One of the most inspiring things about this summit was the drive, determination, and enthusiasm from small business owners and entrepreneurs about their organizations. Three of the speakers stood out to me as people to exemplify: Colonel Greg Gasden, Lani Hay, and Gary Vaynerchuk.
Keynote speaker Greg Gasden spoke about three important points in an organization: pride, poise, and team. His story captivated the audience, drawing details from his experience in the United States military before and after losing his legs in Iraq. By training a team using the values he so inherently personifies, Gasden’s life was saved by his colleagues. Most poignant was how Colonel Gasden talked about coming back from his injury, and how he forged a path down an unknown road. He spoke to the New York Giants before their Superbowl win in 2008, and most recently stared in the movie Battleship.
Another amazing presentation was by Gary Vaynerchuk – the chronic entrepreneur and collector of baseball cards. His lightbulb idea to sell wine online helped create a multi-million dollar business. Instead of preaching on the importance of social media, his very candid and humorous speech reminded small business owners to adapt to how people want to interact with different brands. “One-on-one marketing” is Gary’s answer to “content marketing”. Vaynerchuk believes attention to detail, quality, and responsiveness are what every consumer is looking for, and those who practice that will reap the most profit.
Another amazing small-business owner was Lani Hay, a United States Naval Academy alumni who started a cyber-security and intelligence consulting company that services the government and corporate clients. One of Fortune Magazine’s most powerful women entrepreneurs, she spoke about her journey to where she got to today, and how she continues to volunteer and stand up for what she believes in, including women’s rights.
It was great to see the seven other finalists at the Small Business Luncheon, all of whom were well-deserving of the Dream Big Award. A capstone which seemed to summarize the theme of the conference was recognizing Heritage Homes as the Small Buisness of the Year. Two men who pride themselves in having fun and being passionate about their work, it was wonderful to see them being awarded a check for $10,000 for all of their efforts.
While CETRA was not the grand winner, it still felt great to be recognized as regional finalists within such a talented and hard-working group. After so much inspiration, we are ready to work for the big prize next year!