Born and raised in San Francisco, Clinton E. Day, Founder of Entrepreneurship Resources Institute, LLC, attended The University of California, Berkeley, before joining the Army in 1965. His first duty assignment was The Republic of Vietnam. He spent a total of four and a half years serving his country. Following active duty, he settled in Marin County California before he and his wife, Donna, made a strategic move to Jacksonville, FL, to each start a business. Day shared the story behind his entrepreneurial journey and how, after growing and selling three successful insurance agencies, he shifted his focus to helping others achieve personal and financial freedom through self-employment.
“I spent the first year in Jacksonville working for a high-profile surety bond agent in town,” Day said. “In those days, you had to work for someone for a minimum of one year before you were able to go off on your own. After that year, Donna and I formed our first insurance agency – she had already started her own physical therapy clinic. The agency business grew pretty quickly, and we soon established accounts with companies that had divisions near Atlanta, Georgia. I started going up there quite a bit to service those accounts.”
Day continued, “We eventually sold that agency and moved to Georgia, where we built two more insurance agencies. Over time, we grew and sold those agencies and by 2000, we were coming back and forth between Georgia and a golf villa we owned in Sarasota pretty often. That’s when I got qualified to teach Continuing Education for property and casualty insurance agents in Florida. I also taught Financial Planning to insurance agents. I did that for about three years before realizing my heart was still in entrepreneurship.”
Day went back to school and earned his Master’s in Entrepreneurship. He set the wheels in motion to pursue his PhD before a colleague at The Kauffman Foundation encouraged him to instead enroll in every major entrepreneurship course available.
“So that’s what I did,” Day said. “I became certified by the Babson SEE, Lean Launch Pad, UF Experiential Classroom, Kauffman Ice House, and the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship curriculums. I then met the department chair at the State College of Florida and she gave me an opportunity – that I accepted – to teach the Entrepreneurship Program at the College. I did that for about two years before getting involved with the veteran entrepreneurship community.”
Day was selected to teach the Florida Veteran’s Entrepreneurship Program (VEP). From 2013 through 2016, he worked with veterans to prepare them for entrepreneurial opportunities following active duty. In 2016, Day was a part of the development of STRIVE – an entrepreneurship training program offered through Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), in partnership with Hillsborough Community College. According to Day, The STRIVE program offers Veterans, active duty, Reserve/Guard, and their spouses the opportunity to take an early stage business, or business idea through a rigorous 6-week training program. The program leads to post program support both locally as well as nationally through the IVMF network. Around the same time, Day began to lay the groundwork for his own entrepreneurial endeavor – Entrepreneurship Resources Initiative (ERI).
“We initially structured the organization as a non-profit,” Day said. “Donna and my Godson, Clint Swigart, got involved, along with a fellow professor named Greta Kishbaugh. We also brought in another guy that works with Verizon who’s really good with technology. We gradually built out the program and began offering training and workshops around Lean Startup. As a graduate of Steve Blank’s Lean LaunchPad course, I’m a firm believer that the Lean Startup model made entrepreneurship teachable and learnable. The validation feature is key to launching and growing a successful startup.”
Under the umbrella of the Entrepreneurship Resources Initiative, Day also operates an entrepreneurship-focused blog with over 500 followers. His goal is – and has always been – to leave a legacy by sharing his knowledge with young entrepreneurs and veterans. As Day shared, because of the economic changes brought on by the COVID-19 Pandemic, it’s more important than ever for people to understand the power that entrepreneurship has to provide lasting and meaningful opportunities.
“We’re an organization dedicated to spreading the skill of "lean" entrepreneurship to as many adult workers, students, and educators as possible in an era of COVID-19, artificial intelligence automation, and our Gig Economy,” Day said. “These three conditions form a "perfect storm" causing widespread joblessness. Only better education and specifically the empowerment of entrepreneurship is the true solution. A person who loses their job can use a passion, a hobby, or past experience to start a small business using "lean" entrepreneurship planning. ERI trains the specifics of the Business Model Canvas (BMC), the Customer Development Process, and Design Validation to make that business successful. We provide total online support, training, and current updates in the specialty of entrepreneurship. All the individual needs to add is a strong desire.”
Day added, “Entrepreneurship can be used to help pivot people – especially those in danger of losing their jobs to automation. For example, in the U.S., there are 3.5 million truck drivers. Sometime in 2021, long-haul trucks that drive coast to coast will go automated. Local truck drivers will hang on for a while, but 40% of the long-haul truckers will lose their jobs. Another example is State Farm claims. They took 40% of claims jobs and replaced them with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to handle the first part of the claims process. Further, McKinsey & Co. – a well-known market research and data analytics company – estimates that 42% of jobs lost because of COVID-19 will not come back.”
Day’s COVID-19 Pandemic related pivots involve moving his workshops to the online space in the form of webinars and doing more videos. While he understands that changes brought on by the pandemic – automation and artificial intelligence will undoubtedly change how and where we work – he remains optimistic that entrepreneurship is the guiding force to bring about prosperity and fulfillment.
“I love spreading the word on entrepreneurship,” Day said. “I also deeply believe in the lean methodology and validation as a way to learn and understand your customers and their needs.”
Looking ahead, Day is focused on expanding his reach through partnerships with workforce organizations and public venues. He’s also in the process of bringing all of his training materials online in order to reach as many people as possible.
What advice does Day have for aspiring entrepreneurs? “Trust experts in the field like me and rely on the Business Model Canvas technique and the Lean entrepreneurship method of validation,” he said. “These tools brought us AirBnB, Uber, Dropbox, and countless successful online businesses. Get the product-market fit of your canvas done before moving on to the next. Trust the canvas – it’s an excellent tool. Also, it’s important to find good people. Hire people that are better than you. Lastly, it takes desire to be successful. You have to really want it.”