Fifty Entrepreneurs, Ten Questions and a Wealth of Knowledge

Fifty Entrepreneurs, Ten Questions and a Wealth of Knowledge

The April 2024 issue of Fargo INC! magazine marks the 50th edition of my monthly feature “10 Questions with John Machacek”, where I interview area entrepreneurs.   

The questions I ask are designed to not only learn a bit about the entrepreneur and their startup, but to give readers the opportunity to learn from the tactical and operational processes discussed by the entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs are consistently going through trial & error as they build their businesses, and that information can be very helpful to other entrepreneurs. 

“I feel like everything we do is one big experiment– including marketing and promotion. Some things work great but only for a time until the next social media trend–and some things just flop altogether. But I’ve ultimately learned that people want to know who is behind the business–and in our case, who is behind the products we sell, experience behind-the-scenes of it all, and all of this only in a real, genuine and usually fun and snarky way.” – Ashley Morken, Unglued – Interview #19 September 2021 

In the 50th issue, I interviewed Lisa Esberger, the co-founder of the tech startup Verdethos, who I first met in 2022 when she was attending Emerging Prairie’s Prairie Capital Summit. That visit, and the subsequent visits and friendly connections, lead to her eventually deciding to move her startup here.  

Building a startup is hard enough no matter where you are, so finding a unique place like Fargo where there’s a tremendous amount of support both inside and outside of the entrepreneurial community has been exciting.Lisa Esberger, Verdethos – Interview #50 April 2024 

So, that is part of Lisa’s story and through my work, I have found that every entrepreneur has their own, different story on their journey and lessons learned.  

Aside from some practical tips they may have from running their businesses, a common theme among the interviews was around business support. Some types of support include the use of startup programs and resources; the support and enthusiasm for entrepreneurship in our community; and outsourcing tasks that may not be the best use of their time or knowledge base, such as payroll, HR, taxes, IT services, etc.  The importance of building relationships was also brought up a lot for gaining knowledge, collecting feedback, finding customers and helping others. 

“People are everything. I would tell a younger Ray to get out even more NOW and connect with people. Listen more and shut up. Help first, ask for something later. You get so eager to get going and, quite frankly, to stay alive you don’t realize you are building relationships. These are relationship foundations with people who will be there later to support you, help you through tough times or even buy your products.” – Ray Berry, OmniByte – Interview #6 August 2020 

I have a few questions that I always ask with every interview, including starting by asking for their elevator pitch description. My #9 question is my time machine question, where I ask them for any hindsight advice they’d give themselves several years ago. Frequent answers include telling themselves that it’s okay not to entirely know what you are doing, believe in yourself and move faster.  

“I would tell myself to be more direct and confrontational if deadlines or goals are missed. I was a softy back then, but now I’m super direct and you have to be if you are a leader of a growing team. I’ve learned the hard way that feedback on anything from product to customer relations is needed constantly. If you’ve waited a month for feedback, that’s an eternity. 1% improvement every day leads to 37x in a year, and there’s no excuse to not get better.” Jeremy Vrchota, Cota Systems – Interview #43 September 2023 

My last question, which I refer to as the StartupBREW question, always asks what the community can do to help the entrepreneur and their company succeed. It’s a very Fargo Moorhead type of question, in that we genuinely want to know how we can help. And I hope it’s a question that all readers focus on, in case they have the knowledge, resources or connections to help that entrepreneur.  

It has been a great partnership with Fargo INC!/Spotlight Media over these past 4+ years, and I really appreciate the collaboration with their team to showcase our regional startup scene. I look forward to interviews #51 and beyond.  

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