A couple of days ago I had the opportunity to participate in a local entrepreneurial competition called the Bear’s Lair Challenge. I found out about the competition from a talented sculptor and business person Paul Portelli at the Artrepreneur event after asking him some questions over email. I had only 2 days to prepare the required business plan before the application was due so it was thrown together a bit hastily (luckily I had another differently formatted business plan to cut and paste from a bit).
I worked pretty hard last week to prepare a presentation for the “Bears” after attending the “boot camp” for business pitches which the contest kindly enrolled us in, writing a speech and preparing a long image slideshow to illustrate my points. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to memorize my speech, so I had to read from the pages. Nonetheless, everyone seemed to really enjoy my presentation and my artistic exhibition of my product. I like public speaking, and it was interesting sharing my message about Sacred Geometry to a more mainstream audience. It also seemed to add an element of humour to the whole affair, sometimes more intentional than others… I can be such a clown sometimes I only wished there were more people for the show, supposedly last year there was about 75 people attending last year, and I think it was less than half of that this time.
Admittedly I had high hopes of being able to proceed to the finals for the grad prize, which could have benefited my operation immensely as I’ve been operating on a shoestring budget since the beginning. My computer can barely handle what I put it through with my graphics and one of the grand prizes was a bunch of computer equipment. When I thought about what I could possibly need with the $5000 cash prize, I realized that I could buy an eco-solvent printer/cutter that would allow me to print and cut the lanterns onto backlight media, making them more vibrant and waterproof. Nonetheless, when the winners were announced I felt a warmth in my heart for their success.
However, I can’t help but feel a bit off-put by the whole atmosphere of the business world at times. One of the judges asked if he could offer some feedback of my web page which I welcomed gladly, telling him I don’t get enough of it considering recently found a glaring error to my homepage (where a missing picture was replaced with a big “?”). He then proceeded to tell me that some of the pictures “really sucked” and that he thought his glasses were greased up. His comments were valid, but the tone was rather snide. The Peterborough Examiner went on to quote him on this in their brief mention of my presence at the contest in this article. Another one of the judges told me that I should can the “hippie stuff” and implied that they might have bought one of my products but was off-turned by the more esoteric aspects of my presentation. I handed this judge one of my lanterns and asked them to take a look at the packing and tell me if it turned them off, but unfortunately they left without approaching me or returning the lantern…perhaps a miscommunication.
The hippie stuff (presumably): in my presentation I briefly mentioned the universality of geometric imagery in spiritual traditions; also that geometric imagery had scientifically been proven to help reduce heating of the brain from cell phone use and been used to eliminate sickness caused by a cell phone tower installation as elaborated in a past blog entry. Oh, I also mentioned Crop Circles too. I can only imagine that the mainstream news wouldn’t want the spotlight on such a message. I can’t help but wonder if I would have done better in the contest if I didn’t have a far-out social message to my business. The same inquiry applies to the success of my business in general.
However, I’m not so sure if I should take advice from the “Bears”, from wild animals, from those whose sole concern is their own survival and wealth. Certainly that has its place in this operation, but I seek a more holistic idea of a company, one with its feet in the ground and its head in the clouds — or the stars as it were. Thus I seek to have as a strong component of selfless service to my operation ( i.e. the giving of free copies of the FreeShield on competition break). This video does a great job of summing up why that’s important for us:
One of the major concerns the Bears had for me was the issue of “duplication”, namely anyone with some investment capital and some cleverness could take my idea, exploit it, and out-compete me. I asked to address their criticism and commented that I intend to publish my templates under a Creative Commons Atribution-NonCommercial license so others could use it for personal use but not financial gain. The judge retorted that a slight modification to the design would enable a reverse engineer to exploit the idea, and I responded that it might also be the case for any patent as I have heard before (but perhaps I should add a “ShareAlike” clause for that reason).
I’m convinced that if I emanate the intention of generosity and service to others, then I will attract that kind of presence as well, but the animal instinct differs in mentality, seeking to dominate and defend territory as is the case with the status quo mentality around Intellectual Property. I’m not really worried about their concern with duplication. I really don’t think any investor would want to get involved in reverse engineering something that was already “Open Source”. And knowing how long its taken me to get all of this stuff just right, they’d probably be best to not even bother if making money is their only goal. I’ve already put an easier to produce lantern design up on instructables.com and I haven’t heard from a single person who made one, despite encouragement for feedback.
Besides, this creativity I express is not really mine, its a gift– perhaps even a loan — from my muse/guide/”genius” … or at least that’s a healthier perspective on creativity as Elizabeth Gilbert (author of “Eat, Pray, Love”) suggests in this presentation:
Despite my retorts, I’d like to close with the observation that the business community I encountered at the competition was also very supportive and encouraging of my new venture and for that I’m very grateful. I look forward to attending the competition finals in May, for which I’ve been offered free tickets.