I’m glad to report that overall, our pedagogical approach to teaching entrepreneurship at Sprott School of Business (Carleton University) is working well and bearing fruit.  Students are excited and engaged.  They are creative, resilient, collaborative and motivated to work hard and succeed. Lots of enthusiasm and energy too!

I have to admit that I was a bit weary of introducing a lot of new business approaches to teaching entrepreneurship but it turned out to be a very good move.  We want our students to ‘live’ an entrepreneurship experience, not only ‘learn’ about it.  We obviously do not expect all students to start their own company while still in school (but some do and are quite successful at it!). Essentially, the expected end game of our entrepreneurship offering is for students to either own a high-growth startup within three years after completing their bachelor degree, or to work for a startup or an organization that fosters entrepreneurship.

I’ve been teaching three entrepreneurship courses this academic year, all essentially revamped from previous years or new.  Within our entrepreneurship programs, we have ensured a logical path and have aligned content across our entrepreneurship offering so that students can progress from ideation to business creation and implementation.  We have capitalized on new business thinking and methods –  ideation, business model generation, value proposition, early validation –  using material from Steve Blank, Bob Dorf, Eric Ries, Osterwalder & Pigneur and many others. We are using a blended learning environment, making learning an individual as well as a collaborative learning experience.  Our assignments are part and parcel of the development and implementation of their business opportunities.  We have also offered high quality workshops from people in the trenches, and have mobilized our entrepreneurship ecosystem, within and outside of Carleton University, to support our student entrepreneurs.  Our brand new Carleton Accelerator is now up and running and we are celebrating successes!

Peer-to-peer learning is an important aspect of our entrepreneurship pedagogy. That last aspect in fact never ceases to amaze me…. students are really willing to help each other out and share their best practices, insights and lessons learned. So on this last note, I’ve asked my students to share their reflection on successes and setbacks in developing their business opportunity.  This is not a superficial reflection but rather an in-depth coverage of the challenges and successes in applying what they have learned in this course (and previous entrepreneurship courses) to their business opportunity.  Essentially a ‘memoir’ of sort for the next generation of student entrepreneurs.

I am looking forward to reading their reports!

stay tuned….

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Comments
  1. Matt Brown says:

    I’ve spent the last four year battling to survive through my undergrad and start a business while doing so. In which I have been fortunate enough to have founded two companies and have had a successful exit from one. Being an entrepreneur major I found myself throughout the past four years with the straining need to start the next great thing and to make a difference in how people go about their everyday lives. In my second year, Introduction to Entrepreneurship class, I got the first taste and the first kick in the butt to get moving on something, leading me to launch my first company Boast Technologies Corp. Although an amazing first taste of the startup world, the enterprise software world was not my calling – in which I shifted my focus to my current startup- Carsify. Here I can make a meaningful impact on people’s lives every day through improving the car buying and selling process.
    As a Sprott School of Business student with a concentration in Entrepreneurship I have been exposed and studied the mechanisms of entrepreneurship for the past four years throughout many different courses. The past four months have been dedicated to my Practicum in Business Creation, working with Professor Diane Isabelle, the Lead to Win program and very closely with four other like minded young entrepreneurs. The practicum course has been amazing in my development as an entrepreneur through my exposure to a close group of individuals to brainstorm as well as an exposure to professionals lecturing through open and interactive sessions during the Lead to Win presentations. The opportunity to speak with, listen to and cultivate solutions to business problems in an open setting provided great feedback to my business which I could often apply throughout the week and provide updates the following week on progress.
    The best part about these lecture series and workshops have been the strong focus on marketing, branding and sales. As a group of students fostering high growth startups the relevance of information and the ease of implementation in many aspects helped my business very much. By applying simple tools and steps in a sales process you can get by those things that you hate and inevitably put off day after day – such as cold calling for sales. A task that few like and fewer are good at, can be improved by many simple things. The certain aspect I improved on was the solidification of my elevator pitch over the phone along with creating a daily/weekly quota of calls I required to do in order to increase my sales pipeline.
    Throughout the past four months I have also gained some credible advisors who have been amazing at lending an ear and a piece of advice when I needed it. The best piece of advice I had gotten throughout the semester, was to stop sitting around and planning on what I wanted to do – and to actually go out and do it. Today we live in a world where the ‘Lean Startup’ is very real. For a little bit of effort you can have an operational business working on a minimal viable product, which in my favour started and created sales for me.
    Overall, I’ve been doing the student-entrepreneur ‘thing’ for three years now. I’ve learned and grew a tremendous amount as an individual . One thing I certainly would have changed was my attitude towards the services available to entrepreneurs, and especially young ones. There are a plethora of options and people there to help you start your business and to help you and I was very much blind or ignorant to these services. If I could do everything over again, it would be to be much more open to these services in regards to accepting the help no matter how large or small the contributions are.
    One thing in particular I have prided myself on, is the network of knowledgeable individuals I have introduced myself to and have gotten to known over the past 4 years. I believe that as an individual and as a business you are only as strong as your network – which is something that I have built a very strong one. I believe that by surrounding yourself with smart, knowledgeable and supportive people you will become a better person yourself as well have the ability to build bigger and better businesses.
    I’ve somehow made it through the past four years of my undergrad degree and will be finishing up with some summer courses online. If there is one thing that I would share with future incoming generations of entrepreneurs- it is to not sit around and wait for an opportunity, but instead to go and capture one yourself, if you build your own business and do something you love, you will never have to work a day in your life. If I can do it, so can you.

  2. Shannon says:

    It all started with BUSI 2800, where I learned what seems painfully obvious now; that your company should solve a problem/pain. The bigger/more painful the problem, the better.

    When the idea for RepairQuote.ca came to be, I was especially attracted to it, as I felt it solved various serious problems for both sides of my market: For consumers, it would solve the issues of trust, more specifically: Which repair shops were trustworthy? And a secondary issue of price: What price range is fair for this type of repair? For repair shops; it would bring them more customers, perfect.

    I was off, I was incredibly confident in it working exactly how I had imagined it. It was the perfect idea, it needed no changes, I was going to be a bajillionaire. Then I took BUSI 3810. Sitting in the class I learned the entire process of validating an idea through the business model canvas: fascinating. No problem I thought, I’ll just drop by a few mechanics and have them confirm what I know is right. I was wrong, some mechanics had issues with it, pointed out flaws, things I needed to change, and I learned my first lesson:

    Assume nothing until validated by your customer, preferably definitively through them using/purchasing the feature/product, but a solid “yes that’s awesome” would have to do for me in this case. Ok, no problem! Now I knew what I had to change, so I did, and I was like, a few weeks away from being a bajillionaire, mom, dad, put in your retirement requests it’s happening!

    I just needed to find a developer, someone who could make me this awesome amazing website/app. Since it was my idea, I had thought of it all by myself and I knew exactly what I wanted it to do, why would I give away equity? I’m just going to hire some developer and he’ll make it and then it’ll be done and that’s it forever and ever and I don’t have to worry about the technical side ever again. Boy, was I wrong. For about 2 months, a program I was a part of (Hatch), stalled on finding me a developer that they would pay 1/2 for, which in the end turned out to be an absolute blessing.

    I proceeded to present my idea in BUSI 3600 – BUSI 3820, and over the two – three month period had it shot down, ripped apart, and bombarded with criticism. This criticism was constructive of course, but sure felt horrible. I must have gone back to the drawing board over 30 times in that 2 month period, changing aspects of the process, how it would work, etc. How RepairQuote works now is completely different to how I had first envisioned it. If I had gotten a developer on time, I would have a web app that was useless, and would have spent a fortune making iterations on it.

    Lessons 2 + 3 were learned very, very quickly: Number one was that your technology product will never ever be finished, and when you are following agile development, the most important thing to embrace is change, you will change everything from the feel to the function, and this is going to be incredibly expensive without a tech co-founder.

    Lesson 3: Following from lesson 1: Validate everything, every, single, little, thing, over, and over, and over. Some mechanics didn’t notice some problems my professors did, some professors didn’t notice some problems the mechanics did. I for sure did not notice either problems, as I had tunnel vision. SHOW EVERYONE AND ASK EVERYONE WHAT’S WRONG WITH IT.

    So, I decided due to this, I needed a tech co-founder, no problem, how hard could this be? I met with four individuals to chat, and quickly realized that getting into a partnership with someone is just that, a relationship, I would be spending more time with this person than most girlfriends I’ve dated (This may be a testament to why none of them ever stuck around very long – haha!). I couldn’t get along with any of them (the developers that is). Coming from a psychology/sales/business type background, I am very social, and read into peoples body language and tone of voice deeply. For me, communication takes place outside of the words that are said, and for the developers I met, this was the exact opposite. I was met with one individual who’s language tone was borderline disrespectful, and another individual who confessed he couldn’t code a drop down menu. Rats, these two weren’t going to work. So I moved on, and the last two were just as socially awkward. On the last day of classes me and a few fellow class mates went to the pub for pints with Steven Davies. At the time one of my classmates who I hadn’t chatted with all semester approached me and asked me about my idea etc, and told me he was a full stack developer. I was intrigued but thought nothing of it, I offered to pay him to find me a good dev, to which he refused. He offered to “throw something together over the weekend” if I was up for it. I thought, sure, why not? Never did I imagine I would end up becoming great friends and business partners with him. After the weekend he showed me what he had, and I was blown away.

    I immediately offered for him to join my team, which he refused based on other commitments. Eventually, he agreed, and we got to equity talks. Remember though, it was “my idea my idea my idea my idea my idea” so I was thinking like %20 equity. He wanted %35. After chatting with people we settled on %49/%51, as we both enjoyed working together and decided in the future we would go 50/50 on any new ideas. To this day I am happy with my decision, and I have learned lesson 4: Your idea is worth nada, zip, zilch, zero. You don’t deserve any more of the company because it was your idea, and you want someone there to share the responsibility (and wins), of the company anyway. Give up half, you’ll get along better, and they’ll be more encouraged to hustle!

    Now that it was under development, it was time to start selling it. Oh the cold calling, how rough this was. I’m a pretty social guy, who can sell, but I still hold a strong love/hate relationship with cold calling to this day. Randy’s sales workshop helped with this, but I truly believe my ability to sell has improved based on practice, Rowland’s specific advice, and Jason Daley’s experience and advice in selling himself.

    Now that we are getting closer to launching and have been talking to many shops, I have began discussing prices with repair shops, and have realized they are leaning more towards a bit lower of a price range per month Lesson 5: refer to lesson 1: Validate Everything!

    Also, we have run into various roadblocks and issues as neither myself or Jordan know the industry very well. Lesson 6: Find someone who is an expert in the industry, and bring them into your team. We are lucky to have found a mechanic who is willing to work with us, so we will be able to figure out the kinks… eventually.

    Lesson 7: Whatever you’re trying to do is going to take 10x more time and 10x more work than you initially thought. Plan accordingly.

    Overall, I believe the idea is a winner and over time we will make it a huge success. If I had to do it again the things I would change would be:

    – Deeper validation of every single aspect prior to running with the idea
    – Bringing on a tech founder from day 1
    – Maintain communication with the repair shops during the development phase, as I feel we alienated some by leaving them out of the loop of what we were doing
    – Find a mechanic to help with the actual idea generation, and how the app itself will function.

    Other than this, I would keep almost everything the same, the most notable things I feel we have done very well on are:
    – Networking: Many doors that have led to funding and various opportunities have come from knowing the right people, and being friendly. I personally like to approach everyone as if they have a sign around their neck that says “make me feel important”. If you make them feel important, they will remember you.
    – Tech development: We have been able to find a great first employee, and our tech stack is great. We use the best stack for iterations, and Jordan (my partner), is a wizard with agile development.
    – “Just doing it”: Jordan and I have both encountered situations where it looked hopeless, whether it be a cold call, maintaining a relationship with a colleague, or breaking through a technical problem, we have persevered and it’s always paid off big time.

    Overall, taking the entrepreneurship classes at Carleton and launching RepairQuote.ca has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever experienced.

  3. Greg Dillon says:

    It’s funny; I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. From operating a cliché lemonade stands as a child, to being a DJ in my youth, I always looked for some sort of opportunity to capitalize for myself as never enjoyed the authority of working for someone else. My first year out of high school, I attended University of Ottawa for Business and after failing a few classes lead to low self esteem and lack of passion, I decided to move out west to go skiing. As much fun as that was, after a year of ski bumming, I knew I wanted bigger things and moved home to discover some possibilities. I met with a Carleton University academic advisor and explained that I’ve always wanted to work for myself but post secondary educational institutions often foster the exact opposite. Once the advisor explained that there was an entrepreneurship minor I knew I had to give it a chance. What a great decision that was.
    What’s interesting is when I told a few of my parents friends that I registered for entrepreneurship the majority of them responded with the likes of “how can you teach entrepreneurship, either you are an entrepreneur or you’re not”. To some extent I agree with this, the passion and mindset is up to the individual; however, I always argued that the lessons and fundamentals accompanied in the education certainly would benefit anyone, especially someone without start-up experience.
    The first major lesson of entrepreneurship I learned was in winter of 2014. My first class in the minor, BUSI2800 was the course that introduced various concepts and practices that entrepreneurs should strive to utilize. Going into this class, I had a stubborn mindset that as a future entrepreneur, I would do it all on my own. I was slightly greedy, maybe a little proud, and wanting my business, whatever that may be, to be my own. For the term project of BUSI2800 our professor dictates who your three other group members are based on the Myers Briggs personality test. Little did I know that my 3 unfamiliar classmates would actually become my cofounders. When our idea of Props, a mobile application that facilitates connections over all mutually shared social accounts with a new contact, came to mind as one of our 50 business ideas required, we knew we were going to use it as our final pick in the class. The realization of the importance of a diversified team came when Brayden, one of my group members turned cofounder, actually produced a functional prototype for the class to demo. I knew with my absolute lack of programming skills it would have taken me months to learn and build something half as decent as what Brayden did in a few weeks. Although this is the primary example I turn to when I discuss the importance of teams, it is certainly not the only time it has made sense. A well diversified team will get things done better and faster than a single minded individual.
    This semester Diane organized us to be able to attend Lead to Win seminars. Sitting through three hour lessons with experts in the fields of online marketing, law, accounting, and sales, provided invaluable insight to aspects in the industry. Most notably the legal and accounting seminars made me aware of how much can go wrong without the right help. I believe simply the magnitude of new information provided in those seminars made me aware of how unknowledgeable myself and my team are in certain areas. Hiring a professional is often times the best way to get things done, although it may be expensive, the benefits of being able to focus and grow aspects of one’s business that they know best, outweighs the financial savings of stumbling over aspects they don’t.
    Networking; if you’ve attended post-secondary education, you’ve likely had this word pounded into your memory. Although I realized networking was important, I didn’t realize how important until doors began opening. If I were to get absolutely nothing else from Carleton University, I would leave with a diversified and valuable network through people I have met in and out of class. From grants to friendly advice and everything in-between, I feel as if I have now no someone who can at least point me in the right direction if not do it themselves.
    One aspect of entrepreneurship that I still struggle with today is company evaluation and equity dilution. We have had great success with giving away equity, and almost great failure. Before Props launched we almost made a deal with a private investor. Looking back, the amount of equity we were ready to give up for a fairly small investment would have been probably one of the worst mistakes we could have made. Yet bringing Josh Garellek, CEO of Arctic Empire, on for equity to develop the application may have been the best decision we’ve made. His ownership of the company guarantees that he wants success rather than just delivering a product. Josh’s ongoing support has gone far beyond what we have expected. Now, post launch, we are faced with the need to raise more capital. Chasing grants has shown to take too much time away from the company for the lack of success, finding the right private investor is difficult and tedious, and bootstrapping is slow and painful. The lesson learned here is that dilution of the company is so dynamic and unpredictable that it is difficult, if not impossible, to say I have learned the right or wrong way to do so.
    A major aspect learned through the entire process of launching Props is that individuals outside of someone’s company will almost always have a different opinion on what should be done and how it should be done. Meeting with experts and advisors, we almost always come out of a meeting excited about the new direction or ideas we have collectively constructed. After the excitement wears off however, we quickly realize that some of meeting A’s ideas contradict meeting B’s. At the end of the day an entrepreneur needs to realize that everyone will provide you with advice and direction, it’s how you filter and apply that advise that will make it work. Props is my company, and although I tremendously respect those who are willing to help, there is always a point where I need to put my foot down and make my own decisions regardless if they support or offend others views.
    Most importantly, through all of my current experience I have learned that the biggest and most important lesson an entrepreneur will learn, are the lessons associated with just going out a doing it! I’ve always said that the biggest roadblock to anyone is themselves. If motivation, inspiration, or drive is lacking, you likely will not succeed. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I have been lucky enough to experience through the Carleton Entrepreneurship program has provided me. I’ve met amazing people, learned unforgettable things, and received access to invaluable resources; nonetheless, the real world will chew you up and spit you out faster than anyone can image, or reward you by turning dreams into realities. So if I can make a final recommendation it is to do just that, and go out and try. Taking Carleton’s Entrepreneurship program is the best decision I’ve have made in my career life as I can say without doing so, Props would not exist, I would not have the network I have now, and I would be completely reliant on figuring it all out on my own. The tools I have been equipped with through education have served me excellently in the real world and I thoroughly recommend the program to anyone who wants to supplement their “tool kit” in their journey of becoming an Entrepreneur.

    Additional lessons
    – If it makes sense for your business, incorporate and incorporate early. It’ll add credibility and be necessary for most grants.
    – If you’re a student with an idea, and the ability to manage your time, start a business. There are more opportunities for student entrepreneurs than anyone else. The world wants to see students succeed.
    – Take advise from people who like/love you with a grain of salt, often times they are bias. Sometimes it hurts, but a brutally honest person will be more useful than someone who tells you what you want to hear.
    – Give back! I have now been a guest lecturer and sat on a panel for a few of my professors. Not only is it fun, but you can meet other bright students and shamelessly plug your own product for a relatively large and attentive audience.

  4. One of the most important lessons I feel I have learned so far on my own journey of startups is that starting a business is more then just getting an idea and fulfilling it no matter what anyone says to you because you’re an entrepreneur right, you don’t take no for an answer especially when it is your idea and you know your right. That’s just how we are, or maybe just me but I learned that it is more then just that. Sometimes, when you feel you have the perfect idea, you get soo excited, cant stop thinking about it and when it makes sense in your head you want to start fulfilling it and doing it before someone else does. Trying to be the first one there, you start planning, rushing through decisions, and when something doesn’t make sense you somehow convince yourself that you have solved it or start thinking about the good things and forget about that the “iffy” things. I realized you miss a lot of the steps and in the end after a lot of time wasted you figure out your idea isn’t what it really was because some sort of validation proved it or after you spent your hard work, time, and money you realized it doesn’t work or someone beat you there and does it better then you. This is what happened to me in my second start up, Payinguin. I learned validation is huge in starting a business and I will tell you why. When it comes to new products, or in my case, a mobile application, by definition you’re making assumptions, sometimes a lot of them. You need to validate your key hypotheses and assumptions as early as possible. Some of your assumptions are going to be wrong. If the ones you get wrong are significant, you’re not going to be in business for very long and it took me time to understand that. Validation will help you avoid the most common problem of them all, spending time and money building something nobody wants. If you ever come across a failed product, chances are that it was based on an idea that the founder was hooked by or found cool and interesting, rather than something that solved a real pain point for real people. Validation forces you to get in touch with your users, which could save you the pain of building a product/service that is hard to use or understand. If you figure out that you’re headed down the wrong path, it’s also easier (and a lot cheaper) to change course sooner rather than later and, it’s all the less likely that you’ll have to pivot later. That gets me to my next lesson learned; your idea never stays the same and your always pivoting even if you don’t realize it. When I first started this course, Payinguin was an application that paid users real money for viewing local businesses advertisements. Then it changed to giving users credits to use at the businesses advertisements they viewed, and then it changed to allowing users to use only 50% of their credits on a purchase. Its crazy how much your business changes and evolves through the course of a few months. I guarantee if you ask majority of startups what there idea was exactly 6 months ago, they will tell you its changed soo much more after working on it. Especially after launch, you will feel your constantly changing your idea, refining it, or its opened doors to something you had no idea it would. In my first start up http://Www.VenomMotorspotsCanada.com, I had the idea of bringing a real life looking motorcycle for kids aged 12-16 to play on and ride around their neighborhoods, ones that look and feel like a big sport bike, but small enough and easy for them to ride; something I always wanted as a kid. After importing my first model, my sales took a long time to start coming in, but when they did, they started rolling. I had so many calls asking if my bikes were street legal….street legal I thought? I thought my bikes were for kids? I had teenagers, even dads calling me about my bikes….they wanted to put them on the road and ride them! My target market went from kids aged 12-16, to teenagers and dad’s aged 18 and up. My idea went from having a toy to play and have fun with, to making a means of transportation for people. Its crazy how idea’s and businesses change over time and as an entrepreneur you have to come to accept that.

    Another lesson I learned from our entrepreneurship courses is the importance of a business plan. Wow, I never knew how in detail it gets you to talk about your idea and analyze each and every aspect of it. Although I do have a first start up, I completed my first business plan ever this year with my second startup, Payinguin. It got me to take my idea and literally pick each and every aspect of it and think about it more clearly. It allowed me to think more about what I was doing and where I was headed. I credit my business plan for helping me understand a brand-new industry in an extremely deep way before actually entering it, and for forcing me to deeply examine how we would fit into the market and what Payinguin’s probability of success was. That is another thing I have learned to come and accept as being an entrepreneur; you don’t always succeed. Me, I am a very competitive person so when I fail at something I take it really hard and that is one quality I am learning to overcome and I recommend all future entrepreneurs to do so. After understanding my market, validating it, and analyzing each and every aspect, I am not sure if I will proceed with my second start up that I started this semester with Diane. I found out I jumped into things quickly and I assumed the world would love and use my idea just like I pictured it. It took a big toll on me, making me feel as a failure as an entrepreneur and honestly sometimes question myself I still wanted to be heading down this road and questioning my first startup and if I should even continue doing that. It got me feeling down and realized I was just stressed but after a few days it got my thinking; if I had never gone ahead and actually attempted this idea I would have never knew how it would have turned out and always question myself if that idea was going to take me to the top. I learned a lot from pursuing this business and that itself is the best lesson learned; the experience that comes with it is priceless and allows me to be smarter in my next business idea and avoid the mistakes I did with this one. This course got me to start a business; it was really “hands on” and one of the best classes at Carleton. I 100% recommend it to anyone thinking about being an entrepreneur or have an idea and want to see how it will roll out after looking at it in detail.

    Overall, if I could do it again, I would validate my idea right from the beginning instead of assuming and jumping ahead of the steps in starting a business. Creating a business is not a 1-2-3 step process, its soo much more then that. It takes dedication and time, and the one thing I would change if I could is to actually try and pursue my business idea from the beginning of the year and have more time for all the steps involved, rather then trying to launch and grow a business in 4 months. The one thing I would keep the same is the workshops offered in the course, there very informative, and actually provide information about the real life things we are facing today or will face in the future. Inbound marketing by Alysha Dominco and Sales 101 & 102 by Rowland Few and Randy Whitecroft were by far the most useful for me! I had no idea how important SEO is to the growth of an online business like my first start up and how to properly close a deal through cold calls and emails. Defiantly information that is going to stay with me for a lifetime and information I am going to pass on!

  5. One of the most important lessons I feel I have learned so far on my own journey of startups is that starting a business is more than just getting an idea and fulfilling it no matter what anyone says to you because you’re an entrepreneur, you don’t take no for an answer especially when it is your idea and you know you’re right. That’s just how we are, or maybe just me but I learned that it is much more then just that. Sometimes when you feel you have the perfect idea, you get so excited, can’t stop thinking about it and when it makes sense in your head you want to start fulfilling it and doing it before someone else does. Trying to be the first one there, you start planning, rushing through decisions, and when something doesn’t make sense you somehow convince yourself that you have solved it or start thinking about the good things and forget about the less certain things. As an entrepreneur, you realize that you missed a lot of steps and in the end after a lot of time wasted you figure out your idea isn’t what you wanted it to be because some sort of validation proved it or after you spent your hard work, time, and money you realized it doesn’t work or someone beat you there and does it better than you. This is what happened to me in my second start up, Payinguin.

    I learned validation is huge in starting a business and I will tell you why. When it comes to new products, or in my case, a mobile application, by definition you’re making assumptions, sometimes a lot of them. You need to validate your key hypotheses and assumptions as early as possible. Some of your assumptions are going to be wrong. If the ones you get wrong are significant, you’re not going to be in business for very long and it took me time to understand that. Validation will help you avoid the most common problem of them all, spending time and money building something nobody wants. If you ever come across a failed product, chances are that it was based on an idea that the founder was hooked by or found cool and interesting, rather than something that solved a real pain point for real people. Validation forces you to get in touch with your users, which could save you the pain of building a product/service that is hard to use or understand. If you figure out that you’re headed down the wrong path, it’s also easier (and a lot cheaper) to change your course sooner rather than later and, it’s all the less likely that you’ll have to pivot later. That gets me to my next lesson learned; your idea never stays the same and your always pivoting even if you don’t realize it. When I first started this course, Payinguin was an application that paid users real money for viewing local businesses advertisements. Then it changed to giving users credits to use at the businesses advertised that they viewed, and then it changed to allowing users to use only 50% of their credits on a purchase. It’s crazy how much your business changes and evolves through the course of a few months. I guarantee if you ask the majority of startups what there idea was exactly 6 months ago, they will tell you its changed so much more after working on it. Especially after launching, you will feel your constantly changing your idea, refining it, or its opened doors to something you had no idea it would. In my first start up http://www.VenomMotorspotsCanada.com, I had the idea of bringing a real life looking motorcycle for kids aged 12-16 to play on and ride around their neighborhoods, ones that look and feel like a big sport bike, but small enough and easy for them to ride; something I always wanted as a kid. After importing my first model, my sales took a long time to start coming in, but when they did, they started rolling. I had so many calls asking if my bikes were street legal; street legal I thought? I thought my bikes were for kids? I had teenagers, even dads calling me about my bikes, they wanted to put them on the road and ride them! My target market went from kids aged 12-16, to teenagers and dad’s aged 18 and up. My idea went from having a toy to play and have fun with, to making a means of transportation for people. Its crazy how idea’s and businesses change over time and as an entrepreneur you have to come to accept that.

    Another lesson I learned from our entrepreneurship courses is the importance of a business plan. I never knew how in detail it gets you to talk about your idea and analyze each and every aspect of it. Although I do have a first start up, I completed my first business plan ever this year with my second startup, Payinguin. It got me to take my idea and literally pick each and every aspect of it and think about it more clearly. It allowed me to think more about what I was doing and where I was headed. I credit my business plan for helping me understand a brand-new industry in an extremely deep way before actually entering it, and for forcing me to deeply examine how we would fit into the market and what Payinguin’s probability of success was. That is another thing I have learned to come and accept as being an entrepreneur; you don’t always succeed. Personally, I am a very competitive person so when I fail at something I take it really hard and that is one quality I am learning to overcome and I recommend all future entrepreneurs to do so. After understanding my market, validating it, and analyzing each and every aspect, I am not sure if I will proceed with my second start up that I started this semester with Diane. I found out I jumped into things quickly and I assumed the world would love and use my idea just like I pictured it. It took a big toll on me, making me feel as a failure as an entrepreneur and honestly sometimes question myself if I still wanted to be heading down this road and questioning my first startup and if I should even continue doing that. It got me feeling down and realized I was just stressed but after a few days it got my thinking; if I had never gone ahead and actually attempted this idea I would have never knew how it would have turned out and always question myself if that idea was going to take me to the top. I learned a lot from pursuing this business and that in itself is the best lesson learned; the experience that comes with it is priceless and allows me to be smarter in my next business idea and avoid the mistakes I did with this one. This course got me to start a business; it was really “hands on” and one of the best classes at Carleton. I would 100% recommend it to anyone thinking of being an entrepreneur or have an idea and want to see how it will roll out after looking at it in detail.

    Overall, if I could do it again, I would validate my idea right from the beginning instead of assuming and jumping ahead of the steps in starting a business. Creating a business is not a 1-2-3-step process, its so much more then that. It takes dedication and time, and the one thing I would change if I could it again is to actually try and pursue my business idea from the beginning of the year and have more time for all the steps involved, rather then trying to launch and grow a business in 4 months. The one thing I would keep the same is the workshops offered in the course, there very informative, and actually provide information about the real life things we are facing today or will face in the future. Inbound marketing by Alysha Dominco and Sales 101 & 102 by Rowland Few and Randy Whitecroft were by far the most useful for me. I had no idea how important SEO is to the growth of an online business like my first start up and how to properly close a deal through cold calls and emails. Definitely information that is going to stay with me for a lifetime and information I am going to pass on.

    Mostapha Hijazi

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