Innovation Destination Hartford: How did you develop the concept for Young Entrepreneurs Leading Our World?
DROZD: I have been growing my business since 2001. When the business was about $10 million in revenue, I was hitting some tough points and I was looking for mentors or guidance. I didn’t have a good support system around me.
I looked around to see what kind of support networks were out there. Some are already in existence, like YPO (the young professionals’ organization), the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), and Vistage.
I reached out to each of these organizations, some of which offer peer-to-peer advisory, functioning like a Board of Directors. Vistage wasn’t a good fit for me. The type of demographic wasn’t really focused on entrepreneurs, it was more executives.
I tried the EO and found that it was a little too small for me. The organization focused on entrepreneurs, but they were very early stage, under $5 million. The network in Connecticut wasn’t very large and it didn’t have the diversity I thought was important for a peer-to-peer advisory group when you’re looking for multiple perspectives.
I was working with a business colleague, David Tate, who is a clinical psychologist and a professor at the Yale School of Management. He and I came up with the idea for Young Entrepreneurs Leading Our World, thinking there really wasn’t a specific fit in the market.
We decided we wanted to create a very selective peer-to-peer advisory group that not only brought in the brightest talent and people with high ambition, but we also wanted to have a social hook. It was important to us that there was a social entrepreneurship feel to the organization along with the peer-to-peer advisory element. So it wasn’t just a group of people who could help you move through some of the problems in life or work, but it was also a group that could affect some social change.
IDH: Tell us about the importance of forming a leadership community and the impact it’s making on other people.
DROZD: You get to a certain point in your journey in business and entrepreneurship where it gets really tough when you’re in the trenches all day long. You’ve got to get a support system around you that knows when to pull you out of the weeds so you can look at things a little more objectively at a higher level. And really, that’s of the impact this group has had on me. It takes me away from the day to day.
The YELOW members meet every six weeks, and in that four-hour time block I take a higher-level view on what I’m doing in my life and my work. I can discuss things and use others as a sounding board. It really balances me very well. It resets me and centers me. And I know for everybody in the group it has a similar effect, where they can step away from the minutiae and take a broader look at their life and what’s going on.
YELOW is a great advisory group. It’s hand-selected so we’re looking for people who have very high ambition, high energy, and a track record of success. We’re looking for others to be in a position to help support and push others, but also have someone support, encourage, and push them past the next growth plateaus.
IDH: YELOW is solely in Connecticut, correct?
DROZD: Yes. We started YELOW in late 2015. Our goal for 2016 was to create the first chapter and have have eight members in that initial chapter, which is based in New Haven. We wanted to develop all the systems, shared accounting services, articles of incorporation, manuals, handbooks, and meeting agendas. And, once we got the New Haven chapter officially running—and running in a manner we thought would be effective for other groups—then we would start looking at creating another chapter in Connecticut. We’d also identify someone who would want to start their own YELOW chapter and take those things that were very successful for us and give them a framework for replicating our New Haven chapter.
IDH: Where do you see the future for Young Entrepreneurs Leading Our World?
DROZD: Right now we’ve got seven members in the New Haven chapter. We’re looking to fill our eighth and final member, which will round out that chapter.
We’re also evaluating a couple perspective people to start their own YELOW chapters in Connecticut. By the end of the year, I hope to have the New Haven chapter complete and the next sub-chapter with leadership in place before the new year.
I hope that someday this will be a global nonprofit and it will be several hundred chapters. We’ll start locally, build it regionally, and expand nationally and then finally globally.
We want to create a global nonprofit that has a large effect on social change. Our vision is for each subchapter to identify a social cause they want to work as a chapter.
Learn more about Young Entrepreneurs Leading Our World (YELOW) at www.yelow.us.