Over the last several years, I have engaged in activities, projects and businesses that some would consider to be “entrepreneurial.” But what does that really mean? Is there some sort of checklist that one should cross off in order to reach “entrepreneur” status?
If there were such a list, I would imagine it would look something like this:
• Gregarious tech entrepreneur with a billion dollar goal
• Student—and subsequent drop out—at some prestigious academic institution
• Silicon Valley. Where else?
The more I think about the stereotypical definition of an entrepreneur, the less I feel I fill this mold. So where do I fit in? How do I fit in? Does not having a clear career path mapped out when I visit my grandmother over winter break automatically make me the grandchild who got lost somewhere along the way?
While I am hopeful that my grandmother will continue to love me regardless of my career choice, the question of my role as an entrepreneur fills my head on a daily basis. So: what’s next and where do I go now? For me, that is the exciting part. I have little to no idea. The word “entrepreneur” stems from the French, translating into “adventurer”—and there really is no better way to live than to take new projects as they come along. This does not mean you have to create the next Google or Facebook. Instead, it suggests that you should always be looking to optimize and innovate the existing systems around you based on your interests and passions, regardless of the social, political or professional field you enter.
Understanding what it means to be an entrepreneur is not something that one can learn in a classroom, hear from a lecture, or read in a book; rather, it is one’s willingness to think carefully and thoroughly about a problem and have the courage to implement an actionable solution to that problem. Now, if you don’t think you could ever be an “entrepreneur,” think again. A person’s ability to innovate is determined by themselves, and no one else. But it is never that easy, is it?
As an entrepreneur, you now face the constant struggle and pressure of balancing this little thing called life. Your life now consists of innovating, making time to get your work done for class, reassuring your friends you still like them even though you have less time to hang out, making time to go lift (and then spending the majority of your time stretching and convincing yourself you did exercise). With all of that in mind, is it really worth it?
The truthful and honest answer is: YES! It absolutely is, but only if you are willing to step out of your comfort zone and take a strategically calculated risk. As it stands, that risk is often still too much for the average college student. What if there were a way to provide students the opportunity to innovate with institutionalized support from the College’s administration?
My hope is to make the Haverford Innovation Platform (HIP) a part of that solution. The platform exists to aid in the development of young innovators so the balance between academic, social and entrepreneurial facets of life are manageable, allowing students to effectively engage in both their studies and the projects they are passionate about. I understand firsthand the everyday challenges for being a student innovator, which is why in designing this program we put an emphasis on creating a program that strategically complements the strenuous student lifestyle. HIP has the potential to inspire students and give them the tools to not only make a change, but to be the change.
Haverford College consists of some of the brightest student minds in the world, and by encouraging students to emerge as innovators and leaders, this platform will promote individual and community growth starting right here on Haverford’s campus.
Photo courtesy of Haverford Microfinance Consulting