IdeaMensch (, a community of entrepreneurs who share how they bring to life their ideas, stopped by Winooski, Vermont on September 4th to hold their 27th in a series of 50 planned events throughout the continental United States.  The IdeaMensch team found 150 entrepreneurs packed into a conference space at MyWebGrocer ready to hear talks from Will Raap, Rich Tarrant, Jr., Michael Jager and young entrepreneur Ethan Waldman.  “We were blown away”, said Mario Schulzke the founder of IdeaMensch referring to the old converted mill building that was the setting of the talks, the number of people attending and the great speakers.

IdeaMensch event at MyWebGrocer

During his talk, Will Raap, the founder of Gardener’s Supply encouraged budding entrepreneurs to “Pay Attention to Serendipity”, and to “Unlock a sense of ownership in your business” among your employees.  When asked “Why Vermont?”  Will cited Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR) as a great indicator for our local business community.  While Vermont is one of the smallest states in the nation, VBSR, a statewide organization dedicated to the responsibility of the business community to protect the natural, human and economic environment, is the largest of its kind in the nation.  Will noted that the Vermont business community is committed to the environment and making the right choices, while he urged the business community to measure success not by absolute quantitative growth (such as GDP), but rather qualitative growth to promote ultimate long term sustainability.

Ethan Waldman, a solopreneur who founded Cloud Coach, explained that in addition to his consulting services, he is also beginning to develop and launch product offerings, as he envisions what his business will look like when it scales beyond the capacity of the billable hours in each day.  When asked what the first thing he’ll do when he’s fully booked each day, Ethan quipped, ”Raise my rates!”

During his speech, Rich Tarrant, CEO of MyWebGrocer, announced that his company had now grown to 190 employees, and was preparing to launch its first international office in the UK.  Among his pearls of wisdom,”Everything takes longer and costs more than your (excel) model shows”.

Rich Tarrant, MyWebGrocer

Perhaps the most philosophical talk of the night came from Michael Jager of JDK, who posited that “Ideas are living, growing and breathing, and literally never sleep”.  He demonstrated his passion for Ideas, noting that “Every one of us sees the world differently, and when you embrace that idea, it’s really exciting”.   One of his most important themes of the night was around collaboration, suggesting that “if ego is driving your idea, you are going to hit a wall, so collaborate with your audience and your own culture”, and get comfortable with the idea that: Great ideas will get even smarter.

Michael Jager, JDK Designs

The event was sponsored by FreshTracks Capital, MyWebGrocer, Champlain College and Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, while Leonardo’s Pizza generously donated some of their product in kind.  Cairn Cross of FreshTracks Capital remarked, “as soon as I heard about IdeaMensch and their mission to reveal that there are great ideas outside of Silicon Valley, I knew FreshTracks needed to help them promote their Vermont event.”

Cairn Cross, FreshTracks Capital

IdeaMensch Blown Away by Burlington