Next Gen recently wrapped up a wonderful partnership with Capital One, which included a startup competition and event on October 20 aimed at empowering a community of collegiate-aged founders in the Philadelphia area and beyond. Joe Westcott, Delaware Market President at Capital One, said of our partnership, “Next Gen embodies the spirit of small business and entrepreneurship in impactful and inspiring ways. We believe in the unlimited power and potential of people, no matter their age, and know that the world is in desperate need of new ideas, new solutions and new leaders.” The partnership supported Next Gen founders digitally in the weeks leading up to the event, including a LIVE! webinar in October, and an interview with Capital One executives in our signature ‘Spotlight Series’ (in which we highlight the amazing work those close to our community do). We created Capital One-powered content to educate founders on key business practices, and welcomed mentors from the Capital One team on-site at the event.

One of the most special parts of our partnership was the virtual mentorship Capital One associates offered to our members.

It’s a unique opportunity to be mentored by any powerhouse well into their career, but even more special if the powerhouse works for one of the most highly esteemed financial institutions of their time. In preparation for scheduling the sessions, I was blown away by every phone call I had with each mentor before I paired them with their mentee. Each mentor was so gracious, warm, and charismatic. Mentors Amanda Cronin, Adam Davis, Patrick Reen, Lisa Ford, and Morgan Brandt generously devoted one-on-one sessions to members of our community.

And the results? Terrific. We expected the sessions to be helpful, of course — but they were so much more. Next Gen member David Byun is an inspiring young entrepreneur who has a passion for marketing, and we paired him with Morgan Brandt, a Digital Marketing Product Manager at Capital One, who spoke to him about her own experiences and shared eye-opening insights on marketing. David emailed me right after, beaming with excitement about the conversation. They both learned from each other. Emily Levy is the founder of the incredible company for PICC line protectors called MightyWell, and she enjoyed her conversation with Adam Davis, who helped her find the right contacts at Capital One to open a credit card for her company.

We were thrilled that the Capital One mentors enjoyed the sessions just as much as our members did.

I spoke with Capital One associates Patrick Reen after his mentorship sessions. Patrick is one of those people who instantly puts you at ease; his warm demeanor made me wish I had my own mentoring session!

“My time spent listening to and coaching young entrepreneurs was really inspiring,” he shared. “Each mentee presented compelling opportunities which came about from personal experience, then further validated with friends and family.”

Patrick shared some of the advice he gave to his mentees:

1.     Learn everything you can about similar products and services that exist today. What need(s) do they meet? What’s missing? How does their business model work? This will help you truly differentiate your idea.

2.     Focus on getting your product to market – branding and monetization will happen over time.

As for his advice to all young people, he offered, “The best way to get tangible feedback on your idea is to release it into the wild. Only then will you know what you’ve got, and how to make it better.” I loved his call to prioritize market research and customer validation above all else.

Mentor Adam Davis shared a similar line of wisdom. “As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to take every cool opportunity or insight for your business and jump headfirst into pursuing it.  That passion and drive is part of what makes entrepreneurs so special! But…don’t forget to take a step back and plan how you want to approach your work, what your hypotheses are and what success would look like before you get too far down the path.”

Lisa Ford shared, “Never stop learning and asking questions. Most people you meet have something to offer and can shape your opinion of a subject.  Starting your own business is hard work and continuing to evolve your thought process will make you a more successful entrepreneur.  It’s something I continue to do every day as a best practice as well.“

We agree with Lisa — everyone you meet does have something to offer. We feel so grateful to have met and worked with the phenomenal team at Capital One, and to have learned from their careers and business acumen.

Thank you to Capital One for inspiring and galvanizing the Next Gen Community. Learn more about the extent of our partnership here, and about the culminating event on October 20 here.

Want to be part of the Next Gen Community? Join us here.


  • Haley Hoffman Smith

    Speaker & Author of Her Big Idea

    Haley Hoffman Smith is the author of Her Big Idea, a book on ideation and women's empowerment which debuted as a Top 3 Bestseller. She has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, and the Washington Examiner, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Brown in May 2018. She is the founder of the Her Big Idea Fund in partnership with Brown's Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship, which awards grants to women who apply with BIG ideas, and Her Big Lash, a cosmetics company.

    At Brown, she was the President of Women’s Entrepreneurship and started the first-ever women’s entrepreneurship incubator. She speaks on topics such as women's empowerment, innovation, social impact, and personal branding regularly across companies and college campuses, most recently at Harvard, TEDx, SoGal Ventures, University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, and more.