Whiz Biz Kids

Dallas' young entrepreneurs live by their creed: Just do it.

And if the "paying it back" concept is indicative of entrepreneurs, this spirit of giving in all biz industries is uniquely Dallas. In Fort Worth, business is still oligarchic, albeit with Stetsons and cowboy boots. In Austin, the communal business ethos is one of sharing in the city's environmental and ecological development. As a big-time Dallas commercial developer who does work in Austin once put it to me, "In Austin, you have to get city approval to move a bush. In Dallas, they just ask you how many jobs the deal will bring and tell you to start killing trees." While the latter attitude may one day send us all to a tidy spot in hell, it makes for damn good business.

It also contributes to "the flypaper effect" Dallas has on entrepreneurs. Not long after launch, they often find that the idea of the small-business owner as lone wolf is largely fictional. The officers of your company end up being other entrepreneurs. Dallas, with its hub airport and huge pulsing pockets of young people wanting to start businesses, draws others to the city of incorporated dreams. Remember, the pie is plenty big.

Even after they grow up and move on to new ventures (or take their company in new directions), they do so in Dallas. Jeff Sinelli (started Genghis Grill, now runs Which Wich sandwich shop downtown), Tony Hartl (Planet Tan) and local WEO President Jeffrey Yarbrough (restaurateur who just started his own marketing and PR company, Big Ink PR and Marketing) are examples.

Derek Wilson is CEO of NeoSpire--and still looking to start other ventures.
Mark Graham
Derek Wilson is CEO of NeoSpire--and still looking to start other ventures.
Female entrepreneurs like Gina Puente-Brancato, left, and Adrienne Beam say that being women business owners is just one more of many challenges small-biz owners face.
Mark Graham
Female entrepreneurs like Gina Puente-Brancato, left, and Adrienne Beam say that being women business owners is just one more of many challenges small-biz owners face.

"I am a serial entrepreneur," Yarbrough says, noting that, after he and his wife had triplets, his WEO forum brought his family dinner every night for six months. "The business benefits of staying [with YEO and now WEO] range from my exit from Deep Ellum and the nightclub business to starting my new company. Now, we have different issues in life and business than young entrepreneurs. Starting second or third companies, exit strategies from our companies, raising children, elderly care of our parents. And just because I have experience and contacts, I can always be better."

This is how you start a business in Dallas. You office in a storage room.

First, you have to be so disgusted with your current gig that the storage room sounds inviting. That's where Adrienne Beam was in the mid-'90s. She had a marketing and PR background and was using that to help her in her work (for a company that no longer exists) handling investor relations for a client. She pushed the client to put online much of the material it offered investors. She realized that what she was doing would be useful to other companies: helping them do their marketing, PR and investor relations online.

For three years, she pushed her bosses to expand their efforts to match her vision. They told her that they were doing just fine, thank you, young lady, please go back to work. Finally, she'd had enough. She told this to Calvin Carter, whom she'd met through his Web development company. Carter asked her to go to work for him. Beam said no. Said she wanted to run her own company. Carter said, well, why don't you? You can use my storage closet, and I'll even invest in 10 percent of the biz. Insite Interactive was born. Two weeks later, Beam had her first client. Seven years later, her small company offices in a high-rise off Preston Road and the Dallas North Tollway and does $1.5 million in revenue with her small staff.

Early success didn't prepare her for surviving the tech crash of 2001 and 2002. For that, Beam turned to her colleagues at YEO. They were always supportive, she says, but also very honest. When you struggle, you become humble, and the organization is very good at offering solutions to get you through the tough times and a sense of perspective when biz is soaring. She says it has helped keep her on an even keel throughout her company's ups and downs.

"One thing I love about YEO is we call each other to the table...Some people have a problem with the 'let me tell you how wonderful I am' syndrome. They're used to pitching their business to investors or partners, and we see through that. We all struggle. We get through to most of them and convince them that it's OK to talk about fears and failures."

Most surprising--to this observer, anyway--was the diversity of the membership. There were many female, Hispanic and foreign-born members locally. There is international diversity as well. YEOers often speak of the group's global presence; two "universities," or international retreats, are held every year. (They've been held everywhere from L.A. to Hong Kong. The next university is in Dubai.) Getson, who has visited chapters all around the world when on YEO's international board, is going to India next year to do the same. One of the fastest-growing chapters is in Russia.

Sean and Maria Magennis, both YEO Dallas members, are a testament to the group's global reach. Sean, who started his first business in Toronto, opened YEO's Moscow chapter. Maria was the first female president of YEO International and opened the Mexico City chapter in 1992, the first international chapter outside of Canada. They met at a university retreat in Chicago in 1995, and again in Boston in 1997. By September, Sean flew to Mexico City, and a romance was born. He flew to Mexico City five days a month; she flew to Toronto five days a month. Oh, and he opened a business in Mexico City. And she ran it.

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