The owner of Threadless, Jake Nickell, didn't know he was starting a business. He won an online t-shirt design competition himself and got so excited he started his own design competition saying he'd be sure to make the design chosen into a shirt or poster. That competition got dozens of entrants and the rest is history. Nickell says, " If I knew what I know now about entrepreneurship, I would have been paralyzed with fear. I may never have started it." Luckily for him and for those of us who love Threadless, he didn't know what entrepreneurship was all about, the stresses and pressures only pushed him toward action. The action also forced him to make a lot of promises that he wasn't willing to let himself not keep. He said, "by taking that first, very public step, even asking others to contribute to it, I was forced to figure it out."
ESTEEM learns by doing...we get out of the classroom! Every spring break we take an opportunity to unique places where there is a very strong and vibrant ecosystem of entrepreneurship and innovation. Past trips have included Silicon Valley, Dublin, Ireland and Research Triangle Park in North Carolina.
To most people the word entrepreneur is synonymous with the fast pace startup world. However, it is also synonymous with the idea of being your own boss, increased flexibility and having more control over your work life. The difference is in the path you take when you become an entrepreneur, and this decision will affect which "entrepreneur" you are.
The name of the entrepreneurship program at the University of Notre Dame is called the "ESTEEM" program and it seems incredibly fitting. It stands for Engineering, Science, Technology, Entrepreneurship Excellence Masters but the acronym holds a lot of meaning for entrepreneurs as well, as confidence can carry a large role in whether or not an entrepreneur is successful.
Studies show that employers want students to graduate with entrepreneurial traits. Business owners want employees who are not cookie cutter theory folks but graduates who have first hand experience with the hustle and ambition that goes part and parcel with entrepreneurship. However, historically, colleges have been criticized for crushing the creativity of their students for centuries, so can these spaces truly help incubate great entrepreneurs?
One of the main differences between entrepreneurship and the normal job is the risk someone takes in starting their own company. This risk is primarily financial but the risk is only realized if you fail. If you succeed, the risk that goes with the entrepreneurship is never really actualized. So, with failure being the main downside of entrepreneurship, here are some silver linings even in failure.
Do you ever ideas that take hold of your mind, to the point that you can't sleep? This idea you found solves a problem and it simply won't get out of your head. Like a moth to a porch light in the fall, you are drawn to the nearest whiteboard to expand thoughts, and diagram the rollout, and start brainstorming potential users, and potential partners, and figuring out investors. It's consuming and it's something called entrepreneurship.
Notre Dame and our ESTEEM Program is putting our money where our mouth is by not only teaching students how to become entrepreneurs but now, through a $3.5 million fund, Notre Dame will be investing in student-led ventures.