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Reality TV program set to track entrepreneurs’ progress

John Seelmeyer

Dana and Mark Hatjakes think they’ve developed a strategy to deliver hyper-local content across markets nationwide.

But first they need to discover whether the hyper-local strategy works locally.

The founders of SoSu TV in Reno are blending equal parts of social media, support for entrepreneurs as a job-creation tool and reality programming for television into an initiative that will begin to come together this summer.

By late autumn, the Hatjakes expect to create a pilot of a Reno-based reality television program that can be shopped to local broadcasters, shown on local-access channels and uploaded to social media platforms such as YouTube.

The program will feature the stories of northern Nevada entrepreneurs as they work for eight weeks with experienced mentors to build their businesses.

Drama is a certainty, says Mark Hatjakes, as entrepreneurs and mentors sometimes clash or entrepreneurs decide to do things their own way for better or worse.

SoSu TV is working with groups such as Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Under30CEO and C4CUBE to line up mentors who are willing to give an hour or two a week to startup businesses in exchange for the exposure they get through the program.

At the same time, the Hatjakes are working to find entrepreneurs willing to tell their stories and present themselves for possible selection in the television program. They’re spreading the word through their 300-plus followers on Twitter and through personal contacts.

Participating companies will be selected in rounds of social-media voting in August in what Mark Hatjakes calls “SoSu Saturdays.” (More details are available at SoSu TV’s Facebook page or by contacting Dana Hatjakes at dana@sosu.tv.)

The content model local businesses and local mentors is one that has potential to be easily replicated in other markets across the country, says Mark Hatjakes.

But the couple aren’t doing it for the money. SoSu TV the name comes from “Starting Over Starting Up” is being organized as a nonprofit. The Internal Revenue Service is currently reviewing the group’s application.

“The goal is to do some good in the community,” says Mark Hatjakes. A for-profit model, he says, might distract the founders of SoSu from their goals of inspiring and educating entrepreneurs.

If nothing else, Dana Hatjakes says, the couple hopes to deliver a message that it’s OK for entrepreneurs to seek assistance.

“Being an entrepreneur doesn’t mean that you don’t ask for help,” she says. “Being an entrepreneur means not being afraid to acknowledge that you don’t know it all.”

While SoSu TV is organized as a nonprofit, its founders feel many of the same pressures that they would face in the creation of a for-profit venture.

They’re financing SoSu TV out of their own pockets, although they hope to receive donations once the nonprofit status is approved. And they’re stepping away from jobs with Cox Media in Reno to launch SoSu.

“Jumping off the cliff is scary,” says Dana Hatjakes. “But the rewards are far more than health benefits and a pension.”