Rianna Middleton

Catching the Startup Bug

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My favorite podcast is NPR’s How I Built This. I love hearing the host, Guy Raz, marvel at how the founders of Airbnb, Squarespace and Lyft went from a one-off idea of two dudes in a basement to a thriving business worth billions of dollars.

But, even as I listen to the passion in the voice of these entrepreneurs and hear them talk about how they were compelled to chase an idea, I never felt the urge to build something of my own. I never saw myself as an entrepreneur or had any desire to start a business. I didn’t feel like I could ever have the next big idea or create a product that could change someone’s life.

Last Friday, we went on a class trip to visit startups and their founders in Detroit, including Bamboo Detroit, Outlier Media and Lafayette American. We had a chance to see what they’ve built with our own eyes, exploring their spaces and hearing their stories. It was incredibly inspiring to hear about why they decided to take the leap and go out on their own.

For some founders, it was a necessity, a way to keep their careers alive. For others, it was a choice, a chance to try something and potentially fail. For me, it made the idea of starting your own business real. It showed me that if you have the guts and the perseverance, you can really make something happen. It may be difficult, but it’s far from impossible, especially if you have a powerful idea and an even more powerful work ethic.

Now, with the semester nearly over, I’m wondering if I did indeed catch the startup bug after all. After being pushed to chase my own idea and being forced to wear an entrepreneurial hat, I can feel the rush of making something come to life.

Just as we’ve been talking about in class, my team and I started with a simple idea, a solution to a problem that we face in our own lives. As college students, we found that we struggled to find professional mentors and make meaningful connections. We did audience research to see if other college students had needs similar to ours. We developed a product and brand designed for college students, by college students that utilized the latest technology. We put all the pieces together to form a business plan. We pitched our idea to a room full of classmates and they “invested” in our idea. I have to admit, it was thrilling.

Taking this class has opened my eyes to what is possible, and the many different routes you can take to success. More than ever before, I can see myself building a business and changing people’s lives with an innovative idea. It may not be today or even in the future, but I’m no longer opposed to the possibility.

In the meantime, I’m excited to further pursue my team’s idea to see what is possible. Wherever I end up in the world, I hope I can always put on an entrepreneurial hat when innovation and change are necessary.

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