If you’re reading this, it is probably because you’ve found yourself interested in some form of entrepreneurship. There’s an abundance of information to learn, people to meet, and ideas to share. So, where do you start?
Dr. Dale Eesley is the director of University of Nebraska-Omaha’s Center for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Franchising and a professor of entrepreneurship and strategy. He took the time to share some of his expertise on becoming an entrepreneur.
There isn’t just one type of entrepreneur. An innovative entrepreneur is one that invents or does something in a more efficient way than what’s being done currently. Dr. Eesley started off with acknowledging that not everyone will invent something new. He said, “at the entrepreneurship center we have a broader mission of empowering students to find success in self-employment.” You don’t have to create a mind-blowing idea to be your own boss.
When asked about what characteristics an entrepreneur typically has Levi Cermak, the assistant director of UNO’s Center for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Franchising, spoke up. His answer was “a risk taker and an opportunistic thinker.” Dr. Eesley mentioned the word grit to describe entrepreneurs. Their answers tie together well. Entrepreneurship isn’t an easy road. When taking risks, not all of them are going to play out in your favor. Grit will keep you going; opportunistic thinking will keep you from being discouraged.
Once you take the time to figure out what suits you best, get ready to dive in. One of the first steps is to join clubs. For students, the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization (CEO) is an option. The organization hosts conferences, speaking events, and workshops. CEO accepts people from any major, so you don’t have to be an MBA student to join. Speaking specifically for UNO students, another option is the Center for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Franchising, which is run by Dr. Eesley. They offer programs such as an Entrepreneurial Living Learning Community, the Maverick Venture Fund, and BigIdea! Pitch Contest. Dr. Eesley also recommended taking “lots and lots” of classes, if possible. If you aren’t a student there are still plenty of ways to learn and grow. There are clubs all over the country, like the Entrepreneur’s Organization.
Mentors are great for learning your practice, according to Dr. Eesley. Entrepreneurs have a ton of passion for their work and most of the time are willing to share their thoughts. “They’re talking about their baby business that they love . . . they’ll tell you anything.” Talking to someone who has experienced the trials and tribulations of entrepreneurship first-hand gives you a perspective that might not be taught in every class. Not everyone has access to classes or clubs, but anyone can find a mentor. (Here’s an article about finding one).
Perhaps you know you want to be an entrepreneur, but don’t know what you specifically want to do. Dr. Eesley’s tip for that is to try different fields. “If you’re not ready, take a job that exposes you to a lot of opportunities,” he said. “You can’t discover opportunities if you’re not out there.” He mentioned specifically jobs involving financing, sales, and insurance. Develop your technical skills and see what works best for you before jumping into your own business.
His last piece of advice is once you have your idea, just jump in. Be prepared for mistakes and learn from them. Build your confidence. The road to being a successful entrepreneur takes grit.
Now that you have ideas on where to begin, go start your journey!