How Entrepreneurship Changed Me
"The best way to learn entrepreneurship is to do it. So I did." By Jennifer Melom
Before I took Intro to Entrepreneurship in college, I didn’t know how important entrepreneurship could be.
One class lesson changed the way I viewed entrepreneurship and how I saw the world. Problems are now opportunities that I have the power to solve! It didn’t happen through a lecture, a book, or homework. I learned this through a hands-on activity. The Nice Center at NDSU believes that the best way to learn entrepreneurship is to do it, and that is exactly what we did.
The Entrepreneurship Challenge
Entrepreneurship changed me first when I took my first entrepreneurship course in college as an elective.
On the first day of class, we were given an activity-based assignment. Divided into teams of four, we were challenged to build the tallest free-standing structure.
The professor gave us twenty sticks of spaghetti, a yard of tape, a yard of string, and a marshmallow; the pinnacle of our glorious structure. She gave us 20 minutes.
We pooled our analytical minds and spent most of our time planning and figuring out what kind of structure to build. We then began assembling, and just before the time ran out, we placed the marshmallow on top.
To our surprise, it toppled over.
This made me wonder, had our life experiences and college education up to this point failed us? As I looked at our sad pile of tape and broken noodles, I felt embarrassed. Then, looking around, I noticed half of the class had met the same fate.
With some dismay and a small feeling of relief, I saw most of the other structures were awkward and barely held up their marshmallows.
The Empowering Lesson
Our professor asked us, “Who do you think was the most successful in this challenge?”
It wasn’t CEOs, lawyers, or business students. It was kindergartners. “Of course,” I thought and laughed. “How humiliating!” The kindergarteners learned to start with marshmallows. They tested the weight of the marshmallow, built prototypes, and improved their designs through trial and error. Designer Tom Wujec’s TED Talk perfectly explains their brilliance.
Through this hands-on activity, I learned the importance of entrepreneurial thinking and creative ideation. My experience and education had not failed me, I just had to realize that the problem-solving process matters just as much as developing a solution.
Instead of explaining the lesson, the professor made us work through the task. Without that, I wouldn’t have learned why prototyping and iterating are so important. When our structure collapsed, I wondered what I could have done differently to make it work. It motivated me to learn. If we had started with the marshmallow, we would’ve known that it needed additional support.
We wouldn’t have wasted our time and energy on a plan that was doomed to fail.
Entrepreneurship Empowers through Problem-Solving
This experience may seem trivial, but it brings us to the reason I joined the Nice Center. Before this, I was not a fan of the idea of entrepreneurship. There were aggressive stigmas around entrepreneurship like school dropouts, large investments, and high-tech breakthroughs. Though this can be part of some people’s stories, in its simplest form, entrepreneurship is problem-solving.
I want to empower students to understand problems and to identify solutions to solve them. I want more young people to take responsibility for their own lives and the community around them, in the same way, entrepreneurship inspired me to take responsibility for my own life direction. Thanks to my exposure to entrepreneurship, I landed a job as the first intern at a start-up company, became involved in Fargo’s innovative tech culture, and took significant steps towards my own long-term goals.
Our Moonshot: 95 by 25
The Nice Center at NDSU believes that the best way to learn entrepreneurship is to do it. With a moonshot goal of exposing 95% of high school and college students to entrepreneurship by 2025, we plan to integrate Nice Idea into schools to reach these students. Nice Idea’s activity-based entrepreneurship program teaches students the competencies of problem-solving, opportunity mindset, iteration, communication, and many more. Entrepreneurship empowers students. These are skills students will use in their everyday lives; more importantly, beyond high school.
The program consists of four 1-hour lessons that are completely free and can be ordered here. After teachers have ordered the Nice Idea facilitator and participant kits, our team supports each classroom! We are equipped to travel to schools across eastern North Dakota to facilitate all of the Nice Idea lessons. A new curriculum can be difficult to implement- our lessons are simple, flexible, and we’re available to make them that much easier.
The Nice Center at NDSU has a mission of entrepreneurship for all, so our materials and facilitators are completely free to ensure that every student has this opportunity.
Header photo by Grand Farm at Innovation Day