Next week marks the beginning of National Entrepreneurship Month. We decided to take a moment to check in with a few familiar faces–our “Best of Tech” Rising Star and Rising Entrepreneur Award honorees from the Mira Awards program over the past few years.

Small businesses employed 1.2 million Hoosiers last year, which is 45% of all private sector workers in the state of Indiana. Despite small businesses creating 33,267 jobs last year, the economic growth rate for Indiana still lagged behind the U.S. economy by nearly an entire percentage point. What this boils down to is that we need more people to take a chance and build that product or start that business.

“I would say that if you have an idea or a problem you want to solve, go do it,” said Ellie Symes, founder and CEO of The Bee Corp. “What’s the worst that can happen? You try a new thing and fail, but learn a lot in the process and pursue a passion. I think the alternative of not acting, and always wondering what could have been, is a worse scenario.”

Ellie Symes, founder and CEO of The Bee Corp, accepts the Rising Star Mira Award. Photo by Paul D’Andrea.

Ellie, who started her business while she was still a college student, had great interest in bee keeping and environmental affairs, but very quickly built her passion into what is now a leading voice on both the hardware and software that helps beekeepers boost pollination success. While there are many transferable skills from her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in public affairs, not being a software developer or engineer didn’t stop her from finding partners, securing grants and investors, and pursuing her passions anyway.

“From my experience, my cofounder and I just went for it,” Ellie said. “We had no idea how far we would get, but we have taken several leaps of faith and are still kicking!”

Of course, it can be intimidating to think about yourself as an entrepreneur or business owner with responsibility for keeping things running or even for keeping people employed, especially when it’s outside of your experience because you’re young or because you’ve worked for other people most of your life.

“I think a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs don’t take their first steps because they’re afraid; afraid of failure and how that failure will impact their reputation or financial stability,” said Casey Gauss, founder and CEO of Viral Launch. “We essentially put an unnecessary amount of pressure on ourselves for our ideas or startups to be the next big success.”

Casey’s perspective is that the best way to get started in a business is to experiment on a small scale first. You don’t have to saddle yourself with the pressure of creating the next big thing or with becoming the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. Anyone would and should be hesitant in that scenario. However, looking at your idea or your business as a hypothesis is a lot less intimidating, he explained.

For example:

If I make it easy and safe, then travelers will pay to rent out my spare bedroom. (Airbnb)


Office workers will pay for the convenience of having their lunch orders picked up and brought to them. (DoorDash)

Viral Launch Founder and CEO Casey Gauss accepts the Rising Entrepreneur Award. Photo by Paul D’Andrea.

There’s so much less pressure both internally and externally to try something out, to experiment. Some of the best companies were birthed out of an experiment as opposed to a quest to build the next best thing. Casey started small while he was in college, but his hypothesis worked out and he believed in it so much that he dropped out of school to pursue it. That hypothesis is now a multi-million dollar global enterprise helping retailers generate more than $10 billion in sales on Amazon.

“My advice to those immobilized by a fear-of-failure or over-analysis, is to break down your great business idea into an experiment/test to prove the fundamental premise of your business idea,” Casey said. “If the experiment goes well and your idea has merit, the traction will be a powerful confidence builder and momentum driver. If the experiment doesn’t work out as expected, no big deal, we all must try new things in life. There is always a new experiment tomorrow.”

Teresa Weirich, founder and owner of TKB Consulting, has a similar approach she recommends to people who may be dissuaded by the enormity of doing your own thing or starting your own business. 

“It can seem extremely overwhelming to constantly have your eyes fixed on what one year or five years down the road looks like,” Teresa said. “But those thoughts can be absolutely paralyzing. Just imagine if you do one thing today in the right direction, and then another thing tomorrow, and another thing after that. Those small steps make a huge difference and, after 365 days of small steps, you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come.”

(Left to Right) Ilya Rekhter of DoubleMap, presented Teresa Becker the Tech Rising Star Mira Award with Mike Langellier of TechPoint.

According to Teresa, there’s simply no magic formula for starting a business and the steps you take don’t need to be all that hard or complicated. “You don’t need a fancy business plan, tons of funding, or even a team. You need an idea and you need passion. Don’t overthink it,” she said. 

If you’re thinking about taking the leap into entrepreneurship, here are some upcoming Indiana-based events to help you enter this exciting space: