Monday, March 28, 2011

I'm sticking with my idea of a weekly 2-minute video here on my web site, it will go up by 5 p.m. each Monday. Last week's won't win any awards, but I'll keep working at it to make the video, combined with what I post here on the blog, don't miss TV for you, post a comment here if you like the idea, send me your email if you don't. :)

Hope you'll become a regular viewer, check back here each Friday and encourage your friends to do the same. Your watching, and especially your commenting, will help me help you by making it easier for me to connect with interesting startups and gather useful information for you.

This week I spoke with 21 year old Robert Grant Niznik, a senior law school student and founder of Shpoonkle, a website that just went live 14 days ago with 4 employees. It allows attorneys and law firms to bid on legal requests submitted by clients. The service is free for now, attorneys may be charged membership fees in the future.

Niznik and his new eBay type service is getting lots of publicity right now. I saw an article in the Wall Street Journal last week, and it has been featured on the American Bar Association Journal.

Niznik and I spoke by phone this morning and this is what he shared with me, reconstructed from my notes (Robert please post a note with any additions or corrections):

"I'll graduate from New York Law School this fall, I graduated from Brooklyn College when I was 17, I've always had a lot of business ideas, and I started an Internet business with a friend when I was 14.

Being in law school, I've become aware of the fact that a lot of the 44,000 or so law students that graduate each year don't find jobs with law firms right away. So there are a lot of people who would do law work for the experience.

"There has been a lot written recently about the fact that the middle class has a hard time getting legal help they can afford, it's a lot like medicine, there is no problem for the wealthy, and no problem with the poor, but the middle class gets squeeze.

"Last September I was on a train, and the idea of connecting these two groups came to me. I wrote it down in a little book I carry with me for making a note of my ideas like this.

"This idea gathered momentum as I talked about it with my girlfriend and my dad, who has become my best friend over the years after he and my mom divorced when I was 3. I gathered more information about the need for new lawyers to find work and the needs of the middle class, we incorporated, and I hired our first employee, we now have 4. (The firm is headquartered in Florida, where Robert's dad, a business consultant with an active practice, now lives.)

"I'm managing the business. Everyday I send an email to each employee and every day I speak with each of them on the telephone, sometimes more often. If one of them tells me it will take an hour to do I job, I'll often call them back in an hour to see how it's going.

"As the business was getting started, I came into the house and my dad was watching TV, and I said, 'Hey, Shpoonkle, what are you doing?' The word just came to me. Later I thought, that would be a good name for what we are doing. In the beginning we didn't have any marketing help. We have a PR firm now, and they were not thrilled with the name, but I stuck with it and it has worked out well.

"People are now saying 'Shpoonkle' to describe lawyer and clients getting together this way. We are in the process of registering the tradename.

"After just these first few days the site already has over 300 lawyers and we are having requests for help come in from all over the country, we have a couple from Colorado.

"We should make legal services much more affordable. This is what happened with baseball cards and other collectables when they started to trade online. Being available on the Internet destroys the illusion of scarcity, and the price drops. That's why so many established lawyers don't like what we are doing. Their negative comments don't bother me at all.

"What's my favorite book? That's a question I ususally ask when I get together with successful lawyers in our mentoring program at school. Mine favorite book is 'How to Get Rich' by Felix Dennis, he's in the UK, but he has some real insight into how businesses really get started."

I'm emailing a link to this blog post to Robert later this evening. Post your question in the form of a comment here, I'm pretty sure you'll get a direct answer from Robert posted here as a comment. (This is new, please help me test it by posting your question for Robert now, OK?)

Would you like to see a similar interview here each week?

Your Small Business Chamber of Commerce's Denver IDEA Cafe had writer/entrepreneur Cathie Beck with us last Friday, it was one of our best ever meetings. This week we have three speakers, my friend Rick Grice, who has started a sea salt business, Sharon Linhart, who will talk about how she started her PR firm, and entrepreneur Susannah Carroll. No RSVP is required, but to reserve a seat at the brainstorming table, RSVP at, you can also RSVP on our Denver Small Business Chamber Group site, see the link to it on

If you'd like to start an IDEA Cafe Startup Workshop in cooperation with your local chamber of commerce, or if you'd like to start or join a Franklin Circle Peer Advisory Group, stick around after the Denver IDEA Cafe for Community Room College. There is a 20-minute chalk talk on a business topic, and then we have a sample Franklin Circle. Attend 6 times and you are eligable for a certificate of completion. For more information see

"Conventional wisdom daunts initiative and offers far too many convinient reasons for inaction." Felix Dennis, How to Get Rich

Let's go get started!

John Wren

Friday, March 25, 2011

I just made the following release to the media about your new, free Small Business Chamber of Commerce:

March 25, 2011

Contact: John Wren
Cell (720)495-4949
The free IDEA Café Startup Workshop, an app for local chambers says its founder John Wren, combines with Franklin Circle peer advisory groups and the Denver Startup Forum with the intention to become a national organization to help startups.

Denver—John Wren, Founder of the new Small Business Chamber of Commerce announced today that the group is adopting what some call the Golden Rule as their motto, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” the foundation of many ancient religions.

“People ask me why I’ve donated so much time since 1979. This new motto sums up what’s been motivating me. I’m trying to give people the help I wish that I’d received when I started my business career and when I got started in politics,” said Wren.

For over 10 years the long-time the community activist and business consultant has been working to help people start new careers in business and politics. Now he’s looking for volunteers to help him share what he’s learned with local chambers of commerce across Colorado and beyond.

“If we are successful, we’ll dramatically reduce the unemployment rate,” claims Wren. “We’ll also get more informed participation from newcomers in the 2012 Colorado Caucuses.”

Robert Schwab, former editor of a leading Colorado business magazine, recently visited a couple of the IDEA Café Startup Workshops, patterned after those Wren has been organizing and facilitating for over 10 years. “Attendees can take or leave the ideas that cross the table. That way the atmosphere remains informal and encouraging. People come to hear something helpful, not to have their business concept shot down,” said Schwab in the Huffington Post recently. “The nicest idea I took from the cafes was that starting a business is a journey where it's possible to meet helpful fellow travelers. The work remains yours to do. But the best time to start is now.” (For more about Schwab’s visit to the IDEA Cafes, see

IDEA Cafes are intended to be one-time startup workshops for those who attend. At each meeting attendees share startup experience and brainstorm. “If we are successful, people will be too busy to come back,” says Wren.

For ongoing support, participation in a small group is encouraged. A free pamphlet, “More Than Just A Critic—5 Things To Do Now To Achieve Your American Dream,” is distributed at each meeting and at talks Wren and others give to local chambers of commerce, service clubs, church and neighborhood groups, and other organizations. (For a free copy of the pamphlet, contact Wren.)

One alternative for small group support of a new business owner is the Franklin Circle peer advisory group. “I formed the first Franklin Circle in Denver in 1996,” says Wren, “after reading an article that mentioned it in Training Magazine. I found a Masters dissertation that had been written about Ben Franklin’s original group that became our pattern. I took classes in adult education at Regis University to further refine the concept.”

Leaders for the new IDEA Cafes that Wren hopes will soon be forming across Colorado and beyond are being trained at the Small Business Chamber’s Community Room College The Franklin Circle approach to education is used to train the trainers each Friday afternoon following the Denver IDEA Café that Wren personally leads each week.

Wren intends to hold a monthly “Big Event” that will be free to exhibitors and free to those who attend. “Exhibit tables will be made available, and a concurrent event will help attract potential clients for the exhibitors, a formal presentation by and for the members of the Denver Startup Forum,” said Wren. The Denver Startup Forum is another organization started by Wren in 2009 for experienced entrepreneurs and their advisors that is now also a part of his Small Business Chamber of Commerce.

Wren practices what he preaches about the importance of small groups. At the heart of all this is Wren’s sounding board, the Franklin Circle Alpha Group. “It is not a board of directors, although I might form one later this year. We meet for lunch every other week. Eventually I hope all members will be leading an IDEA Café once a month in cooperation with a local chamber and facilitating a 2nd Franklin Circle of their own. Right now there is rolling membership as we move towards that goal. Anyone who might like to be a member to help in this effort is invited to contact me,” said Wren.


John S. Wren, MBA+ is a business consultant and adult educator. He attended Cornell College and the University of Denver (BA’69, MBA’78), and he has taken classes on adult education at Regis University. He has taught college economics and management, and has been an instructor for the American Management Association and many adult education programs. He is the author of Daring Mighty Things—The Simplest Way to Start Your First (or Next) New Business, which has been endorsed by Dr. Amar Bhide, author of The Origin and Evolution of New Businesses. Wren personally leads the free Denver IDEA Café each Friday afternoon; it is held from 2 to 3:30 pm at Panera Bread, 13th & Grant, in Denver,

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Robert Schwab article about IDEA Cafes got picked up today in the Huffington Post (click here).

Please give 10 stars to this startup story about my father (click here), help get it included in Seth Godin's new book about startup.

Want to write a book and make money from it? Me too. That's why I've invited a writer/entrepreneur to join us this week at the Denver IDEA Cafe (click here to see who I've invited.)

How may I be of service to you? If you want to find your next great client or next good job, call me and let's brainstorm on the telephone ways I might be able to help you as I have so many others since 1979.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Robert Schwab, former editor of Colorado Business Magazine, just posted this on his blog after attending a couple of IDEA Cafe meetings. If you might like to start a new IDEA Cafe at a time and place of your choosing in cooperation with your local chamber of commerce, please contact me at or (303)861-1447

Monday, March 21, 2011

We had a two great sessions last Friday of the IDEA Cafe, one at the Koelbel Library in South Denver, and downtown at Panera Bread for the Denver IDEA Cafe. Next Friday writer and entrepreneur Cathie Beck will share here startup experience with us, more info and optional RSVP to get a seat at the brainstorming table at

Dottie Lamm is giving a talk at the Denver City Club about the new group called "No Labels" and what it is trying to accomplish. I first learned of No Labels in her Denver Post column a few weeks ago:

Since 1922 the Denver City Club has encouraged the type of civic engagement that No Labels advocates. I know that for sure, it was a great privilage to serve as the groups President, elected after I served on the board when it was decided to admit female members. Our first speaker after that decision was Dr. Doris Drury, my former economics teacher from the University of Denver.

Over the past 3 months, No Labels has had many, many meetings across the country, so national teleconferences and webcasts, most small groups like the one that will meet for the 4th time here in Denver May 1.

It seems to me the No Labels idea holds great promise. It may prove to be a great way here in Colorado to encourage the participation of newcomers in our wonderful Colorado Caucuses in 2012.

Jane McGonigal's new book Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World is being widely reviewed, I think we'll be hearing more about McGonigal and her insight into games and how they make us more productive. Games help us grow because they create positive emotions, strengthen relationships, provide meaning, and give us a sense of accomplishment.

At it's best, isn't politics really the biggest game? Colorado Caucuses, our wonderful bi-annual, neighborhood, grassroots system for nominating to the primary ballot is the best chance the average person has for serving in elected public office.

Seems to me the No Labels movement can help strenthen in by helping more newcomers to get involved, creating more informed participation in the spring of 2012 when we will be gathering in over 3,000 neighborhoods across Colorado for the 50th time since the system started in 1912 as part of the Teddy Roosevelt reforms.

Will you help us? Contact me if you'd like more information about what we are doing and what help is needed now.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

6 things I'd like to discuss with you: (Your feedback as a comment here would be much appreciated):

1.  We had a great meeting yesterday at the Denver IDEA Cafe.

My friend Roger Grandy shared about his experience growing up in Chicago, starting his career, and how he found the job he has now, 34 years later. Roger was out of work and really needed a job 34 years ago. He'd gone through some big personal problems, and was doing some temporary work at the Denver Merchandise Mart. He was told to not hang up a sign for one booth, they had just lost their rep. He contacted the company, and got the job on the strength of his contact at the Merchandise Mart, and he's still working for the same company all these years later, today part-time in semi-retirement. 

We waived the usual confidentiality request because Robert Schwab was with us. He's for former editor of the Colorado Business Magazine, and I think you'll see him write something about yesterday's meeting on his blog, he took the time to get the correct spelling of the names of people attending.

2.  Want me to sing you a song? Did you see the videos I made for my twin grandsons and posted on my Facebook Wall last week? It was their 3rd birthday March 10. Doing the videos for them has inspired me to start thinking about ways to use video here on this site. Watch for a surprise Monday morning. I'm not sure yet whether I'll include singing here.

3. Community Room College announcement Monday:  I'm changing what we are doing at Community Room College each Friday, right after the Denver IDEA Cafe. What for an announcement next week.

4.  New IDEA Cafe meetings: One of the reasons for the change in Community Room College is that I'm getting lots of interest from people who are interested in starting an IDEA Cafe in cooperation with their local chamber of commerce. I'm in active communications with people who are interested in starting an IDEA Cafe for Denver Five Points, Evergreen, Summit County, Boulder and The Hispanic Chamber.

5.  Next Friday there will be two IDEA Cafes Friday afternoon, the one I facilitate at Panera Bread, 13th & Grant, and the new South Denver IDEA Cafe that Richard Oppenheim and Ken Wyble are facilitating at Koelbel Library, Holly & Orchard. Both will be at 2 p.m. You can get more info about them both on our site, while you're there please answer the poll questions I've posted about how you'd prefer to get information from me.

6.  Hope you have a great weekend, and check back here about noon or so Monday to take a look at my new video. If I sing, what would be the best song... :)

Saturday, March 05, 2011

On this day in 1975 the Homebrew Computer Club (click here) had their first meeting. It turned out to be an enormously influential hobby club: its existence made possible the personal computer.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

I'm going to start training leaders for the IDEA Cafe and Franklin Circles, and then helping them start groups with local chambers across the state. If you or someone you know might be interested, contact me right away.

I recently made this release to the media about what we are planning to do to spread the IDEA Cafe startup workshop and Franklin Circle approach to startup:


March 1, 2010

For more contact:
John Wren, cell (720)495-4949


Free help for people starting in a new direction with their work across Colorado and beyond.

DENVER--The Small Business Chamber of Commerce’s Community Room College announced today “Project Startup”, a certificate program for CPAs, business consultants, adult educators, and others who would like to become leaders for IDEA Café startup workshops and Franklin Circle peer advisory groups.
Making the announcement, John Wren, founder of the new, free Small Business Chamber said, “Our purpose is to strengthen the grassroots in business and politics. This new “Project Startup” is an effort to recruit, train, and certify small group leaders to spread good information about career, project, campaign, and new business startup across Colorado and beyond.

“The immediate goals are: 1) to have an IDEA Café type startup workshop in every local chamber across Colorado, and 2) for there to be a Franklin Circle type group in every neighborhood by the 2012 Colorado Caucuses to help bring more good candidates and political leaders into both major political parties,” said Wren.

Since 1994, Wren has led what is now called the Denver IDEA Café. It meets each Friday afternoon from 2 to 3:30 pm at Panera Bread, 13th & Grant. The meeting is free and open to anyone who is starting in a new direction with their career, starting a new project or campaign, or starting a new business. For more information and an optional RSVP, see or call (303)861-1447

In 1727, Ben Franklin started a self-directed learning group in Philadelphia, and in 1996 Wren used Franklin’s original group as a model to start the first Franklin Circle in Denver. A free information meeting is now held each Friday afternoon for people who are interested in adult self-directed learning, and a certificate for leaders is available. For more and an optional RSVP, see

John S. Wren, MBA+ attended Cornell College and the University of Denver, BA’69, MBA’78, and he has studied adult education at Regis University. He is the founder of the new, free Small Business Chamber of Commerce For more about Wren see or contact him at or (303)861-1447.