Network Kansas: Harnessing the Power of an Entrepreneurial Mindset

by: Ted Kriwiel

As Christina and I have worked on this blog series, we felt that it was important to share why inclusive entrepreneurship matters to each of us. ​Earlier this month, Christina shared a beautiful post on the role entrepreneurship played in her childhood. This week, I’ll share a bit of my experience.


I grew up in a house where inclusive entrepreneurship matters to each of us. Entrepreneurship was an integral part of our life. My Dad started a modestly successful company about 20 years ago which funded another half dozen unsuccessful companies over the same time. My mom started a catering company and a furniture restoration business from our garage —both of which were sparsely profitable but provided her tremendous satisfaction.

I got into the “family business” of starting businesses early in life. I saw my first success at the age of 13 with the simultaneous discovery of eBay and flea markets. My business plan consisted of identifying treasures, buying these gems on the cheap and selling them for a profit online—an obvious recipe for success. I experienced the sweet aroma of ​victory when I stumbled upon a very rare, vintage Prince Obolenski cologne set for only $7! I did not realize its value or rarity until the following week when two buyers got into a bidding war resulting in a $75 sale.

At 13, I felt like I had revolutionized an industry.

Working quickly, I stormed a Goodwill with the hope of re-investing my winnings in new treasures—all the while calculating what a 1000% return on $100 would be. Three months later, filled with disappointment, I donated the “investments” back to Goodwill and closed up shop. Through this mistake, I learned the importance of receiving market validation before blazing ahead. I learned the difference between luck and a viable business; and I learned that mistakes in business will always cost time or money, and often both.

While the list of lessons learned could go on, I share this story to highlight the role my parents played:

  1. They gave me the freedom to fail. Knowing with certainty that this would end in disaster, my mom didn’t hesitate to set up the eBay profile and let me use her PayPal account. Failure was never something to be feared.
  2. They made me put skin in the game. I was required to “invest” my own money that I earned raking leaves and doing other odd jobs for friends and family. I learned that entrepreneurship is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It requires hard work, personal sacrifice and persistence.
  3. They were relentlessly optimistic. There are at least five more businesses like the aforementioned that I can distinctly remember my parents pushing me to pursue: Kriwiel’s Auto Kare, Tank Painters Tank Painting… each more poorly named than the last.

Through all of this, I received the early stages of an entrepreneurial mindset. I was forced to see challenges as opportunities and catastrophic failures as temporary setbacks.

I assumed this was how all families were but, in getting to know more people, the more atypical my experience seems. Particularly in conversations with Christina and other friends through Wichita Urban Professionals, I’ve come to realize that my childhood experience is not only atypical but virtually unheard of in certain communities. 

I recently discovered that business ownership in Kansas disproportionately skews Caucasian and male (i.e., me). African Americans make up 6% of the population in Kansas but represent only 2% of the business ownership. Hispanics represent 11% of the Kansas population but own only 3% of the businesses. These statistics represent a deeply complex imbalance and leave me feeling overwhelmed. This thought, however, gives me hope: Harnessing the power of an entrepreneurial mindset is completely free and can begin today. 

Despite the current lack of diversity in business ownership and the systemic challenges minority business owners face, progress is in sight. For example, the number of minority business enterprises (MBEs) increased 39 percent between 2007 and 2012 nationwide (from 5.8 million to 8.0 million). This growth came during the depths of a recession and is in stark contrast to non-minority ownership, which shrank by 5% over that same time.

Continuing this positive trend will be challenging, risky, and we will face failures along the way. But I’m still hopeful.  In fact, I’m relentlessly optimistic.

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Ted Kriwiel is product manager, metropolitan entrepreneurship, at NetWork Kansas. NetWork Kansas is a proud affiliate of U.S.SourceLink, America’s largest resource network for entrepreneurs. Reposted from