Champion for Entrepreneurs and Minority-Owned Businesses
Spotlight on Robel Worku, Business Development Specialist, MCEDC
Continuing our series spotlighting our newest additions to the MCEDC team, and the next generation of new business leaders, we continue our conversation with Robel Worku, Business Development Specialist.
Tell us a little more about you. What attracted you to your new role with MCEDC?
I have lived in Montgomery County since I was 8-years-old, and have always had an interest in economics and entrepreneurship. While I have yet to take the ‘plunge’ into it myself (I’m what I call a ‘want-repreneur’), I truly see myself as an entrepreneur at heart. From childhood, I’ve also been interested in how businesses grow, develop, and function here in America as compared with other countries around the world. In my previous roles, especially most recently as an innovation fellow for the Montgomery County Innovation Program, which focused on public and private partnerships to bring smart city technology to the county, I had several opportunities to have a ‘front row seat’ into the culture and talents that set MoCo apart. I find MCEDC fascinating and unique, particularly as a successful, independent public-private entity with its own marketing and customer service areas, to bring that level of professionalism, engagement, and focus to our area’s businesses and residents.
What do you look forward to achieving in the short and long terms?
I would love to continue to build on and leverage my passions for entrepreneurship and technology to expand within the cybersecurity and biotech industries long-term. Now and in the future, I also plan to play a key role in nurturing growth within small and minority-owned businesses throughout MoCo, to help our start-up culture continue to flourish.
What ideas do you have for continuing to engage young entrepreneurs and draw them to the County?
In MoCo, we’re blessed with a very forward-thinking, educated, and tech-savvy culture, both business-oriented and otherwise. We’re also very entrepreneurship-friendly, and have a variety of resources, educational institutions, talent, and proximity to key organizations and luminaries - all the essential ingredients (plus a few extra!) necessary to engage and entice young entrepreneurs to base and grow their businesses here. I think some key areas we can build on to further the momentum in attracting these younger business owners are to expand the focus on the local ‘Intrapreneurial’ culture – where people have the chance to explore and expand their entrepreneurial passion within a larger organization. Also, the idea of building a ‘Silicon Valley-style’ vibe here – open offices, more fun, cultural and collaborative activities built-in – these are important qualities for most Millennials like Nadia (featured in last week’s newsletter) and myself.
In your own words, what is most special about what MCEDC does for local businesses and the community as a whole?
What comes to my mind is the insider ‘VIP pass’ MCEDC brings to its relationships with businesses throughout the area, coupled with a ‘drinking from the fire hose’ learning style to get up to speed. Also, to me, this job is all about collaboration, partnerships, and networking – and those are also the three descriptors I would use to characterize MCEDC, its work, and its approach. It’s a perfect synergy and I’m very excited to be a part of it.
Do you have any other observations or fun tidbits to add here?
I believe the growth in diverse and minority business culture is the chief engine behind the future of not just MoCo, but the United States as a whole. In my mind, diversity and culture are equally important, and the intersection of these is where lots of the ‘magic’ happens. In my own experience, coming to the U.S. from Ethiopia as a kid, I have seen first-hand the power of culture on assimilation and community, and the essential role of diversity in seasoning that mix for a richer, deeper, and more dynamic outcome for everyone involved.