In this inaugural episode, we have an in-depth conversation on what Revolution means with Charisse Bowen. We go into the lasting message in the lyrics from the Beatle’s song from 1968, Revolution that apply to current events happening today and how we can make change happen right in our part of the world.
Watch Beatle’s Revolution https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGLGzRXY5Bw
Charisse Bowen’s Tedx Talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urFYIxw0AkU
See Charisse at Startup Week!
Episode 1 – Charisse Bowen Transcript – StartupFoCo Podcast
Vanessa Pagan: Today for the Fort Collins startup week we’re joined by a Charisse Bowen who is the director of strategic initiatives for Blue Ocean Enterprises based here in Fort Collins, Colorado her current strategic initiative is developing forage International a new entrepreneurial training center and co-working community located in Tortola, British Virgin Islands.
She was invited to build and lead the institute for entrepreneurship at Colorado State University this new calling became the Strategic shift in her life that sent her on a new professional course of teaching business and cultivating communities as a self-proclaimed entrepreneurial activist teaching and supporting start-up entrepreneurs as they achieve their goals is her life mission.
In her roles at CSU and later Galvanize and then Blue Ocean Enterprises Charisse has worked with over 300 startups from around the world and in just about every industry her unwavering desire to make the world a better place through business continues with her newest role at Forge. Where she is focused on bringing transformative change and guidance to the gifted entrepreneurs of the British Virgin Islands. Charisse, welcome.
Charisse Bowen: Thank you so much for having me so today.
Vanessa Pagan: We’re going to be talking about your experience and bringing in revolution and the guiding messages going to be through music. Can you talk a little about before we get to the music, what is revolution about? When you say that what does that mean?
Charisse Bowen: I really want people to think differently about what it means to be revolutionary, and I do truly think that all entrepreneurs are revolutionary and their own rights whether they see it that way or not. I see when somebody can embrace being a revolutionary. It’s an incredibly powerful empowering term that hopefully lets them realize their full and truest potential to make great impact in the world.
Vanessa Pagan: That’s awesome. In order to get that big understanding of what Revolution means for entrepreneurs and Innovation you’re going to guide us through clips of Beatles songs.
Charisse Bowen: Yes, yes because John Lennon knew it. He knew it right.
Vanessa Pagan: He did and that message is so timeless, right? That music speaks to us today the same way it did 10 years ago, twenty years ago. The first song that we’re going to play a clip from is ‘You say when a revolution’. Charisse, can you tell us a little bit about what this first audio clip means to you.
Charisse Bowen: Webster’s defines revolutionaries as somebody who does something radically new and Innovative outside or beyond established procedures or principles, and you know when The Beatles kick off by saying, “You say you want a revolution, we all want to change the world” that feels really big. This concept around changing the world but I want to encourage people to not see it that way. I think if we start to recognize our own ability to change the world that we live in and without feeling the need to change the entire world at one time it starts feeling achievable like something we can actually wrap our hands around.
And I encourage people to start by looking at their communities and looking in their own backyard and what positive impact can they make right here and in doing so they are truly changing the world. It’s their world. Which is inevitably all of our world. That concept around a ripple effect, and what that small change for the better can do for the greater good has this magnifying capabilities and so I want us all to believe that we all can change the world. If we want to.
Vanessa Pagan: That’s wonderful. It reminds me of a quote from Mother Teresa who talks about if everyone would just sweep the front of their door the entire world would be clean.
Charisse Bowen: Yes. Yeah, it’s so true so true.
Vanessa Pagan: Awesome. The next song that I’d like you to guide us through this revolutionary change is ‘But when you talk about destruction don’t you know that you could count me out’. What does that mean?
Charisse Bowen: Yeah that lyric ‘When You Talk About Destruction Don’t You Can Count Me Out’ is incredibly powerful today. I feel, unfortunately, we live in a world where it’s quite easy to find cases in situations of people being bullied. People feeling like they’re getting deep down or shut down or shut out of their opportunities and the concept of being a revolutionary has everything to do with building each other up not tearing each other down that we grow and we rise by lifting others along our way.
I love if you look at the word revolution. The word love is so perfectly placed in the middle of it. Written backwards are e v o l, and if you look at the love within the revolution you actually can understand that love is actually a key part, a key function of what it means to have a revolution. And in this world especially in the business world which can be highly competitive and highly cutthroat.
I truly believe that if instead of focusing on how we can take our competition out of the equation we can truly find a way to actually help one another on our various journeys. We will find our own pathway to success without needing to take other people out along the way. And at the heart of that ‘Destruction and don’t you know that you can count me out’. That’s the key message there. It’s we’ve got to rise by lifting each other. We’ve got to stop tearing each other down.
Vanessa Pagan: That’s a great message. It applies not only in how a company can serve its customers, or its audience, but also how the company culture is built internally by who joins the mission.
Charisse Bowen: Absolutely, I mean if you look at the internal strife oftentimes that employees will feel as they work their way up the ladder per se and you hear about people acting as mentors or acting as advisors for maybe a younger or new employee to have joined the team and actually help them navigate their ways up the food chain at their various companies. I do truly think that that person that reached down to give a helping hand themselves rises with this young person as they go and when you hear examples of people who are protecting their place at the top by pushing others out of the conference room or pushing others out of the equation. I think it’s to their own demise. I think it crosses over into the corporate world as well as in entrepreneurial world quite well.
Vanessa Pagan: That reminds me of the work that you’re doing in the BVI. Can you talk a little bit about how you’re lifting up the people of BVI?
Charisse Bowen: Yeah, it’s hard to even wrap your head around the amount of destruction actually that has come upon the British Virgin Islands and the Caribbean as a whole. Obviously they were heavily affected by Hurricane Irma and Maria last fall and the destruction that mother nature brought on has truly put them in a in a difficult position spending months on end really just working on having a roof over their heads and food and water and what they need to survive and I think I as I look at those that are the most resilient the ones that have bounced back and the ones that are thriving amongst a lot of this hardship have been the people who started this journey back from destruction with hands outstretched to one another. They’re the ones who look to their neighbors first to say what can I do to help you before helping themselves and as we look back here six months later now, I see those with their outstretched hands having found their ways to a much better place than some of the ones who spent little to no time looking to see who needed them. Who they could help at that time of need even though they themselves were in such a place of need. So, this I do think it is it’s like the secret to success focusing on helping one another before helping yourself.
Vanessa Pagan: That’s wonderful as a real-life example of what’s happening in our current reality of natural destructions that happens all over the world, and then we have complete demise and then we come together and rebuild.
So, in this next lyric ‘You Say You’ve Got a Real Solution. We’d All Love to See the Plan’ could tell us a little bit about what that line means?
Charisse Bowen: Yeah, as we revolutionize our worlds that were in it’s important that we focus on solving real problems. It’s not just about the fact that these real problems need solve, but I do truly think that when you’re solving problems that will help a lot of people that the collective energy of all of the people whose problem will be solved via the solution that you’re bringing are going to help carry your innovation, your business, your solution to fruition. That there’s this collective need and when they find that you’re bringing the solution to light they’re going to find a number of different ways actually help assist you in solving that problem.
People generally are going to want to help you and your desires to get this problem solved. And in creating a real logical plan, and it’s one thing to come out and say yeah, I’m going to rid the world of breast cancer because it’s a real big problem, and that’s important to me, and I know it’s important a lot of people and I’m going to go out and find a way to solve it but without a logical plan it’s not going to go anywhere. It’s just a desire. It’s just a wish, right. So building a plan around solving that it maybe it’s I’m going to create a nonprofit that supports various research agencies that are on the cutting edge of these new clinical trials that are in need of financial support that they don’t have it, and I’m going to create a platform that will help get draw attention and awareness to the this these research trials because believe that they may have the answer and I’m going to play my one little part and helping solve breast cancer through this non-profit I’m going to invent to then support these various research groups that are underfunded and need our help. And so, creating a logical plan that goes along with this problem that you’re trying to solve is important.
I’ve often talked about how with entrepreneurs when they come up with their great big idea that if that they really need to start by studying the problem that they’re solving. Is it a real problem? Is it truly a problem that causes a lot of pain? Or is this just kind of an additional convenience factor and asking themselves that if the pain or the problem that they’re solving isn’t significant enough it’s going to only make it easier for them to lose the desire the interest, the drive when they lack investor interest or customer interest or it’s that much harder to try to convince somebody to use your product or service. Because they don’t really see what the need is and that’s something that you just don’t ever want to be in that position as an entrepreneur. Really starting with solving real problems. These big ideas that we have and then focusing on building really solid plans and that’s going to get us there.
Vanessa Pagan: That’s great. It reminds me of Dave McClure of 500 Startups. He says pitch the problem. Not the solution. Yeah, yes, they so true so and starts yeah, and I wanted to say one more thing about this plan. So, I think planning is entirely required. Now, how detailed that plan looks is questionable. So, I would like to invite everyone to attend, if you can. Charisse is doing a business model canvas workshop Tuesday February 27th at 3 p.m. Charisse, can you talk a little bit about what that workshop will entail in related to planning?
Charisse Bowen: Yeah, it’s a great planning session. In fact, business model canvases have been time tested proven tools for laying out your initial plans for your big idea. It doesn’t have to be like a full business you may even just have a good project that you’re taking on and I recommend still putting them through a business model canvas. You’ll walk away with a one-page visual canvas of really all the key concepts that are needed for understanding to get you to know what your next step is past that that big idea. And you may actually already be on your way with their business as well and putting it into a canvas format can really help you identify the holes and the areas that you need to focus your attention on or that you don’t have the answers quite figured out for yet. For visual thinkers, like myself, a 15-20 page business plan does nothing. It becomes a big stack of paper on my desk that doesn’t ever get looked at or referred to. For me, the canvas was always this great big kind of eye-opener because I could take whatever wouldn’t be in those 25 pages and put it on one 11 by 17 piece of poster board in front of me and hang it on my wall and look at it every day and live it every day. Way more powerful to present the new business I would be working on in that format. Versus a big stack of papers. Business plans are just so antiquated.
Vanessa Pagan: I hear you, and I’m really a big proponent of business model canvas, lean canvas because it’s the idea of having the whole picture and then you can see what do I need help with and this doesn’t just apply to companies like you said or startups this can be a project this could be an art exhibit, this can be a music project. I’m a big proponent. I hope people will be able to take your workshop.
The next lyric that we’re going to ask about and discuss is ‘You ask me for a contribution. We’re doing what we can.’
Charisse Bowen: Yeah, when we look at contributions, I really want to encourage listeners to ask themselves are they truly doing what they can? Are they truly contributing what they can to their various communities? I think that it was something that I learned early on in the Fort Collins community that this concept around giving before you get is incredibly important. Our startup equity around here I feel like is based on how much we give of ourselves to our communities without expecting anything in return, and it always comes back around 10-fold. I’ve never seen it not.
They say that your greatness is not based on what you have, but what you give and that is truly at the heart of the contribution. And it’s not always about money. Often times it’s about time. It’s about expertise. Do you have a skill or do you have an expertise that you can share with somebody or a group of people in the community because chances are they probably have some expertise or something that you might need as well, and it’s only through your own personal desire to share with them what you have that you will be then receive what it is that they have.
It’s interesting to go back to the BVI and what’s going on in the Caribbean right now. Right after the storms it was one of the things that was quite shocking was the lack of access to cash into money. You know the banks were closed. There’s no electricity so you can go to ATMs and get money out. And the only money that was still making its way through the country was whatever money was out and in people’s pockets at that time. And you started seeing this kind of emergence of the barter system and the ways of the old world before we had you know cash money to buy a purchase things. You started finding people, because there was no access to cash, offering food or various things in exchange for something that they may need.
It was quite interesting because I, for a just a quick second I kind of, could see what a barter driven society actually looked like. It was quite bonding from a community centric standpoint. There was such a tremendous amount of exchange of love and care when people are giving of themselves or opening up their homes to people who then in turn are going to help fix their roof and giving them a place to live and there’s this value exchange that actually seems so much more powerful than money. And it’s something that I think only in the absence of money being in existence do you really get to the heart of what do I have that I can contribute. And recognize that in doing so I will then be care for and get what I need and return.
Vanessa Pagan: That’s wonderful. Oftentimes with money, we are so narrow minded in terms of amount of money means what reach I have. Well, a barter system encourages the view to go from this vertical definition of money to a horizontal definition of how wide is my reach in different areas. And that can go with time, resources you have, things you have in your home, and suddenly you’re more empowered to share and exchange things beyond the narrow definition of units of dollars. Especially in a situation like the Caribbean where there wasn’t a banking system in place after the hurricane and people still need to survive and live and eat and drink water.
Charisse Bowen: Yeah, it was a great lesson in that. I think as a really strong startup community, that idea of contributing what we have to the betterment of the community as a whole is key. It’s key.
Vanessa Pagan: Charisse, earlier you had mentioned to me that you are bringing in entrepreneurs from the British Virgin Island to Fort Collins. Can you talk a little about? What that is and what that looks like yeah?
Charisse Bowen: So, with my program and in the BVI the Forge I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the best entrepreneurs down in the BVI currently. I look at these are my rock stars, my unicorns. These men and women are the future of the entrepreneurial communities down there. And last year we brought Akeem Lennard to Fort Collins to experience startup week. He was the winner of our biz pitch competition that we did and as part of his winning we brought him here to work on startup week to experience it and he had a fantastic time, and I know everybody that got a chance to meet Akeem really loved getting to know him, and it was incredibly rewarding all around.
Well Akeem has been talking about startup week ever since he left Fort Collins and has really got a number of people excited about it back home, and so this year I’m excited that we’re actually going to have six BV Islanders here in Fort Collins for startup week experiencing and taking it all in. Akeem is coming back because he said he couldn’t let a year go by that he didn’t.
We have everything from a fashion designer to a gelato maker to a skincare company to a promotions and event management group, and it’s just it’s going to be incredible for them to all pay witness to and to experience startup week. I think we take for granted here in Fort Collins and in Colorado how lucky we are to have such an abundance of access to workshops and great content. I don’t think we truly understand how lucky we are to have something like startup week where we’ve got 130 plus free sessions for people to learn and grow and build their businesses. And for this group of entrepreneurs from the BVI something like 130 free sessions in a row is remarkable. And it’s an opportunity of a lifetime. And in its a game-changing opportunity lifetime where they’ll be exposed to new ideas they may not be able to have paid for in other ways.
And I think our community, I hope that the Fort Collins community, the Colorado community who get to meet the BV Islanders that are coming, take the time to get to know them. To hear their stories. They all have some real amazing stories of survival.
They’re going to be on a panel on Tuesday morning. I’m talking about resilience and talking about sharing their survival stories and the stories of how they come to put the pieces back together after being surrounded by such extreme adversity. Many of these lessons I think we all can learn from. I think we all go through our own battles in various ways and having some tools and tips and notions and even just hearing what these young people went through and overcame can really help put things in perspective for us. I’m thrilled to have them here and I’m optimistic that what they’re exposed to and what they see is going to end up carrying back, and have its own ripple effect through the BVI.
Vanessa Pagan: That’s wonderful. I know that the community that I found in Fort Collins has been very welcoming and accepting and I know that I’m going to be an absolute ambassador of welcome to all of the BVI attendees at startup week and I encourage everyone to do the same.
The next lyric I wanted to ask you about is the lyric, ‘but if you want money for people with minds that hate, all I can tell you is brother you have to wait’.
Charisse Bowen: Yes, yes, this is this lyric is so true. Everybody’s heard the saying you know haters the going to hate and I truly think that as revolutionaries we can’t let that get to us. We have to let that go. I’m convinced that the self-destructive nature of hate that these people carry with them towards us as revolutionaries making our way is way more detrimental to them and their and well-being than it ever would be to us.
It was once said that success brings scrutiny, and if you don’t have scrutiny then maybe what you’re doing isn’t impactful enough. That people oftentimes well this is that good kind of goes back to that tearing down lyric. Jealousy, envy can sometimes override people’s own ability to see how somebody else’s success can still be a positive for them.
We just can’t we can’t let it get to us you know and there’s a lot of hate in this world today. Unfortunately. And it’s been quite a political environment that drives hate, and there’s just a lot of other social factors that are causing hate to be a part of our daily conversations. As revolutionaries, I think it’s okay for us to acknowledge that it’s there, but we can’t let it hurt us. You can’t let it penetrate our own selves because as soon as it does their winning. The hate is winning and is going to be able to actually slow us down or stop us or caused doubt in our own minds, in our own abilities to revolutionize the little corners of the world that we’re trying to change. And we can’t let that happen.
Vanessa Pagan: I agree. The idea that we can get rid of hate is beyond our reach, but what is within our reach is how we respond to the hate. In true music format. I am going to give two more supporting themes and one is Jay Z’s Brush the dirt off your shoulders and the second is Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off. There may be hate but you don’t have to keep it with you.
Charisse Bowen: Right, and we can’t it. I think hate is poisonous. I was telling my daughter actually just this morning I said at the heart of hate is the stuff that causes cancer. It’s the stuff that makes people sick, it’s the stuff that can really eat our insides out and carrying hate inside yourself can be such a poison. We just have to deflect it, and we just have to keep going. I’m learning to feel really sorry for people who carry a lot of hate in their heart and can be sad for them, but not let them stop me and definitely not let them get in the way of revolutionizing my little corner of the world.
Vanessa Pagan: Well done. Our last lyric is “You say you’ll change the constitution. We all want to change your head. You tell me it’s the institution. You better free your mind instead.”
Charisse Bowen: Yes, oh yes, and how interestingly when John Lennon wrote these lyrics the institution of that time and the institution that we were faced with today have such similarities. Stephen Covey said, “you’re not a product of your circumstances, but a product of your decisions”.
It’s easy sometimes to look around and say our circumstances are keeping us down our government and the things that they’re doing are oppressing us. You know my family and the things that they’re limiting me or my friends or lack thereof are disabling my ability to get this done, and we have to change our mindset on this we can’t allow all these external situations drive the decisions and drive our own free will to accomplishing what we know we need to get accomplished.
Unfortunately, with a lot of our current institutions and bureaucratic institutions we see the problem. And as a group we might say look at that problem. Look at that problem like how it’s tearing us down like healthcare. Let’s just use as an example. You know we look at it aa great big group, point at the problem, point the problem, but I challenge us to say what are we doing to fix it.
Pointing at a problem all day long is not going to get you anywhere. Getting up and voting. Running for office so that you can overturn some of these decisions. Creating alternative, innovative ideas that actually help solve maybe some of these, using the insurance example, insurance problems. Ways around it. I’m seeing people coming up with new and innovative ways of doing private, practicing private medicine and doing it an almost like a CSA format where you get a membership to a doctor’s office, and you pay a monthly fee, and you can see this doctor once a month as many times as you need to. Or you know, I saw that and I was like, god, that’s a great. These people are being so innovative and revolutionary solving a problem like access to health care and being able to meet this health care system and what it is, and that’s at the heart of changing your head and not looking at the institutions and looking at the way that the world is writing the book and saying that’s the book that I’m going to live in. Really writing your own book for your own life and just keep going.
Vanessa Pagan: Charisse, your revolutionary inspiration to action is living proof of the quote from Gandhi of be the change that you wish to see in the world.
Charisse Bowen: Yeah, absolutely he was one brilliant soul. He was.
Vanessa Pagan: Awesome. Charisse, you have been a wonderful inspiration taking us along this journey of what revolution looks like. And what revolution looks like not just in music in, our life, in startup week, at the British Virgin Islands and in Fort Collins in the world that we live in. Thank you for this interview and sharing your time with us.
Charisse Bowen: Thank you so much for having me. I look forward to changing the world with all of our startup week attendees here.
Vanessa Pagan: Wonderful. Is there anything you’d like to tell someone if they’re attending Fort Collins startup week for the first time?
Charisse Bowen: I think startup week is such an incredible opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals and meet people that can really help further your business and help you take your ideas to the next level. I really want to encourage people to come to startup week with an attitude of openness and sharing and be ready and be excited about telling people who you are and what your big ideas are and not fearing somebody questioning or stealing your idea, but just really come at it with an open heart and open mind and sharing mentality because it’s part of the special sauce. It’s part of what makes that week amazing.