By Phillip Milano 

Follow your bliss. Chase your dreams. Pursue your passions…
All nice catch-phrases used to energize people starting their own businesses. But if no customers are willing and able to buy your new product or service, perhaps it’s not such sage advice.
doncapener1.jpg small.jpg“Most successful entrepreneurs or ‘circuit’ speakers claim you can do anything you can dream, but following your passion can be expensive,” says Dr. Don Capener, dean of Jacksonville University’s Davis College of Business. “Be reasonable in what you can afford to risk in your new venture. It’s reality over rainbows.”
That’s just one piece of wisdom attendees to Startup Weekend in Jacksonville will hear when Capener gives the keynote address Jan. 25 at the University of North Florida.
Startup Weekends began in 2007 by a non-profit in Seattle that organizes 54-hour “frenzied” events where developers, designers, marketers, product managers and entrepreneurs gather to “share ideas, form teams, build products and launch startups.” Teams develop and pitch ideas and receive feedback.jacksonvillestartupweekend.jpg
As of October 2012, 672 events had been held, involving 57,000 entrepreneurs across more than 300 cities across the globe, and more than 5,000 startups had been created. Google and Microsoft are among the sponsors.
Locally, Startup Weekend organizer MJ Charmani, founder of non-profit business accelerator iStart Jax, asked Capener, who has entrepreneurial as well as academic experience, if he’d give the keynote.
“I haven’t just talked the talk, but I’ve walked the walk when it comes to a commitment to small business incubators and entrepreneurism,” Capener said. “I’ve lived it from all angles.”
Indeed, Capener and his brother founded Above the Rim, an athletic apparel company later sold to Reebok in 1993; helped Silicon Valley start-up Netcentives Inc. raise millions in start-up capital; and drove the marketing and sales that enabled that company to go public via NASDAQ.
Capener, hired last year by JU after a national search, said he’s excited to impart some of the hard-won knowledge he’s gained as an entrepreneur. He mentioned several key pitfalls for would-be new business owners:
·         Relying on dream-chasing. “If there are no customers lined up to buy from you, your start-up will go through thousands of dollars searching for a sustainable business model — and you usually risk much more in starting something you love,” Capener said. “I encourage entrepreneurs to find a difficult or laborious problem few others can efficiently tackle, but whose solution is needed by a large percentage of companies or consumers. It helps when you worked in the same industry you start the new venture in so you already are familiar with customers’ expectations.”
·         Lack of capital. “When you can’t pay yourself enough to get by and something unexpected happens, you will never be able to invest without a runway to success,” he said. “That means enough money to operate for three to six months without offsetting revenues.
·         Putting money over relationships. “Don’t burn key family and business support relationships in your fight to get to the top.”
 
Capener writes about these and other issues in his blog “Southeastern Entrepreneurs” at http://southeasternentrepreneurs.ju.edu/index.php/greg-bruce-on-relationships-matter-more-than-money.
With 27 years’ experience as an award-winning entrepreneur, executive, academician and administrator, Capener is devoted to mentoring others and developing new talent. He earned a Ph.D. in International Management from the International School of Management in Paris, France, in 2011. His Master of Business Administration is from the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Arizona, and his bachelor’s degree comes from Brigham Young University. 
For more information and to register for Jacksonville Startup Weekend 2013, visit http://jacksonville.startupweekend.org.