Local entrepreneur and venture capitalist Tom Sloan visited SOAR on December 1. He told the story of his father fleeing Germany in the 1930's, just a few months prior to Kristalnacht. Tom's first message to the class was, "No one can take away your education." He told the story of growing a small optics business into a nationally known company. He sold the business, bought it back and sold it again, eventually taking the proceeds and investing in other businesses. Students learned that in order to start a business, one needs money, education, employees and most importatnly - an idea or a concept of a product.
Echoing the words of other guest faculty, Tom emphasized that in business, one needs to find something the world does not have, but needs. He explained that a business needs customers before it needs employees and that to be successsful, an entrepreneur must be passionate about his or her work.
Tom mentioned the role of boards in for-profit and non-profit businesses, explaining how they help with strategic thinking and governance. He then described several of the ventures he is currently launching as an investor.
Tom's advice to the class:
1. You can't have too much education.
2. Learn some skills.
3. Work hard. Running your own business is difficult.
4. Have the wind at your back. Pick a business where trends are in your favor.