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2019 was a huge year for our GREY Cohort. These Rising Stars and Mavericks have each faced adversity in their own ways and have leapt over hurdles to become the founders, CEOs, and executives of their own enterprises. By their own accord, they have taken their passion for entrepreneurship and used it to reshape their industries. But what does 2020 have in store for these thought leaders?

GREY Journal Rising Stars 2019 from left to right: Jared McKenzie, Alexa Carlin, Case Erickson, Michelle Martinez, Quan Bailey

We pooled together our Rising Stars and Mavericks and asked them to give us insight on their business prospects for 2020. Learn how these genius minds think and see what advice they have for entrepreneurs going into the new year.

GREY Journal Mavericks 2019 from left to right: Fabio Viviani, Lupe Rose, Peter Schoenke, George Chunkau Mui, Chris Lai

1) Best Areas for Investment

We asked our GREY Cohort what area they would like to invest in most for their business in 2020. 30% stated automation and operation, such as marketing software, mobile apps, and other tech-enabled solutions, was the best choice. We also discovered that branding and sales marketing are both equally as important at 20% each. Finance/fundraising and new product innovation both tied at 10%. Another 10% said other.

GREY Cohort 2020 survey
What advice do you have for new startup founders in 2020?

“Starting your own venture is hard. Like really hard. But it is also fun and very rewarding. You need to understand that few, if any, will pour as much into your startup as you do. So the trick for any entrepreneur is to set realistic and achievable goals for others so that they can be a value-add to your work process rather than a hindrance to growth. Managing the complexities of uncertainty is a key overriding characteristic of the successful entrepreneur, so better get used to that early on in your process.”

Montana Butsch Founder of Spotivity

2) New Tech and Product Investments

40% of our GREY Cohort plans to invest in technology or new product developments in 2020. While Silicon Valley is still the #1 city for tech startups in the U.S., Chicago is gradually reaching for the top spot. 71% of our Rising Stars and Mavericks currently reside in the Chicagoland area. This means they are in the right place if they wish to pursue future tech endeavors.

GREY Cohort 2020 survey
What was your most significant moment of 2019?

“Landing our first B2B deal with a Fortune 500 company.”

Aaron Filous CEO of Promotable

3) Economic Business Influence 2019

According to the The Conference Board Economic Forecast, U.S. Real GDP is expected to cap at 2.3% by the end of 2019. This is lower than the 2.9% of 2018. Regardless of the dip, 50% of our GREY Cohort said the economy positively influenced their business in 2019, while the remaining 50% stated it was neutral.

GREY Cohort 2020 survey
In your opinion, what aspect of entrepreneurship deserves the most attention?

“Having the knowledge and understanding of the importance of running all aspects of your business. For example, from accounting to advertising and employee accountability to giving clients one-on-one attention. Always be present and involved as a business owner. As a PR rep, I perform all duties associated with my business to ensure I keep fresh and closely involved.”

Laura Orrico President of Laura Orrico Public Relations

4) Economic Business Influence 2020

Experts claim the U.S. GDP will slow to 2% in 2020. However, that still falls within the ideal GDP growth rate of 2-4%. An overwhelming 80% of our cohort believe the economy will positively impact their business in 2020. Only 10% are unhappy with the odds while the other 10% remain neutral.

GREY Cohort 2020 survey
If you could do something differently in 2019, what would it be?

“Hire operations managers and other support staff earlier. As a startup, the founder wears a lot of hats, but at some point you need to delegate and let others share the load. This way you can focus on the things that only you can do.”

Chris Lai Founder of MassVR

5) New Business Prospects in 2020

90% of our GREY Cohort say they plan to hire new staff in 2020. Only 10% state they are looking to expand their business by starting a new company. Inspiringly, 100% say they will keep their current business. Awesome! Keep grinding!

GREY Cohort 2020 survey
What advice do you have for new startup founders in 2020?

“Don’t do it because it seems cool or an easy way to make money, or because you want to fulfill a fleeting fantasy of yours. And definitely don’t do it because you want to call yourself a ‘CEO’ or an ‘entrepreneur’! Do it because you want freedom, or because you want to create something that doesn’t yet exist, or create more of something that does and do it better. It has to come from within. Entrepreneurs are meant to be risk-takers, innovators, and creators who have the vision to fill a void that currently exists and seize on opportunities. What’s your vision? What truly drives you?”

Adi Redzic CEO of Think Change Ventures

Being an entrepreneur is no easy task. But if you learn anything from our Rising Stars and Mavericks, it’s that entrepreneurship is also a rewarding experience when done right. Look before you leap. Take calculated risks. Most importantly of all, stay positive and be your biggest advocate.

In your opinion, what aspect of entrepreneurship deserves the most attention?

“In my opinion, I think entrepreneurs should dedicate more time to their go-to-market strategy as it’s key to the launch and initial revenue of your company.”

George Powell CEO of Easy Beauty
What was your most significant moment of 2019?

“The most significant moment of 2019 was learning that our small team is recognized internally as one of the top partners of Imerman Angels. Their Senior Director of Development, Isabel Andrews, told me over dinner that they bring us up at every meeting. We’re on their reoccurring agenda, and they truly value all of the money we raise, but mostly how we help raise awareness within our industry and networks. I never knew that when we pledged to raise money for an international organization that we would be valued so much.

It was reassuring to me that even the ‘little guys’ can make a big, memorable impact. It inspired me to keep pushing, because you never know where these relationships will lead and what lives they will touch. It’s easy to feel like you’re only making ripples, when really, you may be making waves…they may just be too far off shore to see.

Jenny Delaney Founder of Elite 6 Dinners

Thank you to our GREY Cohort for participating in this survey! Your words are truly inspiring. If you wish to learn more about their stories, check out our Rising Stars and Mavericks profiles. We also have bigger things in store for 2020!

Have any thoughts or questions for our 2019 GREY Cohort? Leave us a comment down below.

This article was originally published in GREY Journal.

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