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Director's Dialogue: Ice House

By: Erik Pedersen | January 28, 2015

Kansas Ice House logo 2

A couple of years ago, Jill Nichols (Rice County Economic Development Director) called and asked me to travel to Sterling for a meeting. She and Brian Richter (teacher at Sterling High School and facilitator of the Ice House Entrepreneurship Program) were hosting the first Rice County Ice House class and she knew I'd want NetWork Kansas to be a part of this. 

I'd heard of Ice House, knew what it was at a high-level, but didn't understand the nuts and bolts of what it was about. From talking to Brian and Jill, and then reading the book Who Owns the Ice House: Eight Life Lessons From an Unlikely Entrepreneur by Clifton Taulbert and Gary Schoeniger, I learned that Ice House is about developing a mindset that can empower ordinary people to accomplish the extraordinary.  

Since the Rice County class, when Brian and Jill taught these life-lessons to 28 enrollees, we have partnered with them and 5 different E-Communities to host Ice House sessions in McPherson County, Barton County, and most recently Wichita. (Shameless plug alert-- because this program is NetWork Kansas Board Certified, we typically pay 1/2 of the program cost to a selected number of E-Communities that host it each year).

There were 31 participants in the Wichita class. Jill and Brian were kind enough to ask me to speak at one of the classes, and tell about my own entrepreneurial life experiences....first job out of college in '90 was at a very entrepreneurial technology company, then Steve Radley and I purchased a restaurant/bakery in west Wichita...and closed the doors 18 months later, then the two of us opened a manufacturing housing dealership in east Wichita in '97…but this time we did fine, then we were hired in May '05 to start NetWork Kansas. 

When I finished speaking that night, I caught myself looking around the room for signs this program made a difference for these potential entrepreneurs that were giving up one evening of their week for eight weeks. Frankly, it seemed very good, it seemed valuable, the class was acting like they were getting a lot out of it, but I guess I was looking for something tangible. We surveyed the class after the last week and a huge percentage said the course was very helpful to them as they worked toward achieving their goals. That was certainly tangible evidence that this course is a difference maker. Then a few weeks after the Wichita class ended, we received "an open letter to those who made it possible for me to attend the first Ice House program here in Wichita, KS" from a very thoughtful gentleman named Robert Snearly. I won't post the entire letter but here are a few of Mr. Snearly’s comments: 

...I have studied and followed entrepreneurial programs for many years, always looking for (and having tried) various and probable ways to one day be my own boss. 

...Along came Ice House. I can say that I derived some greater thoughts and hopes that I did not have before. 

...I still have fears that make it difficult to proceed, but I try each day to negate those fears so that I may turn my attendance at Ice House into the true success I need.

...I learned far more than I thought was possible.

...Ice House strengthened my belief that I can do anything I wish to do, both for myself, as well as for others. 

...I will redouble my efforts now because the Ice House program is a powerful tool for anyone who wishes to go into business for themselves.

If I were looking for further validation that this is a program worth investing NetWork Kansas funds into, I believe I've found it. Thank you to Mr. Snearly and I look forward to reading more about the great things he's done in the future. 

To learn more about Ice House, go to

Erik Pedersen @EPedersenKS

Check back next month for the latest from the Director's seat.