We all start somewhere

 In Blog

I would love to skip to the end of this story — where the success happens. But that wouldn’t be fair to you or the process. So let’s start from the beginning.

It was February 16, 1986, in Philadelphia … wait, that might be a little too far back.

It was December 17, 2015. I had a 30-minute meeting on the books.

That meeting would change the lives of everyone involved.

A month before, I had met Victor Sibaja, production director and partner at CORE Media Strategies. I was the keynote speaker for a leadership conference at Austin Community College. After my first session, I asked Victor if I could grab the footage of my talk from him so that he wouldn’t have to worry about sending it later. As the footage downloaded to my computer, he mentioned his partner, Ruben Cantu, founder of CORE Media Strategies. Victor said I just had to meet Ruben. He said he liked my message and saw a lot of similarities between Ruben and myself. So we set the December 17 meeting for all three of us to meet.

The meeting started like most others — shaking hands, building rapport. But something different was happening. After we blew past the half-hour we had allotted, we rescheduled the rest of our meetings for the day so we could keep talking. We quickly found we had a lot in common: our work with social enterprises, our love for our community and the serendipitous fact that Apple was our last employer before we set out on our own as business owners.

Our energy must have been pretty strong. Another entrepreneur at the coworking space where we chatted overheard us and told us we should start a business.

I would like to say the rest is history, but we are still writing that story.

img_5704When we set out on to connect “opportunity youth” students to entrepreneurship, we didn’t know what to expect. Part of me believed that our effort would catch on like that new song your friend tirelessly plays.

But there was a small voice inside that said otherwise. You know that voice: It’s the one that nags at you and, if left unchecked, keeps you playing small.

What helped us drown out that voice was resounding support from our community. I know a lot of people say this, but Austin is different. The motto here is “Keep Austin Weird,” and we live that everyday. The more we told prominent community members about our goals to raise the playing field for the underprivileged, the more their voices echoed through the doubts and tough times. Throughout this next blog series we will tackle unique perspectives and challenges that we discovered getting this off the ground and how we plan on growing LevelUp Institute so it can touch even more people. Our initial believers have made this all possible. One of the voices that echoed the loudest was that of Namecheap.com. They make registering, hosting and managing domains online a snap and gave us the confidence we needed to move forward.


The LevelUp Institute focuses on creating the next generation of diverse entrepreneurs. The intensive and experiential 24-week program works with low income college students who are first in their family to attend higher education, and helps them create high tech social enterprises. For more information check out levelupinst.com

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