Through A Millennial’s Eyes

Entrepreneurship. I struggled my entire college career trying to spell this six syllable word. I also struggled to spell its shorter five syllables but nonetheless just as complicated base, entrepreneur. I used to hear the word thrown around quite often growing up. It found its way into my mind through movies, television, textbooks, letters, and everyday conversation. I heard it, read it, watched it, and yet thought nothing of it. Just a word that apparently meant a lot, just not to me or anyone I knew growing up before college.

When I got to the University of Maryland College Park, I enrolled into the coveted Robert H. Smith School of Business to study finance. When I was choosing my classes for the first time, I scoured the list for interesting classes among the necessary coursework, and there it was. That word again. “Entrepreneurship”. I looked at it, and then I moved onto more pressing matters, like my class schedule, the dining hall menu, and how arduous the walk to the gym could be.

I watched a movie called “The Social Network”, and enjoyed it greatly. I look back on that moment when I took the time to sit down and watch the fast paced, melodrama about the rise of Facebook in spite of lawsuits, and some of Mark Zuckerberg’s apparent character flaws. I couldn’t understand how he could just leave school to start this and how it happened so fast. It was mind boggling, yet I still made no connection between that word and what was happening on the screen in front of me.

Finance courses, Marketing courses, Accounting Courses, Supply chain courses, Management courses, and some others in between and still no correlation. Even when I began an internship with Brent Simpson, who is, in fact, an entrepreneur and has been so since a teenager, and probably even younger, I still didn’t make the connection. It wasn’t until senior year that I started to put things together. People were walking around Van Munch (the business school), discussing businesses they wanted to start and how they were going the “entrepreneurial” route. They exclaimed that working for someone was not in the cards.

They idolized people like Mark Zuckerberg, Eric Spiegel, and Steve Jobs, all of which are/were entrepreneurs of very successful companies. They wanted to be business owners that started their own and become overnight successes. That’s what I believed entrepreneurship was, when you owned a business, had a great idea, people just paid you exorbitant amounts of cash, you get interviewed, become something like a rock star, and you lived happily ever after. That’s what I thought Zuckerberg was doing. Hollywood made a movie about the guy. That’s when you’ve really made it. That’s entrepreneurship in a nutshell right? So that’s what I’ll do.

The thing is, that wasn’t right, that’s not right, and that never will be right!

When you google entrepreneur, “a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.”, is what comes up. That reduces it down to the simplest form. When you graduate and pull your head out of textbooks and into the real world, your eyes will probably grow wider than golf balls. No one ever told me that hiring an employee incurs fees, or the taxes you must pay, or the amount of money you need for an office, or how to get a client, let alone clients. No one ever told me the ridiculous amount of hours you need to work, how many people you need to meet, how to form a well-balanced team of strategic partners. We didn’t learn power tactics, negotiation skills, or that networking can more beneficial than a one off sale.

I didn’t know any of this, and yet, I have enjoyed learning every single bit of it. I am learning from an Entrepreneur how to become a better entrepreneur. I am learning the business by being engrossed in it, and though I am not on my own yet, I will be more than prepared to do so. So to all the people that want to be entrepreneurs, come and join us. Don’t read about it, go out and do it. Fail, try again, fail and try again, until you succeed. It’s a rough swim, filled with sharks, debris, and other swimmers trying to take as much of the lane as possible, but you can do it. Entrepreneurs are constantly innovating, constantly working on big ideas, constantly under pressure, but you know what they say, pressure forms diamonds. It’s not for the faint of heart, or something exactly fun to do because many a night you will wonder just what the hell you were thinking. Successful entrepreneurs look back on those moments to remind themselves from where they came, and to motivate themselves to continue to work. Entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint, littered with hills, and bumps on the path. So ask yourself, can you go the distance?