The thought of being an entrepreneur can often be daunting to undergraduate college students. Many don’t realize the connections they may need to get their start-up off the ground may be offered at their very own university.
Monday afternoon in Business Hall Room 104, alumna Melissa Schipke spoke to Rowan students about the road to success in business, as well as the challenges she faced as a female entrepreneur.
One of the main points of Schipke’s talk was the advantages she was granted by working with the Rowan Innovation Venture Fund. The money this program provided helped Schipke found her own company “Tassl,” a networking company designed to connect students with resources to reach their goals as entrepreneurs. A little over three years later, she has returned to her graduate school alma mater to offer her experience and inspire entrepreneurs like herself.
A key piece of advice that she shared with students is to never overlook an opportunity. After all, Rowan was one of the main investors to help kick off her company. She continued her talk with the importance of networking because having connections will allow entrepreneurs to survive the ups and downs of running a business.
“There’s no way to know everything or foresee what’s coming around the corner,” Schipke said.
Schipke also mentioned how a company’s success is dependent on having a good starting team. She warned students to be careful since their potential future employees have to be affordable because there’s no money at the beginning, but they also have to be good.
When asked about her biggest setback was, Schipke told of losing her co-founder just after raising their first round of capital. She admitted that it dented her morale a little bit.
“As an entrepreneur who just raised a bunch of money to scale a company and [has to] now report to investors, to have your co-founder come in and say, ‘This isn’t for me anymore,’ was definitely a really [bad] day,” Schipke said.
Stephen Kozachyn, director of Entrepreneurship Operations in the Rohrer College of Business was thrilled to see Schipke talk to students.
“Having Melissa come back as an alumnus is very important because it shows students there is a life outside of Rowan University,” Kozachyn said. “But it also shows students there are tools on campus to help students succeed.”
Kozachyn also added that this talk and other events being hosted by the college shows that the Rowan University entrepreneurial ecosystem is working.
Schipke most recently started her own company in South Jersey and reasoned with her audience that any entrepreneur can start their business anywhere. That the idea that people have to travel to some economic hotspot is not the case; students can begin planning out their dreams right here.
In her experienced attempts at raising capital, Schipke explained that she had to get up in front of investors for limited ten-minute time blocks to ask for a lot of money. She admits that this could be a very scary thing to have to do, but that it is imperative that you are comfortable when talking about your entire business model and are aware of the total of adjustable markets that you can potentially go after in order to gain business opportunities and successfully sell your company in that short amount of time.
“A big thing that people don’t tell you about investors as well is that even if they can’t give you money, there’s a ton of other resources for very well connected people,” Schipke said. “When they’re not giving financially, and [they] are able to give us connections to their alma maters and their schools to leverage those opportunities to not only raise capital but also grow our network and grow the [potential] business opportunities we can be seeking as well.”
And when it came to speaking specifically about women in business, the topic of her talk, Schipke noted that there are still fewer female entrepreneurs entering the field. She claims that the main reason for this is because women are perfectionists.
“We [women] want to know things before we commit or dive into them, so being able to put yourself out there and take those risks is really important, especially for women, [whether it’s] starting your own business or starting a company,” Schipke said.
Schipke’s final hope for the presentation is that her talk could be the first step towards helping young women and other prospective entrepreneurs begin their career in business, by providing an example of success to follow.
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