But the low-risk argument is a good one for younger people, he said. His metaphor for all of this: Ask someone to walk a 100-foot-long tightrope that’s 1 foot off the ground. Not so scary. As you get older, the rope can get higher and higher.
Ruhe believes that young people no longer have to hang around in a community for 15 to 20 years to tap into it. Kauffman’s “1 Million Cups” program, in which startup leaders present their companies to a group of mentors, advisers and other entrepreneurs, is proving that.
“I really believe that community is an emerging form of currency,” he said.
Don’t get mad at Katie Yeager for this story. It’s about her first performance evaluation at her first job out of college, at Raytheon Co. in Massachusetts.
Rave reviews all around. Stellar. The outcome was that she was awarded a 4 percent raise. Yeager was completely underwhelmed. Four percent raises weren’t going to get her where she wanted to be.
“That might make me sound ungrateful,” she said.
The job, the company, the colleagues — all great. But she wanted more of a link between working hard and smart and her paycheck. The lack of control bothered her.
Yeager had gotten a business degree with a concentration in entrepreneurship from the prestigious Babson College near Boston. Risk was an ongoing topic from professors who had more than dabbled in it.
And she had her own early experience with the notion. Her parents taught her how to count by playing blackjack with her — you know, four plus seven plus an ace equals 22, or 12. That early card-playing, she says, may or may not have set the stage for a bit of a poker habit in college, just to help with expenses.
“Let’s say this just opens your mind to the idea of calculated risk,” she said.
Sometimes one thing does lead to another.
Yeager decided to leave Raytheon and move back to Kansas City in 2009. Her experience in Massachusetts included flipping a condo, so she thought buying-renovating-selling might be an enterprise for her.
Her first Kansas City flip was a bit rocky, but it led her to a real estate license and experience inside an agency.
As an agent, she contacted “for sale by owner” advertisers on Craigslist, trying out a low flat fee for her services rather than a typical fee based on a percentage of the sales price.
The rest is recent history. Based on her success with flat fees, at age 26 (she’s 28 today) Yeager launched Your Future Address. She now has two other agents working with her.
Last year, the company closed 65 transactions with $14.7 million in sales. So far this year, it has 79 closed or pending transactions, $17 million. She says she’s saving clients lots of money with the flat fees, and if another agent is involved in the transaction, they aren’t shorted on their usual fee.
Hard work? Yeager’s all-night perseverance has earned her the nickname “vampire.”
There’s a reason for that enormous tub of iced coffee in front of her.
“Basically, if I’m awake, I’m at work,” she said.
If you’re imagining 3 a.m. emails flying out of her Leawood, Kan., home while she’s in her pajamas, that’s correct. There’s also an office for client meetings — receptionist and coffee maker shared with several companies —in Overland Park.
Her other agents are a bit like her, she said. They sort of have to be.
“I don’t want a complacent energy in the company,” she said. “I want hungry, hard-working and productive. I think it’s infectious.”