Sherwin Greenblatt knows a thing or two about starting a business.
He helped found and lead Bose, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of headphones, speakers and audio technology.
Greenblatt has also helped guide hundreds of other would-be entrepreneurs through the best practices and pitfalls of starting a business.
In his eyes, successful entrepreneurs are one of the cornerstones of successful communities.
“If you want to build a strong community, you need to build people within your community who can help make your community strong,” he said in an interview with News Journal in early September. “Entrepreneurship is a way to build a strong community because entrepreneurs don’t just start businesses, they create jobs, and that’s what your community needs.”
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At a CivicCon event on Sept. 12, Greenblatt will share what he’s learned about entrepreneurship and how it can be the engine that makes a community grow.
Greenblatt is the former President of Bose Corp. and now serves as Chair of the Venture Mentoring Service at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which supports innovation and entrepreneurship by matching would-be entrepreneurs with experienced volunteer mentors.
“Being an entrepreneur is very lonely,” he said. “You’re trying to start something new. You’re trying to do something that’s different, and it’s like you’re fighting against the conventional world, because you have like-minded people and similar desires, you can get together, talk to each other, work together, learn from each other, and then the community grows.”
Greenblatt has established a successful mentoring model through MIT’s Venture Mentoring Service.
VMS is a free, confidential service that connects aspiring entrepreneurs in the MIT community with teams of carefully selected mentors and other services to help them turn their for-profit, non-profit, or nonprofit ideas into reality.
The mentors associated with the program are volunteers who have gone through the trials and tribulations of starting their own business and emerging as successes on the other side.
“Every community has entrepreneurs, so you can attract them because they know the solitude of entrepreneurship and they want to be with like-minded people,” Greenblatt said. “Then you can tap into the wisdom of people who are more successful in your community to give back to the startups and help them get started. And that’s how you build the community, and if you’re successful, the community gets bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger.”
According to VMS, since 2006, its Outreach Training Program has helped 114 organizations in 27 states and 24 countries set up their own mentoring programs.
Referring to an economic development strategy, Greenblatt said he much prefers building the local entrepreneurial community to trying to attract new businesses and businesses in the city.
“In my opinion, bringing in big companies doesn’t really create a lot of jobs in most cases. You can bring in a huge warehouse and it can be automated to hire relatively few people,” Greenblatt said. “While I don’t think it’s a bad thing, it’s usually not the blessing that people are hoping for.”
He added: “I think in the long run, encouraging local entrepreneurs and starting maybe 10 or 15 small businesses is a lot better than having one big company because you get a variety of things people are doing be able. In the end, I think you’ll get more jobs. When you get tired of these small businesses, some of them will make it and grow big, and it will be a local business that will really benefit the community.
MIT has partnered with The Spring, part of the Studer Community Institute, to train local business leaders to be more effective mentors for entrepreneurs taking the risk of starting a business in the community.
Greenblatt also knows a thing or two about risk-taking.
He graduated from MIT in 1962 and had a number of engineering careers with successful and established companies. However, due to a shared passion for music, he became the first employee of his former MIT professor, Amar Bose.
Greenblatt has held positions of project engineer, chief engineer, director of engineering, executive vice president, and was president at Bose for 15 years, where he helped grow the start-up company into a world-renowned company with more than 6,000 employees worldwide and annual sales of more than $3 billion.
“It’s a story that people who are interested in entrepreneurship can really relate to because it involves all the struggles of early ideas and the realization of ideas,” Greenblatt said of helping Bose launch. “When most people tell their stories, they like to share about the successes, but I like to talk about the challenges we’ve faced and the things that haven’t been as successful and that have led to our path. So it’s a good story.”
Greenblatt will share more of his experiences and insights on how communities can become more entrepreneurial in a free, open-to-all CivicCon event from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on September 12 at The REX Theater in Pensacola, 18 N. Palafox St ., share.
CivicCon is a partnership of News Journal and Studer Community Institute to empower communities to become better places to live, grow, work and invest through smart planning and civic conversations.
Registration is available by searching “CivicCon” on eventbrite.com. Those who register will have the opportunity to submit a question for Greenblatt.
The event will also be live streamed on pnj.com and on facebook.com/pnjnews.
Visit pnj.com/civiccon for more information.