The alarm went off at 4:00 am, as I’ve grown accustomed to starting my day off early. It’s Monday, and I sit up drinking my coffee as I plan out my week ahead. It’s still understandably quiet out, but my mind is already racing with all the things that need to get done before the end of the week. However, it’s not so much a feeling of anxiety; rather, it’s more of a patient, methodical mental planning. How can I break these deliverables up into achievable milestones?
I think that’s a skill ESTEEM has really helped me develop: identifying key milestones in a task to make everything achievable and manageable. I remembered that lesson from our Project Management class, but it’s been integrated into every aspect of life here in ESTEEM ever since.
So I put my milestones in order for the day: finish my contribution for our group presentation, review my notes for our class discussion, edit another chapter for our thesis draft submission, — oh, and pick up my dry cleaning. With those in mind, I’m off to get my day started.
After taking care of the above tasks on my end, I met up with my group for our Funding New Ventures class, where our final assignment is to pitch a business venture to the class and Gale Bowman, the founding director of the IrishAngels investors group based out of Chicago. This is just one example of what might be one of ESTEEM’s biggest benefits: the chance to gain exposure and experience to opportunities, especially in the startup world, that otherwise take so much more work, networking, and luck to get.
For that class, I’m joining a group with Natalie, Brady, Thor and Matt, where our pitch is on a business, Collegiate Soaps Inc., that the former three co-founded and are actually operating in parallel to our classes. They have spent the last number of months getting this business off the ground, incorporating as a legitimate company and getting real world experience in entrepreneurship. They’ve poured their collective time, effort, and passion into venture; thus, to Matt and myself, this pitch has always been more than just an opportunity to show what we learned in class. Rather, it’s a way to contribute to a student-led business and help our fellow members of the cohort take a dream and get it to the next level.
Following the meeting, our cohort met up for our Technology and Ethics class, and when we got there, the classroom was absolutely full: prospective students were in attendance! The topic of automation and its effects on society were on the docket for today’s class, and we all bounced ideas off each other on the implications of all these technological advances. Some of the prospective students got in on the conversation, contributing their own philosophies and learning from each other. Each of these class discussions get people to consider things they wouldn’t have thought of otherwise, and grants each of us an opportunity to reflect on all the technological changes that are happening so rapidly around us.
Finally, with my outfit fresh from the dry cleaners, I head over to the eighth floor of the new Corbett Family Hall, where some of us met back up with the prospective students to share dinner and conversation about the ESTEEM program. Discussion topics covered the entire spectrum: from our theses, to student life outside of the classroom, the prospect’s experience at their undergraduate institutions, sports, etc. It was surprising, really, to hear myself speak with everyone about the program and life in general. Valeria and I discussed that feeling towards the close of the event: we know that we all have so much more to learn, but listening to ourselves speak, we could hear our growth as entrepreneurs, as people. David Murphy, Kyle Williams, and Dustin Mix wrapped up the night’s events, speaking more on the program and reaching out to the prospects, offering them help and guidance on their journey towards their future.
A workout is the first milestone on Tuesday’s list, and I head over to the gym. And, at around 6 am, just like clockwork: a group of our cohort comes together. They usually come for a group cycling class, and I’m always impressed by their discipline and enthusiasm to grow together. A little while after, our Funding New Ventures group reconvenes to go over last minute details, and we all head off to class. We sit and listen to other groups’ pitches. To me, the business ventures presented were familiar, yet I’m so impressed with how much they have grown throughout the course of the year — reflecting the growth and hard work of their founders and cohort overall. Finally, our team went up, told the story behind Collegiate Soaps, and the class culminated in valuable feedback and lessons on how to pitch to VCs.
The week ended with a Lunch and Learn presentation from Mike Thompson, COO of SkyWest Airlines. Throughout the year, these talks have always been fascinating: we get a chance to listen to leaders of all sorts of industries, where we learn a little about their own respective fields and a lot on their experiences as entrepreneurs. He spoke on all the considerations and details that go into operating SkyWest, what he’s learned along his journey and what he hopes to accomplish as an enterprise moving forward.
He ended his presentation with the three lessons he’s learned. To be a successful entrepreneur, you need to: 1) have patience 2) work hard and 3) be disciplined. Lessons that are easy to talk about but require strength to execute. Reflecting on the past week, I’m pleased to be able to easily recount several stories from our cohort that demonstrate those lessons.