D-FW business owners start mentoring program
Monday December 26, 2011
Dallas Morning News – by Sheryl Jean
Jay Rodgers, a Fort Worth entrepreneur with nearly two dozen companies under his belt, has informally mentored other entrepreneurs for years.
Now, he wants to share his knowledge and experience on a more formal basis.
Rodgers and three other business owners are starting a mentorship program called Biz Owners Ed for young companies in North Texas.
The group’s co-founders said their goal is to provide the help young companies often need to grow.
Biz Owners Ed will provide 10 weeks of mentoring, networking, education and access to investors at a final “pitch day” for up to 10 companies. The first session is scheduled for April at a Dallas-area location yet to be chosen.
“My goal in life is to prove that good practices work in any setting,” said Rodgers, who began his career at Eastman Kodak but realized the corporate world wasn’t for him. He first bought a corporate dude ranch in Roanoke and went on to build and sell nearly two dozen companies in four decades. He and his wife, Bettye, own Track What Matters LLC, which develops GPS tracking devices.
In addition to Rodgers and his wife, other co-founders are James Attrell, retired founder of Nortex Modular Space, and Dallas lawyer David Hammer.
Biz Owners Ed is another twist on the business incubator concept.
Business incubators date to the 1950s, but a new breed has focused more on mentoring and seed capital. These so-called “accelerator models” are on the rise in Texas and nationwide.
In October, the Dallas chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization launched its Accelerator program to help up to 30 entrepreneurs build their revenue to $1 million or more. Entrepreneurs must generate at least $250,000 in annual revenue to enter the program, which costs $1,500 and focuses on business best practices, such as financing and strategy.
Last year, the for-profit Tech Wildcatters began offering office space, up to $25,000 and mentoring during a 12-week boot camp in exchange for a small stake in each startup.
Biz Owners Ed has adopted features from EO’s Accelerator program and Tech Wildcatters.
“We looked at different models, including Tech Wildcatters, TechStars [Colorado] and Y Combinator [California], but we decided to take the equity stake off the table and shifted to later stage companies,” Rodgers said.
Participants in the non-profit Biz Owners Ed must be active owners or founders of a company that’s less than 7 years old with more than $100,000 in annual revenue.
They and the mentors must pay to join. Entrepreneurs must pay $1,500, which will be refunded if the person attends all of the meetings. Each mentor donates $5,000 to reflect their commitment.
“We didn’t want the lure to be the money, we wanted knowledge to be the lure,” Hammer said.
Biz Owners Ed has about 20 mentors, including Dallas serial entrepreneur Rex Kurzius, Ziglar Inc.’s global ambassador Krish Dhanam and David Minor, former director of Texas Christian University’s Neeley Entrepreneurship Center in Fort Worth and chief executive of the Landscape Partners in Richland Hills.
“At TCU, I mentored so many young business owners,” said Minor, who started his first business at age 13. “Biz Owners Ed is a prime example of successful entrepreneurs who want to give back.”
Entrepreneurs can apply for Biz Owners Ed through March 1 at http://www.bizownersed.com.