Innovation Destination Hartford spoke to Brett Broesder, Co-Founder and Vice President of Campaign for Tomorrow’s Jobs about the ways in which his organization is working to help Connecticut’s economy flourish.
INNOVATION DESTINATION HARTFORD: When and why did you start the company?
BRETT BROESDER: My business partner, Bill Phillips, and I have been friends for years and have worked together on several advocacy projects together.
We believe there is tremendous opportunity for economic growth in cities and towns across the state, including Hartford, and want to do our part as advocates to help grow Connecticut’s economy for present and future generations. So we put together a proposal to launch a homegrown, nonprofit advocacy group that focuses on addresses economic growth concerns in Connecticut by backing policy solutions aimed at better positioning the state to win the competition for tomorrow’s jobs.
At the beginning of the year, we were fortunate enough to receive the capital necessary to launch such a group, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to be launching it right here in Connecticut.
IDH: Why did you start a new company vs. working for someone else?
BB: Opportunity. I’ve been very fortunate throughout my young career to work for and with many extraordinary people, including the current Mayor of Hartford, Luke Bronin, and his exceptional staff, I’ve learned a lot from those experiences, which contributed to me having an opportunity to take the leap so many entrepreneurs in Hartford and other areas across the state do each and every day—start a new business and, with a lot of hard work and some luck, hope that it grows into something that thrives for today and tomorrow. And, thankfully—and most importantly—I have a supportive fiancée who was on board with me taking this risk, too.
IDH: How has your background helped position you to be an entrepreneur?
BB: Learning from a vast array of very smart people in a diverse set of work environments has certainly given me the confidence to tolerate the risk involved with launching a startup. And partnering with Bill, who has successfully taken this risk in the past, certainly helps as well.
A few years back, the New York Times published an op-ed from a long-time small business owner who stated that there are six key attributes that successful entrepreneurs are likely to have: ambition, creativity, tenacity, risk tolerance, intuition, and personality.
It’s early in the Campaign for Tomorrow’s Jobs tenure, but I believe Bill has these six attributes, and I’m hopeful that I share them, too. I guess we’ll see. In the meantime, I plan on working extremely hard to make this entrepreneurial endeavor a successful one.
IDH: Tell us one or two things we don’t know about what it’s like to launch a startup.
BB: There are a lot of highs and lows involved as you get started—everything from filling out paperwork, creating and distributing marketing materials, and changing your course at the drop of a hat because the market dynamics are ever-changing and evolving. But as long as you trust your team, remain calm as often as possible, and have supportive coworkers and friends who are willing to forgive you when you lose it, most of the everyday problems can be easily solved (relatively so).
IDH: What’s the biggest challenge your nonprofit has faced as a startup?
BB: Like most startups, I would say the biggest issue we’ve faced is access to capital and consistently remaining focused on the bigger picture while dealing with the day-to-day. But with smart planning, coupled with trust in our team and mission, we are overall making progress and keeping our heads above water.
IDH: What advice can you offer other startups?
BB: Don’t sweat the small stuff, remain focused on the big picture, and don’t be afraid to change course whenever necessary.
IDH: Why is Hartford a great place to start and grow a business?
BB: There is so much opportunity, especially for startups, in Hartford. The Brookings Institute recently named Hartford a Knowledge Capital—one of 19 mid-sized, highly productive knowledge centers across the country that have both a talented workforce and access to elite universities and entrepreneurs—and new apartments and small businesses are moving into downtown.
I give a lot of credit to Mayor Bronin and his staff—including his head of economic development, Sean Fitzpatrick and his deputy, Jamie Pratt, as well as several others—for their commitment to helping entrepreneurs access the tools that are available for those who are looking to start and grow a business in the state’s capital city.
Overall, Hartford remains a place that has a lot to offer entrepreneurs, especially once the commuter rail service, connecting Hartford to New Haven and Springfield, MA, comes online next year.