Last fall, we launched the ShareFile Scholarship for Future Entrepreneurs! ShareFile was founded by a young entrepreneur more than 10 years ago and the culture here continues to be based on innovation with an entrepreneurial spirit. This is evident in our Innovators Program, so we wanted to take it a step further and award students pursuing both higher education and entrepreneurship.
Students were asked to write an essay answering the following prompt: “Can entrepreneurship be taught? How can colleges better promote and teach entrepreneurship?”
Wow! We were blown away by both the volume and content of the responses. Students all across the country showed true passion for innovation without fear of failure. Each applicant brought unique perspective to the future of entrepreneurship. We are so excited to announce our winners and share an excerpt from each of the winning essays.
$5,000 1st Place Winner: Sloan Lyndon of Campbell School of Law
Nurturing the Entrepreneur
Completely outside of the classroom, students can benefit from visiting already existing start-up companies and research institutes. Seeing an idea in action will spark interest in the student. Speaking with the person behind the innovation will provide encouragement to the student that they, too, can create and be successful. Observing all the working parts of a start-up will instill resiliency in the student. While these attributes can certainly be acquired in a classroom setting, an on-site visit can open new doors for future employment and innovation.
Some universities in North Carolina are already nurturing the entrepreneur in their students. For example, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers ECON-125, an Introduction to Entrepreneurship. This course allows students to come up with an innovative idea, figure out how it would be created, and create a marketing scheme for it. North Carolina State University allows students to live in Think House, which is a home specifically for entrepreneurial students. Living with those also interested in entrepreneurship can undoubtedly foster innovation and allow students to learn from one another. NC State also partners with HQRaleigh, which assists not only the undergraduate student, but also the young professional, with start-up business planning, funding ideas, pitch feedback, and advice from successful entrepreneurs in the area. By offering an entrepreneurial lifestyle not only in the classroom, but also in the community, universities can directly and indirectly promote student growth, creativity, and innovation.
$3,000 2nd Place Winner: Josef Ewendt of Campbell School of Law
Those who are “natural” entrepreneurs simply learned these things at an early age through trial and error and continued to develop those skills. The kid that sees an opportunity to mow his neighbor’s lawn and finds out he can use his dad’s lawn mower to do it turns into the teenager that then sees the opportunity to increase profits by mowing the entire neighborhood’s lawns and finds out he can purchase equipment and spread the cost out among them. That teenager turns into the young man who has added additional services and a staff to go on to own a successful landscaping business.
Not everyone sees those opportunities early on, so the development process that follows never takes place. Or, they have the ideas but don’t know how to follow through. Those are the people who always wonder how entrepreneurs do it and are convinced they can’t because “they’re not born with it,” which is a common adage and an easy way to write-off having to try. Identifying opportunity and finding the means to execute an idea can be taught, but it has to start at an entry level, just like the kid mowing his first yard. In the classroom, though, the development that follows can be expedited, and students can expand on the typical markets and industries they learn about. The confidence component required will follow once the other two are learned.
$2,000 3rd Place Winner: Khloe Richardson of Columbia College Chicago
Bullet Proof Vest: A Prose Poem
I learn from my teachers, my parents, my friends, my peers, and my colleagues.
Yes, this is taught.
I watch others and listen to their words on how to become an entrepreneur.
I am learning to walk again.
We are asked if entrepreneurship is something we can be taught or if it is a skill that is infused in our DNA when we are created.
I had trouble walking as a toddler.
My feet would wobble back and forth as if I were on a tight rope above scorching hot lava.
I would sway left and right as if I were a penguin in Antarctica.
For weeks, my father held my hand and kept me up.
When I would fall in the pool of lava, he would pick me up and continue to teach me.
Each day he would be less attached to my hands because I was getting better.
Until one day he picked me up on my two feet and I walked to him all by myself.
That is what entrepreneurship is about.
Like learning how to read, how to drive a car, or to how to walk, entrepreneurship can be taught.