The Entrepreneur’s Path Weaves Through the Midwest

“If you want to be successful in life, it’s just this simple. Know what you are doing. Love what you are doing. And believe in what you are doing.”                                                                                                                                                                     Will Rogers

I grew up in Texas and Oklahoma. Now you can’t be from Oklahoma without having Will Rogers’ witticisms somewhere in your background.

I happen to like Will Rogers, quite a lot. So, a few years ago, when I took on a project to author a nuts and bolts “how to” manual for entrepreneurs, (it’s called The Entrepreneur’s Path: A Handbook for High-Growth Companies) I used Will’s quotes to head up each chapter. The above quote was the lead in to Chapter 4—The Plan.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a great reminder, out of the blue, of Will Rogers and the whole experience of developing the Handbook when a friend sent me this column from the Tulsa World.

The story is about Forrest Hull, a 17-year-old senior at Jenks High School in Tulsa, who received a national business award for high school students.

17-year old entrepreneur operates two businesses

Forrest (  is a remarkable young entrepreneur—more about him in a minute—but what caught my friend’s attention was the photograph. On top of the stack of books on Forrest’s desk was a copy of The Entrepreneur’s Path.

So far, Forrest has founded two businessesDigerati, an iPhone application design firm, and Forward Designs, a unique jewelry brand that, in Forrest’s words, are mostly made out of raw material like nails.

We decided to track Forrest down to get the perspective of perhaps the youngest reader of The Entrepreneur’s Path. We caught him just a couple hours before his high school graduation.

US: How did you end up wanting to be an entrepreneur? 

FH: I knew I wanted to do something from a very young age that was different. I never wanted to be a lawyer or a firefighter. At 11 or 12, I started mowing lawns. I enjoyed the ability to work for what I wanted—back then it was iPods. I worked all summer to earn money to buy them. I enjoyed that.

But the entrepreneur bug really hit me when I learned to weld. My dad taught me the basics. I messed around with scrap in the garage, put it on a chain, went to school, and went to church. People saw it, liked it, and I started selling it. That’s when it all started taking off.

US: How do you happen to have a copy of The Entrepreneur’s Path?

FH: I was at a gaming expo in April; my partner and I were creating an app for our iPhone design business. At one of the presentations, they were giving out the handbook. I went up afterward and asked for one, but they were out. Then this kid comes up and says, you were asking so many questions, you have more zeal than I do, take my copy.

“I go by the philosophy that readers are leaders. I didn’t read much or enjoy it until last year when I started a discipline, looking at what business leaders and entrepreneurs have in common—everyone reads. Humans and business people have been around so long, I figured that surely by now, someone has had the same problems I have and written about it in a book. So I started reading business books. I’m about half-way through The Entrepreneur’s Path.

The “backyard effect”

We’ve been writing  lately about entrepreneurship in the Midwest—how the spirit of connection and collaboration produces a unique environment that feeds entrepreneurial success. We’ve coined a term: the “backyard effect.”

Seeing Forrest reading and applying The Entrepreneur’s Path brings it all home.

There’s no denying that when it comes to an innovation economy, both Coasts got the jump on the rest of the country decades ago. Now things are changing fast.

Here in the Midwest, we share what we’ve learned. Our corporations want to become early adopters of our entrepreneurs’ technology. Successful entrepreneurs and business leaders choose to mentor startups. Dozens of service providers engage with founders to provide more than 10,000 hours of pro bono or reduced fee engagements.

We do that because we know that entrepreneurs—like  Forrest Hull or the four student winners of VentureNEXT—can be “made” as well as “born.”