By: Lexie Newhouse
For many student-entrepreneurs, securing funding to support their startup ventures presents the greatest challenge when launching their business. That’s why the H.J. Russell Center and the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute collaborated once again for the “Money, Mindset & Entrepreneurship” event this past Monday.
Although “money doesn’t grow on trees” per say, the panelists offered their insights to students on how to save and earn money for their entrepreneurial ambitions. The panel was moderated by Dr. Isabelle Monlouis and featured Caitlin O’Donnell Ferguson, Samir Patel and Mykel McIntosh.
As the former Associate Executive Director of Culture Connect, a social enterprise with a mission to foster cultural fluency between immigrants and the community, Ferguson shared her experiences of working within the nonprofit sector.
“If you can make the plan work, go for it. It’s all accomplishable,” said Ferguson, “But you’re not going to be ready for everything.” She stressed the importance of taking “small bets” to continue innovating and improving, especially within a social enterprise. Having exited as a nonprofit, she also highlighted the technical side of selling the nonprofit’s assets to for-profit companies that continue to align with its overall mission.
Samir Patel, investor, entrepreneur, veteran and current ENI 3101 professor, spoke on segmenting the markets to conduct customer discovery. Building a prototype and testing market demand is an expensive task for any entrepreneur, which was a concern that students immediately voiced. Patel referenced examples of companies like Microsoft and Spanx that had little money in the initial stages.
“Their clients paid them to develop the software and products,” explained Patel. Startups that assume more of a consulting role in the initial stages allows them to secure funding to produce their desired product or service to then begin monetizing it. Acknowledging the difficulty of obtaining VC funding, he encouraged students to pursue the consulting model as a viable solution to secure funding and bring their startup ventures to fruition.
McIntosh also offered his insight into the creative industry, an industry infamous for its limited funding options. As a partner and co-owner of Snake Nation, McIntosh helps M2’s (Multicultural Millennials) produce and monetize their content, intellectual property and products. He credits his background in music for paving the way to platform creation, where Snake Nation focuses especially on fashion, film and TV to create economic sustainability in the creative economy.
When asked by the audience questions about team dynamics, the panel unanimously pointed out the inevitability of conflicts arising between team members. “If everyone’s agreeing, then no one is thinking,” stressed Patel. Here they honed the importance of supporting and challenging each other to grow both individually and as the business as a whole.
Realizing one’s strengths and weaknesses as an entrepreneur was another topic of discussion amongst the students and panelists. “Founders are interesting people. You’re actually your own biggest enemy,” said Patel. He continued to share that “I thought resilience meant being able to take a lot of pain,” noting what he had originally interpreted as a strength was in actuality a weakness. Mistaking his stubbornness for resilience, Patel encouraged the audience to consider new solutions and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses when addressing those pain points.
Dr. Monlouis concluded with event by highlighting various startup funding opportunities available to students including Envolve, the Entrepreneurs’ Organization “Global Student Entrepreneur Awards” and ENI 4102’s incubation program.
To learn more about these opportunities and other upcoming ENI-HJRCE events, visit www.eni.gsu.edu