Over my 20-plus years of being one, I have often been asked, “What is an entrepreneur?”
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines an entrepreneur as “a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.” This definition hardly seems to require an advanced degree or some special initiative. If someone were to read the definition to you, and then ask you to name the word it defines, chances are you wouldn’t choose “entrepreneur.”
Entrepreneurs are difficult to describe because they encompass so many qualities. Entrepreneurs are leaders, inspiring employees, partners, and investors to follow their vision. Entrepreneurs are visionaries, seeing possibilities in areas that fall between the cracks, or solutions that fulfill a need not yet noticed by others. Entrepreneurs are dreamers, unafraid to consider possibilities and solutions that the world isn’t quite ready to support. Entrepreneurs are creators, making jobs and solutions out of their ideas.
Because entrepreneurs possess these qualities, they need special support and guidance on what is often a long journey. Auburn’s Harbert College of Business provides an incredible environment for the university’s entrepreneurial faculty and students to pursue their passion, vision, and goals. I am extremely excited to be a part of this environment as one of the new Entrepreneurs-in-Residence.
Successful, experienced entrepreneurs, Auburn’s EIRs share their time, expertise, and resources to develop the school’s young entrepreneurs. We work very closely with student teams to develop products or services, guiding them through the many milestones and challenges that encompass a startup. This close relationship supports these teams through the critical early stages of getting a business formalized and running in the right direction.
Auburn has multiple programs that embrace the entrepreneurial spirit. For all students, the Tiger Cage annual competition gives teams the opportunity to pitch ideas to judges for a chance to win pre-seed money and receive valuable feedback. The annual LAUNCH competition runs parallel to Tiger Cage and focuses on advancing the top innovations by faculty and staff teams, bringing them closer to commercialization. The university’s annual week-long Entrepreneurship Summit brings it all together by providing visibility and opportunity for student and faculty teams while showcasing successful Auburn graduates and business owners. One of the objectives with the current and future entrepreneurs is the opportunity to interact and network, furthering the visibility and development of the entrepreneurship program.
Auburn has a strong and diverse list of startups working hard to move their ideas forward—a construction-payment software company, a robotic tennis ball collector, an electrotherapy rehabilitation garment, a 3D printing technology, an international crypto-currency company, and a one-of-a-kind selfie-stand with an app.
Auburn University is not only answering the question of what an entrepreneur is, it is also launching innovative ideas into the marketplace.
Harbert College of Business