What do science and engineering students need to help them become entrepreneurs?  Coming from an engineering background myself and surrounded by engineering colleagues who have 100 brilliant ideas a day, I asked myself what is it that stops us from going forward with these ideas? What do we need to help push us along into entrepreneurship? 

1. Showcase of Success Stories

All of us know those kids who seemed to always have a knack for business.  They were the ones that sold lemonade on hot summer days, not outside their home, but along strategic money making locations such as the canal on Sunday bike days.  They were the ones that weren’t forced to organize their old toys, but the ones that persuaded their parents to let them organize a garage sale so they could take the proceeds.  I was not one of those kids.  I was the one that was motivated by the accomplishments of others.  Seeing peers and colleagues succeed has always encouraged me to try harder, work harder, and take more risks due to their great examples. 

Agencies showcasing success stories from colleagues, alumni, etc. brings home the reality that ideas do not have to stop at the idea stage.  That with some hard work and a plan, an idea can actually conceptualize into reality.  If others have done it, so can you.  

2. Mentorship

Let’s assume you have decided entrepreneurship is for you.  You’ve read the books, surfed the web, gone through some case studies, spoken to some friends.  But what you really need is a mentor.  Someone to shadow, work with, and ask questions to.  Someone to guide you along in your uncertainty.  A valuable asset would be to have an agency that could help connect budding entrepreneurs with volunteer mentors. 

What this also does is force a new entrepreneur to decipher what his immediate needs are.  In a co-op job, you employer could be your mentor.  But in a work environment, you are being told what needs to be done.  You follow along and try to be a sponge, absorbing all the knowledge, small or big, that comes your way.  

A volunteer mentor would not be your employer.  They are volunteering to help you and therefore one would not want to waste their time.  In this case, the mentoree must force himself to define his need.  This step alone is very beneficial.  A mentor will be able to then shorten the time it takes to gather that information/experience.

3. Network to meet complementary associates

There are some scientists and engineers that are just not interested in business.  They have technical ideas that are very good, brilliant in fact. But they are not business inclined, nor do they want to be. This is when networks that allow people of complementary skills to interact become handy tools.  Take a technical genius and a business savvy individual – bring them together and great things could happen.  But in school, engineers hang with engineers, business students with business students.  It’s just the nature of how classes are set up.  Providing a milieu for cross-degree graduates to meet and interchange ideas is another example of what is needed for the development of entrepreneurship in the region.

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