The following letter is from Internpreneur’s founder, Ben McIntyre, many months before we launched. This letter sparked conversation among leaders in the community and brought about the idea to start Internpreneur. Our original plan was simply to find a way to help students and companies meet and network. Today, our mission remains the same: To introduce outstanding students to growing companies here in Middle Tennessee to continue growing our future.
This post was originally published on Southern/alpha.com
We need to start plugging business students into the entrepreneurship community beginning their first and second years. The day after graduation isn’t the time to start learning what problems actually need to be solved. Many students come here for a great program at one of the local universities, but have no idea of the changes happening in Nashville.
As an entrepreneurship student at Belmont University I have to be honest, I could have put my first two years to better use. Like many other students, I spent them plowing through gen ed courses and the occasional lower-level business class. Once in a while we would get a guest speaker that had their own company, but besides that, we have very little connection to outside businesses and professionals. While school teaches us some things, I see higher education putting students in a bubble. We’re disconnected from the world and our intended industries for four years instead of being pushed to be involved, and get out there early to make connections.
When I wanted another opinion on this, reaching out to Clark Buckner was an obvious choice. He just graduated from Belmont University, and as one of the most well-connected students there, I knew he would have deeper insight. He told me, “There are countless opportunities for students to learn from the powerful Nashville entrepreneurial community, but it doesn’t happen overnight, so the earlier someone starts the better.”
Fellow students, I want to see more of us diving in at the beginning. Don’t wait until you’re out of school to meet professionals. Get involved in local meet ups like Nash Cocktail or Geek Breakfast. Even if you don’t have a company, get a membership in a coworking space like CoLab to do your homework just as an excuse to be around people doing real work. Intern for multiple companies through a program like InternSHARE. These are huge opportunities to learn and build a network early. I can attest from personal experience, your new, more-seasoned friends will notice when there is a twenty year old in the room.
What I’ve found, is that if you make the effort to be in their circles, they are often happy to talk to you, help you, connect you further and sometimes teach you. If nothing else, you will learn just from your conversations. Be sure you thank them for their time, ofter to help them in return and be a respectful student of their teaching.
Professionals, students see their status as a wall between them, and you. There are a lot that will continue to be content going to class for four years and then starting to build connections later. That’s alright. However, there are some of us that are hungry to learn more early on. We want to meet people doing things and building companies. We want to know what others have done before in an attempt to have some belief we can do this entrepreneurship stuff ourselves.
In talking with Clark further about the importance of these connections he said, “Students need opportunities to learn from established entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs can benefit from the fresh minds and skills of students. It just makes sense to connect this gap.” And that’s it. Everyone can win. Be willing to look for ways to add value to one another.