening day of the two-day Fruition Lab conference on the sidelines of the annual ASI convention in Phoenix, Arizona. The event, organized by young Adventist entrepreneurs, had limited attendance to 100 people but opened the door to additional participants amid strong demand.
“Entrepreneurship is not only about money. It is to create value and make change in the world,” Fruition Lab cofounder Jeff Tatarchuk said in his opening remarks. “This is the goal of Fruition Lab.”
That was the point driven home by the young presenters, each of whom was given 15 minutes to speak. The attendees, seated in small groups of eight around tables in a domed meeting hall at the Camelback Seventh-day Adventist Church, rapidly scrawled notes on mobile devices and conference-provided notebooks as they listened to the short, powerful talks.
Time management is key to success — and it also is biblical, said presenter Clifford Almeida, cofounder and chief executive of Phoenix-based Hireawiz Web Design.
“Teach me to number my days, that I may gain a heart of wisdom,” Almeida said, paraphrasing Psalm 90:12.
Almeida, who was born in India and grew up in Papua New Guinea, said he thinks daily about how he manages time, and his business has grown by 30 percent over the past year simply by systemizing and automating.
But the secret to good time management, he said, is to “establish a God-first schedule” and at the same time find ways to give to others. He said his company donates 1,000 hours of work to charity every year.
Dena King, co-owner of The Grey House, a mountain clothing boutique in Estes Park, Colorado, said she decided from the beginning to follow a God-first schedule and close her shop on Saturdays. She said she refused to waver even when a friend in the tourist town harshly berated her for closing on the busiest shopping day of the week. Instead, she placed a sign in the shop window, reading, “The Grey House is closed on Saturdays so that the owners may enjoy Sabbath with their families.”
The result, she said, has been an unexpected opportunity to share her faith with curious customers. Customers also have made special trips to the shop on Sunday to shop.
“Opening the shop was the best decision of my life,” King said.
She said the shop has required a lot of work but God has blessed as she followed the advice of Ecclesiastes 9:10, which says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.”
Loud audience applause followed a presentation by Tina Blanco, a serial entrepreneur and investor whose family fled Iraq more than three decades ago. Blanco was baptized at age 12 but, as she struggled to adjust to U.S. life after her past in Iraq, dropped out of school after the seventh grade. She started her first business at 14, managing a small team on a paper route.
Blanco went on to open a cell-phone company in the early days of cell phones and then establish a satellite phone company that specialized in assisting in emergencies. That company opened in June 2004, shortly before Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans. Blanco said the disaster essentially built her business.
“My secret to starting a business is to find a lazy industry,” Blanco said. “This is what I did with the satellite phone business.”
She said she had called other satellite phone companies to try to get information before opening her business but only got voice mail.
“No one answered my calls,” she said. “And I decided this is what I am going to do, and I’m going to do it 24/7.”
Attendees, meanwhile, expressed delight with the presentations, with at least one saying he believed the conference was divinely ordained.
“This is an answer to prayer,” Murice Damion Miller, the 35-year-old founder of layporium.com, an online marketplace based in Utah. “I’ve been to other business conventions. But this is something that makes not only a lasting impression for now but a lasting impression for eternity.”
From the stage, presenters reminded attendees that their actions do have far-reaching consequences.
“If you help others, it will always come back to you,” said Leslie Samuel, a Michigan blogger whose online biology videos have attracted more than 9 million views.
“Create content that inspires others and changes the world while building a business,” he said.
Fruition Lab, which is co-sponsored by the Adventist Review, is being recorded for ARtv and is to be released on the Adventist Review website over the next few weeks.