Coming home to stay
Jordan Wolfe is 27 years old. And he lives in Michigan.
Shocking, I know.
Michigan is battling the Brain Drain. More college graduates are leaving the state than are sticking around. But some, like Wolfe, are coming home. They are starting businesses here, and they are encouraging others to do the same.
Wolfe grew up in the West Bloomfield area. He graduated from Indiana University and ended up in San Francisco, where he joined the finance industry and had a lucrative job in private equity.
That experience taught him one life lesson: There are a lot of ways to make money. You can just work, or you can do something you love and hope a paycheck follows.
A family illness brought him home in 2007, and Wolfe decided to look at it as an opportunity for change. It was during this time that he came up with something he calls uwemp.
Uwemp is like an online magazine, full of practical information for people who want to start something: A business, a writing career, the next best rock album. The idea is for site contributors to share their stories in an environment that lets readers ask questions and provide feedback. Think of it as Facebook for entrepreneurial thinkers.
The name means you, we, me...empowered.
“The best way to learn is through experiencing something ourselves. The second best way is through other people,” Wolfe said.
Since its launch about a year ago, Wolfe has already landed major partnerships with organizations like United Press International, which is co-sponsoring a student writing contest, and the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship, which is setting up internships for uwemp's young writers.
“Michigan was a great place to do some thinking,” Wolfe said. “You can live on a reasonable budget until you're ready. And there are very few places as a young person where you can go and actually start something. You can literally make a huge change.”
It's a pretty cool job. So far, uwemp has interviewed best-selling author, marketing genius and Squidoo founder Seth Godin, Weight Watchers founder Florine Mark and other people who have inspired Wolfe's own career path.
Wolfe is doing his part to change the way young people look at Michigan. In April, Wolfe and two other 20something friends held the first Technow09, a one-day event that showed its audience how to start a business using technology.
Michigan is a great space for entrepreneurs, Wolfe argues. The labor is relatively plentiful, the office rent is mostly inexpensive and the doors are wide open.
“You're not going to save the world or save the state. But you can help one or two people, and that's an opportunity you cannot waste,” Wolfe said.