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Jul 19, 2022

6 entrepreneurs’ earliest influences

Entrepreneurs discuss how their home town effected them

Every entrepreneur has to start somewhere. While some simply fell into it by chance, many had experiences growing up that helped to influence their business journeys and pioneering directions. Six Collective members share their early influences, and how the environments they grew up in helped shape them into the business owners they have become today.

Alysa on the rural mindset

Alysa Diebolt, Founder of Brick Town Glass and Poppy Designs

I grew up in the upper peninsula of Michigan… on 120 acres and our nearest neighbor was a quarter mile away. I think this rural mindset forces you to be entrepreneurial and think about multiple revenue sources. My dad did stained glass, and he didn’t intend to make a business of it. He was an electrician by trade, and was always really curious about stained glass. So he took a class, loved it, bought a bunch of supplies, and started a business. When he started doing it I was around 11 or 12, and it became clear to me that this could be my job. That rural mindset of hustle was a big part of what influenced me to become a small business owner.

Chris on a lack of diversity

Chris Gu, Creator of StellAR

I feel like I had a very generic upbringing. I guess one thing that really stands out to me is I grew up with a not very diverse childhood. Going through education, it just wasn’t very diverse. But now as an entrepreneur, I think that is one of the most important things to consider, because everyone has different experiences. And if you don’t account for that in the products or services or the startups you’re creating, then you’re missing out on entire segments of people that could utilize what you’re creating.

Glen on the importance of family

Glen Janssens, CEO of emotion studios, inc.

I think a lot has to do with where we grow up, and also the environments we grow up in, who we are surrounded by, and who we are inspired by. In my family I am surrounded by engineers – my father is an engineer, my uncle is an engineer, my cousins are engineers. I learned a lot from my dad about business. My grandmother was this free-flowing artist, and she really inspired me, too. That kind of gave birth to the right-brain, left-brain thing that I’ve always had. I also think the grit of growing up in Detroit, in an area where I really felt like you needed to step up and have the drive to take control of what comes next has really helped inform everything I’ve said ‘yes’ to. Even to this day, we’ll say yes to things that are preposterous sometimes, and I think that comes from that.

Lydia on international influences

Lydia Michael, President and Owner of Blended Collective

I grew up in a very multicultural environment. I have a Middle Eastern background, but grew up in Germany and then came to the United States. Navigating three different cultures all my life was not just a challenge, but it was also really rewarding, because I learned so much from other people. So in business, I wanted to be able to merge my past experience in international marketing with my passion for culture.

Naya on generational entrepreneurship

Naya Powell, Founder of Utopia Spa and Global Wellness

Growing up as a third generation entrepreneur and seeing my parents accomplish so much, but also seeing the hardships and challenges that go along with that, I think it’s sobering. But it’s also made me stronger, in mind, spirit, body, and as a founder. That’s something that I’m very grateful for, and kudos to those that are entrepreneurs that didn’t have the example, because that means you’re learning even more as you’re going.

Ryan on planting roots in an emerging city

Ryan Wilson, CEO and Co-Founder of The Gathering Spot

I grew up all over the country for a while. I was born in Los Angeles, and moved to a bunch of different states – Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, and eventually settled in Atlanta. What was interesting about the city at that time is that it was an emerging city. Atlanta had just hosted the Olympics and was really trying to find its footing on an international stage, while at the same time, beginning this shift into driving culture. So I’m growing up watching artists and businesses that we all know now, be in that transition. It let me know from early, early days that this was a city of possibility, and also a place that I could root really anything that I wanted to do. 

For even more great entrepreneurial stories and inspiration, check out our past Weekly Campfires on YouTube, or RSVP for upcoming events.


Sydney Carlson

Inspired by entrepreneurs. Social media master.