HEMP Honors Mentors, Steve Wozniak

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak was among those who shared lessons of mentoring during HEMP’s 20th anniversary gala.

Photos by Rivas Media Photography

Mentorship was the word of the night at Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program’s Nov. 19 celebration of its 20th anniversary at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

The organization founded by former owner and president of Helzberg Diamonds Barnett Helzberg, Jr., matches seasoned entrepreneurs with less experienced mentees. The HEMP founder was honored with a Lifetime Achievement in Entrepreneurial Mentoring Award along with HEMP mentor and Pitman Construction Company founder Ray Pitman, Sr., H&R Block co-founder and HEMP mentor Henry W. Bloch and Kansas City icon Ewing Marion Kauffman.

It was Kauffman’s mentorship of Helzberg that inspired him to establish HEMP, which has helped participants’ companies grow revenues an average 43 percent and increase head count by 30 percent, making the companies’ economic impact more than $748 million dollars.

After Helzberg Jr. sold his business to Warren Buffett, some thought he would retire, but he had other plans.

“Barnett had remembered something his mentor had said to him when he asked Mr. Kauffman, ‘How will I ever be able to repay the time and advice you gave me?’ And Mr. K said something very simple, he said ‘Don’t worry about it, you’ll help someone else.’ And from that an idea was born,” said HEMP Board President Bill Hartnett.

The evening also included a conversation with special guest Steve Wozniak, who co-founded Apple with Steve Jobs and shaped the personal computing industry with his design of Apple’s first line of products, the Apple I and Apple II.

Interviewed by TEDxKC founder and curator and director of innovation strategy at VML Mike Lundgren, who once worked for Apple, Wozniak discussed his storied career and thoughts on entrepreneurship.

“To me, good entrepreneurships are the ones that include the technical, the engineering, coming up with and thinking about what the product should be, what are the limitations, what can we do that’s really great, that’s better than anyone else and what are the steps to get there?” Wozniak said, explaining that  startups need more than just business know-how.

Marketing also plays an essential role.

“I’ve found the best products in the world come from a marketing of ‘I am the customer. I want it for myself. I want to make it so beautiful and perfect, nothing could be better.’ You’re forced to make the products better and better for yourself,” Wozniak said.

Influenced by his father, an engineer who patiently answered all of Wozniak’s childhood questions, the Apple co-founder also considers Mike Markkula, who invested $250,000 in Apple, a mentor to both himself and Steve Jobs.

“He told us, ‘Here’s is how you set up a technology company, here are the positions that you hire, and here are what the roles and responsibilities are,” Wozniak said.

While the press focused on the story of Apple’s two young innovators, Markkula worked behind the scenes to make the company a success.

“He was the important person that really evolved the success of Apple,” Wozniak explained. “We were a market-driven company and he ran marketing.”

It’s only fitting that Wozniak, passionate about teaching young people, went on to serve as a mentor to many and received the night’s final Lifetime Achievement in Entrepreneurial Mentoring Award. –Kelsey Cipolla