Words of Entrepreneurial and Big-Corporate Wisdom from William Trubeck ’68

Last Thursday was scheduled as an “open/review” day to compare and contrast the past several speakers and to otherwise “catch up” on class matters.

But early in the week it dawned on me that we should  look for an opportunity to have someone from the Board of Trustees–or another Distinguished Visitor–on campus for President Clarence Wyatt’s Inauguration come share their wisdom with the class.

With the assistance of Gena Alcorn ’88 and Steve Bloomer ’83 in the Development Officethat opportunity was quickly and fully realized.

Bill Trubeck, a 1968 graduate of Monmouth College and a former Trustee elected to the Monmouth College Hall of Achievement in 2005, graciously agreed to be our guest speaker. Although Mr. Trubeck is not formally an entrepreneur, he was able to share with the class a wealth of knowledge about entrepreneurs, the entrepreneurial spirit, and the role of entrepreneurship in the U.S. economy stemming from both his several decades of executive-level experience in major corporate finance, as well as his personal business dealings and friendships with T. Boone Pickens and other well-known entrepreneurs.

Today’s class blogger is Celina Gonzalez. Below, she nicely recounts the wonderful stories and advice shared by Mr. Trubeck.

Thanks to Gena Alcorn ’88Steve Bloomer ‘83 and Bill Trubeck ‘68 for making last Thursday’s class one not to be soon forgotten!

Prof. Gabel


On April 16, 2015, we gladly welcomed our special guest speaker in our Midwest Entrepreneurs class former corporate CFO and Monmouth College Trustee—and major benefactor—William Trubeck ’68.

After graduating with his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Monmouth College, Mr. Trubeck served as a U.S. Army Captain in Vietnam and Cambodia from 1968 to 1970.  He then earned a master’s degree in business from the University of Connecticut. With more than 30 years of experience in executive leadership positions, chief financial officer, and corporate director positions for Fortune 500 companies, including specific experience as the CFO at H&R Block, Waste Management and International Multi-Foods, he has led a variety of major corporate restructuring efforts during his career. In addition, Trubeck served on MC’s Board of Trustees from 2002 to 2014.

Mr. Trubeck spoke to the class about his extensive knowledge of doing business as a consultant, with many entrepreneurs by helping corporations make major strategic decisions.

With executive-level, and other, corporate experience, Trubeck informed the class on how he helped facilitate his entrepreneurial work as a consultant by helping corporations make major strategic decisions. He explained: “The body of information you accumulate over time will be used for future situations.” He then shared four main stories on highly successful entrepreneurs he has known and worked with over the years. He connected his dealings with T. Boone Pickens back to one concept: “Find where the opportunity lies and take advantage of it.”

Mr. Trubeck also informed the class that in today’s world, there are many successful entrepreneurs, many of whom took what they learned in the corporate world, built on it, and found a way to do something better than anyone else for certain customer segments. Executives, such as Trubeck, see the role of entrepreneurship in the national or global economy as being the most likely developers of the most impactful of all future innovations. They will do this, he said, driven both by the “entrepreneurial spirit” and their ability to “think outside the box.” Here, Trubeck urged students to “think outside the box, make a product unique, have the gist to do it, and be prepared to fail.”

Mr. Trubeck also discussed the importance of hiring people to gather and analyze information that can greatly benefit a business to help expand or start a new market. Yet, focusing on what will expand, with providing a unique essential service, or product, will change the world. Here, Mr. Trubeck again spoke of T. Boone Pickens’ long-term thinking about economic sustainability and water as a resource that is presently being underutilized. He explained the ideas Pickens has about innovative services that will allow the average homeowner to have a unit for their home that will effectively process saltwater into drinking water. Similarly, Trubeck’s other stories focused on stressing that there are markets that are in particular need of entrepreneurial attention that ultimately represent major opportunities for entrepreneurs. So, one has to find where the opportunity lies and take advantage of it.

We, as business students, frequently hear “strong work ethic and extraordinarily hard work is necessary for entrepreneurial success.” This, in fact, is true. However, the insight to be gained, as Mr. Trubeck jokingly mentioned, has never been mentioned before: “Marry rich.” So, it stuck.

Mr. Trubeck also discussed the largest “keys to success” and “hurdles to overcome” for entrepreneurs. The bottom line, as he told the class, is knowing that the brand building process requires capital and a strategy. The success starts from actually being able to have the funds to efficiently start the business. Furthermore, one of the largest obstacles faced is commonly financially being able to support and maintain the business.  It starts with an understanding that one will have to invest a great amount while being at a high risk of losing it all. However, although it is easy to understand, not many are able to risk so much. Those few entrepreneurs with a vision and strong, motivated characteristics realize the full potential of great entrepreneurial visions and seek to make it happen. Mr. Trubeck added: “Those with drive and enthusiasm are those who get up and take initiative. They go out and gather money from here and there to make their idea happen”.

He went on to tell us that the right idea will ultimately help you gain capital in the long run. Moreover, it is important to remember that you can always make use of more than one funding source. Personal savings, borrowing money from friends and family, or getting a loan from the bank are the most commonly used methods to start the funding of your business. Trubeck also explained that venture capitalism is an option; however, the investor usually wants a larger portion of the company’s equity stake than the entrepreneur might be comfortable with.

Mr. Trubeck also discussed how if the entrepreneur realizes the full potential of their venture, with the understanding that the brand is both intellectual property and how an individual makes their living, he or she will understand that difficult decisions are absolutely necessary for the long-term good of the business. For example, being in debt. Further, Trubeck noted: “You can’t be afraid of debt.” However, he explained that one of the main reasons many well thought-out businesses fail is because they simply run out of money. So: Realistically estimate your financial needs beforehand and leave room for the unexpected future, then seek to gain information on your market to analyze so that you will see the change and the hard times coming.

Mr. Trubeck also told the class that businesses must remain worthwhile. In a world that is constantly changing, one must learn to think or adapt differently by thinking creatively to set themselves apart from competitors. It is necessary to survive, but it requires a lot of thinking and good ideas. Analyzing markets and gathering information, however, can speed up the process. Moreover, the goal of every organization is to strategically use its assets to achieve a greater amount of success to generate revenue and pay off previous debt. But, where and from who will I gather the assets from to start the business is the main question one should ask themselves. A great plan is simply just a great plan. The entrepreneur has to have the drive, dedication, and strongly believe that they will succeed–but might fail–to gather up the needed money to properly execute the plan.

In conclusion, William Trubeck ‘68 mentioned that it was important to “get a business going, get it started, become successful, think for the future, and contribute by giving back to the community” With all the success that one encounters, I appreciated how Trubeck constantly feels obligated to “give back” to the community. We enjoyed hearing everything Mr. Trubeck had to say. Thank you Mr. Trubeck!

Celina Gonzalez

From the Beginning – A Passion Turned Into a Business

Today’s class blogger is Travis Gray. Below, he tells the evolving story of one of Monmouth College’s very own—Chemistry Professor Brad Sturgeon—and his passion for brewing craft beer; a passion he has both already turned into a small entrepreneurial business and is in the process of expanding significantly. You can find webpage and Facebook page links for Prof. Sturgeon’s DeNovo Brewing Company at the links below. Note: “DeNovo” is Latin for “from the beginning.”



I also must say that this is perhaps the most vivid manifestation we have seen in Midwest Entrepreneurs of the science-business partnership we champion here at Monmouth College; a science professor who has started an entrepreneurial business sharing his knowledge to help educate aspiring business students and future entrepreneurs!


Prof. Gabel


Having a career that involves doing something that you love is what everyone dreams of having. Now imagine having two jobs that you love, and owning a small business all at once!

Brad Sturgeon, co-owner of DeNovo Brewing does just that. He’s a full time chemistry professor, a part time pyro technician, and an owner of a small brewery.

For Brad, DeNovo isn’t so much a job; rather it’s a hobby that he has been able to turn into a business. Brewing beer is his one of his passions and eventually that passion grew until next thing you know, he was talking about opening up a brewery. Eventually, Brad partnered with Steven Murmann, who is a local dentist. Together they brew in the basement of Dr. Murmann’s office. Each one of them is knowledgeable about their product and can brew from start to finish. Together they both bring their own skillsets to the table. Brad knows the chemistry behind a good brew and Dr. Murmann knows how to weld and program some of the machinery.

The journey hasn’t been the easiest for them, but they’ve gained experience and have both learned a lot about state and federal laws.  They currently do not make enough to take home a paycheck, but the business is sustaining itself for the time being; and building a fan base in the Monmouth area. As Brad has said, “we’re neither losing money nor making money”. For a new small, part time business, this is not all that bad. It seems the two entrepreneurs are taking their time and getting to know the complex beer business before jumping in too strong.

Although it’s important to note that some of the expenses are already covered, such as rent, since they are in Dr. Murmanns Office.  That is a huge benefit to their whole project. There are plans to make more profit by possibly brewing larger quantities. There are several businesses in the area that would like to start carrying DeNovo. Currently Market Ally Wines, Fat Fish Pub, and Danny’s are the only places available to buy this small town beer.

Although Brad and Dr. Murmann haven’t thrown their selves into the deep end, they are certainly getting their feet wet. For two people with successful full time jobs, maybe that’s all they want. Who wouldn’t envy these two? They’ve taken their passion and turned it into a business. It’s a fulfilling part of their lives, and although it may always be a local thing, maybe that’s how it should be, just a couple of guys brewing beer to share with their local community.

Travis Gray

Erin Elliott and Maude Specklebelly’s: Flying High in Downtown Monmouth

As one of the judges for the 2014 City of Monmouth’s Retail Business Competition, it was my great pleasure to welcome to class as our guest speaker the co-owner of one of the Competition’s Award Winners: Erin Elliott of Maude Specklebelly’s Shopping and Retail Boutique. The young but already prosperous company’s Facebook page can be accessed at:


Below, today’s class blogger Edith Mendoza de Gabel does an excellent job of discussing some of the main points of Erin’s presentation. She even adds what is called in the world of scholarly and market research “an ethnographic perspective” by including in the data used to write this blog entry a personal visit to the Maude Specklebelly’s store in downtown Monmouth.

Of particular note is the discussion of how even though Erin and her business partner seemed very well prepared for the opening of the business in terms of financial planning, they still significantly underestimated the total cost of start-up. Luckily for the two beginning entrepreneurs, their planning was good enough and they were able to adapt fast and smart enough to have a very successful opening and first several months of business. Many lessor an entrepreneur has come and gone in but a few months when faced with similar–and amazingly common–circumstances.


Prof. Gabel


Erin Elliott has been the earliest stage entrepreneur guest speaker in our Midwest Entrepreneur’s class. She is the Co-owner of Maude Specklebelly’s Shopping and Retail Boutique located right here in Monmouth. This is the place to go to find that unique gift for someone special (or just for yourself). As it is stated on Maude Specklbelly’s Facebook page, this boutique offers “unique, limited quantity, hand-selected goods, many of which are created locally.”

The idea for starting the business happened in an informal setting, when Erin and some of her friends were celebrating the 4th of July in 2014. They were having a good time; chatting and partaking of some drinks. During the relaxed conversation, they talked about the “retail business competition” then being sponsored by the City of Monmouth. The idea of participating in this competition sounded to them like a fun thing to do but they also knew that they would have to take it seriously. Out of the group of friends celebrating the 4th of July, Erin and her old friend Jaime Ballard decided to participate in the contest.

Erin holds a degree in Marketing and Jaime is a Graphic Designer. Both had fairly extensive corporate retail experience in the past. Jaime was a home-stay mom for many years but she definitely believed that they could start and run a successful business in Monmouth. However, shortly after deciding they would enter the competition, Erin and Jaime did not know exactly what kind of store they wanted to have. But they knew that they had to have a plan to become successful entrepreneurs.

Erin told us that the initial plan they created for the competition was done in a very short period of time. One area that both Erin and Jaime were not very strong in was the financials of running a business. So, they got help from Erin’s father, who is a financial specialist. He was impressed with their plan, which was then entered into the retail business competition.  Even though they were, as Erin put it, “in the game super late,” their plan was chosen as one of the top plans in the initial round of judging. They then did a presentation to the panel of judges. In the end, to their surprise, “we won!”

Another surprise came shortly after beginning to get the business ready for opening. This surprise involved the amount of money it would take to buy inventory and otherwise start the business. Even though Erin’s father and the contest judges had been very impressed with their financial planning, Erin and Jaime soon learned that it would cost up to three times as much as they had initially thought. There were also delays in having their building ready. But, as Erin told us, this actually worked out to be good because they needed some extra time to get all their utilities set up and get their merchandize entered into their POS inventory system.

While speaking to the class, Erin was asked the inevitable question of where the name “Maude Specklebelly’s” comes and “What does it mean?” Even though the word “specklebelly” means a type of “goose,” that has little to with the origins of the name of the store. The inspiration for the unusual name comes from Erin’s father and, ultimately, her late mother.  When Erin and Jaime were thinking of what name to use for the store, Erin and Jaime asked Erin’s father for some advice. He texted back the word “speckelberry.” This comes from the fictitious name of “Maude Speckleberry” that Erin’s mother had signed to letters sent to a friend in the past. After giving it some thought, Erin and her husband agreed that the name, with “Speckleberry” changed to Specklebelly” to give it more meaning to others outside the family, would be the perfect name for the store.

All along, Erin and Jaime had a clear vision in mind for their business. They wanted to have a “cool store… with cool staff.” They wanted to offer a special shopping experience where customers would “feel like they are at home.” This vision became reality on December 5, 2014 when the doors to Maude Specklebelly’s were first opened; just in time for Christmas shopping. As Erin told the class their first month’s sale were great, far exceeding their expectations. And then after the hectic Christmas shopping season had ended, Erin and Jaime said: “now what?” To their surprise, the following months were great as well; to which Erin said: “cool!”

Another issue that came up in class is how do Erin and Jaime get the unique items they sell in the store? As Erin explained, they go to Chicago and many other places looking for those “just right” unique things that will be in demand in Monmouth. They personally choose the items; they have to be nice, unique, and of high quality. Most of the time, the two partners agree on which items to buy. Erin mentioned this frequent agreement between her and Jaime in a wide variety of types of decisions as being one of the keys to success for the business.

Erin also informed the class that if we want to become an entrepreneur we have to “believe in what we are doing.” Erin and Jaime believe exactly that. They also believe in the importance of supporting local businesses and the Monmouth Community. As a result, Specklebelly’s carries articles made by local artists, writers, and other businesspersons that need a space to sell their art or goods in.

Erin showed us some of the items that they sell in the store. Some of these items included a customized throw pillow (with Monmouth’s 61462 on it), books, some jewelry, handmade soap, barbecue sauce, and even some special “beard oil.”  This gave us a good idea of the very unique and high quality items that they have in the store. Erin also discussed with us the idea that even though most of the items are relatively high priced, they are selected on the basis of the believe that there will be enough customers willing to pay the price asked for that “just right” gift or specialty item. 

Before writing this blog post, I thought of going to the store since I hadn’t been there before. I wanted to “feel the shopping experience” that Erin had told us about. So I did… As soon as I entered the store, a lady with a beautiful smile—not Erin or Jaime—welcomed me. The inside of the store is really nice, with a lot of items nicely placed everywhere. While I was there, I saw some customers with little kids. It seems that the kids found something for themselves too. I stayed in the store for about 15 minutes and I saw more customers of all ages coming in to the store. For some reason, everybody seemed to be in a good mood and they were talking happily to each other. I met Jaime but she was too busy to talk because she was serving customers. By actually going to the store, I could understand better what Erin told us about “feeling the shopping experience” at the store. You feel welcome and you can definitely find in Speckebelly’s that unique item for that special someone or for yourself.

Edith Mendoza de Gabel

Bar Rescue to the Rescue: Lessons to (Adaptively) Learn as an Entrepreneur


Tuesday the inevitable happened… We ended up being without a guest speaker (due to one speaker rescheduling and multiple “backups” unable to make it on overly short notice).

Yet such is actually welcomed in Midwest Entrepreneurs; as long as it happens but once or twice a semester… It gives me the chance to reinforce one of the most important (general) things that business students can learn: The need to adapt to changing circumstances (and the need to be persistently ready to do so).

I turned to an old friend in this time of need: Spike TV’s Bar Rescue  (http://www.spike.com/shows/bar-rescue).

If you are not familiar with Bar Rescue, the series stars consultant Jon Taffer, a no-nonsense former bar and nightclub owner who has owned, flipped, or somehow “rescued” over 800 such businesses in his career. Taffer and his crew of expert bartenders, chefs, and designers is brought in by bar owners–entrepreneurs–to save their declining and often severly neglected and dysfunctionally run businesses. After a period of surveillance and consultation and training meetings, Taffer brings in local contractors and other service providers to renovate and update the facility (based on his extensive bar/restaurant marketing and management expertise).

The episode that rescued Midwest Entrepreneurs Tuesday was a recent “Back to the Bar” special wherein Taffer and his colleagues went back to four previously rescued establishments to see how they were doing (roughly one year after rescue and relaunch).  One bar had been very successful; to the point where a second location was being planned. One bar was given a “jury’s still out” rating by Taffer. The other two had been miserable—if not also sadly comical—failures. This variety of outcomes provided us ample opportunity to look at common themes of “what was done right” and “what was done wrong.” We also developed several over-arching, macro-level themes subsumed under the heading “Lessons Learned.”

Below, class blogger Mack Fulton nicely summarizes the lessons we learned on Tuesday.


Professor Gabel


From going to having a guest speaker to watching Bar Rescue, it was the perfect example of how you have to adapt and to have a backup plan for a backup plan.

Tuesday in class we discussed several lessons entrepreneurs learn while they run their business venture.

Three things that entrepreneurs must do to be successful as business owners is that they must (1) Adapt to anything that happens that was unexpected, (2) Understand that their business exists to Serve Customers, and lastly, (3) Have a backup plan for a backup plan.

These three issues are essential for success because things will go wrong and entrepreneurs must be ready for it to happen. Another mistake some entrepreneurs make are that they have a product that there is not a need for in the area they are in business. Another major reasons entrepreneurs have setbacks is because of poor management and they are too focused on micromanaging. This does not allow a business to work at its capability. This would take away from the focus needed on the consumer.

While watching Bar Rescue in class we saw vivid examples of entrepreneurs who would NOT adapt and businesses that did not exist to serve the customers (instead, the owners were out to have fun and live care-free through the business). In comparison to these entrepreneurs, the ones we have had in class serve their customers and focus on the customer’s experience. None of the bars on the Bar Rescue show we saw had a backup plan: Until John Taffer came and overhauled their venture to become successful (or not).

Entrepreneurs are going to make mistakes, it’s human nature. It is how a person can adapt when the pressure is present. How they react to the pressure determines if the entrepreneur would be successful or if they would fail in their venture.

Mack Fulton

Rev. Dr. Kathleen Fannin: The Accidental Artist-as-Entrepreneur

One of the things I strive for in teaching the guest-speaker based Midwest Entrepreneurs class is diversity in as broad of terms as possible; meaning diversity with regard to type of business and industry, stage of the entrepreneurial enterprise, and historical and personal background of the speakers and their businesses.

As part of my incessant and ongoing quest for entrepreneurial diversity, I have for some time been looking to have an artist as a guest speaker. Unfortunately, although I have known and know a fair number of artists—painters, poets, musicians, and writers—I would characterize very few of them as also being entrepreneurs (and even fewer live anywhere near Monmouth, IL). Most are not artists in business or career but rather artists in their spare time (i.e., hobbyist artists).

This conundrum began to dissipate recently with each visit to the home of my next-door neighbor Rev. Dr. Kathleen Fannin (former long-time Monmouth College Chaplain and, in her recently enacted retirement, budding watercolor artist). With each visit of late, Kathleen has had more and more to tell me about her efforts to expand her artistic efforts beyond being just hobbyist in form into the entrepreneurial realm.

During one of these visits she excitedly and proudly told me of her ventures into turning her paintings into jigsaw puzzles and the posting of many of her amazing paintings—in a variety of forms—on her artist webpage (http://cattail.artistwebsites.com/). I shortly thereafter came to the conclusion that I might just have located my desired artist-as-entrepreneur. I invited her to be our guest speaker on my next visit and she—although shocked to find herself referred to as an entrepreneur—graciously accepted the invitation. She was our guest this past Tuesday.

Below, class member Casto Flores tells the captivating story of Rev. Dr. Kathleen Fannin, an accidental entrepreneur who did not discover her passion for painting—or even her ability to paint—until after retirement from a formal career.

Prof. Gabel


In our mid-west entrepreneurs class we have had a good diversity of business men and women come speak to us, but yesterday we had our first artist share her experience with the class.

Rev. Dr. Kathleen Fannin’s business revolves around her hobby of watercolor painting. Unlike most entrepreneurs, Dr. Fannin started to pursue her business after retirement. She explained to the class that she never meant for this to happen.

One day, she went to a Blick art supplies store and decided that she wanted to learn how to watercolor paint. From the first time she painted, she discovered that she had a “gift” for this kind of art work. She enjoyed painting so much that she decided to share her gift with her family and friends by sending postcards with her art work on them as gifts. As time went by, she improved her talent and decided to take it to an art show. At the end of the show Dr. Kathleen’s painting won “Best of Class: Works on Paper.”  This left her in awe. She never expected that to happen. At that same art show, premonitions of her upcoming business showed. Again to her amazement, people started to want to buy her art work.

Ever since that art show, Dr. Fannin decided to sell more of her art work and in an increasing variety of formats. She started to sell to people near to her here in Monmouth. Then one of our Monmouth College Staff asked her if she could paint a portrait of her mother’s house for her. People started to notice that her houses were beautifully portrayed in watercolor paint and from there she has painted many of them.

After she saw how well her paintings were selling among the community, she decided to look to the world of online shopping to expand her business. She got word of a website— http://artistwebsites.com/–that allows artists to sell their creations to buyers all over the world. For only thirty dollars a year this website takes care of almost everything from ordering to shipping and handling. Even though she has not marketed her website, she has made some sales from it.

Another tool that she uses in her entrepreneurial effort is Vistaprint (www.vistaprint.com), which allows her to diversify her product offerings. This tool allows her to make prints from original paintings. This also allows customers who cannot afford an original painting purchase a replica of the art work at a much more affordable price. Vista Print also allows Dr. Fannin to create calendars with her artwork on them.

During her presentation someone asked her a question mentioning her plans for expansion. Dr. Fannin responded by stating that she wants her painting to remain fun and to not feel like she is actually running a business. In other words, she wants to enjoy her well-earned retirement (while still being an entrepreneur).

Some of her last words to the class were “don’t be afraid to fail.” As our Prof. Connell likes to mention in his classes, the world of business is full of risk, but only the brave ones who are willing to take that risk truly benefit. Rev. Dr. Kathleen Fannin is taking more and more risk as an accidental entrepreneur, but she plans to keep her risk-taking at a manageable level while living out her newly found passion as an amazingly talented watercolor painter.

Casto Flores