Geri Stengel

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How An Army Veteran And Saffron Are Building Peace

When you think of Afghanistan, you probably think war torn and desolate. Not high quality produce.

When Kimberly Jung was stationed there as an Army captain, she tasted some of the best fruits, vegetables and spices she had ever eaten. Equally as impressive to her were the people whom she found to be optimistic despite their circumstances as well as loyal and hospitable.

When Jung came back to the U.S., she went to Harvard Business School expecting to be a management consultant At McKinsey in San Francisco. The job didn’t materialize. Instead, while on the phone with Keith Alaniz who was still deployed in Afghanistan, a spark for an entrepreneurial venture took shape. Alaniz told her about Haji Yosef, an industrious farmer who had plenty of saffron but no buyers.

Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. It sells for six to seven times the amount of opium poppy. Both Jung and Alaniz knew that selling a high-value crop like saffron would undercut drug trade, which fuels the Taliban.

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Power Up Your Business By Focusing on ‘Why’

Focusing on “Why” your company does what it does powers up your passion and your business. Inspirational leaders understand this. Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King and the Wright brothers all started with why, according to Simon Sinek, an ethnographer and author of Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Sinek’s TED speech offers specifics around how these leaders did began and how they applied their passionate “why” each step along the way.

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6 Must-Have Personality Traits for an Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs solve problems by creating new products or new ways of doing things. It takes a very special person to do this well—one with very specific personality traits. Based on personal observations and interviews, I’ve come up with six must-have traits for success as an entrepreneur. 

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How Starting with “Why?” Leads Entrepreneurs to Success

Why are some companies more innovative, more profitable, and inspire greater loyalty from customers and employees alike? It’s because they start by asking “why,” according to Simon Sinek, an ethnographer, author of Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action and speaker (his TED speech is among my favorites).

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it,” says Sinek. Your story and your passion make you stand out in a crowd and help you connect with like-minded people, the kind of people who will support you even when times are tough.

When you follow your heart and are passionate about what you do, you lay the foundation for creativity. That keeps you motivated. When obstacles get in your way, you have the strength to go on. Over the past few months, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing four start-up entrepreneurs whose passion and purpose inspire me, their customers, employees, suppliers, and investors.

Read all of How Starting with “Why?” Leads Entrepreneurs to Success on My Turnstone. 

An Agile Mindset: Not Just For the Leader

What sets highly successful leaders apart from the rest? Agile learning does, and entrepreneurs are better at it than corporate executives, according to The Korn Ferry Institute. They should know. The Institute researches leadership and has found that the ability to navigate through novel situations—and to learn from experience without becoming rigid—is a key leadership skill set.

Agile learners are better able to work through complex problems drive innovation and grow a bottom line. The three traits characterize of an agile learner:

  • Tolerance of ambiguity: Comfort with vague or contradictory information and the ability to make decisions when things are uncertain.
  • Intellectual curiosity: The extent to which a person is likely to tackle problems in a novel way, see patterns in complex information, and pursue deep understanding.
  • Emotional intelligence: The ability to influence, collaborate, and communicate effectively with others and use interpersonal awareness in a way that advances collective goals.

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Agile Mindset Sets Entrepreneurs Apart From C-Suite Execs

The agile mindset of entrepreneurs and their ability to learn and pivot quickly gives them a leadership edge over corporate executives. According to The Korn Ferry Institute, there are three main attributes associated with agile learning: tolerance of ambiguity, intellectual curiosity and emotional intelligence, each of which is a key predictor of leadership success. They’ve found that agile learners are better able to work through complex problems, drive innovation and grow a company’s bottom line. These skills are critical whether a company is creating new products and services or responding to disruption. And while entrepreneurs have these qualities in spades, executives often struggle to develop them or leverage their power in a corporate climate.

“Think Pac-Man (the popular video game series of the ‘80s), in which the player controls Pac-Man through a maze,” said Amy Millman, president of Springboard Enterprise, an accelerator for women-led businesses seeking equity financing. “When entrepreneurs hit a wall, they act like a skilled Pac-Man player. They figure out another way. Dead ends don’t happen.”

Read all of Agile Mindset Sets Entrepreneurs Apart From C-Suite Execs on My Turnstone.

6 Lessons For Rocking A TED Talk Or Any Speech

TED and its independently run TEDx events are carefully curated, concise talks on a cornucopia of topics. I love to find a topic that I didn’t know I was interested in, then watch the talk online.

Presenting a TED Talk can bring you attention and even business, but it is no easy feat to be chosen as a speaker. Don’t expect your PR person to land you a gig. Professional speakers need not apply either, though some do land an appearance. It’s not about being polished. It’s about saying something extraordinary, said Aaron Sylvan organizer of TEDxFultonStreet and an event producer. Speakers at TED talks are the world’s most inspired thinkers and their topics have not been seen elsewhere. The ideas presented  change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world.

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A Business Vision That Steve Jobs Would Envy

Being the next Steve Jobs requires a bold vision for your company. So when Joanna Drake Earl, serial entrepreneur, angel investor and venture capitalist, told me about Danielle Applestone’s vision for the Other Machine Co. (OMC) I knew I wanted to talk to her. Applestone’s vision captured the imagination and wallets of more investors in Broadway Angels, a group of world-class angel investors, than any other entrepreneur’s vision. Sounds a lot like Jobs!

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10 Life Lessons For Getting Where You Want To Go

The meteoric rise to the top is a nice story but it doesn’t match reality. Obstacles overcome and setbacks endured are part of every success. It is out of these experiences that life-lessons are learned. I had the good fortune to meet Gillian Zoe Segal at a dinner party. She shared with me her book, Getting There: A Book of Mentors. I’ve summarized some of the lessons that the women entrepreneurs Segal interviewed learned on their rise to the top.

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How Becoming A Thought Leader Can Build Your Business

Thought-leadership creates credibility, visibility, and brand loyalty. It’s a powerful tool in helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses.

I recently reconnected with Denise Brosseau whose new book will be coming out in January 2014. It’s called Ready to be a Thought Leader? How to Increase Your Influence, Impact, and Success. As a cofounder of Springboard’s first venture capital conference for women entrepreneurs and founder of the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs, she has seen how thought leadership has paved the way for her own success and that of others.

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