Studying the Start-Up

April 22, 2013 9:51 PM

After nine semesters, a summer calculus course, and a summer-long Study Abroad program in Peru, NC State has provided me with a bit of paper that declares my legitimacy by their standards. Now there has been quite a bit of controversy over whether the value of a non-technical college degree holds much merit at all, and I graduated from NC State University’s Poole College of Management, not the College of Engineering or College of Textiles. As a student of supply chain management and entrepreneurship, two fields that did not exist when I was born, I have come to realize that things in our world are changing and pivoting so quickly that it is pointless to bank any personal competency or strength on a single achievement. The college degree is a starting block, as was the high school degree that most people reading this right now have received. Don’t get me wrong, a diploma from a four-year college or university is worthy of some praise, but one does not stop trying because they tried really hard for a full four or five (or six) years. Life is a learning process, and after realizing this, entrepreneurship became really attractive to me. The word “entrepreneur” is often misinterpreted. It is not someone who can’t follow rules. Nor is it someone who wants to get filthy rich. To me, an entrepreneur is someone who genuinely wants to add value to the world around them by introducing a solution that fills the needs of a real addressable market. Monetization of such a solution is how the individual or team supports itself and scales the business; however, the process is one of learning and self-betterment by improving the lives of others.

Oftentimes, the “entrepreneur” forms an idea for a business solely around their own passion, so that they can constantly be immersed in that passion. GoPro’s Nick Woodman has built a $2.25 billion empire from his passion for extreme sports by capturing that action with tiny cameras. Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook as a project that supported his passion for social psychology among college students. I am proud to say that the number of student-turned-entrepreneurs are on the rise. NC State has many promising concepts coming from its own programs and students, and I am glad to know many of them personally. I myself have a start-up called Collegiate Skate Tour. Collegiate Skate Tour is the first ever national contest series for college student skateboarders. Not only does it offer the first college-level competition to skateboarding, but it also provides a cool new incentive for today’s youth in skateboarding to pursue higher education, where there is currently a huge disconnect. By growing the tour organically and expanding the network of college skateboarding clubs and organizations, we will build leverage to secure money for skateboarding scholarships, skateparks on campuses, etc.

Although a college degree is not a prerequisite to taking action, NC State has provided so many invaluable resources and connections to fellow students, faculty, and others that have helped in building concepts into realities. Whether it be Collegiate Skate Tour, a radioactive isotope detection technology, or a social enterprise that donates money to help form sustainable agriculture systems in East Africa; NC State (as well as many universities) have such a wide range of knowledge, expertise, and experience that can greatly aid the launch of the next great innovation.

Specifically, there are organizations and spaces on campus that explicitly support the entrepreneurial movement, and that group is growing still. The College of Management has its very own chapter of Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization (CEO), and many other colleges have formed specialized groups that work to support the entrepreneurial-minded in their respective concentrations of study. For an interdisciplinary entrepreneurship club experience, visit the Entrepreneurs’ Initiative which meets weekly in another great resource: The Garage. The Garage is a physical space on NC State’s Centennial Campus that provides white board space, meeting rooms, Smart Boards, and the technical inventing ability of its very own 3-D printer and laser cutter. Members (students who apply for access to the space) utilize the space to develop prototypes, strategize their start-up companies, or just exchange ideas and form friendships. Ultimately, college is supposed to be designed to prepare its students for the real world thereafter, right? Well the entrepreneurial atmosphere at NC State has certainly done a great job of providing a decent trajectory for its outward-bound entrepreneurs; and what better place to start than Raleigh, NC?

There is plenty of value to be found in the triangle, and specifically Raleigh, for the emerging entrepreneur. Scott Kelly’s Start-Up Madness congregates college start-ups from all ACC schools to compete for money, mentorship, workspace, and other valuable resources. There are great opportunities to intern with local start-ups for those that are not pursuing a concept of their own. There are also internships available with co-working spaces like HUB Raleigh. HUB Raleigh is a co-working space where start-ups and entrepreneurs come together to work in the same environment and form relationships through general socialization and various community-oriented activities and events. HUB Raleigh supplies a unique place for these teams and individuals to work toward their company goals as well as collaborate in an open space designed for productivity and creativity.

Being in Raleigh, NC for five years now, I can sincerely say that it is an entrepreneurial destination and on the rise. With its educational context, rich community, and strong infrastructure, student entrepreneurs can now find a comfortable home in Raleigh, NC.

Keegan Guizard

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