September 6, 2019

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Cultivating Social Enterprise in Louisville

By Delene Taylor, CPA, CGMA

Social entrepreneurship resonates for many Louisville startups looking to “do good” in our backyard. By way of definition, let’s look at the buzz out there. Social enterprise, corporate social responsibility (CSR), conscious capitalism – these are all terms which refer to an evolving business practice that incorporates social impact into a for-profit company's business model and brand. Measurable impact on social, environmental and economic factors (people, planet, profit – also known as Triple Bottom Line) is a key component.

Louisville entrepreneurs now have a helpful resource: local startup Canopy ( is a nonprofit organization with a vision of Making Kentucky First in Good Business. Canopy will provide support to for-profit companies with a social or environmental mission, working with entrepreneurs and business leaders to create the Canopy Certified Program, which will guide businesses along the path to greater impact and recognize successful outcomes. As a founding director of the Canopy Board, I see how important it is to grow awareness and culture around the good business movement through educational outreach.


Research by Cone Communications found that 63% of Americans hope businesses will drive social and environmental change in the absence of government regulation. 78% want companies to address important social justice issues. 87% of consumers surveyed said they would purchase a product because a company supports an issue they care about, and 76% would refuse to buy from a company that supports something contrary to their own beliefs.

A Nielsen survey showed that 90% of millennials will pay more for products that contain environmentally friendly or sustainable ingredients, and 80% will pay more for products that have social responsibility claims.

This passion for corporate social responsibility exists across genders and generations. Millennials, Gen Z and Gen X are the most supportive, but their older counterparts aren’t far behind.

According to a 2014 NetImpact study, 83% of respondents were willing to earn a salary that was 15% lower than they might otherwise make in order to get a job that seeks to make a social/environmental difference.

Demand continues to grow for a corporate form that meets the expectations of socially and environmentally conscious consumers, investors, entrepreneurs and employees. Enter the Benefit Corporation - a legal corporate entity structure. Currently, 36 states have passed Benefit Corp legislation, including Kentucky. Don’t confuse this with the term ‘B Corp,’ which is a globally recognized certification developed by B Lab. To learn more, visit There are currently close to 3,000 certified B Corps in over 60 countries.

Investors are paying attention. From 2016 to 2018, impact investing in the U.S. grew more than 38% - to 26% of the $46.6 trillion in total assets under management.

Where do you fit in?

With consumers, employees, and stakeholders placing increasing importance on supporting and working for businesses that are effecting social change with their beliefs, practices and profits, how can you as an entrepreneur use your business as a force for good? Here are four key areas to focus on:

1)    Workplace practices and culture

2)    Environmental footprint

3)    Philanthropy

4)    Community service


Be vocal about what you are doing and why - people want to align with others who share their values. Choose causes that have some relevance to your core business focus or values. Be authentic and build your program(s) intentionally and in a way that is...   continue reading    


At the recent August Louisville Sheltowee Business Network Event, entrepreneurs, mentors, experts, angels, and explorers met and networked with new SBN members and prospects.

THE SHELTOWEE BUSINESS NETWORK in conjunction with the SHELTOWEE VENTURE FUND is a member driven-network that helps entrepreneurs start and build businesses.

Our Core Values are:
1. Help others
2. Always act in a kind, ethical and transparent fashion
3. Honor those who assume the risk
4. Expect a financial return from your interactions

Become a member of the network!  Go to:

Not Every Qualified Investor Can Be An Angel

By Eric Dobson

It is a romantic idea to want to be an angel…to be a patron of the startup, or as one of our members phrases it, “worshiping at the altar of capitalism.”  Every day I hear about how much fun most people believe my job is because of the ability to work with passionate entrepreneurs to turn dreams into reality.  And, you know what?  It is fun!  Most successful people I know say they want to become angel investors.  But, not every qualified investor can or should be an Angel.  And, I am tired of UNMAKING Angels!

It is no secret that Angel Investors, as an industry, enjoy better than market returns.  According to the Kauffman Foundation, the industry average is 2.6x on your money in 3.4 years (individual results will vary widely…and we are about to talk about why!).  Out of the 5 – 8 million qualified investors (according to the SEC regulations of $1M in net worth excluding your primary residence or $200,000 in annual income), only approximately 320,000 individuals choose to do so (Angel Capital Association, 2016).  That is a NOT a happy number!  It amounts to between 4 and 6 % of those qualified, which is well below the “tipping point.”  If the returns are so great, why aren’t the rest of the qualified individuals investing in the angel capital industry?

The answer is two-fold.  First, angel investing is not easy.  It takes work.  It takes time.  And, it takes dedication, participation, and collaboration.  Second, it takes intestinal fortitude to weather the inevitable losses that come, typically, before the wins.  Industry numbers on the process are intimidating.  As an industry, Angels return capital from 6 out of 10 investments with one to two exiting companies paying for all the loses plus a healthy profit.  In this model, 4 – 5 will be a total loss,  3 – 4 will be a modest return or loss, and the last 1 – 2 will be the ones that pay for the entire portfolio.  Venture capital numbers are, not surprisingly, very similar.  It is daunting to watch a great idea in the hands of a passionate entrepreneur crash and burn….and not just one, three to four of them!  And, almost inevitably, the ones that return capital are the last to exit.  As they say in the industry, the lemons ripen in two years, but the plums ripen in 4 – 7.  So, it is not just one leap of faith.  It is a series of leaps of faith in the face of statistically backed failure!

For this reason, the industry recommendation is to make 20 investments over 3 – 5 years to give the best odds of returning 2 – 3 times your capital (Rose, 2014).  That sounds simple, but it is deceptively hard.  We all want to believe we are smart enough to pick the winners, but that is hubris talking, not financial savvy.  So, the first few loses are hard to swallow no matter how sophisticated an investor you are.  And, there will always be one that will surprise you that you thought was as sure a bet as can be made.  Luckily, that works both ways and one will almost certainly surprise you that you thought was a “walking-dead.”

Despite these recommendations, many new Angels want to stick a toe in the water to test it.  I do not recommend this.  Because, I believe this is the root of UNMAKING Angels.  And, we are really good at it as an industry.  The fastest way to lose at angel investing is to make two – three investments and then sit on the sidelines “to see how they perform.” Yet, this is exactly what many first-time angel do.  They come in with the best of intentions, make two to three investments, and then decide to see how these first few work before proceeding.  They have almost certainly nailed one foot to the track at the beginning of the marathon, and they don’t even know it.  The likelihood of one of these three being the big home run is one in 10 if you believe the industry numbers, which are also subject to regional variation.  And, they will have to wait up to seven years to find out if they hit the lottery or bought a losing ticket.  Because they are not investing, they stop participating, lose interest, and slowly drift away.  Finally, without meaningful exits quickly, they throw their hands up in the air and proclaim that angel investing is a bust.  Thus, another Angel is UNMADE.  It is a very, very common process.  No matter how many times you tell someone not to fall into this trap, they do.  I can’t describe how tired I am of UNMAKING Angels.

There are two types of investors, cowboys and players.  Cowboys believe they know one or...   continue reading    

Aug. 30, Canopy Louisville’s General Meeting, 11:30 AM, Lunch Will Be Served. Guest Speaker: Sarah Day Evans, Accelerating Appalachia, 900 East Main St., Story Louisville. No Fee. Donations Accepted.
Sept. 3, Cincinnati Sheltowee Business Network Node Meetup. 4:00-5:30 PM (EDT), Fueled Collective | 3825 Edwards Road | Cincinnati, OH 45244.
Sept. 14, Owning Your Own Business, 8 AM, Bellarmine University, by Louisville Small Business Development Center & Louisville SCORE.
Sept. 17, Lexington Sheltowee Business Network Node Meetup. 5:00-6:30 PM, BASE 110, 110 West Vine Street, 4th Floor, Lexington, KY 40507.
Sept. 19, Louisville Sheltowee Business Network Node Meetup. 3:00-5:00 PM, iHub Coworking Space, 204 South Floyd St, Louisville, KY 40202.
Sept. 28-29, Maker Faire Louisville. Maker Faire is a gathering of fascinating, curious people who enjoy learning and Maker Faire is a gathering of fascinating, curious people who enjoy learning and who love sharing what they can do. From engineers to artists to scientists to crafters, Maker Faire is a venue for these "makers" to show hobbies, experiments, projects. who love sharing what they can do. From engineers to artists to scientists to crafters, Maker Faire is a venue for these "makers" to show hobbies, experiments, projects.
Register for SBN events at
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Five Steps to Creating Value Out of an Idea — It’s Time to Start Your Own Company


By Alex Day

Ideas are a dime a dozen and just an "idea" is worth nothing.  If you have an idea and you want to turn that idea into a valuable asset, there are some things that you need to do.  Investors do not invest in ideas.  They invest in companies.  And you will absolutely have at least one investor.  You may be the only investor, but you will have an investor if the idea moves forward at all.  Below are some of the first steps you can take to generate value out of your idea.  These are the minimal steps you should take on your own before you even think about seeking outside investment dollars. 

1. Create an LLC- Come up with a name for your company and form an LLC.  This LLC will hold the intellectual property for your idea.  And that "intellectual property" may simply be the idea.  By forming a company and having a name for the company, you are demonstrating that you have a level of sophistication that knows you need a legal entity.  So, you have taken your first step to generating real value out of your idea.

2. Create an Identity Package for your Company- You may think that this is a small thing (and it is), but it can have a big impact. 

3. Put up a Website- You do not need to have anything fancy.  But it will be worth the investment to have a website up and be able to direct people to it for general information on your company. 

4. Have a Business Plan-  Don't get crazy on the first iteration of your business plan.  It may simply be...   continue reading