What Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know
The best advice I got from the CUNY SPS Entrepreneurial Thought & Engagement Conference
This week I had the privilege of attending the Entrepreneurial Thought & Engagement Conference, hosted by the CUNY SPS Online Business Programs.
(As an aside, this event was just the latest of the programs’ big initiatives and news. First, the CUNY SPS BS in Business was recently ranked #30 in the nation on the U.S. News & World Report’s list of 2022 Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in Business. And this April, they launched a Bachelor of Professional Studies in Applied Management and Entrepreneurship degree program.)
This week, our online business programs were focused on organizing an amazing conference. In this all-day online event, they brought together a diverse community of active entrepreneurs, educators, and CUNY SPS students to discuss how the entrepreneurship process and mindset impacts society, as well as local and global economies.
We heard from several fascinating guest speakers: Jonnel Doris, former NYC Commissioner for Small Business Services, under the Mayor de Blasio administration; Dr. SherRhonda Gibbs, the Dean of Monfort College of Business, University of Northern Colorado; and John Mogulescu, Dean Emeritus of CUNY SPS.
In addition, participants got to attend number of breakout sessions, where they spoke with several entrepreneurs representing various academic disciplines at CUNY SPS.
I found the entire day both stimulating and inspiring, and I’m still mulling all over the great conversations I had. But to start, I came away with a few gems of wisdoms that I wanted to share with all entrepreneurs out there:
- Anyone — and Everyone — Can Be an Entrepreneur
We may think of a child’s lemonade stand or Mark Zuckerberg at Harvard, but entrepreneurs can be defined as anyone who has an idea and carries it out.
As Dr. Ed Knox, the head of the CUNY SPS Online Business Programs, noted,
“Entrepreneurship is a way of thinking and a mentality. You can be an entrepreneur in any phase of your life.”
- An Entrepreneurial Mindset can Make your Own Life — and the World — Better
As I observed in my opening remarks:
“If you have a good business idea and if you execute that business idea with excellence, it can transform your life as an individual, and that of your family and of your community.”
That’s something I fundamentally believe. Other speakers echoed the same critical idea.
Dr. Gibbs said,
“Entrepreneurs are responsible for producing new innovation, such as electric and hydro-powered vehicles and memory foam — a product used by NASA that was later commercialized and put on the market for consumers to use — and companies such as UBER and Door Dash are products of entrepreneurs. In general, entrepreneurship is responsible for improving the overall condition of society.”
Mr. Doris touched upon this too.
“Entrepreneurs are drivers of economic growth and stability and they produce jobs, tax revenue for local government, and new products and new ways of doing things. Their innovation propels change that allows for people, government, and private industry to flourish.”
- You Can Be an Entrepreneur Even If You Work for Someone Else
Mr. Doris gave the example of when a new innovation or product or another company develops within an existing company.
“Facebook hack-a-thon sessions produced the ‘Like’ button we all use now…Lockheed Martins’ advanced development program created some of the innovative aircrafts known to man, 3M scientists created the Post-It… Google created Gmail. Companies seeking to do just only what they do…don’t thrive.”
- It Takes a Village
To be successful, entrepreneurs must nurture the communities around them. That way, in turn, they can do great things for those communities.
Mr. Doris explained:
“Individuals seeking to add value to the economic system…this activity in many cases does not happen in a vacuum no matter what anyone says. The notion that an idea by itself can produce a successful venture, or an individual with a great idea can singlehandedly go from ideation to launch and success without the infusion of support from an ecosystem built to encourage and undergird the entrepreneurial spirit of risk-taking, ignores the reality that successful entrepreneurs benefitted from what I call the collective.”
- Take Advantage of the Services Offered to Help Entrepreneurs
I shared this tip myself, based on my own experience working closely with the small business services commissioner in New York more than a decade ago.
“My message to the students who are listening to us: tap into all of the services that are either provided by the city or the state or the federal government, or your faculty or university, or non-profit organization or venture capital firm. We are lucky to be in one of the global centers of business — New York City. This means there are thousands and thousands of people committed to making entrepreneurs successful.”
- Education is the Key to Success
I may be biased as the dean of a college, but business education is hugely important.
Dr. Gibbs, herself the leader of a school, talked a bit about the benefits and why you should care about entrepreneurship education.
“For those who are aspiring entrepreneurs, it increases your intentions to start a business. Outside of those things in general, it increases confidence or self-esteem and increases knowledge and skillsets. It allows you to generate practical solutions to problems and recognize opportunities and be able to write a business plan in comfort.”
- Take Risks…
During his presentation, John Mogulescu discussed his favorite entrepreneurial project while working at the City University of New York: the founding of CUNY SPS.
The one big takeaway he offered about starting our school, as well as the many other programs and initiatives he launched at CUNY, really resonated with me.
It’s maybe the best advice we can offer in any situation: don’t be afraid to take risks.
“We took risks understanding that not everything we did would be successful. And we were fortunate for that most of the years at CUNY we were encouraged to take risks.”
- …And Don’t Take Criticism Personally
As he concluded his talk, Mogulescu also reflected on one other important lesson he learned in his 50-year career at CUNY:
“Everything we did was initially criticized. Gutman College, CUNY SPS, CUNY ASAP, we ducked under it….It wasn’t that we were pushovers. We would respond to criticism but didn’t take it personally…We just moved on.”