All too often, there is a perception that just thinking about a start-up venture and writing a business plan is the same as being an entrepreneur. The premise of the Slate article, “How Can College Students Become Successful Entrepreneurs?” is that would-be entrepreneurs have to do more than just dream about their ventures – they have to get to work and “ship” stuff. This “shipping” – the creating and doing – is more important to success than endlessly perfecting business plans. I couldn’t agree more. There are lots of programs teaching theory but putting an idea into practice is hard. Sometimes ideas succeed but mostly they fail; being able to adapt and grow is where the learning happens.
There are lots of programs teaching theory – but putting an idea into practice is hard. Sometimes ideas succeed but mostly they fail; being able to adapt and grow is where the learning happens.
At my organization, the Possible Project, high school students start and run their own businesses. Our entrepreneurs’ “boot camp” is a steady three year climb in an environment where 3 months is a lifetime in the eyes of a 15 year old. Designing t-shirts is a popular business choice among students just walking through our doors. Early on, we introduce them to a cadre of entrepreneurs (via a speed dating type of format), including the remarkable Cambridge Innovation Center, and they begin to see a range of entrepreneurial possibilities. Sometimes, their businesses are wildly successful but more often than not, getting traction is challenging. Some of our young entrepreneurs stay the course, some change up their model or join existing businesses, and others literally “ship stuff” by joining one of our in-house businesses selling donated items online. Getting dirty, failing, and starting again is critical to becoming a successful entrepreneur at any age.
In our backyard, there are a couple of stand-outs turning ideas into action. The Boston Start-Up Institute is one of my new favorites, started by the geniuses at Techstars. They not only have a rigorous curriculum focusing on 4 key areas but complete the curriculum in a compressed amount of time coupled with an intense 24 hour hack-a-thon designed to solve real-world problems. The best part is that they have a pipeline of eager start-ups lining up to hire newly minted graduates after their eight-week boot camp experience.
Photo Credit: Lightbulb photo from crowdfundinsider.com used under Creative Commons License.
Leah Camhi has an extensive history of working in public service, particularly for nonprofits who work to better the lives of those most in need. For fourteen years Leah worked with at-risk young people in the areas of education, suicide-prevention, HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, workforce development, and family issues before segueing into work with another vulnerable population- those with HIV. Over the past three decades, Leah has created or led new initiatives or organizations in the fields of youth, HIV/AIDS, and housing and homelessness. Now, as the Founding Executive Director of The Possible Project, Leah has come full circle to work once again to bring a voice and opportunities to youth who may not otherwise have them. Leah’s venerable career in the nonprofit world has enabled her to do impactful work and make a significant different in the lives of thousands of individuals and families, particularly in the fields of youth education, employment, and development. As the mother of an 13 year-old daughter, Leah has a renewed focus on youth and the importance of education and promotion of possibilities to ensure that every young person has the opportunity to live up to his or her potential.