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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Shooting for the Moon

Entrepreneurs reach for the stars

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars,” is an inspirational message meant to inspire those with dreams to pursue their ambitious goals.

It also serves as a motivational theme for Moonshot, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, which has helped forward-thinking experts and entrepreneurs turn their big ideas into life-changing products and services for 22 years.

The program, which emulates ABC’s “Shark Tank,” allows entrepreneurs with moonshot startup ideas, those looking for investors or seasoned founders with business expansion plans, to pitch their ideas in five minutes to a panel of judges, competing for cash and prizes.

Scott Hathcock, president and CEO of Moonshot said, “As a program, we tend to go where resources are more limited. We look for lifestyle communities where people want to live but maybe the jobs are not currently present to help them or their kids live the lifestyle they desire. Our mission is to democratize entrepreneurialism and make resources available for everyone, not just those living in major markets, but rural as well. Creating companies creates jobs for the community and builds a healthier and more sustainable economy.”

 Hathcock came on board at Moonshot six years ago. Part of his strategy was to rebrand the name of program that was originally based at Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology [NACET] in Flagstaff. He believes that storytelling is one of the best ways to identify a brand.

“The fact that you have a story [for your company or business idea] — that’s the key to me. That’s what I love. I look for that,” Hathcock said. “And if people don’t have that, I try to help them find it — it must be authentic. The stories don’t always have to be dramatic and sad, but stories are the thread that connects, and we realize the power of them.”  

On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy stood before Congress and proposed that the U.S. “should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth.” In the race to get to space, Kennedy wasn’t sure how we were going to do it, but knew we would.

“The parallel for me was the fact that JFK had stated without knowing how we were going to do it, that we were going to go to the moon and return safely back,” Hathcock said. “I feel like a lot of entrepreneurs step into our world saying, I want to do this thing. I don’t quite know how to do it. Right? And you surround those bold people who make those public statements with the safety net, the advisory metrics, coaches, education needed to help them get there. But they have to proclaim it first, and they have to be sound in what they’re trying to do.”

Hathcock has said that many green businesses are now coming to the forefront. In fact, the city of Flagstaff teamed up with Moonshot at NACET’s Pioneer Pitch Competition offering a challenge to entrepreneurs who are committed to the environment and sustainability. As a part of the Innovate Waste & Carbon Neutrality competition, $30,000 was awarded to a winner.

“The list of things that we’re looking for is community resilience, equitable systems, decreased dependence on cars, electric mobility, clean electricity, building fuel switching, reducing building energy use, sustainable consumption and waste management. And finally, carbon dioxide removal,” Hathcock said.

Hathcock and his wife Kiersten, who is the vice president of marketing for Moonshot, knows all too well about the ups and downs of working for companies and understands the importance of programs such as theirs. “We’ve been in their [entrepreneurs] shoes. We’ve struggled financially in the past, seen multiple layoffs, and launched both for-profit and nonprofit companies,” Hathcock said. “Starting a company when you are in dire conditions is not often the first thing you think about, but it can be the best thing you do. When Kiersten launched her company Mod Mom Furniture, it really was out of a need to bring into our household additional funds to pay the bills. She did that. She said no more letting another company or person control her future, our future. She would make her own, she would call the shots. So, as a husband-and-wife team, if we can help others find their own power, focus, their voice … how great is that?”

In 2011, Kiersten Hathcock appeared on “Shark Tank,” pitching her Mad Mom Furniture line. She was looking for $90,000 in exchange for 25% of the company. Shark Robert Herjavec made her an offer that eventually fell through, however, an angel investor called and set up a licensing deal with Stanley Furniture, giving her brand international exposure. That deal didn’t last long either.

As of May, Hathcock’s company is back in business, and doing $2 million annually.

“With regards to companies that start with a green initiative, they grow 20 times faster than an average company,” Hathcock stated. I thought that was interesting because when we did this with Kiersten’s toy boxes, we [checked] if pesticides were used and wanted to know what goes into the wood [we were using] and the processes of glue. We had the Amish building the toy boxes in the beginning, and they are very much in line with that. But the branding around the company [Mod Mom Furniture] was more about, ‘Made in America.’ I think it’s interesting that companies have proven data showing for the last couple of years that if they have a green initiative, then they grow faster.”

Danusia Szumowski and David Fowler, who participated in the Verde Valley Moonshot, moved to Sedona in March of 2021 from Napa Valley. Fowler had started a water filtration business in 1989 in the Silicon Valley area. “I started like a lot of entrepreneurs — in a garage — and started selling products to primarily commercial businesses in and around the Bay Area, Silicon Valley and through the 90s and well into the 2000s,” Fowler said. “And we had a lot of ups and downs along the way. We weathered a lot of storms and kept rolling.”

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