Over the last several months, ecosystem builders in the Southern Tier have worked together to host several innovation events. At these events, members of the entrepreneur community meet to find partners and supporters for launching and growing businesses in Binghamton.
Tales from the Trenches – Entrepreneurs who have been here, done that
Communities that help startup founders and small business owners progress down a path that is challenging for all, are the communities that thrive. You don’t have to go it alone. Young entrepreneurs can learn from more experienced entrepreneurs, investors can meet the creatives building the next generation technology and we all can open ourselves to new ideas and ways of thinking by attending community events. That’s the idea around one of Drive Binghamton’s signature projects – Tales from the Trenches.
So far we have heard from four shining stars of Binghamton’s entrepreneur community during these fireside chats. Adam Sabol is the co-founder of The Communikey. Casey Coolbaugh is the co-founder of Muckle’s Ink. Elin Barton is the co-founder of White Knight Productions and Damien Cornwell is the founder of On Point Productions and WJOB fm. Here’s just a snippet of what they’ve taught us.
What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
Adam: Being an entrepreneur is being a certain kind of crazy. But at the end of the day there is no better feeling than owning something, and being able to make an impact on others by sharing something you have created.
Casey: The grass is greenest where you fertilize it, and I stayed in Binghamton to build something with and for our community. The older I get the more I think about the value of community and building relationships. It’s empowering when you make these connections.
Elin: I come from a family of entrepreneurs. Earlier in my career I was working for a company and had all these crazy deadlines. I felt like I couldn’t say no. One day I did. I made the decision and commitment to start a business. I took the risk and set my own course.
Damien: I started my career with UPS as a driver and worked my way into managing six buildings across the region. I was working tons hours and felt unfulfilled. One day I thought, “This can’t be it.” I quit my job and I set out to monetize the things I loved, so I could pay the bills, but also change the world by doing something worthwhile.
Where did you find your first employees?
Adam: All of our co-founders were the first employees. We met in college after working on an intense project. When it ended we thought it would be cool to keep building something together. One night over some beers Jimmy told me about his idea. A couple days later Dave joined in.
Casey: Shauna and I met in school and started collaborating on projects together. One day Steve walked into our shop as a customer. After we finished his project he asked us for a part-time job. When his grandfather passed away and left him with a little money, he decided to invest it in Muckle’s because he recognized our work ethic and believed in us. It was difficult giving up a piece of our baby, but we like to think that Steve fell from the heavens. He’s now our business partner.
Elin: Our first office space was at an incubator in downtown Binghamton. This helped us immediately plug into the community and start building connections. I remember attending a Small Business Development Workshop, and when I shared the vision of White Knight – to bring big city production to Binghamton. This resonated with a talented cinematographer who ended up being our first employee. We committed ourselves to showing up at more events and putting ourselves out there. We have relocated people from other areas, but our best and most long-lasting employees have been people who are already here and who share our vision.
Damien: It’s the case of a moth being attracted to the light. Most times we hear stories about people who want to leave Binghamton to build something elsewhere because there’s “nothing go on here.” When we started WJOB fm there was no R&B radio station in Binghamton. Today the station has 14,000 listeners a day. If you make something happen, your community will respond. And this is how we’ve found our best talent.
What is the most rewarding part of being a business owner?
Adam: What I love about being an entrepreneur in this community is going through the journey with others and watching everyone grow. When we started we knew no one who had built something here and made it. It feels great to be pioneering in this way, and we hope by sharing our pitfalls, others will gain the confidence to create something in Binghamton too.
Casey: I believe there are 4 pillars of entrepreneurship: process, creating a product that you can recreate the same way every time, branding it and then marketing it. It’s a great feeling to know we have a branded, processed, product that we’re confident in. We have found ourselves in a really cool enterprise where we get to build whatever we want, create our own rules and do it in a way we think a business should be run.
Elin: I’ve been hardly sleeping lately because I’m excited. In tangent with White Knight, I’m building a personal brand. I just signed a deal with a publisher and I’m working on a series of podcasts. I’m fired up by making a living doing what I love, and not having others call the shots.
Damien: I have a huge problem with authority. I just have an attitude problem! No seriously, I love working with my friends, family and people who are aligned. There is no limit or boundaries on what we can achieve together. We are addicted to what we do. This was not the case when I worked for other folks. And I can’t trade that freedom for anything. I can’t stand the thought of being confined.
Relax, Get Social & Make Great Connections
The knowledge and help from the community you receive will pay off for many years to come. View all of our Drive Binghamton events at uvc.org/Binghamton and watch the recap videos of Tales from the Trenches 1 and 2 by SouthSixty Productions.