With an entrepreneurship degree becoming more and more popular at colleges, the debate has come up if it’s the right thing to do. I interviewed a current Entrepreneurship student to try and answer the question; Should an entrepreneur go to school for four years or should they take that tuition and learn by doing?
Jacob Anderson is a senior in the Entrepreneur Scholar program at St. John’s University in Minnesota. While in the program, he started his business, Loon Cruise, a floating pedal pub on the scenic Gull Lake in Brainerd, MN.
Why did you choose to major in Entrepreneurship?
I became an entrepreneurial major because I am both passionate and obsessed with creating a product that will impact the world.
Did you have any business experience before college?
This is an interesting question, one that my friends and I often talk about. I have had the entrepreneurial passion since a young age, before I even knew what the word meant. I began drawing and selling posters to my friends at a very young age; in middle school I would sell candy bars out of my locker, shovel driveways, and mow lawns.
When I was a freshman in high school I started my first operation of buying and reselling wholesale products from China. I started off selling headphones which soon expanded into bracelets, watches, clothing, and marine lights. I started my newest business, Loon Cruise, in December 2014.
What are some of the networking benefits you have experienced with being an entrepreneurial major?
I have a theory about networking and it goes like this. When you are a college student, you’re a cute little puppy. You are treated well and many people give you attention, making networking easy. When you’re a student, professionals are willing to teach and give you knowledge. After you are out of the college scene you become a dog in a really competitive business world.
For example, at my University I am connected to both alumni and students who have amazing skill sets. I started Loon Cruise without the ability to develop a website. I tried to connect with web developers outside of the University but found they were very expensive and I had a stiff budget. Getting the quality website I needed seemed out of reach because I allocated my entire budget to purchase Loon Cruise.
A fellow classmate, Alec Dewitz, approached me to tell me he liked my business idea. After hearing about some of the challenges I was facing, he jumped on board as part of the team and developed an incredible website and didn’t charge me anything. Without a quality website customers would be reluctant to book a package, which would influence my total revenue. Not only did I gain an incredible website, but I found success because of the network of people at the University.
What was the best class you have taken that has contributed to your entrepreneurial mindset?
One of the best classes I have taken at my University is, “Creating World Class Ventures” with Paul Marsnik. This class is amazing because students teach one another. Through this class we were also able to develop our brainstorming tools and solution skills. With a small class size of 12, the University granted us scholarships to fly to Silicon Valley, Denver, and China for two weeks. During these trips we were able to network with amazing people who are now connections we can use to further the development of our companies.
Who have you met along the way?
As an entrepreneurial major at the University, we were able to attend luncheons every month. Through these luncheons I met alumni from all over the world who have accomplished great things. Through my University, I was given the opportunity to study abroad in China for five months where I met many Chinese alumni. I have met potential angel investors and many venture capitalists, such as Mark Flynn.
When my class flew out to Silicon Valley, I had the opportunity to visit quite a few companies. One of which was Midallia, where we were able to walk through the company’s offices with the marketing director. On every desk at Midallia was a copy of the book “Tribal Leadership”; this book helped in shaping the companies operating philosophy. Every person I have met along the way is a powerful connection; with just a few words they are able to motivate me to change the world. Because of my university and collegiate connections I have the knowledge and confidence to make critical business decisions.
What was your biggest weakness before you became and entrepreneurial scholar?
Let me start by saying, I have learned a million skills since entering the entrepreneurial scholar program. My biggest weakness before the program was that I was not hanging out with the right people; I did not know the other entrepreneurial scholars. Today, I feel more powerful and capable of changing the world because of the people I now associate with whom I met through the program.
Biggest benefit — why you should be part of an entrepreneurial major?
The biggest benefit is easily the network. People are really great resources an it is important to understand how to maximize those relationships.
What do you think is the difference between and Entrepreneurship degree and the standard Business Administration degree?
What I have experienced with an Entrepreneurship degree is the emphasis of learning how to find opportunities and take them. We do a lot of networking and we accumulate skills used to motivate and work with people. A standard Business Administration Degree can be passive, going through the motions. I see a lot of value in both degrees. Ultimately I believe that being surrounded by entrepreneurs who have a passion for good business has a greater energy.