7 Tips from Alumni Entrepreneurs

GW is no stranger self-starters, as evidenced by the number of entrepreneurs in the alumni community. We’ve had the chance to sit down with alums in a variety of industries to learn from the best. Find out what they’ve learned along the way and what they think aspiring entrepreneurs should know:

Jack Bergstrand, GSEHD MA ’11: Founder, Brand Velocity; former CIO of Coca-Cola
“First and foremost, you have to understand what motivates you. Once you know your strengths, there are three important points to keep in mind:

  • Be able to articulate a) What business you are in; b) Who your customer is; and c) What your customers consider to be of value.
  • Integrate the three key elements of reinvention: a) define what you are going to stop doing; b) identify areas of success that you are going to expand; and c) after you have done the first two, then decide what one or two new things you will do.
  • Ask the right reinvention questions, in the right order: a) Where do we intend to go and why, and in what timeframe? b) What needs to happen when? c) How will we best achieve these things? d) Who will be the best motivated to do these actions?” Read our full profile about Bergstrand.


Tod Plotkin, GWSB BBA ’03: Founder, Green Buzz Agency
“When you’re first starting out, get coffee or lunch with as many seasoned experts as you can in your chosen field. Ask them as many questions as possible. So many entrepreneurs waste time and energy on assumptions that could have been cleared up from the start had they asked the right questions to the right people.” Read our full profile about Plotkin.


Manny Rivera, SEAS MS, CERT ’05: Founder, RiVidium
“Keep learning, keep researching and keep digging. There’s always something new to learn.” Read our full profile about Rivera.



Kate Marie (Grinold) Sigfusson, ESIA BA ’08: Founder, Babies4Babies
“When an idea or passion grabs hold of you, and just won’t leave you, pay attention. Then, talk it through with the smartest people you know, regardless of what industry they’re in, and ask for advice.” Read our full profile about Sigfusson.


Erica Taylor, CCAS BA ’06: Co-founder, Tinsel & Twine
“Becoming an entrepreneur is not just the fun part. There are a lot of things, like trademarks, business insurance and taxes to consider. People don’t love to talk about it but you need to do your homework!” Read our full profile about Taylor her alumnae co-founders.

And, as co-founder of ZOOM Interiors Beatrice Fischel-Bock, CCAS BA ’13, told us, “[t]o be able to make a business out of your passion is incredible!”

–Are you an entrepreneur? We want to hear from you! Share your story: cable@gwu.edu.

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