From Mark Zuckerberg and Evan Spiegel to Facebook and Snapchat, students are diving into risky business and embracing an entrepreneurial mindset in hopes of discovering the next transformational application or company.
There are around 165 million early stage entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 to 25, according to the 2011 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Report. Around 90 percent of the youth, surveyed by the Young Entrepreneurship Council, understand the importance of an education in entrepreneurship. However, almost 75 percent of college students reported the lack of availability of entrepreneurship resources on campus.
“Northwestern could be doing more things curriculum-wise to get more kids involved, because it seems like right now the students are driving entrepreneurship on campus,” said Weinberg junior Oskar Melking, executive offficer of Northwestern Student Holdings.
Northwestern has a total of 12 undergraduate student groups dedicated to business and entrepreneurial efforts, such as EPIC and NSH, said Megan Everett, the assistant director at the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Northwestern.
This is in stark contrast to Babson College, which the U.S. News and World Report ranked as the No. 1 college for entrepreneurship. Babson College boasts 95 entrepreneurship organizations and clubs.
“Babson has got a really holistic view on education with regards to entrepreneurship,” said Babson freshman Jeremy Cai. “It takes all the realms of what we think of entrepreneurship and trains people to become entrepreneurs.”
Although Melking and other students know Northwestern cannot reach a Babson-like status of all day, everyday entrepreneurship, they hope the University can incorporate more entrepreneurial aspects within its curriculum.
“There’s definitely an opportunity to develop the entrepreneurial programs more and get inspired by some of the other schools,” he said.
With more students reaping the benefits of entrepreneurship and joining the Forbes 30 under 30 list, the interest in becoming the next changemaker has been gaining momentum.
“There’s been a change in the public view of entrepreneurship as a profession or as a life choice after college,” said Weinberg sophomore Connor Regan, incoming CEO of Project Cookie, a student-run business within NSH. “It’s changed a lot from an undefined type of career that is risky.”
NSH, a hub for NU companies, hopes to serve students and the surrounding Evanston communities by providing basic necessities like dorm essentials or tutoring services. Since its founding in 2007, NSH has grown from two businesses to a total of seven companies, including Project Cookie, with a revenue of $350,000 per year.
“The best way to learn about businesses is to run one yourself,” Regan said.
Regan believes Northwestern is already heading towards heightening entrepreneurial activity with the multi-pronged programming offered at the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Ford. The Farley Center allows students to apply their engineering skills to real life business enterprises, promoting innovation and the creation of prototypes. It not only provides group-oriented entrepreneurship classes, but also an undergraduate certificate for entrepreneurship and funding for student groups.
According to the Kauffman Foundation, two-thirds of U.S. colleges and universities offered a course in entrepreneurship in 2013.
Hannah Chung (McCormick ‘12), co-founder of Sproutel and Design for America, attended multiple technology seminars about innovation and design at Northwestern in order to learn about entrepreneurship between 2010 and 2012. While at Northwestern, there were very few clubs centered on free enterprise, yet Chung still optimized her time by creating a business model prototype for Jerry the Bear, an interactive gaming system for children with Type 1 diabetes, during independent study courses.
“Coming up with an idea in school was helpful because you’re in a really safe bubble,” Chung said. “As students, you have a lot of access to funds, professors and experts and are able to apply for grants.”
After creating Jerry, Chung established her company that supplies interactive games for children struggling with chronic illnesses. Chung, like Melking and Regan, emphasizes the importance of college students’ fostering a sense of entrepreneurship, in order to appreciate the value of risk and ambiguity.
“We’re making more and more progress towards the fact that this is a really good opportunity to change the world and possibly make it big,” Regan said. “You can be the next Mark Zuckerberg, but not if you don’t try.”