20: The Path of a College Entrepreneur

20: The Path of a College Entrepreneur

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Campus Chronicles

The Path of a College Entrepreneur

Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.

~Arthur Ashe

8:05 A.M. March 5, 2007: Washington, DC

Jumping down from the top bunk in my freshman dorm room, I feel a rush of excitement. Immediately I remember how early it is and that I should avoid waking my roommate. But there is so much to do! I need to call members of the team to confirm plans for today. I need to contact the farm and make sure all is organized for the truck to navigate through the narrow streets of Georgetown. Mark Toigo is personally driving the Toigo Orchards products down to supply our first delivery.

We have over eighty orders... not bad for the first day. Our group of eight should be able to handle those, right? But wait, Georgetown’s off-campus deliveries might be harder. I’ll call two friends to stand by as backups.

I need to brainstorm a solid marketing pitch for our service. When people see us carrying bags of fruit and ask, “What is Mission Three?” I need to be ready with the perfect explanation: “Mission Three is a fresh farm delivery service... and it’s called Mission Three because our three values are Health, Environment, and Community.” A month and a half ago, on the back of my pre-calculus notebook, I had drawn out ideas to create a partnership with local farmers and deliver their products to students. Now the concept is becoming reality.

10:07 A.M. August 3, 2007: Taipei, Taiwan

What on earth am I doing in Taiwan? It’s so crazy to think that after six hours of work in the library, we wrote and submitted a fifty-page business plan to an international entrepreneurial contest. We are now presenting the company in our second foreign country this summer — the only American team here, and one of the youngest.

With a slight glance back, I think to myself that the Mission Three booth looks so much better after the improvements we made. In Panama it was decent, but nothing like this... custom banners showing our values, a quality image backdrop of Toigo Orchards, M3 canvas bags, the three of us in M3 shirts and even some Taiwanese fruit to show our efforts to always “keep it local.”

I’m nervous about presenting the company to a panel of Taiwanese judges. I was told that our holistic approach might not jive with Asian sentiments. Nevertheless, I’ll be content regardless of the outcome. I’m so glad that Julia, our head of philanthropy, is here to do the presentation with me. We can’t go wrong when speaking from the heart about helping local farmers and offering affordable, healthy products to students.

9:56 P.M. November 16, 2007: Washington, DC

Running up the red brick staircase near the center of campus, I feel overwhelmed. The thought of finishing my business stats homework for my 8 A.M. class doesn’t faze me. Mission Three is what’s really on my mind; especially the daunting thought of the meeting that I just left. I think about how well the Georgetown team has done since we moved to restructure the company, but how stressful the whole thing has been. We have maintained well over one hundred weekly subscribers to our service, but each team member has had a difficult time balancing challenging classes with coordinating a delivery service.

I think about how significant tonight’s meeting was, for the simple reason that it adjourned with all of the team leaders’ resignations. I had loaded them with too much work and too much responsibility. I had failed to spread out the workload down the chain.

I am concerned about next semester. What will we do? We have a great website. We have another location starting at Loyola. But this is our home base. We can’t lose it. We can’t throw in the towel. We have to make it work. I have to make it work.

I think back to a little over a month ago when a good friend from home passed away. I had to coordinate many people to fill the gap I left when I departed for the week. I remember how much I believe that a good leader should never ask of his workers what he would not do himself, but also that good leader should know how to delegate and teach others. I now realize the extent to which I have not done enough of the latter.

10:30 P.M. May 6, 2008: Washington, DC

Opening the grand doors of the McDonough School of Business boardroom, where Mission Three is now able to meet, optimism fills my mind as I see our team members gather around the table. I initiate a discussion about the new website for our newly branded delivery service. I think about the future of the service: our new Georgetown team, the one in Loyola, and my hopes to position the service so it can serve more students with more products.

Finally, I move to the last item on our agenda, the discussion of a new concept. After a few nights of passionate, philosophical conversations followed up by copious diagrams and charts to explain the idea, I try to present it simply: an ethical consulting service focused on the areas of Health, Environment, and Community. Looking around the room, I see mixed expressions — excitement, confusion, and apathy. I decide to explain a bit more: it’s an ethical auditing service, whereby students are trained as consultants to analyze businesses and work with the business owners to set goals for improvements and create transparency for consumers. The expressions around the room are now a bit more relaxed and pleasant. I take that as a sign that perhaps it could work.

5:14 P.M. October 2, 2008: Viña Del Mar, Chile

Sipping a cup of coffee with my Chilean host family, I think about the multiple Skype calls I need to make tonight. I’m eager to get started on work now, yet I haven’t been able to spend a lot of quality time with the family. Also, I could use more practice speaking Spanish, so I’ll stick around at the table a little longer.

My excitement stems from the three services now under Mission Three, each at different stages, everything strongly moving forward. M3E Consulting now has fif-teen team members and after receiving an award grant, it recently finished consulting its fifth client. We’re launching a new college bike rental program called BorrowBike, and I am now at the drawing board with a new long-term concept: the establishment of a DC-based entrepreneurial incubation program that will offer an incredible learning experience to aspiring entrepreneurs.

Yeah sure, with these three endeavors I’m logging in more hours to Gmail and less to sleep, but that is to be expected. As far as studying in Chile for the semester, I have no regrets. The rich experience of being abroad is proving to be cultural and engaging. In fact, being out of the country, I’m finally learning the thing I never did quite well enough before: how to delegate. Our three services have depended on it and this truly has become the team endeavor that I always hoped for.

I feel a sense of accomplishment and joy, having had this experience at such an early age. However, at times it has been hard to backtrack and just be a student when I feel as though the entrepreneurial world is calling. Purely from a time management perspective, I have been challenged and stressed. At times, I have sacrificed my studies for my business interests. At times, this has left me desperate to find a way out and wishing that I had created a less complicated college life.

When I started Mission Three, I knew that this endeavor would provide me a remarkable hands-on learning experience; it definitely has. I have learned more about myself than I ever could have imagined. There were times along the way when my passion, commitment, and endurance were tested. Times when things looked bleak and when I considered giving up. I’m glad that I didn’t.

I have come to realize that a college entrepreneur follows a path with many twists and turns. The most valuable results are not what lie at the end of that path; they lie in the journey it takes to get there.

~Arthur Woods

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