Learning to Build a Business - GradPrep

Updated: Jan 15

So, here we are in the first month of a new year. After a 2020 that was just filled with all the makings of an apocalypse backstory. I know that starting off a new calendar year is mostly an arbitrary checkpoint that our collective society has given meaning to. But, I also have grown up with the idea that in Winter when things are cold and dark and we are waiting for the days to get longer again that this is the time for stories and reflection. Seems as good of a time as any to just stop, breathe, and reflect before taking more steps.



Winter Upnorth
Winter Stoytelling Reflection Time

My brain spends a lot of its time in a constant cycle of reflection and action making it a little different of an exercise for me to think back without trying to see how it is relevant to moving myself forward.


Being present and mindful.


But, one theme that kept popping up was that for most of my life I have taught myself skills as I ran into a challenge that I was not already prepared for. And that I have then come to rely on my ability to adapt, roll with it, and get the stuff done from always a non-traditional approach.


"Want to go to Canada for University?" - "Ok Brett, YOLO and figure it out as you're there"


"Ice climbing looks pretty cool, yeah?" - "Well, let's strap on some spikes to my boots and grab some ice picks!"


"I'm not quite finding the job opportunities that make me excited" - "I guess it's just time to start my own business to make projects that excite me."


That last one stuck with me a lot more than some of the others. In 2015 when I opened my first company after feeling disillusioned from teaching High School Social Studies, I just jumped into a simple freelance agency styled llc leaning on the project management and marketing tools I had learned along the way. Risking it for all the biskets.


And just so much learning was done during that period! Some out of good traditional avenues like many of the things I learned about Digital and Content Marketing. But a lot more came from failing, falling, and struggling. Lessons from running again into walls, trying to build my own tools, and not really knowing where to get support. I was so focused on where I was placing my feet moment to moment that I didn't know how to look further down the trail to anticipate what was next or who to get guidance from. Naturally, it came to an end and the business was closed. I moved to Traverse City in Northern Michigan and started doing marketing for the wonderful company that is Cherry Republic. And I kept the lessons I earned in my mind to percolate as I worked on other projects and listened to experiences other people were having.


Until I had the opportunity to start my second business, Raven & Lotus. But, this time not out of flippant life choices where I didn't know what to expect or did not already know what tools to use. This time, with plans, research, connections in the community, and mentors. This time the business is running with structure and intent. And it's amazing to feel the difference.


I guess it goes back to the idea of "standing on the shoulders of giants" or at least people a little taller than you. Being still as you listen and learn. It's fun to be a trailblazer. But it's silly if there is already a trail where you need to go that you didn't take because you didn't look for a map first.


The lesson from that reflection for me was that it's important to know who your resources are before you start trying to force things to work.


If there is any one thing I would recommend to anyone person about to start on a new adventure is to take three months to just listen to other people. Read their stories. Ask about lessons they have learned. Write it all down and then make your lego kit out of all the little pieces you picked up.




Alright, here's the pitch -








Over the last few months, I have had the pleasure of working with Keisha Dawn Sowers with GrapPrep and it makes me feel extremely lucky to have found them! One of the types of projects that thrill me the most are those connected to Intercultural Understanding and Teaching & Learning. I just want to do whatever I can to support others as they reach for their goals and help communities.


Keisha founded Global Graduates Fellows Program (GradPrep) while she was noticing that students finishing undergrad and looking to go to grad school or launch themselves into the world still did not quite have the foundations and resources to thrive in the next chapter of their life.


GradPrep just kicked off its Innovate Accelerator last week which is a super cool opportunity for young entrepreneurs to go through courses and get mentorships so that they can jump into their business with confidence. It includes:

With their focus on a global community and intercultural understanding, I am just overjoyed. Oh yeah, and I did two classes for them on Marketing and Intercultural Communication! (Along with some other surprises for another time.) Super would recommend checking them out!


If you know any students looking to start on their own business journey, GradPrep also has some Coffee Chats to learn more about the fellowship Monday January 17th and 24th.


And, as always, I am here with Raven & Lotus to support any Content Marketing, Project Management, and Business Operations needs are you are looking to take your passion to the next step. Our storytelling based approach shines through your business plans and marketing strategy so that you have rich organic connections with the people that are your ideal target market or community.


Our passion is to enable your growth and your quality connections. And we believe that small businesses and nonprofits have every right to quality strategy and support while they are scaling as larger companies.


Remember, "it's dangerous to go alone". There are people that can go down your path with you.


-Brett Sinclair

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