Women Entrepreneurs Leading the Way

mug that states the future is female


Women Entrepreneurs Leading the Way

By Emily Touch

Historically speaking, entrepreneurship has been a male driven enterprise. However, with women empowered to create their own businesses, that is rapidly changing. When looking at overall entrepreneurship in America (small and medium sized businesses) in 2019 a new report shows that they account for 44 percent of U.S. economic activity”, and women founded ventures played a vital role in that growth. It’s important to note there have been several factors on why women have not been key in driving this important aspect of the economy forward in the past, but that has changed. In 2020 women are playing a larger role, starting more businesses, raising more money, and inspiring their younger counterparts to follow in their footsteps.

When you look at the importance of empowering women to launch their own endeavors it becomes obvious that on the global scale, societies who don’t empower women are falling behind and will not be able to catch up, as we see in parts of the Middle East. Even in modern and developed Western societies we have a long way to go. The same goes for funding, where women are severely underrepresented, particularly in raising venture capital from male VCs. Below we’ll highlight some of the reasons why driving women’s entrepreneurship is so important for the advancement of not just business, but of society as a whole and feature some of the role models in this space moving the needle.

The economy and popular culture

We publish content on this site for everyone, regardless of their gender affiliation. The reason we’re looking at the macro perspective is because rebuilding the US economy after COVID-19’s impact is not just about keeping a standard of living but also because entrepreneurship is an American value. While a glass ceiling does still exist in many industries such as in Big Tech, (which is ironic given the values many of the leaders of the industry endorse) women entrepreneurs can create their own opportunities and cultures, based on their views and skills.

According to this CNBC article, in the United States the number of women entrepreneurs is 11 million and “women are currently majority owners of 38% of U.S. small businesses, up from 29% in 2007, with these businesses employing nearly 9 million people and generating more than $1.6 trillion in revenue each year.” While that number needs to grow it’s much better compared to other countries. This is an interesting area as you see more women in political leadership roles in places like Western Europe. Nonetheless, Europe still lags in general entrepreneurship compared to the United States.

In a nod to popular culture, television shows like Shark Tank showcase the range of ideas (along with many bad ideas that are television worthy as well) of what American entrepreneurs are capable of accomplishing. The show is popular because Americans love and understand the importance of the lone cowboy/cowgirl creating the next big idea that reflects many of the values we live by. Lori Greiner, a serial entrepreneur also known as the “Queen of QVC” and one of the infamous Sharks has made a name for herself as a personality on the show alongside well-known male investors such as Daymond John and Mark Cuban.

Greiner, who built her fortune with retail and direct to consumer businesses, made an investment in Scrub Daddy, one of the show’s most successful ventures. It is a testament to the success of women entrepreneurs (and investors) when women like her and real estate entrepreneur Barbara Corcoran are prominently featured on prime-time television.

Empowering the youth

We need role models that Zoomers (Gen Z) can look up to. Half a generation ago names like Bezos or Musk did not mean anything, but now they are the leaders who have built society- changing companies. The biggest challenge–and this is particularly notable in underprivileged areas–is the lack of role models, or heroes, in order to inspire young people of what is possible. Young people need to see others who are like them overcoming the same odds. This is true for women role models as well; if all that young women see are men entrepreneurs succeeding, they will ask themselves if it is indeed possible for women to succeed at the same level.

When it comes to larger than life personalities, who serve as role models for young women to emulate, Sara Blakely is the leader. Not only is she always showing up in the most authentic way, she is also financially supporting women entrepreneurs, particularly now during the COVID-19 crisis. Young women need someone who is reliable, and who “gets them.” Spanx, the wildly popular line of undergarments that Blakely created, and the story of how she got there are inspiring. In addition, Blakely relates to her audience with her active use of social media to promote a message of resilience with quotes like “ideas, even million-dollar ones, are most vulnerable in their infancy; don’t share them with too many people. However, don’t hide your plan from people who can help you move it forward.”

Taking leadership roles

Women have different perspectives in business and as such their leadership roles steer the ship of major companies. There are examples of women in politics and increasingly in leadership roles at Fortune 500s, but entrepreneurship plays a unique role in the business world. For the fact it is so hard to build and maintain a successful startup turned company, people who have executive roles in these types of organizations must be particularly gritty and versatile.

An example of a woman who is leading one of the most successful tech companies in history is Sheryl Sandberg. Her role at Facebook is not without controversy, particularly regarding Facebook’s role in the 2016 US Presidential elections. That is not necessarily a bad thing as the COO of Facebook is being held to the same high standards which her male counterparts in Silicon Valley are. While there has been a backlash against Sandberg and Facebook in general, it is worth taking a step back to think about the society changing company she built alongside Mark Zuckerberg.

Showing that Millennials and Zoomers can do it

Millennials and now Zoomers (if you’re a student at UConn that’s you) have a bad rap for not taking the initiative and being self-entitled. There are also plenty of bad role models of tech entrepreneurs who exhibit eccentric and wild behavior. A lot of the negativity hurled at the younger generation is typical of how older generations sometimes look at youth. The reality is with the world only getting more unstable, continued ecological and environmental erosion, and the long-term ramifications of the pandemic, Zoomers are inheriting a complex and challenging world.

We like to measure business results, and this may be a controversial and unpopular choice but Kylie Jenner is an example of a Zoomer which parlayed not just fame, but a following on Instagram and Snap to become the youngest self-made billionaire in history. As a society we are living in an era of extreme fame in which we are bombarded every time we scroll through our social media feed. Understanding social, user behavior, and truly knowing your audience, is a key entrepreneurial trait that Jenner exhibited. It’s not about who is the most loathed or revered in the media, but rather using the tools at your disposal.


This is a buzzword these days, but there is merit to this idea. It’s shocking how bad we humans are at decision making, and having a different viewpoint is key in helping us make the right decisions. This has become so important for corporate governance that leading investment banks such as Goldman Sachs are mandating diverse boards. The reality is the world has changed and we need to widen the tent to include women (as well as people of color.) When we look at the landscape of entrepreneurship soon it will be led by those from diverse backgrounds and women.

Who is a better example of this than Oprah: not only did she overcome childhood trauma, her early forays into television were not successful. Before she was the iconic brand that she is today she had to build herself up, without help and without any role models to whom she could aspire. Entertainment is one of the most difficult industries to break into, and to consistently succeed at. Oprah has not only maintained longevity, but she pioneered the idea of a personal brand and has been able to reinvent herself and remain relevant year after year.

For the United States economy to get back on track, it’s not enough for some businesses to get stimulus checks. What we need is a focus on engaging and bringing up women entrepreneurs in order to build this decade’s successful businesses. It is important to highlight the accomplishments of successful women who have been trail blazers in order to inspire the next generation of women entrepreneurs who will help rebuild this country.

VentureWell Grant: Up to $25K to Student Innovators

Students teams that are developing an innovative solution to a social, environmental, or health challenge can take the first step in applying for an E-Team Grant by submitting a brief executive summary for the E-Team Qualification Phase.

Apply for the Qualification Phase (Due March 24)

The Qualification Phase offers early validation and customized feedback on inventions that align with our mission to solve the world's biggest challenges and create lasting impact. Selected teams will receive an invitation to advance to the next stage of the program, where they can unlock up to $25,000, along with the essential entrepreneurship training they need to advance their product.

Over 600 teams in the past year have taken advantage of the Qualification Phase as they move their innovation from lab to market!

Submission Deadline:
Date: March 24th, 2021 (03/04/2021)

Start an application now

Program Information

  • Selection for the Qualification Phase will be communicated on a rolling basis to teams who submit an application by the March 24 deadline.
  • Stage 1 applications are due on May 5.
  • View our FAQ to learn more about the Qualification Phase and how to apply for an E-Team Grant.
  • What goes into a winning grant application? E-Team Program Officer David D'Angelo offers great tips to help teams submit a competitive proposal!
  • For questions about the E-Team Program, contact David D'Angelo, Program Officer.

Sustainable Community Food Systems Student Panel

SCFS Student Panel

SCFS Student Panel Poster

Sustainable Community Food Systems Student Panel Showcase Event

Sustainable Community Food Systems Student Panel Showcase Event.

About the Panel

The Department of Service Learning is hosting a student panel event for one of their minors, Sustainable Community Food Systems. The panel will consist of student alumni discussing their scholarship within the minor and the opportunities the minor presented them with both professionally and academically.

How to Participate

The panel will be hosted through WebEx and will take place in the first week of the Spring 2021 semester. For more information, visit the SCFS website at

To register for the event quickly, fill out the following Google Form:

Student Health and Wellness Healthy Habits Challenge

Student Health and Wellness Points Challenge

A challenge to build healthy habits for student health and wellness

About the Challenge

Student Health and Wellness would like to present the Wellness Points Challenge! This is a challenge to motivate students to develop healthy habits or be rewarded for those that do. The goal is to increase student wellbeing through an incentive process. Once you sign up, you will automatically receive a free laptop sticker. After that, you just submit a photo of yourself (or your ID) engaging in a healthy activity to earn points. The more points you have, the more prizes you receive! The top three point-leaders will each win an additional Amazon gift card, with $100 being the top prize. The challenge will run from January 25th to April 28th for the Spring 2021 semester. All UConn students are welcome to participate, including graduate, regional campus, and online students. Click on the link below for more information and to sign-up!

Registration and more info

Visit the Student Health and Wellness website to get more information on the challenge:

BUILD UConn Internship: Apply Today!

BUILD UConn Internship Infographic

BUILD the UConn you want to see

with this unique internship that lives and breathes entrepreneurial opportunity!

About the Opportunity

Students earn 1-credit for working on a team of three in one of the four subject areas. The experience will be 8 weeks, ending at the beginning of April. BUILD UConn is empowering UConn students, staff, and faculty to create solutions to problems in academia today. The challenge will provide participants with an entrepreneurial "tool belt" and pathway to critically think about and design interventions to improve the education experience. There are five teams each looking for three students.

BUILD the UConn you want to see!


Kickoff Event – 2/9/21
Workshop 1: Customer Discovery – 2/16/21
Workshop 2: Idea Generation & Storyboarding – 3/2/21
Workshop 3: Steps to the Solution – 3/16/21
Final Presentations – 3/26/21

Apply Today!

Visit the BUILD UConn website to apply:

How to manage stress as an entrepreneur (and a student)

man sitting on dock by mountains


How to manage stress as an entrepreneur (and a student)

By Jonathan Frenkel

Dealing with the day to day stress as an entrepreneur or a student looking to excel is tough these days even without the fear of contracting COVID-19. If you’re reading this, you may be young but that does not mean that what is happening in the world does not affect you. Stress is a part of our lives, but not always something that should be avoided, and can help propel you towards your goals. According to the Harvard professor who studies positive psychology Tal Ben-Shahar “the best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.” The reality is that we don’t anticipate a life of ease if we go down the path of entrepreneurship. We seek a life of meaningful challenges in which we work to overcome obstacles along with the process of learning about ourselves in order to find life satisfaction.

Money may lose its initial significance and even become less relevant over time. What you will remember is the journey, what you learned, and how you pushed through the adversity to achieve your goals. Life can be tough, as every major religion and philosophy acknowledges, so you may as well embrace it and, as Nietzsche stated with the concept of “amor fati”, love it!
Sometimes though, life throws situations at us that can prove emotionally overwhelming. Below we’ll cover some of the tools that will help you perform at your best, whether that’s building your first business or working to get good grades as a student. You don’t need to be an entrepreneur to use these tactics, as they are also relevant if you’re working for someone else and could help you excel at the role by managing your stress.

Intense and regular exercise

If there is a turnkey solution in helping one cope with anxiety, manage stress, think more clearly, and create a general sense of well-being, it is exercise. Now, walking and yoga classes are nice and have benefits (which we’ll cover below), but what we mean by exercise is sweating by working your body. That can be weight training, running, CrossFit, bootcamp classes, whatever, but you need to exert energy and get rid of that anxiety by sweating it out. Entrepreneurship is all about maintaining and managing energy levels, and, as this Mayo Clinic article states, “exercise delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and helps your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. And when your heart and lung health improve, you have more energy to tackle daily chores.”

You will discover that after you work out you have more energy. You will also develop keystone habits as you start working out and seeing results. You’ll want to improve on those results, so you’ll be eating healthier. In addition, you’ll be sleeping better thereby improving your workouts’ intensity and general wellbeing and causing a positive upward spiral. If you’re an entrepreneur, you most likely have an abundance of energy so that needs to be managed and focused. There is so much research out there on the mental benefits of exercise in addition to the health benefits such as “sharper memory and thinking. The same endorphins that make you feel better also help you concentrate and feel mentally sharp for tasks at hand. Exercise also stimulates the growth of new brain cells and helps prevent age-related decline.” You also may find that some of your best ideas come when you’re in the weight room or on a long run.


It’s almost become passé at this point as it has gained such widespread popularity, but the fact of the matter is that meditation and mindfulness can help reduce stress. If there was one trait many of the world’s top performers practice, it’s meditation according to the quoted article below by lifestyle guru Tim Ferriss. As he states in this article, “of all the routines and habits, the most consistent among guests is some form of daily meditation or mindfulness practice. More than 80% of the world-class performers I interviewed shared this trait” and that “it is a “meta-skill” that improves everything else. You’re starting your day by practicing focus when it doesn’t matter (sitting on a couch for 10 minutes) so that you can focus better later when it does matter.”

Meditation is hard when you’re first starting out, and it really doesn’t get easier, but it gives you a sense of where your stress comes from as you practice. Once you sit with yourself in a quiet place, you’ll realize all the noise in your head, and start to understand all the patterns and thinking that may not be helpful (and that are holding you back). We live in a society that does not let us get a moment’s break so think of meditation as a “warm bath” for the mind. Getting started is easy with one of the popular meditation apps like Headspace or Calm. Just make sure to put your phone on airplane mode while you’re using the apps, so you don’t get distracted by incoming messages!


A free/cheap way to manage stress is to write everything down. We prefer to type everything on a safe platform such as 750 Words but writing by hand in a journal can be beneficial as well. It may seem like writing won’t help, but once you put all the clutter and anxiety in your mind on paper, it tends to have a calming effect. This is free form writing and helps with mental clarity and improving your thinking. Clear decision making is important for entrepreneurs as they must juggle multiple things at once.
Writing has also helped people cope with trauma and difficult feelings, as well as separating themselves from their thoughts, and understanding that’s exactly what they are, just thoughts. The mind will throw all kinds of strange ideas at you, most of which are not true, and they’re just thoughts. As a personal preference we like to write first thing in the morning with a practice called Morning Pages that helps clear the mind and prepares us to tackle the day. But any time you feel stressed out, take some time to write down your fears and anxieties; you’ll find you come back to whatever problem it is with a calmer mind.

Taking time to walk

While technically “exercise”, walking can also be like meditation (just don’t take your phone). Taking long walks, particularly in the green outdoor environment of a college campus can bring a sense of distancing from one’s problems. The reason this is so powerful is that our ancestors spent so much time walking (on the hunt) and probably used that time to solve difficult and pressing problems.
Many great thinkers such as Albert Einstein, Henry David Thoreau, and Carl Jung spent time on long walks trying to figure out some of the universe's greatest riddles. A good way to think about it is as “like any other cardiovascular exercise, brisk walking boosts endorphins, which can reduce stress hormones and alleviate mild depression.” according to WebMD. Sometimes you just need to take a physical step away from a situation and get some perspective. Taking even a brief walk in nature can help ground you and improve your decision-making process.

What I learned on my journey to entrepreneurship

blackboard with list item - own today


What I learned on my journey to entrepreneurship

By Jonathan Frenkel

It may sound cliché, but building a business really is a journey in which you take small steps every day down a road to reach your destination. For many years I was wandering, and while not all those who wander are lost (as I was still creating content and building my network), I was not sure if I was heading down the right path. In retrospect, when I did finally make decisions regarding my career path it was not opportunities that I sought out, but rather the people presenting them that approached me. I did, however, seize those opportunities and made the most of them. But there was always something incomplete that left me wondering if this was “it”; did I really want to continue in whatever role I was in for the rest of my professional life?

It has been over a decade since my return to the tri-state area from Israel after completing my army service, and before that an undergrad degree from a reputable academic institution in Boston. I cannot say that New York is a great place for an entrepreneur, but it is a place where perfect people who get perfect grades look to level up to their next corporate position. However, there is an energy to the city, and there are opportunities for those who want to seize them. In reflection, I have always been an entrepreneurial type of personality, and some environments are conducive to that while others are not. I cannot say I will remain on the path of running a content marketing agency for the rest of my life, or that it is the summation of my work experience. But there are valuable lessons I have learned that I believe are relevant for those looking to start their own business, whether that be an agency, small business, or startup.

Every task can be broken down

Initially I feel as overwhelmed as anyone else but feeling this way is not going to get me the results I want when I start a project. The most important thing is to write all of it down so that you get it out of your head, and just focus ferociously on the task in front of you. “Focus like a Roman” as the saying goes...for example: if I were going to answer email, I would allocate 52 minutes to it and put on my noise-canceling headphones with focus music. Then I would lock my email so that no incoming mail comes in, and of course, all other notifications would be shut off, and I would complete as much as I could in that time frame.

I am a disciple of “winning the day”, and if you just concentrate on the day ahead, I believe you will be able to move your business forward. I can say that I would need some assistance with a 6-month plus plan, but some lifestyle entrepreneurs such as Tim Ferriss might claim I am missing out on the razor’s edge of opportunity by being too rigid. I would also add that all bets are off during this period as we really do not know where things are headed with the pandemic. That is why just looking at winning every day (completing 3-5 major tasks) is so important and focusing on optimizing the experience.

Consistency above all

This may sound like heresy, but I believe being consistent with content is more important than it initially being ‘good’. This is a hard pill for some to swallow, but you only get good by doing. And the reason most people fail is that they do not actually try. They wait for the perfect post, the perfect article, and they just sit on it. As Sheryl Sandberg famously stated, “shipped is better than done”, or going back to Voltaire, “perfect is the enemy of the good”. The uncomfortable truth is that you are not as good as you think you are. I certainly was not, and I had to produce a lot of content and take feedback to get to where I am today.

You can probably beat most of your competitors simply by showing up every day. Many people get intimidated knowing that their competitors are going to keep showing up and creating content, come hell or high water. That is why consistency, discipline and the resilience associated with these qualities are so important. I have seen this in my own work: I keep showing up, pushing hard, and producing more content while under lockdown. Meanwhile, I see others in my space spending time feeling sorry for themselves and complaining on Instagram, all while generating bad content.

Guard your focus time

I do not think I am a lazy person, but I do not have a lot of willpower, so that is why I set up systems to make sure I win. You only have so many hours of your day to move along what you want to work on. One email or text from a client can send you on a wild goose chase and before you know it, the day is over. For those gurus who just tell you to sit and do it, it is not that easy, and even for the most committed, you need a daily system.
Personally, getting up early, not checking my phone (this is essential), and getting my 1 or 2 most important tasks done first thing in the morning kick-starts my day. That, planning the most important tasks I want to complete, and spending some time thinking and visualizing the night before. This is where the importance of breaking tasks down into their smallest bits are important so that you do not get overwhelmed. If you cannot focus, then you probably will not be able to accomplish that much.

Find a reliable way to make decisions

One of my pet peeves, and what seems to be the one reason many businesses fail is poor decision making. We are irrational creatures, and as countless studies show we make emotional decisions first, then look to justify those choices with “logic”. If you think you are immune to this type of behavior, you are mistaken. Do I think I am more emotional than other people? Perhaps, but my emotions certainly come on strong, and I have learned to create distance between my feelings and actions before deciding.

As the famous Viktor Frankl quote goes “between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” The reality is that you are going to be assaulted by exceedingly difficult emotions when you launch your own business, especially when things go awry, and they will. That is why my daily workout regimen (with plenty of sleep and healthy eating), journaling my thoughts in the morning, and meditation to give my emotions space all help me make clear-headed decisions. I am not saying I always make the right decision, but I feel going into the decision that it is the right one given the information I have.

Persuasion is key, and it is not just about “sales”

What separates those entrepreneurs who can get an endeavor off the ground or raise venture money from others is that they can persuade. When investors state that they love passionate entrepreneurs, it is because they are taken by the entrepreneur’s persuasive energy. That does not mean you need to be a natural-born salesperson. I certainly was not, and I do not think you will be taken as seriously if you are too ‘salesy’, but you need to know how to persuade.

Here are where things get interesting. You can be a persuasive relationship developer (what I focused on when I started), a convincing public speaker, or a good writer. But you need to be good one-on-one, build trust, and be likable, which are things you can learn. Having a skill, product, and service is important but you need to learn how to persuade to have a business. For those who think sales is slimy, it does not need to be. You need to get that out of your lexicon and learn some form of persuasion. Sales ability, in my opinion, is the hardest and purest skill as the results can be measured, but it is a lifelong journey.
Those are my humble views and what I have learned. And in 5 years’ time I will make more mistakes and learn different things, and who knows, maybe I will reverse some of these views. I chose this path, and while I was scared when I started, I wish I had embarked on this journey earlier in life. But it could be worse, I could have started this later in life, and not self-actualized now nor leaned into my truest self. This is my personal journey, and if you have any questions, I would be happy to offer my advice.

Jonathan “Yoni” Frenkel has been involved in the New York-Israeli tech community for many years, mentoring startups on marketing, hosting events connecting investors with startups, and publishing on the topics of tech and venture regularly. Professionally, he heads a content marketing agency, YKC Media, focused on engaging millennials, Gen Z, and tech professionals through written content and social. You can follow his thoughts on Linkedin here.

Academia helping build entrepreneurs

stack of books on a stool


Academia helping build entrepreneurs

By Jonathan Frenkel

We find ourselves in a period in which we are all going to have to row the same boat when it comes to reopening the economy and leading with the next generation of business. What is normal, or what was normal before the beginning of this year is no longer relevant, and things will most likely never return to that state. Additionally, trends that were already progressing have accelerated because of COVID-19, with education being one of the areas that will see the most disruption. The writing was on the wall, and it is something we are going to have to face immediately.

Regarding education and bucking the trends, some of the most successful entrepreneurs either dropped out of college or did not go through the well-trodden path of parlaying higher education to climb through the corporate ranks. For students today that first wave of highly visible entrepreneurs such as Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson normalized the idea that one can build their career via entrepreneurship. While strong academic institutions and learning how to learn certainly helped successful entrepreneurs, we could be entering a period in which a strong academic curriculum could be the difference between success and failure. There are several advantages of enrolling in an academic program before launching your endeavor, whether that be an undergrad degree or MBA. Having a degree could prove to be an advantage as “according to a CNBC/Survey Monkey survey, only 26% of small business owners said they had a bachelor’s degree. Only 17% went to college, 20% graduated high school but did not go to college, and 5% didn’t graduate high school.” Regardless of the hype around entrepreneurs who drop out of school and encourage others to do the same, there are significant advantages to pursuing a degree.

Learning the basics

Many entrepreneurs just go on instinct and look to build from what they know. They keep pushing and learning from their mistakes, and learning from the toughest school there is, the school of hard knocks. Savvy entrepreneurs, however, spend time self-educating and speaking with people who are further along than them. Learning in one form or another is the basic philosophy of many successful entrepreneurs; they are “students of life, for life.”

There is something to be said about learning business by doing, and that has been the #1 criticism of newly minted MBAs: they do not have experience when it comes to the ways of the business world. However, a formalized education in understanding what you are doing could cut years off your learning curve. Of course, programs that are a combination of theory and actual practice are ideal. Theory, and learning how to learn is important as well, and good entrepreneurs learn from their mistakes. There is also the benefit of taking a deep dive into more corporate classes like finance and accounting that many entrepreneurs, unless they are solving problems in that space, would not be exposed to.

Building a network

Whether it is “who you know”, “who knows you”, or another one of Dale Carnegie’s quotes, what really matters is a strong network. Just attending networking events and telling people you are an entrepreneur does not cut it, but there is a lot of value in developing authentic give-first relationships. As the African proverb states “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” It is a part of folklore for a reason: humans need to cooperate with others to build anything of real substance. As this Forbes article states on the importance of building a network as an entrepreneur “growing a network facilitates business opportunities, partnership deals, finding subcontractors or future employees. It expands the horizons of PR and conveys the right message on all fronts.”

It does not matter what point in your startup you are, there is going to come a time where you need to pick up the phone and call someone for assistance. There is a reason Greek life and other organizations succeed on college campuses; the same goes for military service in one’s late teens and 20’s. While business school classes do attract a more competitive type, that does not mean they are a bad place to develop relationships. There are untold stories of startups that came out of undergrad or MBA programs, such as Facebook, Snap, and Warby Parker. Another benefit is the alumni network as well as sources of angel money. Years after you graduate you will be pleasantly surprised by the response you get when you cold email an alumnus from your institution and they reply positively.

Trying out your idea

As we have covered in previous articles, failure can be harsh, and it is something to avoid at all costs when building a company. Do not avoid trying but avoid failing by ultimately pushing through to see your idea to fruition. University programs offer competitions where different teams can compete on an idea. Furthermore, you can start your business on the side, and later go on to grow it. While you are in school, you will be enveloped in a learning environment and can test out ideas in practice as you learn them.

If there is a forum where you can test out your idea, ideally with other people’s money, then go for it. You will learn about yourself, how you deal with pressure, and how you work with a team, ultimately leading to a positive experience. Think of this as bootcamp, and the world after graduation as the battlefield. That may seem harsh, but best to get your feet wet, and learn from your mistakes in a supportive environment such as school. When you get out in the real world you do not know if you will be able to find or create that same environment. Additionally, more programs are working directly with accelerators and VCs, so you will be able to understand how investors think before you even enter the real world.

Exposing you to different ideas and people

People assume when they launch their own endeavor they will automatically be exposed to different ideas and people, but that may not be the case. You may build a business focused on one subset of the population, resulting in a smaller pool of people with whom you will be interacting. We also tend to socialize and learn from people in our immediate circle, thus limiting our exposure to different ideas and people.

Diversity is an important aspect of a college education, and when you are in class with people from different backgrounds you have a chance to interact and learn from them. College creates a safe place where you can make mistakes and have your ideas challenged. Best of all, the cost of making a mistake is much lower than in the real business world. Once you start on your endeavor you will be so focused on the day to day survival of the business you will fall back on old mindsets you did not know you had. That is why being in an academic setting and being exposed to diversity is so important before you launch your business.

You develop a base of skills which will help you succeed

It is likely no one told you how important public speaking and writing are for your business. The ability to communicate effectively is probably one of the greatest indicators of whether you will succeed as an entrepreneur. If you cannot communicate your value proposition effectively and convince your customers to buy the product, you are basically dead in the water.
Like many things in life these skills can be learned, and what better place than in an academic classroom where you will be able to speak in front of your peers and improve your written form? Writing is one of the most important skills to have these days and can be used in any industry to stand out from your peers. It also helps you clarify your thinking. All these skills lend to creating future leaders, as what good leaders know how to do is communicate. As author and cartoonist Scott Adams famously developed regarding his concept of “skill stacking”: “it’s easier to be in the top 10% for a range of skills than to be the very best in the world in one skill. It is about having a variety of skills that work well together. Your specific combination of well-developed skills allows you to offer unique value.”

When you pursue an education, you are investing in yourself, and while some business gurus on social media suggest you drop everything right now and launch a business, know it is a cost-benefit analysis. You will look back upon these years and appreciate what you learned, the people you met, and how these experiences prepared you for the future. There is no rush to start a business and enrolling in an academic program could help you stack the odds more in your favor.

How entrepreneurship gives life meaning

blank business card saying - trust in the you of now


How entrepreneurship gives life meaning

By Jonathan Frenkel

It may sound passé that if you love what you do you do not have to work a day in your life, but it is a popular expression for a reason. Life goes by so quickly regardless of whether you are enjoying what you are doing, so you might as well make the best of it. The reality, however, is that you are not going to love every moment of work. There are going to be days when you feel like getting out of bed is a chore, times when you must deal with difficult customers, and annoying mind-numbing tasks to which you must attend. But on a day to day basis, if you feel what you do is giving you energy rather than diminishing it, you are probably on the right path.

Reframing our view of happiness here in Western culture, Americans on average work more than most other countries, and signs of leisure such as cafe culture are not seen as status signs. According to this article “Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers.” Does that make us the happiest nation? No, far from it, but there is a cost for the output the country produces. Additionally, it is important to define happiness. We look at our lives as aspiring to be a constant cascade of positive and pleasant emotions without any obstacles or struggles. But how is that realistic? As we are finding out during a pandemic life comes at you hard and fast sometimes, and there is so much out of our hands. A way to optimize for living is to not only appreciate the difficulties but to embrace them, and if we are going to spend the bulk of our lives working, we may as well find meaning in it.

There is no better feeling than seeing the mountain from the bottom and going through the process of climbing it, and by our fingernails if need be, to reach that peak. Through the champagne glass tinted view of success many entrepreneurs look back and state unironically that they had the most fun on their journey to success. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone, but it can be a deeply spiritual endeavor as it will force you to bring your best to build something of value for the world.

You are building something of value

People who gravitate to entrepreneurship are driven by the idea they are building something to solve a pain point for a segment of the population. This desire to create, to build something is part of our human DNA. While historically our species may have had a shameful past in some cases, overall, we have built and created what is today’s modern society.

In America’s case, entrepreneurship has been a part of the DNA that has propelled the country to thrive as a tech and business powerhouse. I can state from a personal perspective that building and creating was always something that gave me meaning and was the reason I got into building my own business. It may be the restless energy or the need to prove myself but even when I encountered setbacks and licked my wounds I bounced back and started a new project. There have been times when I have had to do something difficult, like land a customer or give a difficult speech. After I overcame the obstacle, I was struck by an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment. Nothing could take away that feeling of winning that hard-fought war with myself. When people state that they are chasing a feeling and not money, that is what they mean.

You are employing others and contributing to society

When you are building something, a business, an agency, or any endeavor where you need to hire skilled and talented people, just remember that you are not just providing your customers with a solution but also employing people. This is a strong reason to get out of bed in the morning, and to continue on even when you don’t feel like it; you’re not just taking care of yourself but also of the people who work for you and their families. Entrepreneurship and building small businesses help employee millions of Americans across the country, “small businesses employ 58.9 million people, which makes up 47.5% of the country’s total employee workforce.”
Organizations that have an intense level of caring in their DNA, real ones, not toxic work cultures who throw the word ‘family’ around, become a second home for their employees and give meaning to their work. The reality is that you can ascribe meaning to anything, and I suggest that you remember you are helping provide someone’s livelihood as it will give you something to lean on when things get tough.

Particularly during COVID times, entrepreneurs who can create successful endeavors can be a part of this wave of businesses that rise from the ashes of those who had to close because of the coronavirus. As we are living through history right now is the time to consider what role you will play in helping get the economy back on its feet.

You are learning new skills

There are several soft skills that you will not learn until you start your own business, including selling and marketing, building thought leadership (which means communicating effectively), and leading people. There are natural strengths that you may parlay such as creativity, but at the end of the day even if you fail at your business, you are still the wiser for having tried. As the saying goes, “sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.”

Personally, the idea of building a consultancy was straight forward. I was not wed to the idea of being a full-on entrepreneur, I was very much OK working in a company whose culture I admired. I made a list of companies I wanted to work for, reached out, and realized that I would not be a good fit. At that point I planned out 6 months from that point, thinking either I would spend the time looking for a job, or start my own endeavor. One of the factors for me to start my own agency was the knowledge I would accrue from the experience of building a business.

And that did come to pass, as I learned more about improving sales, different forms of digital marketing, and how to build effective partnerships. Experience really is the editor of mistakes, and there is no substitute for going through the process. How else would I be able to make the decisions I made or have the experience to make the choices I make daily? These are not things which can be read in a book; you need to just live them to understand what to do.

You will be challenged and learn about yourself

Do not start a business as an experiment in self-development. There are plenty of other ways to learn about yourself. But a side ‘benefit’ of launching and building a business is that you will face a lot of difficulty and learn how to act under pressure. There is the idea that the grittiest survive, and that it is just about being the last one standing. If that is the case then you are going to deal with a lot of sleepless nights, thinking about how you make payroll, what will happen if the funds dry up, and especially what people might say if things don’t work out.
Your confidence may be shaken, there are real human aspects to this journey, and you should embrace the idea of the Hero’s Journey which is key to giving your struggle meaning. I recall listening to a recent podcast where Presidential hopeful Andrew Yang spoke about how it took him a year to regain his confidence after one failed endeavor. One year! That seems like a long time and is about right. But the important thing is that he did recover, he did get back up, and he put one foot in front of the other. The question you need to ask yourself is: are you really leaving it all on the field? If the answer is yes, then you will be OK with whatever the outcome is, as you know that you will rebound.

Not many people look at building a business as a deeply spiritual or philosophical pursuit, as something with religious dimensions. For some it is about the money, the prestige, or even the freedom of self-actualizing and doing what they want to do. But it is a lifestyle, something that can be done successfully. You need to devote most of your waking hours to really get anything off the ground. And you need to be OK with the high chance of failure, the lowest lows, and some highs that do not come often enough. But that is why all the fun is in the journey itself.

What we can learn from SpaceIL

Rocket Launch


What we can learn from SpaceIL

By Jonathan Frenkel

COVID-19 has pushed many institutions that would not have normally cooperated to work together in facing the global pandemic. During this period, alliances that might have taken years to assemble under less dire circumstances have been forged in a fraction of that time. An example of a country that has been on the forefront of battling this threat has been Israel, the Startup Nation. Israel has a unique history of bringing seemingly unrelated organizational structures such as the military, academia, business, and the political world together in order to achieve a common goal.

Before the world’s resources were focused on fighting COVID-19 there were many institutions who aimed for the literal stars and worked on plans on how to reach them. Israel has been working on a number of big picture ideas; an example of how different organizations work in unison has been the race to land a spacecraft on the moon, making it the fourth country to do so after the United States, Russia, and China. While Israel has excelled in satellite technology for surveillance purposes, and the Israeli Air Force is one of the most powerful in the world, going to the moon has been a major leap for such a small country. Aside from the chutzpah required to attempt such a feat, Israel’s goal of landing a spacecraft on the moon was a solid example of academia, business, philanthropy, and government collaboration and should act as a case study for us in the United States.

Cross pollination

If there is one thing that makes the Startup Nation unique it is the idea of cross pollination. Israel is a tight-knit society and people are usually acquainted through familial, military, and business ties. Furthermore, the informal nature of the country is also a contributing factor. The Israel Defense Forces plays a key role in this idea as most young Israelis are conscripted to serve mandatory time in the army, thus strengthening those bonds and expanding their social network. What happens after the military is equally important as many soldiers go on to do reserve duty, particularly in highly technical roles such as the Intelligence Corp. Civilians put on their military garb and bring back ideas to the army they learned from their startups, and vice versa.

As a result, there are no real walls or siloed organizations preventing cooperation. The mindset is that everyone needs to cooperate for a common cause, a reminder that for many years Israel’s existence was not guaranteed and such collaboration was essential. That fear certainly pervades much of the Israeli leadership’s thinking as they grew up in an era of existential dread. As such, projects such as SpaceIL’s attempt to land on the moon epitomize the Israeli organizational narrative.

How the different parts worked together

What started close to ten years ago in order to raise awareness for the sciences morphed into a national race to land a spacecraft on the moon. In this case, non-profits, academia, private foundations, business, and government-supported industries all worked together in order to literally get this spacecraft into orbit and on its way to the moon. Traditionally, all these institutions would not have associated with one another, but given the scope, ambition, and chutzpah of the mission they came to rely on each other.

The catalyst for the SpaceIL program was the Google Lunar X Prize competition offering a 30 million dollar prize to the team capable of getting a spacecraft to the moon, and landing it successfully. As is typical of the “thrown together and figure it out along the way” style of many entrepreneurs in Israel, the SpaceIL team was one of the last teams to apply. However, instead of building the idea as a government or corporate-backed entity, they formed a non-profit. This enabled them to parlay a lot of “free” resources such as volunteers, raise grant money, and ultimately secure million-dollar financial commitments from major philanthropists such as Sheldon Adelson and Morris Kahn, an Israeli-South African billionaire who founded the software company Amdocs.

From the start the SpaceIL team parlayed institutions such as IAI (Israel Aerospace Industries) and Israel’s Space Agency that fall under the umbrella of the defense industry (much of which is government connected) as well as academic institutions such as the Technion, the Weizmann Institute of Science, and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Academia played a large role as the team worked with Tel Aviv University's Engineering Department and had strong connections to the Interdisciplinary Center north of Tel Aviv. Engaging all the major academic institutions in the country helped in galvanizing volunteers as well as creating a national initiative around science education.

Capturing the imagination of the country and of pro-Israel supporters abroad was key. One of the project’s main funders Morris Kahn stated, "putting a spacecraft on the moon is a little bit of a weird project. It almost seems un-doable, and even if it was doable, it takes somebody with imagination to actually see why you would do it." From an entrepreneurial perspective this was the first privately funded voyage to the moon, which in the days of SpaceX and Blue Origin set a standard for how much technology has changed and emphasized that innovation does not rely solely on government support. This is not to say that government funding was not key in making this happen; it’s that this project began as a startup and only later sought government assistance.

Ultimately Beresheet, the spacecraft, crash landed upon its attempted landing on the moon’s surface. That does not tell the whole story; as with any big idea, the entrepreneurial journey is part of the process and learnings. There were lessons learned, and new technologies created along the way as well. Additionally, it’s also important to put things in context as such a project was not even imaginable a few years ago. As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated after the disappointing outcome, “if at first you don’t succeed, try again.” For many in Israel there is faith the country will be successful in the coming years, and that “an Israeli spacecraft will land on the moon, whole.” Even if we look at the long tail of this endeavor, and this inspires the next generation of entrepreneurs, then it is a success.

What we can learn

There are lessons of what we can learn from this enterprise and take with us as we plan out our own ambitions. While the spacecraft crash landed on the moon, it was a failure of operations, and not lack of cooperation and organization. Israel’s ecosystem is unique and its institutions world-class, but the points covered below are applicable for institutions here in the US and globally.

Ambitious projects marshal resources and capture the imagination. We have seen this with the “moonshot” projects from Google and the aspirations of entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. This goes back to the 1960’s with America’s race to land a man on the moon that was a priority of national importance. Money wants to capitalize and fund big picture ideas. Academic institutions and the government would be wise to pay attention to this idea, as we have opportunities now to create solutions to COVID-19. As Elon Musk says when it comes to ambitious projects and urgency, “when something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.”

In order to achieve such moonshots, we must learn to be more open to cooperation with other organizations. This will not be easy as many organizations vie for resources, but we must learn to work together. Community plays such a significant role in parlaying and acquiring resources, and once people are behind an idea, they are more than willing to help pitch in.

Being open to and integrating entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs into our systems is essential for success. We must learn to say “yes” to new ideas and people, and not be fearful of the change they may bring about. If we are looking to truly create the next generation of entrepreneurs that will lead this country and business community, we must find ways to have them work within the system. SpaceIL succeeded because the entrepreneurs developed their idea outside the constraints of government and academia and brought them in to help build the project after the startup stage. The question we need to ask ourselves is why can’t we build a project like SpaceIL within our system?

As we’ve seen in Silicon Valley, the more ambitious the goal, the higher the stakes, and the more people believe in a brighter future, the more cooperation becomes essential. While Israel does have a unique ecosystem with members of the different organizations maintaining relationships, that does not mean it cannot be emulated here in the United States. Once we overcome this pandemic, we’ll see that some organizations collaborated in facing this threat quite naturally, which could serve as inspiration for future projects, whether they include travelling to the moon or facing the next pandemic.