Are you enterprising and creative-minded? Do you enjoy taking “the road less traveled”? Consider exploring careers in entrepreneurship or at start-up companies!

An entrepreneur is a person who organizes, operates, and assumes the risk for a business venture. There are different types of entrepreneurs and startup companies that offer a variety of employment opportunities including, but not limited to product development, software engineering, branding/brand promotion, freelancing, and marketing.

Danny Bugniazet ’19 working on a laptop
Danny Bugniazet ’19 runs clothing pop-up in NYC

Explore Careers

The decision to become an entrepreneur, like any career decision, should not be made lightly. Business owners labor for long hours with no guarantee of success, and the best entrepreneurs pursue their business dreams fiercely and wholeheartedly despite the grueling effort and uncertainty involved. If you are considering this path, it may be helpful to consider whether you have the personality traits commonly exemplified by successful entrepreneurs.

A 2010 study performed by the Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute identified several traits that stood out among the most successful small-business entrepreneurs:

  • Action-oriented: Top performing business owners are highly motivated to rise above the competition and work harder than their corporate adversaries. They tend to be less concerned than other small business owners about the overall state of the economy.
  • Collaborative: Success-oriented small business owners understand how to delegate effectively to others within their business as well as build strong personal relationships with their management team, employees, consultants, vendors, and customers. They are more committed to creating opportunities for others.
  • Curious: Superior managers are always learning, reading trade publications and online material to discover new ways to improve their businesses, retain their employees, and innovate their products. They are never content with their current breadth of knowledge and constantly wonder about what their competitors are doing.
  • Future-focused: Successful entrepreneurs do not necessarily focus all of their efforts on speculative activities, but they do prudently prepare for the future, be it planning out their cash flows or designing their succession plans far in advance.
  • Self-fulfilled: Many people are attracted to the entrepreneurial mold since they prefer the freedom of running a business over the regimentation of a corporate position. They value freedom over structure and are willing to forgo the security of a corporate job for the control of an entrepreneur.
  • Tech-savvy: In a world driven by technological developments, entrepreneurs keep up with the latest advancements and incorporate technology into their ventures to make them more efficient.

In his book, Startup America—Dead on Arrival, Silicon Valley entrepreneur and educator, Steve Blank, distinguishes between four types of entrepreneurs:

Small business entrepreneurs comprise the majority of entrepreneurs in the United States. They run everything from grocery stores, salons and travel agencies, to internet commerce storefronts, plumbing companies and fashion outlets. They tend to hire local employees or family, and focus their ambitions on providing for themselves and their families financially, not on dominating an industry. They usually fund their business via financial support from friends and family or from small business loans.

Scalable start-up entrepreneurs are typified by the Silicon Valley businessperson. They start companies hoping to change the world with their desired accomplishments, be they new advances in biomedical engineering or social media innovations. They attract investment from financial investors, called venture capitalists, and try to hire the best and brightest workers to discover a repeatable and scalable business model. When they find it, these entrepreneurs seek additional venture capital to fund more rapid business expansion. Scalable startups in innovation clusters (Silicon Valley, Shanghai, New York, Bangalore, Israel, etc.) comprise a small percentage of entrepreneurs and start-ups. But, they attract almost all of the venture capital and press attention.

Large company entrepreneurs work within larger corporations to expand their market coverage. Large companies have finite life cycles, and changes in consumer preferences can create pressure for disruptive innovation, requiring the businesses to create entirely new products sold to new customers in new markets. This is often accomplished by acquiring companies that work in the desired fields.

Social entrepreneurs try to create products and services that address social needs on a large scale. They seek to generate long-term social value rather than profits, and the organizations they lead may be non-profit, for-profit, or a hybrid of the two.

Prepare for Jobs and Internships

Information, tips, and strategies to help prepare you as an undergraduate.

Participate in experiential co-curricular programs to gain first-hand experience with entrepreneurship. Opportunities include a year-long venture incubator, summer accelerator, social entrepreneurship programs, campus business support, on- and off-campus events, and more. 

Learn more here.

  • Communication skills
  • Marketing skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Basic management skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Ability to plan

Alumni Advice

Advice from alumni who work in this industry.

Britty Buonocore ’12 in front of Flour & Salt bakery

Britty O'Connor ’12

Current Title and Organization: Owner/Baker, Flour and Salt Bakery

Major at Colgate: English

Advanced Degrees: M.A.T.

What led you to pursue your own business?

I pursued a career as a small business owner and baker for a few different reasons. I knew I preferred working for myself rather than for someone else. I developed a real love of food while cooking for myself out of college and wanted to find a way to fully immerse myself in it. I also wanted to create a certain kind of lifestyle for myself and my family. Now that my husband (and business partner) and I have a six-month-old daughter, it is so important to us that we get to spend time with her. I get to wake her up every morning. We eat dinner together every night. Though running a small business is a 24/7 job in some ways, you have the freedom to pull back or change your schedule when you need to. I'll never need to miss a soccer game or a middle school concert. 

What activities on campus were most helpful to your career?

I wasn't preparing to open a bakery or a tavern while I was a student at Colgate, but plenty of my experiences helped prepare me for being a boss and small business owner. I didn't participate in a lot of clubs or organizations, but I loved working. I worked in the mailroom all five years I was at Colgate (undergrad and graduate). I also worked part-time for a cafe downtown and a t-shirt screening shop. I loved being in the village and getting to know locals. It's what ultimately drew me back to Hamilton to set down roots. I never fully embraced the life of a liberal arts college student, which I sometimes regret now, because I was itching to be a part of a workforce.

What values do you look for in an employee?

In the five years that I've been hiring (and firing) people for our staff, I've learned that there is nothing more valuable than a kind and genuine employee who is a good communicator. You can train technical skills. You generally can't train someone to be thoughtful and supportive of other people. In a high-stress work environment like F&S, those qualities are crucial. 

Matt Glick ’19, CEO and founder, GipperMedia; Ben Ross ’03, principal, Fibonacci Consulting; Amulya Uppala ’15, international marketing, Asana

Find Opportunities

There is no clearly defined entrepreneurship career path. People decide to become entrepreneurs at all stages of educational and professional development, and only recently has entrepreneurship begun to be discussed as a lifelong career. As such, aspiring entrepreneurs cannot find definitive employer and job option classifications. Instead, they can begin networking and advertising their business ideas through associations and professional organizations dedicated to creating communities of entrepreneurs. Many of these groups target their services to particular types of business owners, including technology entrepreneurs, women, and African Americans.

Echoing Green - Roundtable and mentorship opportunities with leading professionals in marketing, fundraising, business development, and technology; for emerging leaders working to bring about positive social change

Enactus - University programs that offer competitions for students to showcase the power of transforming lives and enabling progress through entrepreneurial action

IDEX Fellowship Program - An India-based six-month program of emerging market field experience and leadership training that exposes recent graduates to social enterprise and the tech sector

NFIB’s Young Entrepreneur Foundation - Promotes entrepreneurship through scholarship programs and teacher/student programs

Venture for America - A two-year fellowship program for recent graduates who want to learn how to build a business while making an impact

Angel List - Job and internship platform for opportunities in the start-up and tech spaces, including opportunities in start-up investing, fundraising, and recruiting

First Round Capital - Entrepreneur-focused investment firm that offers jobs based on a customized profile

Highland Capital Partners - Global VC firm offering over 200 job listings at venture-backed, early-stage, emerging growth companies

Kiva - Socially conscious organization offering careers and internships in the common good start-up space; focused on alleviating the effects of poverty worldwide

Net Impact - Social entrepreneurial resource that offers jobs and internships in social enterprise and impact, energy and clean tech, education, and public sector innovation

Sequoia Capital - Charity-based investment firm that offers full-time opportunities and internships as well as a job board for their partner start-ups

Startupers - Job board for careers in start-ups; a resource that helps entrepreneurs find employees for their own companies

Venture Beat - Online news source and job board for individuals seeking employment in start-ups and tech companies

VentureLoop - Online job board and career resource featuring 585 start-up companies, full-time postings, and internship opportunities - Offers resources for your specific career path, including job search tips, opportunities, and information on employers within your industry of choice. Simply log in with LinkedIn or create an account using your Colgate email address.

IRS Small Business - Provides industry and profession-specific tax information, as well as links to other helpful non-IRS resources

National Federation of Independent Business - Offers a variety of tools and tips for small business owners

U.S. Small Business Administration - Offers a variety of programs and support services to help individuals navigate application steps as well as business plan resources and other assistance to small business owners

United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship - A resource for continued education on entrepreneurship including forums, launch competitions, national conferences, and a job board

Colgate Handshake Opportunities

Check Colgate Handshake, Colgate's internship and job database, for opportunities that may interest you in this field.

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