November 3, 2017
This week, Elevate Ventures welcomed Jacob Schpok, the newest Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR), to the team. Elevate EIRs provide first-time entrepreneurs with business advisory services to help them navigate the uncharted waters of starting a business, from launch to exit and every decision in between. Schpok will be primarily focused on the Elevate-Purdue Foundry initiative with Purdue University as well as help with our efforts in and around Lafayette, West Lafayette, Zionsville and surrounding areas.
Schpok was co-founder and CEO of Child Life Products, has served in various capacities with the ISBDC including as the Executive Director and more recently as VP of Operations at Sharpen Technologies. But his work history is not his entire story. Read below to get to know EIR Jacob Schpok a bit better!
What were your early years like?
My paternal grandparents and parents were entrepreneurs. After spending my youth working for their businesses I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur as well. After graduating from Clay High School in South Bend, Indiana, I went to Ball State University to earn an Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management Degree. I was a bit of a troublemaker growing up and only wanted to spend time hanging out with friends.
You’re the newest Elevate Ventures Entrepreneur-in-Residence. What led you to take on this new role?
I have a strong passion for entrepreneurship, economic development, and helping others. Elevate checks all the boxes. Beyond fitting the ideal work profile, Elevate is an organization with high integrity and strong values, which attracted me to work here as well. Lastly but certainly not least, I’m also excited to work closely with Purdue University. Their startup ecosystem is ranked among the top in the world. I’m excited to start working with some incredible businesses.
Who is often the unsung hero within a new business and why?
This is a tough question. I would say, the first non-founder to join the company is the unsung hero. He or she works with people who consider the new business to be their baby. The first non-founder employee must have a lot of patience and, sometimes, must help the founders see the less attractive part of the business in a tactful way. I would consider these employees the unsung heroes since they often have to jump into an organization that’s full of chaotic-energy and tons of emotions without getting too wrapped up in it.
What have you learned about leadership that you’d like to share?
It has been my experience that a good leader, first and foremost, leads by example. If a leader does nothing else but act the way they want others in the organization to act, they’ll be successful. Secondly, a great leader is relentlessly putting his or her employees in positions to grow. A leader should be a coach and help knock down walls preventing higher levels of performance. This type of behavior creates awesome company cohesion and innovative cultures.
What’s a deal breaker for a job interview candidate?
A huge pet peeve of mine is when I’m interviewing for a manager role and the candidate takes exclusive ownership for their team’s success. A lack of humility always causes me to pause when interviewing.
How does your past experience prepare you to help entrepreneurs in Indiana?
I’ve had the luck and privilege to hold a number of incredible positions during my career. My background includes overseeing the Indiana Office of Small Business and Entrepreneur, serving as a business advisor for the Indiana Small Business Development Center, launching two businesses, and working for a startup. I have seen and experienced entrepreneurial successes and failures across industries and have developed a wonderful network of entrepreneurs and resource providers across Indiana and the United States.
Tell us about your first encounters with Indiana’s entrepreneurial community.
After graduating from Ball State’s Entrepreneurship Program, I moved to Indianapolis to launch my first startup. To pay the bills, I worked at a coffee shop in the mornings. One day, a mentor from college came in, saw I was behind the counter, and offered to take me out for lunch to see if he could help me find a different job; one that was tied into the Indiana entrepreneurial community. He opened many doors for me that day and ultimately started me on the career path that lead me to Elevate Ventures.
What is one thing you want people to know about you?
I love working with entrepreneurs who want to change the world.
If you could do it all over again, what would you change?
I wish I would have taken the time to think through what is really important to me at an earlier age. It’s easy to let society and advertisements tell you what you should want but, for me, I didn’t find peace in my personal or work life until I reflected on what really matters.
About Elevate Ventures
Elevate Ventures is a private venture development organization that nurtures and develops emerging and existing high-potential businesses into high-performing, Indiana-based companies. Elevate Ventures accomplishes this by providing access to capital, rigorous business analysis and robust advisory services that connect companies with the right mix of resources businesses need to succeed long term. To learn more about Elevate Ventures, visit elevateventures.com.