Entrepreneurship as a new normal

Kenosha Startup Week event examines innovation in companies big and small

Samantha Jacquest, David Jones, Jeremy Fojut and Randy Hernandez discuss entrepreneurship at Kenall Manufacturing in Kenosha.

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:04 pm

Whether one works in a large corporation or a young company, maintaining an entrepreneurial mindset is important to driving innovation, according to a panel of innovators at a Kenosha Startup Week discussion Wednesday.

Samantha Jacquest, David Jones, Jeremy Fojut and Randy Hernandez discuss entrepreneurship at Kenall Manufacturing in Kenosha.

The “Entrepreneurship as a New Normal” panelists described what constitutes entrepreneurship and how to inject it into an organization.

“It’s developing an idea,” said David Jones, founder of the Center for Collaborative Research. “All of a sudden, this idea germinates and it’s like, ‘I’ve got to make this work. I can’t rest until I make this happen.’”

Jeremy Fojut of NEWaukee described entrepreneurship as going through 15 different emotions in any given day, and your parents not understanding what you do.

“How do I replace the unknown with curiosity?” he asked. “I think you just have to have a drive and a passion for wanting to change something or do something different.”

Randy Hernandez of Kenall Manufacturing, where the event was held, said his interview process for new employees involves behavioral questions that indicate problem-solving skills. He expects his employees to be micro-entrepreneurs.

“It’s all about creation. It’s almost creating something from nothing,” Hernandez said. “It’s having a passion. It’s wanting to wallow in that passion for three or four years hence.”

Samantha Jacquest of Blue House Books never expected to become an entrepreneur, but she has recently hosted several pop-up shops with the hope of opening a bookstore in Kenosha. She has a master’s in book publishing and wanted to remain in the Midwest, where there wasn’t a lot of job opportunity.

“For me personally, it was the need to create my own job,” she said. “There are a ton of free resources out there in terms of educating you about what to do.”

Fojut cautioned that while he sees startups being launched, they don’t always solve some of society’s biggest problems.

“We haven’t solved any real problems in a long time,” he said. “No one’s taking that next leap. We have to solve some of these problems instead of perpetuating them. How do we help nonprofits be more innovative?”

Moderator Amy Greil of CNRED UW-Extension described it as the need for better recipes, not more cooking.

Encouraging better recipes may mean thinking outside the box and skipping college to complete a coding camp, which is becoming a trade skill, Fojut said.

“University is about to be disrupted,” he said. “The bubble is happening. The debt’s too high. The universities are teaching things that don’t really need to be learned right off the bat.”

It’s also important to give young people opportunities to explore different career paths, the panelists agreed.

“Internships are a great way for young people to have a safe space to go, ‘That ain’t it,’” Jones said.

Within established companies, the panelists recommended competitions or idea collection projects to draw out employees’ ideas. Hernandez said he has had success with skunkworks projects aimed at innovation within large corporations.

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Molly Dill, former BizTimes Milwaukee managing editor.

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