Last week in Washington, D.C., we had the opportunity to attend the 11th annual U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s America’s Small Business Summit. Featuring a variety of speakers, panels, and networking opportunities, the multi-day event was capped off by a keynote that Zappos chief executive Tony Hsieh delivered.
The event kicked off with the first-ever Free Enterprise-themed panel, “Why Should Startups Have All the Fun? Innovating at All Stages of Business.” Our panelists included a former businessman turned mayor, a Marine whose second entrepreneurial venture is a successful moving business, and a Princeton alumna working to expand the use of FMT treatment (Google it) overseas. Moderated by 1776 Founder and co-CEO Donna Harris, the panel taught us what moving, Sioux Falls, and poop have in common (hint – it often comes down to having the right people and a solid plan). You can learn more about the event here.
In no particular order, here are some of our other favorite moments from the Summit.
Former Seal Team 6 member Robert O’Neill’s speech, during which he talked about his military career and dispensed lessons in leadership to the crowd. Our favorite of those lessons? When you’re in a tough situation, there are two ways you can react: You can either let your anxiety overwhelm you, or you can do your best to remain calm. Either way, you’re going to have to face whatever is coming your way.
The YEA! Saunders Scholarship competition, where a young entrepreneur aiming to improve the entertainment options at children’s hospitals won over the judges. Her fellow competitors set studies to music, offer hip yet affordable ties for school uniforms, sell advertising space on book covers, turn a profit on renting out video games and consoles, and created an online marketplace for the services of high school kids. If you ever want to feel like you’re a slacker, then we suggest watching young people who aren’t even old enough to legally drive a car eloquently pitch their business ideas to hundreds of adults. It’ll quickly deflate any sort of ego you might have.
UGG Australia founder Brian Smith’s presentation on building a brand. We also got the opportunity to interview Smith, so stay tuned over the coming weeks for our exclusive sit down with the serial entrepreneur. At once laid back and fervently ambitious, Smith gave one of our favorite talks at the Summit, waxing poetic about his move from Australia to the U.S., and all the ups and downs that went along with starting UGG. He was an inspiring guy, and he also shared a number of interesting metaphors for aspiring business people who might be struggling to get their fledgling ideas off the ground.
Former C.I.A. acting director Michael J. Morell’s speech about today’s geopolitical landscape. The biggest takeaway from Morell’s presentation was, well, that there are a lot of problems in the world. Yet he also stressed that, although much is made of the cyber security prowess of other nations, the U.S. is by far the most sophisticated cyber force on the planet—a somewhat comforting statement given the spate of recent, well-documented attacks against various government offices and private corporations like Sony.
The “How She Built It” panel that featured prominent women in business sharing their secrets to success and offering advice to other women entrepreneurs. The event played to a packed room at the Summit and ended with audience members asking specific questions of the seasoned panelists. “Always ask for more money,” and “Be your own best advocate” were among the pieces of advice doled out during the hour-long event.
Tony Hsieh’s keynote address on pursuing passion while still growing your business. In his speech, he shared videos of the day when the Vegas-based Zappos campus became a pop-up zoo (and the rock-solid reasoning behind it). He also really made us want to visit downtown Vegas, and not for the reasons you’d think.