Members of the Hollins community recently engaged with an internationally recognized thought leader in entrepreneurial mindset education to refute some of the conventional wisdom about launching a new enterprise.
Gary Schoeniger, founder and CEO of the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative training and consulting firm and co-author of the bestselling book, Who Owns the Ice House? Eight Life Lessons from an Unlikely Entrepreneur, spent two days on campus exploring with faculty and students the role of entrepreneurship in society and how entrepreneurs derive joy and meaning from their work.
“Our overall objective is to dispel the myth that entrepreneurship is solely the pursuit of building businesses,” said Karen Messer-Bourgoin, professor of practice at Hollins and director of the university’s Entrepreneurial Learning Institute. “Combining a traditional liberal arts education with an entrepreneurial mindset can help distinguish Hollins graduates by equipping them with the attitudes and skills the world now demands to help solve the most complex social, political, economic, and environmental challenges of our time.”
During his faculty workshop, Schoeniger identified specific interdisciplinary concepts that help cultivate entrepreneurial thinking and learning not only in the classroom but throughout the university and beyond. “I’ve never thought of entrepreneurship as a business discipline. I’ve always thought of it as a behavioral phenomenon,” Schoeniger explained. “We are all born with an innate drive to become all that we can become. We’re naturally curious, that’s how we figure out our environment. We also are born with an innate desire to solve problems.”
Messer-Bourgoin added, “The goal of the faculty workshop was to stimulate a deeper understanding of the entrepreneurial mindset and promote entrepreneurial teaching and learning in the classroom.”
In his discussion with students, Schoeniger described entrepreneurship as “an altruistic paradox. You want to benefit (personally) but you also want to make an impact (on others). Entrepreneurs aren’t just inventing new products and services. They’re solving problems on the micro and macro levels, from the smallest and most mundane issues to things that change the world.”
Schoeniger encouraged students to go out into their communities, talk to entrepreneurs, and find out “how ordinary people identify, evaluate, and bring an idea to life. I promise, you’re going to hear interesting stories. After you do that 20, 50, 100 times, you’ll hear common language, common logic, and common situational factors, patterns that transcend time, socioeconomics, and gender.”
Those conversations, Schoeniger said, will often lead to the crux of how entrepreneurs achieve success and reach fulfillment: the articulation of a compelling goal, which he calls “something that’s gripped you, something you’re thinking about all the time. Because if you don’t have a compelling goal, you’re never going to get to be who you are. The entrepreneur chooses the life they want to live. They don’t just allow their circumstances to dictate their lives.”
Schoeniger’s message resonated with Zahin Mahbuba, president of Hollins’ Entrepreneurship Club. “The entrepreneurial mindset is not just a business problem-solving mechanism. It is a lifestyle that transpires change-making in society,” she said.
And, Hollins undergraduates are embracing that mindset. One who attended the student workshop noted, “I want to take social entrepreneurship home to make a difference in my community,” while another remarked, “I always thought that being an entrepreneur meant dealing with profit and coming up with business plans. The key to becoming an entrepreneur is making yourself useful to others.”