For more than 12 weeks I have been consumed by the idea of entrepreneurship. I have heard success stories from people like Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, and Joe Gebbia, the co-founder of Airbnb. I learned about problem solving, and idea formation, and the art of an intriguing pitch. For more than 12 weeks, I have been completely and utterly overwhelmed by the process of turning a solution into a company. And I can’t imagine going even a day without it on my mind.
I was tasked with this mission: find a solution to the current problem students are having in finding internships. It seemed simple enough, especially as I was a living, breathing example of all the problems students face in that regard. I could work from personal experience. I knew the struggles, at least I thought I did, and I knew that there was a better solution than what is currently on the market. So I was put into a team and collectively we ideated the next big thing – The Loop. The Loop is a website and social platform that does a variety of things; it connects students to alumni, shows students jobs relevant to their qualifications, provides a more transparent application process, and allows students to provide more information than just a simple résumé and cover letter. Students no longer need to feel disconnected, under-qualified, or ignored – we are keeping them in The Loop.
Our solution to a simple problem turned into an idea. The idea turned into a business plan. The business plan turned into a marketing strategy. And The Loop went from a crazy brainstorming idea to a real business pitch.
But nothing happened over night.
This past semester has been one of the most grueling, overwhelming, and painful of my college career. I have pulled all-nighters at the library doing everything from market research to graphic design to finance. I have worked with a team of people, whom I barely knew before starting the project, and whom I have probably spent far too much time with. The process has (and pardon my French) kicked my ass. Who knew building a company from scratch would be this hard? [cue a resounding “everyone”]
People look down on entrepreneurs, seeming them as radical, risk-taking business junkies who think they’re too good to get a real job and work their way up the ladder. Most entrepreneurs fail. Most businesses don’t succeed. The market is full of fierce competition, and if you can’t differentiate yourself, you might as well not even bother. But entrepreneurs are some of the most impressive, intelligent, agile-minded people. They see the world in a way that no one else can; their personal perspectives give them a look at a problem that no one else has considered.
Think of all the times you’ve wished something was easier. Like when you had 10 bags of groceries in your arms and then realized you had to close your trunk, or when you swept your floor before you brought out the mop and bucket. Cue motion-sensor lift gates, and the Swiffer. You could have lived with these struggles, but someone actually saw them as problems that deserved solutions. You have entrepreneurs to thank for how convenient your life has evolved to become.
I have never had more respect for entrepreneurs than I do now. The struggles I have faced these last few weeks were enough for me to see that, even on a small scale, this is one of the toughest businesses to be in.
How can a media company make money? How do you market to your specific audience? Who really is your audience? Is your solution really the best solution, or do you just want it to be? What do the people want and are you giving it to them better than someone else in the market? What makes you special? What makes your product worth buying? What makes you stand out?
I had to answer all these questions. So does every entrepreneur. And this is just the beginning of it all. You have to define who you are and then pitch it in a way that makes people with deep pockets want to invest in you. You have to be so bold and so confident and so prepared that you can speak with authority and without question.
So why bother? Why not just let someone else be the entrepreneur while you sit on the sidelines and reap the benefits of their solutions?
Because there is pride in founding something that makes this world a better place to live in.
It can be you. If you have the tenacity. If you have the determination. If you have the guts. It can be you. The next great idea could be in the palm of your hand. You just have to be willing to go for it.
Is it me? I sure hope so. I think that, as long as I am passionate about the product I am creating, I will have the drive to see it through. I think this is the end for The Loop unfortunately. But I am grateful for the experience I had in making it what it is. The lessons I have learned along the way cannot compare to any others that I have gained in my life so far. I look forward to the future I could have in pursuing this field.
The biggest battle you face in entrepreneurship: The urge to quit.
You can’t give in to the pressure of failure. You will be denied by investors. You will be ignored by consumers. You will have every doubt in the world that all your hard work might be for nothing. But there is education in the ‘No’s.’ There is something to be said about market response. There is a solution to every problem, and there is no saying that you can’t be the one to find it, create it, sell it, and profit off of it.
When we first visited the Hatch at MSU, Director Paul Jaques said he had been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. I didn’t really understand him at the time. I mean, I knew what he meant, but I couldn’t relate to that feeling. Could something really always be in the back of your mind like that? I couldn’t imagine being so hooked on something all the time. Until now…