I went to a TiE event weeks ago, a CEO round table discussion on entrepreneurship strategies during rough times (Creating a Great Company in Bad Times) – a topic that has been the theme of many a seminar, round table, and article for the last couple of months.  

Weeks later, the one story that stuck in mind is Kirk Hoppner’s (President and COO, Nautical Lands Group) antidote about his first business venture.  In high-school Kirk bought a hot dog stand (thanks to some bank VC funding) and began a business of selling sausages.  By the time he was in university, the cart had grown from one to many.  One day he woke himself from a dulled state in one of his university classes did a quick calculation to find that he made more from his hot dog carts in a matter of weeks then the professor currently putting him to sleep made all year.  And so he picked up his stuff and walked out of the class, out of university, and continued his ride in the world of entrepreneurship and business. 

A month later I’m asking myself why this story stuck in my mind.  Well, first it’s an entertaining story.  Secondly it’s so different from my personal experience that it had to stick.  I think my parents would have disowned me if I had walked out of university so close to graduation.  Also, Kirk’s “jump right in” attitude is inspiring and so different from my experience.  Here I am wanting to get into business, but my road has been “let me learn as much as I can first”, which led me to a masters in Engineering Management and into the TBridge program.  But I’m a firm believer in learning form doing, so Kirk’s method of jumping in makes more sense to me than waiting till I have all my information first. 

Which lead me to my third observation.  If a person is risk averse to begin with (which I think I am – it must be genetic) and they want to get into business – does education support them and lead them to become entrepreneurs, or does it just serve to increase their  awareness of ALL the risks and hardships and therefore makes a person more risk averse?  

I’m obviously hoping it’s the first case and that education will help arm me against the war that is business, but I’m starting to think that the second cycle might have some truth to it.  So what I’ve taken away from Kirk’s story is that you’re never to young to start.  And he reminded me what I already knew but have not been applying with respect to business: you learn more by doing, start young, having experience in someone else’s business does not necessarily gear you up to start your own, and education will only get you so far.    Conclusion?  Don’t wait for a degree to take the risk! 

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