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Entrepreneurship 101: Sharing advice from my start-up mentors

Diploma Programme (DP) graduate Rachel Tseng shares advice from her mentors on entrepreneurship to build a successful start-up. This is her second story in our graduate voices series.

Entrepreneurship 101: Sharing advice from my start-up mentors

By Rachel Tseng

The beautiful thing about entrepreneurship is that it is not age-defined. It does not matter whether you start idealizing on a concept from high school, get introduced to the notion of startups in college or just want to pursue something different when you are a full-fledged adult. All you need to start your journey is passion, determination and an idea that you are willing to fight for.

If you find yourself stuck and wondering what to do to kick start your journey, here are three tips that I would like to pass on from the mentors whom I have met through my start-up journey. I would like to give credit to Brent Chase, Lilia Kogan and Adrienne Weissman for imparting their wisdom and sharing their experiences.

1) Starting your entrepreneurial journey is not analogous to founding a start-up.

There are many ways around launching your involvement in the start-up industry. If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, try reaching out to existing startups, learn from your colleagues and do some research on the 4Ws and 1H of the start-up. What challenges did they face? Why create a startup? What was the motivation behind founding the startup? Who was involved in the process? How did they found the startup? When did they found the startup? Take this opportunity to grow your professional network before fully embarking on your entrepreneurship journey.

Brent Chase, the founder of PAL, started his entrepreneurship journey while engaging in a capstone project in 2017. His team was trying to formulate an idea that would solve challenges faced by strength and conditioning coaches in collegiate athletics. After going through a few programmes such as Wildfire Accelerator and VentureWell E-Team, as well as building skills and getting funding, he founded PAL, formerly known as GAIA Wearables. PAL aims to empower the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) community with problem-centric innovations.

The motivation behind founding PAL? His brother.

2) It is important to establish your support system before embarking on your journey.

Whether it is a mentor, family member or significant other, having pillars of support would help to expedite your progress in the entrepreneurial world. Venturing into the start-up world for the first time will be unfamiliar and often intimidating. There are bound to be both successes and failures. Having people who can give you advice along the way or provide moral support would work wonders in helping you achieve your goal.

It is important to note that mentorship works in different ways for individuals. Some may appreciate an ongoing career mentor, while others prefer having different mentors at different stages of their life. Reflect on what complements your working style best and do not be afraid to reach out to people that you respect and admire! You may be surprised by the different ways and most unexpected places in which you could find inspiration and get advice.

Valued advice from my startup mentors:

Lilia Kogan is an Angel Investor and coordinator for the Propel Programme at Northwestern University. The programme aims to promote diversity and inclusion in entrepreneurship. Lilia shared what the breakdown of a support system could potentially look like: “Before taking the plunge make sure you have adequate support around you. (1) [a] co-founder who you have worked with in the past, (2) [a] supportive significant other, (3) mentors / advisors who know you well and can introduce you to their network or potentially invest in you.”

Likewise, Adrienne Weissman, also an Angel Investor and Propel Programme mentor, provided her version of a successful support system: 1) a supportive partner, 2) a savvy financial advisor and 3) bosses, mentors and friends that Adrienne has met throughout her career.

3) Gender does not define your entrepreneurial ability.

One of the most attractive things about entrepreneurship is the amount of collaboration and learning one is exposed to. I was accepted into the Propel Programme, where mentorship and support is provided for women who were interested in entrepreneurship. My mentor is Adrienne Weissman and she shared with me that she became a mentor in the programme because she wanted to work with more female entrepreneurs. Collaboration among students in the Propel Programme is also encouraged even if we are working on different projects. Although I am part of this female entrepreneur programme, I find that the people that I work with for my project are mostly males. I have gained so much valuable experience and advice from both groups of people and am inspired by their strengths, which make them unique.

Everyone brings their own set of unique traits. I have learned that the culture of a start-up breeds collective partnership attitudes and start-ups do not discriminate based on gender. Whatever it is, the extent of your entrepreneurial ability is dictated by the belief and passion that you instill in your daily habits and skills. Do not let gender sway you from starting a company or creating a device or developing a programme for that wonderful idea of yours.

So, what are you waiting for? Grab your innovative thinking hat and let’s get started!

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Rachel Tseng is a graduate of Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) in Singapore. She is currently completing her final year at Northwestern University in the United States where she is majoring in neuroscience and minoring in chemistry. Outside of classes, you are likely to find her doing research or cooking at home. You can connect with her on LinkedIn here.

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