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This is a different kind of article.

To say 2020 felt like a dumpster fire is putting it lightly, and after this week it very much feels like we haven’t put out the fire yet.  While many found a renewed sense of purpose and experienced more quality time with close family due to the pandemic, it’s a disservice not to acknowledge the hardships so many have experienced and are experiencing.  I’ve read a lot of articles and posts recently filled with reflections on 2020 and inspiration for 2021.  Most of these were ‘feel good’ posts to give us optimism as we head into a new year.  This is a different kind of article.


To put it simply, we all have A LOT of work to do.  The core mission of 1776 is centered around supporting early and emerging entrepreneurs. Our company name is founded on the principle that it is revolutionary ideas in entrepreneurship that will move us forward. When the pandemic took its first grip on our lives almost 10 months ago, we adapted quickly to help these companies pivot and survive.  We moved all programming 100% online and opened most of it to the public as well.  We held workshops on small business relief, doubled down on our mentor network, and held countless one-on-one sessions with founders and executives. It was a wild emotional rollercoaster for all. We were elated as some of our member companies flourished in the spotlight or pivoted in direct response to the pandemic. And, devastatingly, we had to watch first hand as some of our member companies didn’t make it to the end of 2020.  


We experienced this same rollercoaster as a company and aren’t off the ride yet. We worked to remain nimble in response to changing work habits and the needs of our members; we hired new employees for our expansion to Indianapolis, we furloughed employees when campuses were forced to close under government orders, and we experienced tragic loss as some of our loved ones passed away from COVID-19.  Through all of it, our team remained resilient, persistent, and dedicated to our mission to serve entrepreneurs.  And as we looked towards the new year, we had to pause, and seriously consider how we continue to fulfill that mission in 2021.  Only one week into the new year, we are forced to reflect yet again.  Our determination? It will look different than years past.


We took time in 2020 to assess partnerships and programs, working hard to ensure both were aligned with our values and vision for a more accessible and inclusive future in innovation.  We renewed partnerships with companies like CVS Health to enhance our industry focus around telehealth, life sciences, and emerging technologies, where innovation is needed to adapt to our new ways of living and working. And we sunsetted relationships no longer mutually beneficial or out of alignment with our future plans. We stepped back, took stock and made the appropriate assessments.


Perhaps one of the most significant assessments was in regards to our physical locations. After shifting most of our campuses from leased locations to managed locations under a partnership model over the past few years, we still needed to take stock of the changing work habits that would persist after the current pandemic.  When we were able to safely re-open campuses, our locations in more residential urban neighborhoods suddenly became more attractive and experienced significantly higher demand than downtown locations. With this in mind, in 2021, we will focus our energy and resources on innovation centers located within communities where we can continue to be a catalyst for economic recovery and advancement, as well as being a safe environment for people to work outside their homes.


Changes will continue to come, but our small and mighty team is nimble and adaptive.  And that is proof of what I think was one of the most important lessons learned in 2020 – none of us can do this alone.  We need to work together to move beyond the current crises – health, economic, social, and political.  We need to encourage one another to take the calculated and appropriate risks that are going to move society forward. We need to show each other grace, when appropriate, and recognize errors and missteps as grand opportunities for reflection and growth. In short – we need to support each other, come what may. 


And this reminded me of a favorite quote of mine from Teddy Roosevelt. Coincidentally, we received a print of it as a gift from a member company a few years ago after a particularly grueling season for their company. Let it serve as a reminder that failure is not the falling down, but the staying down. Onward, friends.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. – Theodore Roosevelt

Jennifer Maher


As the Co-founder of Benjamin’s Desk and now CEO of 1776, Jenn Maher oversees 1776’s strategic growth and operations ensuring the company grows effectively and efficiently. She brings her background…