If the entrepreneurial revolution is supposed to bubble up from below, this is it — or at least a small piece of it.
Every Wednesday evening in the Skyline Venue, on the 10th floor of the Sutton Building, 209 E. William, a group of real, honest-to-goodness entrepreneurs gather to talk about their small businesses, their business ideas and how to get better. All are under 30.
They call themselves ICT Mastermind. Mastermind is a long-running, loosely organized self-help program for entrepreneurs. It provides a general format, but the participants generate everything else.
In this case, the local group was organized by Tyler Engle and a few of his friends.
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Engle, 24, with his slightly scraggly, reddish-brown beard and cheerful, sharp eyes, has the look and manner of a hip, church youth counselor. He actually owns and runs Wichita Window Cleaning.
On a recent Tuesday night, he led nine other entrepreneurs or budding entrepreneurs gathered around tables on the venue dance floor with a party chandelier overhead. The conversation was breezy, but focused. There are 17 members total.
Among those at the table were: Jason Lane, Faith in Iron, a line of workout clothes for weightlifters; Dan Dalton, Dan the Spa Man, hot tub service and sales; and Hana Alsoudi, Hana Alsoudi Photography.
Three of the others worked at car or car repair businesses and were trying to figure out how to expand them. A couple of others are students at Wichita State University looking to turn their skills into a business.
One man, who gave his name only as Mikey, said he is a member of a large and successful family of scrap metal dealers in the Saudi Arabia. He has made it his goal to start a branch of the business here.
He said he is starting out at the very bottom, visiting possible accounts cold and breaking up the appliances by hammer himself.
This night’s discussion focused on low-cost marketing for small businesses.
Engle and the others traded tips on what works. Mostly, it’s using Facebook — they all have pages — but there are plenty of subtleties in maximizing the impact.
“Videos are the cheapest things you can do, much cheaper than clicks,” he told them.
For some videos, he uses whatever’s hot at the moment as a theme, something called “trend jacking.” His January video of turning his squeegee, via special effects, into a Star Wars light saber to clean a window drew 17,000 views.
But it’s important that whatever you do on Facebook be entertaining.
“People on Facebook really, really don’t want to be sold to,” Engle said. “You have to sidestep that and make it appear that it’s not an ad.”
There was also discussion of the merits of using Instagram and the review feature on Google’s search.
“Asking (the customers) for reviews is kind of an awkward process,” one participant said.
“It’s huge,” said Yusef Seyam, who works at Approved Auto Sales. “It shoots your name right to the top.”
It’s a measure of how things keep changing now that websites on the regular Internet are no longer seen as critical, only nice to have.
“If you are a local business, you don’t even need a website,” said one participant.
Alsoudi, the photographer, said that a website gives a business a stamp of substance and quality — she has a very nice site — but most people are on their phones.
But all the high-tech social media networking aside, what takes place at their meetings is pretty old-fashioned.
Engle went from person to person and asked how they had done on their goals for the week. It’s a bit like having a workout buddy, where they know somebody else at least knows whether they’re trying hard and having success.
And it’s one of those things that may be done best in person.