Education vs. Experience in Entrepreneurship

Experience taught me that I never wanted to be an entrepreneur; education taught me that I did.

This is a strange place to be.

Growing up my parents and grandparents had their own businesses. From the time I was tiny I would sweep out my grandparents’ trucks for a few bucks or sit around the dinner table with them discussing logistics, direction and profitability. I didn’t know the actual terms because I wasn’t educated. It was just part of every day life. To this day I don’t understand why people use fancy phrases like “synergy,” “efficiency,” and “ROI” when they’re speaking with one another.

I always thought it was simple: work hard, figure out what makes money and keep doing it to make more.

I also saw that they worked really hard. One set of grandparents had a mushroom farm and my Dad worked there; the other set had multiple businesses ranging from mushroom farms to selling Tahitian Noni as an independent rep to hauling Amish and running farmer’s markets. Regardless of where I went I was surrounded by people who were their own bosses who labored just as hard if not harder than those around them because they had a family business to run and grow. Their livelihood depended not only on their effort but also on the market.

I learned that when you work for someone you’re paid regardless of the outcome. When you work for yourself you work regardless of the pay.

As such I never wanted to be an entrepreneur. I wanted to take the safe route. I wanted to work for National Geographic, which I did, and go into journalism, which I did. I wanted to get paid. I wanted to put aside 20 percent of my paycheck, labor for someone else and slowly chip away at savings and remain debt free.

I did this by becoming educated in English, Mass Communications, pagination, photojournalism, and social media. I did this by spending less than I earned—until I got married and subsequently divorced then I had someone else dipping into my paycheck, so essentially it was like being an entrepreneur where you work your tail off and lose money anyway—but that’s besides the point.

I figured out ways to learn for free. I read all of the books I could in my discipline. I imagined what I wanted to do and set out to do it. I didn’t know it, actually, but I was manifesting my future by being intentional about my education and career path.

But then I studied small business management and entrepreneurial studies at Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Business. Suddenly everything changed. I realized that I was in an intrapreneurial role where I worked. This means I was using entrepreneurial skills in a department within an organization. I felt like an entrepreneur with training wheels. Syracuse taught me four things that I was able to apply to my job as a magazine editor.

First, I understood that money was a driver to either make or break the project I was working on and ultimately it wasn’t profitable because, in my opinion, it didn’t solve a need.

Second, when I took on the role, I came across all sorts of ideas that were planted in my little head and began to take root and without asking for permission I would often do them. This is a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good because I learned that if I made a decision I could execute it—without financial resources, without backing, and without permission. This is a bad thing, also, because it got me in trouble. I wasn’t trying to be a rabble-rouser. I just thought I could do something, so I did. When it panned out, it did well. When it didn’t, it flopped miserably.

Third, I learned to pivot—when things didn’t work one way I’d have to try another. Most ideas didn’t work the first five, 10 or 15 times but every once in awhile I’d stumble onto a gem of an idea that worked beautifully and I could replicate the results.

Fourth, and most importantly I learned to say no when I didn’t agree with something based on ethics, mentoring and business acumen. In business saying no can be costly. It can cost you your job, potential customers and relationships. But it can also do something important: it’ll give you a backbone, it gives you the courage to say if you think a process is working or isn’t and it gives you ownership of your project.

At some point I came to a crossroads: I knew the project I was working on was no longer feasible longterm. I knew that I like taking ideas and figuring out how to pull them off even if I had little experience and I learned that I had an entire network at Syracuse where I could call and rely on for questions and expertise.

At this juncture I became—for better or for worse—an entrepreneur and I learned the same lessons all over again from a different perspective: work hard, figure out what makes money and keep doing it to make more.

I worked hard. I became my own boss and even though I might not get paid for my efforts, my livelihood still depends on my efforts and that others will get paid regardless of the outcome.

At present, experience is teaching me that even though I didn’t want to be an entrepreneur, I am. Ongoing education is teaching me how.

About the Author

Named Top 100 Leaders by 2012 Magazine, Jasmine Grimm has been nominated for Central Penn Business Journal’s “Top 40 Under 40,” and The Lancaster Chamber’s ATHENA Award.

Jasmine founded Ruby, Inc. a personal styling business that teaches women how to dress for their body types and became a two-time nominee for Inc. Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30 Top Young Entrepreneurs in America. She won the 2013 SCORE Business Development Award, won the Central Penn Business Journal’s Top 25 Women of Influence Award in 2013 and the 2013 Leadership Award from the MS Society.

She has been a popular guest lecturer at the Maastricht Institute of Entrepreneurship and has been featured in Under 30 CEO and Productive Magazine, was the cover story for Harrisburg Magazine and her writing has graced National Geographic Television and Film, Harvard University and more.

She’s a 5,3,8,3 on the Kolbe A Index and her strengths include input, relator, learner, responsibility and achievement.

For more information visit her Google + Page