Shari Wynne is the Founder and CEO of Incubation Station (IS), an accelerator created to help build diversified industries in Austin and to support the success of entrepreneurs and their companies. Ms. Wynne is also a Founder and CEO of MWR Legal, a law firm representing and connecting entrepreneurs, investors, start-ups and emerging companies. Shari focuses her practice on legal-related business growth and development matters, and connection to critical resources. She also founded 6Degrees Connect a referral match company. She is an active member of the entrepreneurial eco-system, has served on numerous boards and committees helping companies achieve success and is the former President of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) Austin chapter.
Incubation Station is an accelerator that brings together a group of Austin notable entrepreneurs, investors and advisors for the purpose of mentoring high-potential, market-validated consumer product companies to more effectively manufacture, distribute, market and grow their products and services.
MO: What inspired you to launch the Incubation Station and how has your background and experience prepared you for such an endeavor?
Shari: I am an entrepreneur attorney. My purpose in life, and the purpose of founding MWR Legal, 6Degrees Connect and Incubation Station, is to love people in our powerful way by helping them to achieve success. After 16 years at MWR Legal and Six Degrees Connect representing and connecting entrepreneurs and investors for success, we founded Incubation Station to launch a larger platform to connect startups with experienced entrepreneurs, industry experts and investors to support and scale their businesses, and build Austin’s diversified entrepreneurial ecosystem. The fit was perfect – we had already been connecting entrepreneurs with the funding and other resources they needed and through IS we created a hybrid incubator/accelerator structure and gathered amazing people to join in! We focused on CPG – Consumer Product Good companies – because these industries often lack access to expertise and resources that are available to technology companies.
MO: Can you elaborate on what an accelerator can do for an entrepreneur?
Shari: We entrepreneurs have our skills and talents, without those we could not launch our new ideas into a business. We are limited, however, in time and resources – and often we don’t have access to experienced mentorship and industry expertise needed to save us from costly mistakes. So a good accelerator addresses these needs. At IS, we provide structured mentorship and education, as well as access to needed resources, so that our participant companies can develop and scale their market-validated products. IS helps on the full range of issues that entrepreneurs face – and gives in depth and steady support. We also focus on what constitutes success for each of our IS companies because they need a solid strategic plan, ideally before they seek funding.
MO: What tips would you pass on for an entrepreneur to get the most out of their relationship with their mentor?
Shari: We pick our companies based upon the entrepreneurs that own them. Entrepreneurs need to be organized and prepared to learn – not just the substance of the business – but also their weaknesses and how to address them and get needed support. First and foremost – an entrepreneur has to listen, listen sincerely – and then integrate what is right for their business. It is tough because it is a balancing act – be open to new ideas, integrate them quickly – but also keep true to their purpose. By the way – IS spends a lot of time on purpose, mission and values – because you must know what you stand for – or you will fall for anything.
MO: How important is a social media strategy to a young company?
Shari: Very important. We look at the social media strategy as part of the overall PR and marketing plan. And it is also important to make sure any marketing done
MO: What are some trends that you’re seeing emerge at Incubation Station that you’re excited by?
Shari: Incubation Station is the Do Good and Do Well accelerator. We support and build companies that have a clear mission, purpose and values and we help our companies integrate this into their companies early – so that all decisions made are in alignment and support. At IS, we demonstrate what we teach. For this 2013 Track 2 (our second year), our IS Board will bring in another IS Mentor (who worked with Starbucks building vision and team) to lead our own Mission, Vision and Purpose planning and share this process with everyone involved in IS.
MO: What are some resources that you feel are under-utilized by startups?
Shari: For a start, the government backed SCORE offers senior entrepreneurs to coach beginners. There are also a range of entrepreneur resources in many towns and you need to get connected to the “scene” in your town and find out which one is a fit for you. Entrepreneurs often don’t understand that you should have places and people you utilize to learn about how to be a better entrepreneur and business owner and then other places you sell (and don’t mix the two up). Entrepreneurs also are afraid to reach out and conduct “organized” informational interviews of experienced entrepreneurs and industry experts.
MO: What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you personally or professionally?
Shari: The expansion of Incubation Station is very exciting to IS and to me personally and professionally. We are excited to see how we will develop and am considering lots of options. I may be ready to write a book on how as a high school dropout with little prospects, I had a dream to “love people in a powerful way” and graduated from a top law school and move forward into an amazing life of love and service. This could be fun – especially since we are able to make that book not some airy story of dreams but translate into the many people and companies that have been able to achieve success because of it. I believe that the goal in life is to find out who you are, figure out how to be successful being yourself, and take as many people with you along the way. Incubation Station and MWR Legal are a demonstration of that Intention and now we have the ability to help a growing number of people.
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