I have been around entrepreneurship my whole life…
Beginning with my father‘s tenure as the CEO and Founder of of Bioriginal Food and Science Corp during my childhood. He taught my brother, my sister, and me entrepreneurship from a young age and how to use the resources that we had in order to achieve our goals.
That was his definition of entrepreneurship: being able to leverage your own resources in order to effectuate the results you are looking for. It lines up closely with Saras Sarasvathy’s Five Principles of Effectuation.
In his mind, this does not just apply to our professional lives. Instead, anything we want to learn or do is possible through effectuation. Now, I believe this idea should be mediated with self-awareness. That being said, I very much hold that I can achieve anything I want to if I learn to use my resources effectively.
Applying this to my life
I have worked with several start-ups as well as starting businesses on my own.
Monetizing my own skills
I learned how to market and monetize musical skills though becoming a professional Jazz Pianist and DJ. To do so, I had to seek out venues, find the decision-makers, and convey the value I provide. I learned how to price my own services and explain why I was worth the money.
In addition, I managed logistics, such as bringing my own speakers and lights to a party. I had to manage the risk of using my own equipment, while also considering the best acoustic set-up. Finally, I learned how to cater to an audience. I decided what songs to play on the piano or mix as a DJ.
I learned to elicit emotion from those who were listening to me, and shape an event based on the music I chose.
In addition, I’m volunteering as a pro-bono marketing consultant. I enjoy trying to solve real-world marketing problems, and further I am doing my best to help in any way that I can.
At DreamPower, I learned the importance of wearing many hats. Though my title was Sales and Marketing Intern, some days I was involved in operations, others I was involved with the financials, and others where Alex and I discussed high-level company strategy. Some days I was working to develop social media strategy, and others I was hand-writing invitations to an event about energy efficiency.
The most important thing I learned, however, was the value of having a great CEO. Alex was an awesome mentor to me as well as an excellent founder.
I realized the full value of this at a Darden Innovation Laboratory (iLab) event this past summer. The Darden Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital club hosted a day-long event on Entrepreneurship; one particular panel featured two Venture Capitalists explaining how founders could go about getting VC money.
They had two vital pieces of advice. First, a CEO must immerse themselves in their industry. They must know the ins and outs and understand the trends before anyone else.
Second, the CEO must be a quality person. Venture Capitalists consider a founder’s past ventures, talk to past partners, and essentially try to gather information from anyone who has interacted with the founder. They said:
“We look for CEOs that are high-quality people. An ‘A+’ CEO can succeed with a ‘B-‘ or a ‘C’ venture. We won’t invest in a ‘C’ CEO with an ‘A’ venture…they’ll just f*** it up!
After this event, I fully realized Alex’s value as the founder of DreamPower. I hope to use him as a model — even if I do not found my own venture, I want to be considered a high quality human being.
Other start-up experience
In addition to this event hosted by the Darden EVC club, I have attended many other events at the iLab. All have tried to help start-ups and founders navigate the tough world of entrepreneurship. Some of the most notable are:
- Business Model Canvas — Speaker Lunch Series
- “Effectuation,” with Dr. Saras Sarasvathy
- Venture Design Sessions — Persona Creation
- Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition — Darden EVC
- “CRM Overview,” with Kyle Redinger and Dana Goldsmith
- Tom Tom Block Party Venture Showcase
- Charlottesville Angel Investors Meeting
These events have given me a chance to meet and interact with dozens of start-ups coming through the iLab. Because of the variety of ventures in the iLab, I have gotten to chat with non-profit, for-profit, community, and Darden-led start-ups alike. I hope to use what I have learned from these great ventures in my daily life. The lessons and issues they struggle with are ones I will have to deal with my whole life.