Written by Cadence Daniels (Tandon, ‘18) and Pilar Harris (Gallatin, ‘16)
Cadence Daniels (Tandon '18) and Pilar Harris (Gallatin '16) are the founding Co-Presidents of Women of Entrepreneurship (WoE) at NYU. Together, they’re working to connect the dots between the campuses’ existing resources with a cross-university cohort of female innovators, makers, and entrepreneurs.
There exists no secret society for entrepreneurs. There are no qualifications, blueprints, or instruction manuals. Simultaneously, there are no limitations. Not restricted to any background, scope or identity, entrepreneurs are explorers, tinkerers, innovators, and pathfinders. They are men and women driven purely by self-initiative and a need to solve.
Considering the diversity and dynamic resources available through both NYU and NYC, your journey as a young entrepreneur will be far from generic. Surrounded by opportunity, life at NYU is a chance to transform your weaknesses into strengths and transform your ideas into innovative solutions.
Broken down into do-it-now actions, here's five ways to navigate NYU as a female entrepreneur in-the-making:
- Find a tribe of awesome women who share your interests. In the Spring of 2015, we founded WoE to connect with other female entrepreneurs in-the-making. Fortunately, we’ve been able to do just that. We continue to bring all innovating women together across NYU. If you're intimidated by the lack of women at a campus event or program, bring a friend who'll understand. Your belonging to a tribe will not only accelerate your learning, but it will also make you accountable to a group of peers who have an interest in your success.
- Identify a problem. Entrepreneurship, at its core, is about solving problems. The ability to identify and address problems is a skill that you can practice while you’re a student. At NYU, you've got the benefit of world class faculty, exceptional research support, and access to the dynamic global city that is New York City. There are also library specialists at Bobst on every topic imaginable as well as a range of grants and other opportunities for travel to NYU’s campuses around the world. When you allow yourself to become a curious explorer of the world around you, problems (and their potential solutions) will become more and more apparent.
- Choose a mentor to guide you. Once you have a problem and a group of folks you'll engage with regularly, find someone on campus who's got more experience than you do in the thing that interests you. Go beyond the faculty in your school and also consider administrators, graduate students, and scholars in residence. You’re likely one LinkedIn connection away from one of the 470,000 NYU alum around the world who might also have insights to share. Whether this person identifies as a woman is less important than how that person’s work relates to your own. So, remember to reach out to men and women alike for the greatest possible fit.
- To explore solutions to the problem you've identified, try something new. Look for opportunities to stretch and challenge the way you think. Being a female entrepreneur-in-the-making at NYU means developing and flexing your innovation muscles by being open to the unfamiliar. There’s no distinct road to starting your own company. Attend a workshop, practice your pitch, join a competition, start a club or volunteer. Gain the perspective and experience that will give you the confidence to pursue your path.
- Fail at something. The highly accomplished founder and CEO of Spanx, Sarah Blakely, often shares the story of her upbringing where her father asked each evening at the dinner table, “What did you fail at today?” In that household, success was based on the number of risks taken rather than the number of dutifully completed projects or tasks. If you do everything right, you won’t know how to get better. What will you learn from next semester?
If you consider the university your own personal entrepreneurship training ground, the possibilities are endless. There are few “real world” institutions outside of NYU in the tech and startup industries where women will represent nearly half of the population. There’s no better time to get connected, via WoE or otherwise, to like minded female students who’ll take their first steps in tackling the male-dominated startup culture right here in Washington Square.