Voices of Experience: Start-Ups and Entrepreneurship

by guest blogger Lavinia Tanzim, Lead Campus Engagement Ambassador, Ryerson Career Centre

The transition from employee to entrepreneur can be pretty daunting. With school and corporate jobs, the obvious paths are already laid out. Your personal route may vary from someone else’s, but essentially, you would be climbing a ladder. On the other hand with entrepreneurship, you’re diving into the unknown.

Last November, I went to the Voices of Experience event on Start-Ups and Entrepreneurs, hosted by the Career Centre. They had very accomplished set of panelists, and it was interesting to hear about their experiences starting their respective companies. As a Creative Industries student, there’s a heavy emphasis on entrepreneurship in our program, so it was really awesome hearing to hear these individuals talk about real-life applications of what we learn in class. If you’ve ever thought about starting a business, here’s some advice from the panelists:

What’s Your Why?

One of my favourite quotes of the night was said by Lily Tse, the founder of Think Dirty, an app and platform that allows and empowers users to choose safe and socially-conscious beauty and personal products. Tse said: “The two most important days of your life are the day you’re born, and the day you find out why.” Before you think about starting a business, figure out what your values are. Revisit the work you’ve done in your life, and ask yourself the following questions. Why are you doing what you’re doing? Does your work align with your personal values? What contribution do you want to make to your friends, your community and your planet? These questions should underpin whatever initiative you choose to start, so harness your passions and turn it into your drive. Entrepreneurship is more than just a job, it’s a lifestyle. You have to start with love, or you won’t finish.

Instead of Seeking a Job, Create a Job

Especially in such an uncertain job market, the job you want may not be available or might not even exist. However, as an entrepreneur, you have the power build your business however you want it. You can also take advantage of the fresh start by creating your business for where the world is going, rather than where it is today. Best of all, you get to be your own boss! You can be the captain of your own ship, rather than the crew of someone else’s.

You Don’t Have to Be a Business Student

If you’re not a business student, that doesn’t mean you can’t start your own company. At the end of the day, you learn more through doing than you could ever learn through school, and this especially rings true for entrepreneurship. Challenge your own thinking and expand your definition of what a business person is. Artists, writers and performers can all be business people too. There is more than just one way to do business, and the best way to start is by trying.

Failure Isn’t the End of the World

The fear of failure can hold a lot of people back from taking the leap to start their own business. Feeling anxiety about failure is natural, especially when the “right” path isn’t already laid out for you. When you start a business, it is entirely possible that you might fail, but it’s also possible that you might succeed. One of the skills that entrepreneurs have to hone is the ability to handle this kind of uncertainty. The only time that failure is guaranteed is when you don’t try at all. Rather than approaching failure as the end of a project, look at it as an opportunity to learn and improve.

Put Yourself Out There

Regardless of whether or not you’re planning on starting a business in the future, networking is key. Spend time outside of the classroom. Meet new people and talk about ideas. When you’re starting a business, you don’t need to know everything about how you’re going to do it, but you do need a dedicated team of people that believe in a common idea. You also need to know how to convey your idea in order to recruit the right people for your team. As you share your idea with others, you are opening up opportunities for more people to come to you. As Ricardo McRae on the panel poignantly stated, “it’s better to have beers and get B’s, than to get straight A’s”.