Andre Moore: How an Injured Veteran is Using Kickstarter to Fuel a Dream

It’s not often you get the chance to help someone make their dream happen – and make sure it’s possible for New Mexico to get some of the best ribs ever made. But with the launch today of Andre’s Ribs Kickstarter, you can help a disabled vet fulfill his passion. If you’d like to know more about Andre, his bio is below this video. But even if you can only donate $5, it all helps. And if you can share this with your friends, please do. Let’s support this injured military veteran and make Andre’s Ribs a reality. Let’s help Andre and Watch New Mexico Rise

View Andre’s Ribs Kickstarter

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Andre Moore knows a lot about picking up the pieces of shattered dreams and putting them back together to find a new purpose in life. A disabled Army medic, Moore is a former high school football player who grew up in a two-bedroom house in Deastville, Alabama, with his grandmother, mother, and as one of the oldest of seven siblings. As the oldest brother, Moore learned early on how to cook for his family and discovered a love for baking after learning the secrets of southern baking under the guidance of his grandmother and mother. “One year when my mom was sick, she couldn’t make the red velvet cakes she made every year for her co-workers. So I made them for her. When they all raved and said they were the best cakes she’d ever made, she told them it was me that had made them. I made them every year after that.”

“It wasn’t long after that that I learned I was good at cooking meat,” he recalls. “I was in high school and needed another elective, so I took Home Economics. There was this beef cook off, and I came in second place with this roast beef recipe I got out of a Betty Crocker cookbook.”

For a child who grew up where food was scarce, creating dishes that bring pleasure to his friends is about more than the joy of good-tasting food. “If you eat with people, you got time with somebody that’s more wholehearted than just meeting someone. To give someone food that is quality, that other people can enjoy, too – that’s important.”

It doesn’t take long into a conversation with Moore to realize that behind his slow smile and quiet demeanor lies an inquisitive, intelligent mind, but it wasn’t his intelligence that he thought would be his ticket out of the low income community where he grew up.

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Want to be Successful? Get Over Yourself and Seize the Opportunity

Andre Moore knows what it is to watch a bright future disappear – not once, but twice. Being forced to reinvent himself after thinking he was on the right path to success has helped him learn that seizing the opportunity is worth it, whenever and however that chance comes.

His first devastating heartbreak came early in his life when several letters of intent from major colleges and a promising career in the NFL evaporated into nothing after he was injured during his junior year of high school. The eldest son of several siblings raised by a hard-working single mother, the young Alabama native metamorphosed overnight from a rising star to a young man with an uncertain future. As he watched one door close on his future, he chose to follow his heart and enlisted to serve his country while still in high school, first in the National Guard and then as a medic in the Army. But, once again, this calling was cut short when Andre suffered a debilitating injury the day before his unit shipped out. Devastated, he returned home and contemplated what to do with his life. At the invitation of childhood friends, he moved cross-country to make a new life for himself in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he quickly earned certification as a dental assistant before enrolling in the University of New Mexico.

 

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My son, Jonathon, became friends with Andre when the two began studying together at the university’s library. Most weekends, Jonathon came home from Andre’s loaded with leftover ribs or chicken. After pilfering his leftovers one afternoon, I asked my son why Andre wasn’t selling his ribs. Despite eating them cold out of the fridge, his ribs tasted incredible. When Andre was invited to attend a Startup Weekend event, he and Jonathon jumped at the opportunity to flesh out the idea of launching a food truck. The team took second place and treated the entire audience to Andre’s ribs, converting many into a solid fan base.

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When Andre recently discovered that one of my good friends, J. Kelly Hoey, was coming for a visit, he created his own opportunity by offering to help out by delivering his ribs for one of our meals. Kelly was flying out from her home in New York City to support our network for women entrepreneurs I’d launched in 2014 with my cofounder Jessica Eaves Mathews. We’d invited Kelly to be a part of our first Women’s Conference, Haute Highlights, as the final keynote speaker as well as serving as a judge that night at our benefit gala, Haute Night Out. Kelly had even volunteered to be the guest speaker to kick off the Teen ABQ Startup Weekend which my younger son was helping organize.

Andre found a way to not only be of help but do so in a way that also put him in the same room with someone with knowledge and connections he wanted to meet. On her last day in Albuquerque, Andre arrived at our door loaded with steaming hot ribs and wings – as well as a long list of questions. While Kelly dined on the meal he’d prepared, she shared advice and answered his questions.

We can learn a lot from Andre. I wonder how many times we let our own fear, laziness, pride, or insecurity get in our way. How often do we succumb to that inner whisper that it’s too scary, that others will discover our lack of knowledge, skill or talent or won’t want to help us – and so instead of acting, we let opportunities slip away simply because we can’t get over ourselves enough to seize the moment?

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I recently attended an event designed to pair out-of-state investors with local entrepreneurs while riding a chair lift at the world-class ski resort in Taos, New Mexico. My husband and I made the drive to support our entrepreneurial community. An avid skier, my husband hit the slopes while I opted to hang out with the non-skiers. After chatting a bit with the group at the ski lodge, I found a quiet spot where I could work. At the end of my table sat a woman who was one of the founders pitching at the event. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her twice start to stand up before sitting back down. Finally, with a deep breath, she got up and approached an out-of-town investor working nearby. She introduced herself and asked if he would be willing to answer some of her questions.

When she returned to her seat next to me, I smiled. “Way to go,” I said. “Way to take advantage of the opportunity.”

“I had to,” she replied. “These investors are only here today. Right now. This may never happen again, so it is now or never.”

She seized the moment despite the struggle it took to get beyond her own fear of approaching a complete stranger who, on the hierarchy of startups, might have seemed far above her. And because of her action, she left the event richer for the opportunity – including now having a new connection who would likely remember her when she was ready to seek funding for her startup in the future.

The next time you’re presented with an opportunity, don’t hesitate. No one else is going to pave the way for you to reach your dreams, and even when one dream slips away, there are still opportunities to reinvent yourself. Don’t be lackadaisical with your life, and don’t squander precious opportunities. Get over yourself to find courage to seize the opportunity. It is the surest path forward – no matter what you want in life.

Teaching Entrepreneurship: Educational Boondoggle or Brilliant Innovation?

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Everywhere you turn today, it seems there is an event, program or class teaching you how to become an entrepreneur. And everyone wants in on the action, from government agencies, nonprofits, foundations, incubators, and accelerators to new programs like the brief immersion experiences such as Startup Weekend. A wide variety of certificate programs, bootcamps and elective courses are also cropping up at both accredited institutions as well as community centers. Entrepreneurship is today’s cool kid on the block.

But, for me, the question is this: is it even possible to teach someone to become a successful entrepreneur in a classroom setting? I’m not convinced, especially in the case where the student has little or no on-the-job experience developing the leadership, business acumen, and marketing skills required to run a startup.

I’m not sure anyone has all of the answers, but why it is worth pursuing the answers is pretty clear. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that almost half of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product comes from small businesses, but according to the Brookings Institution, new startups have dropped by 28% over, roughly, the past thirty years. If small businesses are the backbone of the American economy but fewer are willing to join the ranks of small business owners, that trend must change if we are to prevent further havoc on the economy. Thus there has arisen this implicit imperative to somehow churn out individuals who are capable of launching a startup, possess the creativity to dream up innovative solutions – not to mention also having the right characteristics to scale those startups into thriving businesses which can employ others within the community.

Character Traits Can’t Be Taught in Seminar or Lecture

As someone who is entering my sixth year as a founder of a civic tech startup and who has also lived for over two decades in the startup world as my spouse and his cofounders launched, grew and successfully exited tech companies, I have a hard time believing that the character traits needed to become a successful startup founder can be taught in a classroom. There is no way to simulate the roller coaster of emotions or to train someone to have the drive they’ll need to overcome obstacles threatening a startup’s success. And while I believe it is vital to seek out mentors and role models – sitting in a classroom with twenty other individuals while listening to a guest speaker, especially if that speaker doesn’t have an impressive history as a successful entrepreneur? I’m just not convinced that a parade of personalities can prepare a student for much of anything beyond adding a few new war stories to the mix and gaining new contacts for future networking.

The Problem With Partypreneurs

It also concerns me that some of today’s very well-intentioned initiatives may be feeding the wrong ideas and even attracting the wrong demographic altogether. For startup groupies who go from event to event, it is so easy to gloss over the loneliness and isolation that often happens as founders focus on building their startup. Instead, those I’ll call the Partypreneurs thrive on the sense of belonging and excitement they feel events and mistake those emotions as an indication of success. Partypreneurs want the lifestyle without paying the dues. Entrepreneurship is far more about sacrifice and personal cost than any kind of hip lifestyle, glory or fun. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that building a startup isn’t exciting or fun. It is. But entrepreneurship is not a lifestyle; it is a calling that often requires deep sacrifice to build a better future not only for oneself but for those the startup serves.

The Challenge With Teaching Entrepreneurship

I recently had an interesting conversation with Stacy Sacco, who currently serves as the Director of the Small Business Institute and Parker Center for Family Business as well as a lecturer for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of New Mexico’s Anderson School of Management. He expressed concern that such a small segment of the university’s population were currently enrolled in the entrepreneurship program. “Our schools, several economic development agencies, etcetera, are creating an extensive infrastructure for start-ups, but only about 150 students out of over 28,000 students at UNM are enrolled in the entrepreneurial studies track.”

Despite my contention that the traits of a successful entrepreneur cannot be taught, I do believe there are a few things we can do to make entrepreneurship programs more useful and relevant to those currently enrolled and to attract higher attendance in the future.

Require Internships and Mentoring

Just as many other programs require internships and student-immersed, hands-on learning, it should also be a requirement for entrepreneurship programs. If a student is working at a local startup, the relevancy of the curriculum will immediately increase. And for startup founders, the opportunity to use the coursework within their own business will be seen as a bonus, not a burden. Because of the skill sets required to run a startup are so diverse, entrepreneurship programs must also deliver a curriculum with a broad knowledge base to attract the serious entrepreneurs or produce students properly equipped to launch a startup. As one student recently told me, “I have no plans to start a company, and I’m not sure I even want to work at a startup. I just took the entrepreneurship track because it looked like the easiest coursework.” We need to raise the bar not only of coursework offerings but in requiring hands-on experience if we are going avoid setting up founders for failure.

Provide Cross-Discipline Electives

Most of the entrepreneurship programs I’ve seen that are attached to university curriculum seem to be imbedded as an optional component towards a business degree. Because entrepreneurs come from every field of study and background, entrepreneurship programs would likely enjoy higher enrollment if relevant elective options were available within other fields of study, such as engineering, science, or medicine. With the background knowledge acquired through entrepreneurial-focused electives, scientists, engineers and even those in the medical profession would be far better equipped to launch their own startup long after graduating from college.

Bootcamp, Certificate and Not For Credit Courses

While the more conventional higher education institutions might benefit by extending entrepreneurship electives to a broader sector of the student body, there are many individuals who have no intention of enrolling in a degreed program. Recently, some of our team met with leaders from the University of Phoenix and the Apollo Group to explore opportunities to foster a more inviting environment for underrepresented groups such as women and minorities within technology-based programs as well ways to present real-world, hands-on experiences within current course offerings. Because most current student loan programs and grants do not cover these more unconventional programs which are often much shorter in duration and more focused in content to serve specific needs within the entrepreneurial community, it is often difficult to find an affordable model to reach these more unconventional learners. It is a challenge our team has begun to explore because we have seen such a positive response to our platform among these very groups at our civic hacking events.

Communities Must Foster Cooperative Ecosystems

If entrepreneurs are to have the best chance for success, it is vital that any entrepreneurship program be tied into the rest of the community’s ecosystem so that there is a contiguous line of support from the classroom to the real world. When competing support entities become territorial and make it difficult for the founder to move in and out of segments of support as the need arises, it makes it far more difficult for the entrepreneur to engage in the wide variety of support and training that might be needed for success. When universities, alternative higher education private institutions, accelerators, incubators, investors and business centers all work together as a cohesive ecosystem, everyone comes out the winner.

While I am still not certain anyone can actually be taught the character traits required for entrepreneurship as an academic exercise, I do believe it is important to continue finding ways to empower more within the community to launch their own business. There is also much that can be done to make technology less intimidating, more accessible and affordable to those who are disenfranchised by the current options. There is much about entrepreneurship that cannot be taught, but we can focus on these opportunities to improve to better prepare entrepreneurs to be able to face the real work that will begin the day they launch their own company.

This post is also available on Huffington Post.