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Can you believe I’m going to be ordering my cap and gown next week? Senior salute is in just a couple of days. Not only will I be trying on hats and gowns for size, but I’ll be tying up loose ends and deciding what’s next for me as I say goodbye to the staff from offices around campus.
What’s next for me? I was able to obtain a job in Philadelphia working for an adult education center, starting over the summer as an early education coordinator and transitioning into a night class teacher. While working, I plan to take pre-requisite credits at Temple University for speech pathology with hopes of continuing my education as a fulltime graduate student in the fall of 2018.
My education at Juniata College was individualized—I got exactly what I wanted from it. I picked Juniata so that I could have an undergraduate degree in something more marketable than pre-speech pathology. This was because I wanted to be more marketable and be able to work while attending graduate school so I could afford it and also so I could be gaining experience while still in academia.
I’ve already made this connection with the adult education center from two summers ago, I worked with them as a rising junior. Now, I am doing exactly what I wanted to do because of my marketable degree in Education Studies and Human Development.
I look forward to the years of possibility ahead. This is just the beginning. There are six weeks left of classes and 47 days until I take that walk down and switch over that tassel. It’s all just so surreal!
Let me start from the beginning. I knew what I wanted to be before I came to Juniata. I loved technology and I absolutely loved being an editor and working with cameras in high school. So I knew that I wanted to major in Integrated Media Arts to strengthen my abilities.
Once, when speaking with my advisor, I brought up the question of what types of jobs I could get with an IMA degree. However, most decent jobs that I was interested in also required marketing skills. Luckily for me, at Juniata, students can create a program of emphasis or POE to individualize their intended major with whatever fascinates them. For instance, I was intrigued by integrated media arts, marketing, information technology, computer science and education. So I put all of these different majors together to create another major titled, Multimedia Technology Strategies.
I get a lot of different responses when I tell people about my major. Most responses I receive are similar to those of a contortionist. My two personal favorite responses are, “Wow… why?” or “Who are you, superwoman?” Taking five different types of classes surprisingly isn’t that hard when you are interested in the content.
As a senior now, I don’t regret any of the choices I made with scheduling. Unfortunately, I had to drop the education bit along the way. However, it seems that I have learned how to teach people without having to take classes in it. Life has given me the education I need to be able to teach people my passion of videography. Hopefully, I find a career that fulfills my passions. If not, I will just have to create my own business.
If you have any more questions about the POE program, check out this link: http://www.juniata.edu/academics/areas-of-study.php
Firstly, let’s dispense with the term “entrepreneur.” It comes with a lot of baggage and expectations about starting a business. Instead of focusing on starting a business for the sake of starting a business, focus on whatever skill/service/idea that you have that you’re passionate about and good at. That’s what you ‘are.’ For me, it’s web design. I started a web design company called Taoti (www.taoti.com) out of my Juniata dorm room in 1996. But it’s not like I declared myself an entrepreneur and took it from there. I was—and still am—a web designer first and foremost. The ‘entrepreneur’ label that I’m often given seems to be more retroactive than anything. Back then, no one was calling me an entrepreneur. I was just “the kid in South building websites.” Anyway, my point is that your focus should be on what it is that you’re going to do—not on the ‘start my own business’ part of it. That part of it will come. That said, there are some things that can help it along. In no particular order, here are some things I’d tell anyone wanting to turn their passion into a business:
1. Make sure you have a viable idea/product.
Is someone else doing it? If not, why not? There’s usually a reason. It’s rare to have the kind of totally original idea that will be the next big thing, just because you thought of it and no one else did. (Don’t get me wrong—that can happen. And when it does and it’s a commercially viable idea, big things can happen. But the vast majority of new businesses are variations—if not near duplications—of existing business. And there’s nothing wrong with that.) Also, don’t believe them when they tell you there are no stupid ideas. There are definitely are stupid ideas. Make sure yours isn’t one of them. Try to find all the reasons NOT to pursue something. Only when you cannot find enough reasons not to do something you should you give it a go.
Don’t try to create the ‘ultimate anything’ out of the box. Focus on the one thing that you can really nail, and hone that for a while. Make that core thing a viable business before expanding your offering or trying to add in all sorts of bells and whistles to your product/service.
3. Wait tables.
Everyone should spend some time in the service industry to learn how to deal with the myriad of challenges that arise from serving customers. You’ll learn how to please and how attention to detail can make or break a customer’s experience. You’ll learn that customers are far from always being right, but that it doesn’t matter—they’re still the customer. You’ll come to appreciate being dependent on a supply chain (your cooks) and learning to take responsibility for them, even when their goofs are not your fault. You’ll learn efficiency and the price you pay for not being efficient.
4. Take real-world and applied courses.
It’s going to be a while before you can afford a full-time accountant (or even an outsourced book keeper.) So learn basic accounting: profit/loss statements, balance sheets, etc. Better yet, learn some actual accounting software that you’d actually use. Modern cloud-based services really simplify this sort of thing so that you really don’t need to be an accountant to be your own CTO for a while. Take some other real-world courses too! One of the great things about Juniata is that you can take just about any course you want and make it part of your POE. So learn how to build a website (because you won’t be able to afford a pro-grade website out of the gate, but it’s not hard to do yourself if you know how.) Learn basic IT skills so that you can set up your own email, network, wifi, printer, etc. Take some basic corporate law and HR courses so that even from the get-go, you have a grasp of potential liabilities. Take a course in corporate formation and understand how to become and stay compliant and in ‘good standing’ with local and federal governments. Whenever possible, take courses that focus on real-world and applied subject matter.
I’m not much of a reader, so my mom would be shocked that this one made my list. But two books that I think are really educational and motivational for anyone wanting to start their own business: Steve Jobs (by Walter Isaacason) and ReWork (by Fried and Hansson). Seriously, read these books. There are plenty of other good reads, I’m sure. But these are the two at the top of my list.
This list could be 100 points long. There are so many tidbits that present-Brent would like to impart upon then-Brent. So many things I’ve learned along the way that would have made life easier. If you’re for real—you have an idea or product and you fully intend to make a real run at it, I’d love to chat with you. I’d be happy to offer up my $.02, for whatever they’re worth—to help make things a bit easier for you so that you don’t have to learn every lesson the hard way. Feel free to drop me a line. Either way, best of luck with your venture!