Photo: YEC / Facebook

By Ashley Alt

The focus of a startup tends to be all over the place. As you’re growing a company, you can set out this great vision and plan, but how can you get your company farther faster? How can you be prepared for the unexpected mistakes and failures?

You can’t. Failure is an inevitable and necessary part of starting a business.

YEC, an invitation-only organization comprised of the country’s most successful founders under the age of 40, held a panel that discussed those questions and many more. All YEC members are founders, co-founders and owners of their businesses that are doing at least $1 million in revenue either annually or have raised $1 million in funding.

Hosted by JLL at the Aon Center, the panel showcased four dynamic YEC members who all run radically different companies, but are extremely successful in each of their verticals. All facing similar challenges from balancing work and family to hiring great talent and overcoming the failures that come with starting a business, they shared their entrepreneurial journeys with us.

Jayna Cook, CEO of EventUp


Jayna is one of the top female founders in Chicago that has raised over $1 million. She was the top sales executive and Vice President of Business Development at Groupon, and ended up as the CEO of EventUp. She talked about how applying your unique skill set can take you to the top.

“If you are in an early stage growing company, do whatever you think you can do to make that company grow faster, run better, run smarter and make more money,” Jayna said. “And everyone else will start to notice.”

EventUp is an online marketplace for venues. If you’re looking for a space to celebrate a wedding, anniversary, birthday, really anything, EventUp provides fast and easy results in landing the perfect venue.

Lindsay Mullen, Co-Founder and CEO of Prosper Strategies


Female duo Lindsay Mullen and Alyssa Conrardy provide A-game marketing strategies for your business. Prosper Strategies is a boutique public relations and marketing firm that focuses on helping clients increase their bottom line, all the while working toward a cause of reshaping the industry for making their work environment a better place.

Emerson Spartz, CEO of Dose


Emerson has a crazy successful track record. He started his entrepreneurial journey at the age of 12 upon convincing his parents to let him drop out of middle school. After two weeks of being home schooled, he created, a website that became the #1 Harry Potter site, and still is to this day. He had the #1 podcast in the world, along with a New York Times best-selling book. As he got older, the pattern that captured his attention was virality, which is what his company, Dose, is founded upon.

“The ability to make things viral is like having a superpower,” Emerson said. “You can tip elections, overthrow dictators, start movements and revolutionize entire industries.”

Dose is one of the world’s fastest growing digital media companies. Stories on the Dose and OMG Facts platforms reach over 50 million people every month.

Fabio Viviani, Celebrity Chef and Restaurateur


Fabio has 15 restaurants and counting, two wineries and a hospitality/consulting business. And he is now building a billion dollar company. He admitted that he would never be remembered in the restaurant world, so he went into tech, mentoring and education to make his mark.

“My goal was to be remembered as someone who builds something that doesn’t yet exist,” Fabio stated. “Something that helps people connect with relevant information and puts it in the right context.”

More than ever before, no entrepreneur can be successful without proper personal branding. A lot of people may be great storytellers, but they have a horrible way of broadcasting. Fabio created a platform which allows people to learn how to broadcast content in a way that gets them noticed in a society that has a lot of noise.

“There’s enough bloggers, enough Italian cookbooks and enough photo sharing apps,” he continued. “If you can’t truly inhale your competition, you won’t be able to execute your plan.”

This highly informative and entertainingly interactive panel gave attendees a raw look at obtaining a company. Perhaps the most important tip: be willing to admit the weakness that’s holding you back professionally, as that could be your gateway to the success you’ve been working and waiting for.