Finding Momentum in the Turning Points: The Entrepreneurial Journey
For my personal project this past February, I decided to study different entrepreneurs to create a web connecting their common traits. I started with the problem statement, “how might we better understand what makes an entrepreneur and communicate our findings to young and upcoming entrepreneurs?” To complete my research, I developed a project plan that worked through the Design Thinking process, from empathy to share, using different Design Thinking tools. Above is a picture of my project plan and this link shares my Google doc for your reference.
I started in the empathy stage using the interview and dig deeper tools. Through interviews I learned a lot of topical information from my interviewees, such as the positions they held and the responsibilities their positions entailed. However, after our initial discussions that touched on information lying above the surface, I dug deeper into their lives and found substantial insights. The stories I heard from these different entrepreneurs were intense and demonstrated huge amounts of passion and hard work. After completing my interviews, I developed three different personas that represented three different types of entrepreneurs I’d connected with. The first was a shy student who had big dreams of working only for himself. The second was a woman who had to deal with climbing the ladder in a man’s world. And the third, was a creative who hated being held down by the man.
Moving on to the define stage of the Design Thinking process, I began by synthesizing all the information I’d gathered from my interviews to understand the needs and insights that led to my subjects’ success. What I found was there’s no easy path to success in the entrepreneurial world, and it often takes an existential turning point in one’s career to propel he or she into entrepreneurship. We all know there’s no way to avoid hardships in our lives, especially relating to our career paths, but what I found during my interviews was that we are in control of how we access these hardships and utilize them to our advantage. After synthesizing this information I reframed my problem statement and came up with “How might we take turn-for-the-worst events and make them into critical points of inspiring momentum – leading to a promising career in entrepreneurship?” It was then time to generate ideas.
For the Ideate stage, I used the tool show n’ tell to turn my different interviews into life stories representing the many hardships each entrepreneur went through while building their careers. I presented these stories to a peer who was working on a similar project concerning entrepreneurs and collected her feedback. We thought it would be a cool idea to compile these stories and share them with others interested in the entrepreneurial world. To make my story more concise, I decided to focus in on three particular interviewees that best represented each persona I’d created. I then decided I would create a presentation with these three specific stories to present to San Diego State faculty and students at this year’s Student Research Symposium that was held in March.
My prototype for my idea was a simple power point that presented each entrepreneurs picture, name, and job title. Their names and job titles were the only words on the slides, so my audience wouldn’t be distracted while I was presenting each story. Below is a picture of my concluding slide that features the three entrepreneurs side by side.
To test my idea, I shared my entire presentation with a few peers who were also presenting in the symposium. Their feedback was very positive and encouraged me to move forward to the final stage of the process- share.
In the final stage of the Design Thinking process, I shared my presentation with San Diego State faculty and students at the Student Research Symposium in March. Hopefully there were a few upcoming entrepreneurs in the audience that found themselves inspired by my presentation and were encouraged to continue their entrepreneurial endeavors despite the hardships they may face. Or maybe, there was even someone in the audience who never even considered being an entrepreneur until they heard the stories of these other entrepreneurs and thought, ‘Hey that sounds like me.’ Below is a picture of my official SRS badge.
So regarding my original question of “How might we take turn-for-the-worst events and make them into critical points of inspiring momentum – leading to a promising career in entrepreneurship?” my answer is this:
It’s the struggles and failures that build the strong character needed to be an entrepreneur, and sometimes the best thing to do is embrace the turn-for-the-worst events in life, rather than running from them. Also, we are social beings and when we have support, be it from a mentor, spouse, or friend, we are only open to more opportunity.
There’s no one defining term or characteristic that makes an entrepreneur, but two common traits I found among my interviewees were serious grit and a strong desire to overcome any obstacle encountered. Also, I noticed how when it comes to being an entrepreneur, it’s not always a choice. Sometimes you don’t decide to be the entrepreneur, the entrepreneur decides to be you.