Entrepreneurship and the Epidemic: Why you may be closer to becoming an entrepreneur than you think
Over the last two months, students across the world have experienced profound changes - not just in their daily lives, but also in how they think about their futures.
In my role as an entrepreneur in the education sector, I’ve spoken with many students over the last few weeks about how they are adapting to these changes. Their optimism and resilience has been extraordinary, but many have also expressed concerns about a future which may now look remarkably different.
Entrepreneurship as a mindset
What has really struck me is that this time has encouraged all of us - whether directly involved in entrepreneurship or not - to flex our entrepreneurial muscle. I see entrepreneurship as much less about creating and growing businesses, and much more about a way of seeing the world - a particular way of approaching obstacles and seeking out chinks of light which might signal emerging opportunities.
So much of entrepreneurship is about being able to quickly respond to change, to spot new opportunities for growth and learning in unexpected places, and to be able to rally those around you to go on that journey with you.
In adapting so rapidly to such change - from moving to online learning, to not being in your normal classrooms every day, to not seeing your friends and teachers in person - you have all demonstrated this entrepreneurial spirit. Every time since March that you have done something new and faced it with optimism rather than resistance, every time you have found a creative way of solving a problem, every time you have cheered up a friend or teacher with a positive message or word of encouragement, you have embodied the mindset of an entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurship on your own terms
Entrepreneurship can sometimes feel like something which is quite removed from our daily experience. I wasn’t interested in becoming an entrepreneur early in my career because for a long time I associated entrepreneurship with many things I didn’t see in myself - boundless confidence, a high appetite for risk, a natural ease with numbers.
But then I discovered that entrepreneurship was about so much more than these things. I also realised that many of the things which I thought perhaps excluded me from this club - a tendency for introversion, a resistance to taking big risks, a personal commitment to placing people above profit - could become hallmarks of a brand of entrepreneurship which was uniquely my own.
I realised that entrepreneurship could be whatever I wanted it to. And so it became a vehicle which allows me to pursue causes that really matter to me, in a way which feels fast-paced, dynamic and collaborative.
Exploring your brand of entrepreneurship
For those of you who might be interested in further exploring and developing your entrepreneurial skills and your own unique brand of entrepreneurship, here are a few suggestions:
- Explore your why: Much of entrepreneurship is figuring out what really matters to you, and becoming excited about how you could play a part in solving problems you care about. Think about the things you get really impassioned about - topics you really enjoy when they come up in lessons at school, campaigns you might follow on Instagram, items on the news which generate a real response in you. Those moments of feeling agitated or moved by a problem are a very good indicator of the kinds of problems you might be interested in solving. You don’t necessarily have to identify THE problem you might want to spend your career solving - for many entrepreneurs this is a realisation which unfolds over time. But consider committing a little time - 30 mins over a weekend perhaps - to starting to explore what this problem could be for you.
- It can be global or personal, or anything in between: It’s also important to say that this problem doesn’t have to be a big global issue. It could be something directly related to your own experience. A wonderful entrepreneur I know started this amazing company because he was concerned about his father receiving the kind of at-home support he needed. Sometimes the most personal problems can be the most powerful entrepreneurial drivers. Have a think about any problems which might sit closer to home - could these be issues you might consider solving in an entrepreneurial way?
- Dip your toe into the world of business and entrepreneurship: Often it can be tricky to get a sense of what entrepreneurship is like until you start to speak to people who are entrepreneurs. Lockdown has seen the development of many amazing resources for young women who are interested in exploring entrepreneurship. This recent event, organised by a fellow GSA school, has an amazing selection of resources from a range of inspiring female role models - many of whom are entrepreneurs. Since lockdown, I’ve been working on an amazing venture with Oxford Scholastica to develop and launch a virtual summer school in a matter of weeks, which has been an extraordinary experience in putting our entrepreneurial skills to the test. One of our flagship courses is Business and Economics - it’s been hugely gratifying to enable students from all over the world to step away from the current uncertainty, develop their interest in business and have seminars with remarkable entrepreneurs tackling pressing global issues.
I hope these suggestions perhaps nudge you to explore what kind of entrepreneur you might want to become, and the kinds of problems you might want to use entrepreneurship to solve. I hope they also cause you to reflect on how you may be further down this path than maybe you thought. I had planned to write a very different blog for you about how you could use lockdown to start to really hone your entrepreneurial skills. But the truth is, in the very act of enduring lockdown, you already are.
A former A Level teacher of Politics and Economics, Joanna Cruse is an entrepreneur, consultant and speaker. She is currently education consultant to Oxford Scholastica Academy and leads on their new venture development.