Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

CIE News


How to Be an Entrepreneur

by Nikki Kroushl on January 20, 2017

Sarah Ritter by Jeff Janowski/UNCW

Sarah Ritter, founder of Turnip Learning. Jeff Janowski/UNCW

More often than not at the CIE, fresh faces means people repeating a bright-eyed mantra—“I want to be an entrepreneur!”

But as Laura Brogdon-Primavera discusses, it takes more than want to become an entrepreneur. As Manager of Operations for the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, she works daily with startups in all stages. And when we asked her how one becomes an entrepreneur, she had plenty of sage advice.

Commit and don’t romanticize.

Building a startup from scratch seems like fun until you get started.

“A guy I had a conversation with compared it to entertainment,” Laura says. “How it’s glorified, and people go out to L.A. and think they’re going to make it big as an actor or a musician. And they get out there and realize how hard it is and how many competitors there are.”

Entrepreneurship is hard work, long hours, and passion for an idea that very few other people will echo. It means spending your own money and the money of friends and relatives who believe in you before you ever see a penny of investors’ capital.

“That’s why it’s important that the CIE educates through its programs,” Laura says. “We have as many that come in and say ‘I want to be an entrepreneur,’ but do you really?”

Embrace failure.

“You’re going to fail,” Laura says, “so fail fast and move on to something else.”

Almost any other authority in startup culture will say the same. Failure is such a widely accepted part of the entrepreneurship ecosystem that it’s treated as a guarantee. That doesn’t mean that failure shouldn’t be taken seriously and that you shouldn’t learn from it, but it means that you should prepare for it and move on quickly.

Solve problems. Don’t provide preventative measures—provide treatments.

“People are more likely to buy aspirin when they have a headache than vitamins to keep themselves healthy,” Laura says, quoting wisdom she’s learned from the industry over the years.

As an entrepreneur, you must create a solution to an existing problem—not a product that you think has value. Product development begins with asking customers in an industry what pains them, what their biggest headaches are.

Think in scales.

“If there’s a problem at a hospital in Wilmington,” Laura says, “the hospital in Asheville or Raleigh or Winston-Salem could have the exact same problem.”

A key part of being a successful entrepreneur is identifying ways to scale successfully and introduce your product to new customers.

Do your research.

“Facebook doesn’t happen overnight,” Laura says, “and Facebook wasn’t the first. It’s usually not the first [product] to market that becomes the successful one.”

There are guaranteed to be people who have tried and failed to create and market your product before you. But they must have had small successes along the way. Embracing failure means not only learning from your own failures, but from the failures of your predecessors. It means plenty of research—how can you take the success that someone else had and make it better?

Be prepared to never stop learning or asking for help.

In the end, no entrepreneur makes it alone. Very often, startups succeed because they have a community to rely on—other startup and business owners, educational and resource facilities like the CIE, investors big and small, and friends and volunteers who make it happen.

Now that you know the basics, drop by on one of our Welcome Wednesdays to meet with CIE Director Diane Durance and Seahawk Innovation to learn more about how you can educate yourself and become an entrepreneur.

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