Imagine you are a small child from rural Pennsylvania, and every year your family makes the long drive to the Shady Grove Metro Station in Rockville, Maryland. You take the metro into Washington, D.C. and explore. Seeing the city, experiencing the history and culture that the museums, especially the Smithsonian museums, offered expanded your horizons and provided a glimpse into a much bigger, more exciting metropolitan world. Every year you looked forward to that trip and every year you as looked around the monuments you promised yourself that you would one day be a part of that amazing world.
That child was me… and I kept my promise to myself. I recently had the honor of presenting full-day seminar on entrepreneurship for the Smithsonian Institute. It was exciting and daunting to condense a decade of entrepreneurship experience and a 209 page book into a few hours. I spent a great deal of time distilling the information, experiences, and examples that would be most useful to an audience considering or beginning their entrepreneurship journey.
We covered some of the main challenges and rewards of entrepreneurship, how to evaluate an idea for business-worthiness, and had an in-depth discussion of the value of early market validation. I emphasized how important it is to know if there will there be a market for your future product or service.
From there we compared and contrasted pitch decks, business model canvases, and traditional business plans. An entire seminar could have been dedicated to this topic alone! It was important for me to share real-life examples for how to plan and deliver a winning business pitch.
Next up was understanding the concept of minimal viable products. How to create the simplest possible version of your idea that you can test and tweak. We then explored simple technologies and resources available for building your product or service. Followed by discovering your strengths and weaknesses as a founder to fine tune your requirements in a business partner and startup employees.
I then unpacked the basics of bootstrapping, customer funding, crowd funding, loans, angel investors, and venture capital. What they are, how they work, what the impact is to you and your business, along with how to select what is best for you and your startup.
The most important takeaway from the seminar was that entrepreneurship is the great equalizer. It doesn’t matter who you are, how much you make, your level of education, or where you live, if you have a great idea and understand the principles of entrepreneurship, you can be successful. I am a prime example of that truth and was delighted to candidly share what I learned as a I grew up with my startup.