How an Entrepreneurial Mind-Set Can Unleash Your Best You

EntreprenuershipYou don’t have to be a founder to benefit from a startup mind-set. And in an era when the average college graduate will have eight careers, knowing how to innovate and roll with life’s punches is crucial, said Donna Zarcone, ’87, president and CEO of the Economic Club of Chicago.

Zarcone joined two fellow alumnae panelists at a session sponsored by the University of Chicago Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “It’s going to be more important, no matter whether you’re at an accounting firm or a law firm, to be thinking very entrepreneurially,” Zarcone said, “not only about collecting skills and accomplishments, but about next steps.” Here’s how to unleash your best you: 

Don’t take “no” for a final answer.

When you’re talking to a new contact for the first time, the goal isn’t to get to “yes,” it’s to get to a second discussion, said angel investor Nancy Hayes, ’80. “I often tell women entrepreneurs who are looking for funding that they’re going to hear ‘no’ a lot, and it generally means ‘not yet.’” Keep at it, she said. Refine your messaging until they’re leaning forward in their seats.

Tailor your story to your audience.

PrettyQuick founder and CEO Coco Meers, ’14, initially had trouble attracting an engineer to work for her Chicago-based beauty-booking startup. She quickly learned that many potential candidates couldn’t have cared less about manicures, but the concept of a marketplace that solves for a time-based, constantly shifting inventory sparked their technology interests. She reframed her pitch and landed the talent she needed. “Once I learned to tell my story differently, everything clicked,” Meers said.

Get lean.

Take a page from an entrepreneur’s playbook and try out an MVP—or minimum viable product—mentality. Launch a project, learn from it, and then iterate, rather than waiting until everything is perfect. “I think being resource constrained often inspires the creativity that big companies desperately need,” Meers said.

Booth Women Connect Conference is organized by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. The 2017 event brought together more than 1,000 professionals for an extraordinary day of bold ideas, spirited discussion, practical insights, and impactful networking. Join us for this year’s conference on October 12, 2018.

—By LeeAnn Shelton

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