Follow your passion, indulge your curiosity, network relentlessly, learn from your failures and never, ever give up on your dreams.
These are some of the lessons shared with business students at Oakland Community College as they listened to stories and advice from four entrepreneurs, including Scott Ringlein, founder and CEO of The Energy Alliance Group of Michigan.
The presentation was part of the Introduction to Business class, taught by Cindy Finger-Hoffman, a member of the business faculty at OCC and a recent Adams Entrepreneurial Fellow. During her fellowship, she worked with Automation Alley designing training programs for entrepreneurs.
“There’s never a bad idea,” Ringlein told the students. “If you have an idea and it fails, you can learn so much from that.” He also explained that flexibility is critical when running a start-up company. “Our business plan today looks vastly different that our plan did just two years ago. You have to change as you go and learn how to mitigate risk,” he said.
Now he believes he’s created a company that is facing very few competitors because of the uniqueness of its services.
Ringlein said he’s motivated to keep moving forward by many things. “When I started all this, I was motivated to do painting and landscape work to fund my ideas. Now I love that I’m able to be a free thinker and follow my passions. I couldn’t do that in corporate America,” he said.
He told students of new opportunities in the grow-light industry as a result of his participation on a Pacific Agriculture Summit in Hawaii in September. “I happened to meet this guy who asked me what I was doing the next day. I told him I was going to the beach. He said, ‘No you’re not. You’re coming with me.’ So I toured his businesses and now we’re working with him developing portable aquaponics grow system, growing greens and raising fish, for the Asian market.”
During his corporate employment, he was rarely exposed to opportunities like that.
Ringlein also stressed the importance of maintaining multiple streams of revenue while pursuing your entrepreneurial dreams. He took family vacation property and turned it into rental property. He also has a consulting company focusing on business planning.
“Part of what drives entrepreneurs is survival. You still have to pay the bills. I’m working to create a sustainable company that will provide for me and my family for life,” he said.
The Energy Alliance Group (EAG) of Michigan is an energy solutions and cost recovery company with offices and in Ann Arbor, MI and Grand Rapids, MI. The company provides energy-saving products, technologies and services. EAG clients are assured the greatest energy savings and maximum return on investments by being guided through the complexity of technology and service choices, utility and tax incentives and project financing alternatives.
Other entrepreneurs who participated in the presentation include: Ken Siegner, Poweraxle Corporation; Adham Aljami, HistoSonics; and Anthony Drummond, Adaptive Elite.