COBALT Magazine

June and July use to mean fun, food, friends and family. As a child, I looked forward to packing the cooler with sandwiches, mom’s chilled potato salad, containers of iced sweet tea and heading to the beach. As I grew into my teens, summer meant hanging out with my friends and dancing to the latest tunes. As my adult years arrived, summer meant planning an amazing getaway for a memorable adventure somewhere I’ve never been before.

June and July 2020 will also become memorable, but for all the wrong reasons. Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, trains, planes and automobiles are all suspects in spreading a persistent virus.

According to the Center for Disease Control COVID-19 cases and deaths have been reported in all 50 states. Because travel increases your chances of getting infected and spreading COVID-19 to others, staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from getting sick. Here is why:

1) Even if you don’t have symptoms, you can spread COVID-19 to others while traveling.

2) Being within 6 feet of others increases your chances of getting infected and infecting others.

3) If you get infected while traveling you can spread COVID-19 to loved ones when you return, even if you don’t have symptoms

As a result, June and July 2020 will be a summer of reflection, creativity, and mindfulness. I do yoga, walk daily, and count my blessings. My new normal consist of:

  1. Reading motivational books
  2. Walking slowly to take in nature
  3. Listening to music as relaxation with great headphones
  4. Establishing “Gratitude Hour” with a beautiful journal
  5. Giving of my time and talent to a cause I a passionate about

Most of all, I am remaining inspired while limiting negative messages, people and events to a few hours a day.

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The Birth of a MVP is in the Build Phase

You may have been contemplating launching your startup venture for quite some time now. You have spent hours day dreaming what it could look like and how people will be improved by its use. Or, you may be a service oriented leader that has a wonderful plan to improve the quality of life for a particular group or community. At the center of your plan is your minimal viable product (MVP).

What is a Minimal Viable Product? According to Lean Startup author Eric Ries, “A core component of Lean Startup methodology is the build-measure-learn feedback loop. The first step is figuring out the problem that needs to be solved and then developing a minimum viable product (MVP) to begin the process of learning as quickly as possible. Once the MVP is established, a startup can work on tuning the engine. This will involve measurement, learning and must actionable metrics that can demonstrate a cause and effect question.” The Lean Startup movement is designed to ensure your big idea gets to market quickly while meeting the needs of your customer. http://theleanstartup.com/principles


Although the purpose of the MVP is to run testable experiments to learn whether it has value among your customers, the true role of the MVP is to gain insights from collected data. Ash Maurya, CEO and founder of an IT Startup Spark59 shares his experiences with designing his MVP using a staged roll out plan shared with early adopters.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHJn_SubN4E

Is it possible that your MVP can be funded by a grant or a partner who has the ability to be awarded a grant? If the answer is yes, Build/Measure/Learn how to get your MVP into the market place in 2014

Startup Funding News

Frederick’s Triea Systems and UMBC jointly awarded $250,000 from MDNR and MIPS to advance commercialization of new technologies that conserve energy and reduce pollutionThe BioMaryland Center is partnering with Maryland’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) and the Center for Medical Technology Policy (CMTP) to incorporate improved health care quality and cost reduction criteria in the selection process for the BioMaryland Center’s annual Biotechnology Awards program. $1M will be awarded to projects, $50,000-200,000 each, advancing technologies toward commercialization–with preference given to projects which improve patient outcomes and reduce costs. October 1st is the deadline to apply for the next round of Biotechnology Development Awards. More information regarding the program is available online: http://www.bio.maryland.gov/Pages/default.aspx?utm_source=t2+BioMaryland+News+and+Events+-+8%2F12&utm_campaign=8-12-14&utm_medium=email

The BioMaryland Center is partnering with Maryland’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) and the Center for Medical Technology Policy (CMTP) to incorporate improved health care quality and cost reduction criteria in the selection process for the BioMaryland Center’s annual Biotechnology Awards program. $1M will be awarded to projects, $50,000-200,000 each, advancing technologies toward commercialization–with preference given to projects which improve patient outcomes and reduce costs.

Customizing Empowerment is a thinking process that leads you to your

Organic Success!

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The American Garage is Alive and Well

Former Student Startup gets a $1.5 million Phase II grant from National Institute
The Urbana/Champaign (IL) News-Gazette (8/8) reports that the National Institutes of Health has given IntelliWheels Inc. of Champaign, Illinois a $1.5 million Phase II Small Business Innovation Research grant to develop “multispeed geared wheels that will help wheelchair users get around easier.” The design “would give wheelchair users the option to shift into high and low gears, giving them the ability to independently maneuver themselves over hills, uneven surfaces and longer distances.” The piece notes that IntelliWheels was initially a student-led enterprise at the University of Illinois. http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2014-08-08/grant-money-could-help-transform-wheelchairs.html

This story is a call to all entrepreneurs and those who are thinking about being an entrepreneur to launch their Best BIG Idea today! Yes! Today is the day to Build/Measure/Learn about the importance of your next big thing. What is the next big thing? The answer is; a better way of providing a product or service that people and/or businesses currently need, in an improved way. Ask yourself if your ideas quicker, cheaper, easier, better quality, or novel.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying it is easy or that you can take a magic pill. With that said, the global market place is a churning sea of good and great ideas. The difference between your and theirs is…The have a Minimal Viable Product (MVP)out in the world. The Lean Startup method encourages entrepreneurs to jump in the water as soon as possible so that you can fail early. The success of failure is the learning process. Build, Measure, Learn methodology is designed to teach the startup how to learn whether your idea has value to your customer, whether it has a growth potential for a sustainable enterprise.

The American Garage has long been a symbol for innovation and creativity. How you approach your startup venture, whether in a garage, at the kitchen table or in your local coffee shop will be determined by your organic success strategy. The Lean Startup™, Eric Ries http://theleanstartup.com/ is a way of thinking about your plan.

The Lean Start-up formula: Turn ideas into products, measure how customers respond, learn to pivot or persevere.

The Lean Start™ 5 principals:
1) Entrepreneurs are everywhere; They create new products and services under extreme uncertainty
2) Entrepreneurship is management (an institution ) a job title that depends on innovation
3) Validated Learning: Learn how to build a sustainable business ( test each element of the vision)
4) Build- Measure-Learn: Turn ideas into products ( MVP)
5) Innovation Accounting: measure progress, sets up milestones and how to prioritize work
There is no magic wand and as my business advisor once told me “It isn’t easy, if it were, everyone would do it.” Many entrepreneurs know this first-hand, but having a methodology designed around the uncertainty can be helpful.

Tips for your American Garage:
1. Lead with your strengths: Do what you know, are passionate about, or have an innovative solution for a known problem
2. Learn quickly: Get that MVP out as soon as possible and gather feedback. This will allow you time to learn what your customers think.
3. Adjust expectations: Keep your expectations centered around the test (Measure) to learn. Adaptive learning will guide your product/service development process more accurately
4. Be prepared to listen to the metrics (the facts) and act on what you learned. Entrepreneurs aren’t just building a product/service., are building a sustainable enterprise.
5. Pivot with speed, innovation, and creative solutions. Stay alert and agile as you cultivate valuable customer feedback from your Build/Measure/Learn loop.

Customized Empowerment is a thinking process that leads you to your Organic Success!


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Retooling: Where to Begin?

I like starting my day with bright sun shining on my face and a cool spring breeze gently calling me to wake. This old friend is very familiar; it is that feeling we get when we are confident about the possibilities. I am waking up this morning assured that today is the day to make good things happen. What good things you may ask? I am referring to the good choices that guide us on our journey to a purposeful life and business opportunities.

With that said, I also know that whatever skills, talents, opportunities, good friends, mentors and luck that contributed to my current success, can no longer sustain my evolution of purpose and growth. It is time to adapt to the changes that are on the horizon, heck-knocking at my front door…correction, sitting on my living room couch. Here is how I see it. Retooling your car for the upcoming summer season with coolant will ensure you do not find yourself upset and late for that big deal because you are stuck in traffic with an overheated vehicle. Analyzing the 2013-2015 business seasons for my company, e-GLAM, Inc. and your organization is also critical so that we do not overheat in the traffic of the new global economy.

I believe in the concept of Customized Empowerment™. Customized Empowerment is when we decide to pursue our personal or business passions by leveraging our talents, networks and technology. When take inventory of our intellectual gifts and nurture our learned skills we accomplish our goals organically. Our firmly believe in the ideas that organic success is a blend of natural and nurtured talent harnessed to achieve your best BIG ideas. When you are in the organic success zone, you are:

  • Developing critical questions to research and answer
  •  Identifying and embracing your personal and professional strengths
  • Leveraging and spicing up your best big idea
  • Analyzing and strategically placing yourself in a stream of opportunity
  • Identifying and acting on opportunities
  • Seeking expert advice and taking critical risks
  • Blending past and current knowledge to new situations
  • Drafting a plan of action that is reflective of your goals and objectives (be specific)
  • Taking to time to maintain a reflective journal to routinely analyze and make course corrections
  • Networking with 5 critical partners (people with skill sets that compliment yours)
  • Communicating your passion while helping someone else
  • Being Persistent…Never let up!

I am starting with assessment through questioning:

  • What are my strengths?
  •  What are my natural talents?
  • What new skill must I develop?
  • How does the team’s skill sets support future goals?
  • What support does the team need to meet their goals?
  •  What resources do we currently have that can be leveraged to mitigate gaps?
  • What are the gaps?
  • How can we fill the gaps?
  • What does the customer want?
  • Where are the resources?
  • How are we meeting the needs of our target audience?
  • What environmental changes are on the horizon that will impact today’s decisions?
  • What will be our next BIG idea?

I have also decided to get expert help while getting the facts. By asking the right questions, collecting the critical data, and reflecting on the implications to draft a plan of action, I have also decided to retool with the assistance of business school. I have enrolled in the Executive MBA program at George Mason University http://som.gmu.edu/ . Because I believe that education levels the planning field for people pursuing their dreams, I have decided to study and network with global business thought leaders to customize my empowerment and nurture my organic approach to success. I am retooling…stay tuned!

Robin McDougal


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