by Elizabeth Ng (Singapore)
These days, everyone is going to business school. “Management”, “Communications”, “Advertising”, and even “Human resource” have all become breezy catchphrases that roll off the tongues of diploma and degree holders alike. What you don’t hear so often, however, is “I started a business while in school.”
As I neared the final chapter of my undergraduate life, Technological Entrepreneurship presented just such an opportunity to me. I had not expected to start a business in the class; indeed, the thought that I would start one, ever, had not even crossed my mind as more than a fleeting, faraway, possible life path. The course was new, and I’d bid for the module (with all the school dollars I had left, no less) with only the knowledge of who the instructor was and a hazy expectation of textbook theories. “Identifying opportunities” seemed like a good way to theoretically prepare for the working world.
Class began. And, from the get-go, we were plunged into the deep end.
“Think of YOUR own business idea…” “Be ready to put it into operation in a few weeks!” “What’s your business plan? Your marketing plan?” “Your website is a little confusing…”
We charged into the fray of the technological entrepreneurship world armed with nothing but Powerpoint slides, generic templates of business models, and a bubbling pot of half-baked ideas (that would soon prove their nascence in shape-shifting like undecided chameleons). We debated the viability of various business concepts, and undertook roles nobody would ever have pegged us for. Me, a finance officer? Sure, I’d overseen the running of the class treasury back in secondary school, but my forte and interests had always been the humanities. Coming up with a valuation model? Mice had never scampered away from trap-cheese so quickly.
But it’d caught my interest after all. Even if it was something completely alien, even if it promised a different brand of homework in this last semester that could completely flip my grade…I wanted to try it. To see what it was like, being in-charge, building the fort, and holding it down. If I’d joined a corporation after graduation, as I’d vaguely envisioned, I would never have this experience anyway.
The mentorship of Professor Pamela Lim proved to be a guiding life-buoy, making the classroom more of a middle-ground between the academic and working world. We would not have been exposed to the this-and-that of the industry otherwise. Practical advice and ongoing critique to streamline our business was extremely helpful, and so were the deadlines set.
For first-time entrepreneurs, there might have been a very real chance of procrastination or hurdles in the form of not knowing where to retrieve information, but we were steered—with a decisive and positive will—towards learning and trying, and then learning more and trying again. No relevant knowledge? Waste no time in finding out. Didn’t agree with a team-mate? Work it through, and keep it together. Smaller impact from marketing than we’d hoped for? Personally tag friends, relatives, or random friends of friends to spread the word.
I daresay that from this class, “Starting a business” no longer seems to be a distant and scary monster. And it’s definitely shaken me out of the glassy-eyed corporate drone mentality. If there’s one thing I’ll take away with me, it’s that if one really wants to, one will definitely be able to succeed. To all the people who have come through this unique course with me, and as a reminder to myself: Have a strong will, think as you run, and never be afraid of failure or setbacks! We’ll get to where we want to be for sure.