Updated: Jun 1, 2020
Back in May of this year, 1 Million Cups – a weekly event that brings early stage entrepreneurs and the Seattle community together over coffee, presentations and conversation – launched at ProDev Day as one of the anchor event sessions.
I made a commitment to sit down with 1 Million Cup presenters/entrepreneurs to hear more about them, their venture(s) and share the conversation with the young professional audience through a series of articles… beginning here.
Full disclosure: I’m part of the leadership team responsible for getting the 1 Million Cups Seattle chapter off the ground but feel it’s important that I, at least, make myself useful enough to the community and share some highlights from the weekly presentations; hence, this article…
The first entrepreneur conversation I had was with Jordan Lyon, founder of Foundation. I saw Jordan present at a 1 Million Cups event back in June of this year and noticed, as you likely will, the guy has a passion for – and I’m severely understating this — helping others through community building.
…I loved that.
Jordan and I sat down over coffee at a very Seattle-esq coffee shop, La Marzocco café, inside of the KEXP HQ. I told him about my commitment to share our conversation. He was on board. Here’s how the conversation went:
Ahmad Corner: In 3 or 4 sentences; who is Jordan Lyon?
Jordan Lyon: A proud, born and raised Tacoma native – kind of a rarity on all fronts here these days – I officially moved to Seattle proper just over two years ago. My career has taken me from managing restaurants and owning my own gumbo business, to marketing and operations for Uber in Pierce County, to tech sales for a growing startup. I only recently, finally settled upon a career purpose and direction of working towards cultivating connection and community for others, all leading to the creation of Foundation.
AC: Talk to me about your latest venture, Foundation. What does Foundation do and who does it serve?
JL: At its core, Foundation is a community that brings people together. We create fun, engaging experiences that help us celebrate and explore our passions and curiosities. Our belief is that the key to building a more fulfilling life, as well as a better Seattle, starts with a “foundation” of strong, supportive connections. We hope to facilitate that through fun learning experiences that help people connect with things they are curious to learn. Soon, Foundation will be offering everything from cooking classes to science classes, from book clubs to hiking clubs, from brewery tours to zoo tours, from a photography series to a speaker series, and everything in between. Basically—let’s learn cool shit together, create fun times together, and connect with this city together.
AC: Where did the idea for Foundation derive from?
JL: I will openly and vulnerably share, that much of Foundation comes from my own personal struggles with loneliness, depression, and my search for meaning, purpose, and belonging. I was going through a challenging period of introspective understanding and growth, and was yearning to be a part of something more. I was searching for experiences that matched my passions, my curiosities, and helped me meaningfully connect with others around that feeling of community. There were some great opportunities for me to connect and grow around my career or around a religion, but I couldn’t find alternatives in the market that fully matched what I was looking for. When I realized that I wasn’t alone in that, and that many social, professional, and technological trends were leading to people leading more isolating lives, I created Foundation—a community that works to help individuals connect with others around the exploration of whatever you’re naturally curious about.
AC: What best motivates you, the entrepreneur?
JL: I think one of the most important things we can do as we grow into adulthood is to define success in our own terms. It is so easy to internalize others’ definitions of those terms, but it’s vital to create that vision and goal for yourself, based entirely on who you are, how you want to live, and the impact you want to have on the world around you. So as I have grown and learned more about myself, that definition of success has shifted from more monetary and professional dreams to something that is much more dear to my own heart, creating more fulfilling lives for myself and others. My most invigorating and inspiring moments are at Foundation experiences when I see individuals that didn’t know each other hours early, connect with each other and make plans to hang out in the future.
I have to regularly remind myself not to forget to nurture the meaningful connections and amazing people I already have in my life.
AC: Do you believe there is a winning formula for becoming a successful entrepreneur? If so, what’s yours? If not, why not?
JL: I don’t think there is a blanket winning formula ever in life, but the best way to be successful at anything in my perspective, is to have your heart deeply in it. If that’s the case, everything from the work, to the motivation, to the suffering to achieve that vision, come naturally and make it worthwhile. When I mentor young adults and help them create direction for their careers, I always advise them to deeply look inside themselves, to find their unique gifts, their heartfelt passions, and their desired impact on the world. From there, we examine how we can turn that into a job or an entrepreneurial venture that can lead to a deeply fulfilling career. Beyond that alignment, the specific qualities that have helped me find success are: the courage to be vulnerable; the ability to be flexible and pivot while staying true to my vision; and checking my ego at the door and working towards more awareness of myself and an openness to critical feedback.
AC: Any tricks you use, as an entrepreneur, to stay focused? How do you balance work and fun?
JL: I must admit, this is a constant challenge of mine. It can be a struggle being a solo entrepreneur and staying focused and dedicated towards this crazy vision I am working towards. Being someone that draws strength from others, I definitely lean on my family and friends for support, feedback, and a continued belief in my mission. But with that regularly reinforced focus, comes the subsequent challenge—actually turning off, checking out, and taking breaks from my work. While Foundation does naturally lead to a fun lifestyle and meeting some of the most amazing people, I find myself basically working all the time. So that has been a burden on my relationships and I have to regularly remind myself not to forget to nurture the meaningful connections and amazing people I already have in my life.
AC: Are there any missed opportunities that you wished you would have leveraged or maybe feel like you can still leverage as you build Foundation?
JL: One missed opportunity, or at least a hefty setback, came from my inability to move away from my initial vision for Foundation. I originally wanted to build brick and mortar community centers. I worked and invested for months to build out the concept sketches, financial models, and pitch investors. Funny enough, our launch event in June, had always, in the back of my mind, hoped to be a celebration of me raising the funding to create an actual space. Things obviously didn’t quite work out that way, and that might’ve turn out to be a blessing—a pivot that could potentially lead to building a stronger, more scalable business model.
AC: Where do you see Foundation 2 years from now?
JL: In two years from now, I hope to have a vibrant and active Foundation community in Seattle; at the same time as we execute our first expansion into another urban market. By then, we will have launched our technology platform that works to instill an even deeper sense of community through the utilization of feedback, the sourcing of individual’s ideas, and the evaluating of those ideas collectively, all creating a uniquely democratic community model that integrates all of our perspectives and voices into defining what we do and how we do it.
AC: How about 10 years from now?
JL: In ten years, I hope Foundation is a community institution in cities throughout the US. A platform that is constantly providing opportunities and experiences for people to learn, play, and connect. A community that can offer a supportive sense of belonging and helps people lead more fulfilling, happier lives.
AC: Final question… One I’ll be asking all entrepreneurs: What can your community do for you and Foundation?
JL: Simple! If you see a Foundation event that piques your curiosity, come join us for it! If you have an idea for something you’d like to learn or experience, please let us know and we’ll work to create it.
As I said earlier, let’s come together, have fun together, and learn some cool shit together.
If you’re an early stage entrepreneur and interested in pitching your business and getting some honest feedback, or you simply want to get more involved Seattle’s entrepreneur community, take a look at the 1 Million Cups Seattle page. Apply to present or join the rest of the 1 Million Cups community in attendance one of these Wednesdays.