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WOW!  I am re-energized after spending an afternoon at the ASU Changemakers Start-up Forum.  As a new mentor at ASU SkySong I was asked to attend the forum and spend some time talking with budding entrepreneurs.  I really had no idea what to expect, but I thought if I could impart some of my experience in helping these people further their business careers that it would be time well spent.  I am so glad I accepted.

Let me start briefly with the state of entrepreneurship in Arizona, at least from my perspective.  We have a lot of ingredients stirring in our entrepreneurial soup but we have not brought it to a sufficient boil to develop an eatable dish.  If you look at the leading places of venture capitalism, Austin, Texas as an example, they have something we need to strive to achieve in Arizona.  It is a close partnership between the University of Texas, the government, and the business community.  Because of the effective and efficient processes they have developed, Austin has become an incubator for business and a magnet for venture capital funds.  I believe ASU SkySong is a great start in the right direction, but it is only a start.

What I learned this weekend was that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and thriving at ASU in general, not just at SkySong.  I met with people just starting their college careers through seniors who are considering starting their own businesses.  The questions I got surprised me for their level of sophistication and in one case the type of questions being asked.  One female student particularly struck me.  Her questioning was from the emotional perspective in starting and running my own small business.  She asked about support mechanisms to deal with stress, family support and working with employees.
I was honest, it isn’t easy and stress is something you will encounter and will need to deal with if you start your own business.  I explained that one difference in owning a business versus working for someone is that when the stress builds you can’t just walk away.  So you better go into it with your eyes open and be prepared to deal with stress.  This student’s last question was the most interesting to me.  She wanted to know how a women in business should deal with men to fit in.  I won’t go into what I told her here, but what a fascinating question for a budding entrepreneur to ask.  I believe this individual will be successful in whatever she decides to do in life.

I also met an amazing young man from Africa who started a business to help villagers identify problems within their villages and then start businesses to solve those problems.  The most immediate needs tend to be agricultural in nature, but available equipment is archaic at best.  He came to the United States to get his business degree, develop a business plan, and identify support resources to take his business to the next level.  No, this student won’t be helping the Arizona community when he completes his schooling, but he is a great example of the spirit of small business development being fostered at ASU.

We should all be excited about this spirit, but we cannot be complacent.  We all have a stake in the success of these efforts.  Arizona can no longer expect tourism and growth to be the base of our economic growth.  Eighty percent (80%) of Americans are employed by small businesses.  It is time for us to support the local community development of these businesses in any way we can.

As a friend, and mentor, likes to say….nuff said!

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