Are you enterprising and creatively-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.
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.
TIA is an incubator program for Colgate students who aspire to be entrepreneurs. Students take their own ventures and work with alumni mentors to help them turn their dreams into reality. The goal is for the ventures to “go live.”
Learn more at tiainstitute.colgate.edu.
- Communication skills
- Marketing skills
- Interpersonal skills
- Basic management skills
- Leadership skills
- Ability to plan
Advice from alumni who work in this industry.
Britty Buonocore ’12
Current Title and Organization: Owner/Baker, Flour and Salt Bakery
Major at Colgate: English
Advanced Degrees: M.A.T.
What do you currently do?
I own and run a bakery business in Hamilton, N.Y. In less than a year, I have grown the business from a farmers market fixture to a full-time brick and mortar shop. During this time, all responsibilities were mine including invoicing, customer service, product design, marketing, equipment acquisition, decision making related to the construction of the full-time shop, hiring, accounting, etc.
What was your first position out of Colgate and what did you do in that role?
I taught middle and high school English at an independent school in the Hudson Valley. I was in charge of the curriculum design for grades 7-12. I also taught all of these grades throughout the year.
How can students prepare themselves while at Colgate to work in your field?
In order to work in the general small business field, students should become familiar with the surrounding small business community in Hamilton. Many of the businesses in town are run by small business owners who are fountains of knowledge when it comes to starting your own business.
What extracurricular activities, associated with your profession or not, were you involved with while at Colgate?
I was a member and president for one year of the Colgate Resolutions.
Matt Glick ’19, CEO and founder, GipperMedia; Ben Ross ’03, principal, Fibonacci Consulting; Amulya Uppala ’15, international marketing, Asana
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
Vault.com – Provides the industry context needed to identify your best job opportunities. Use the Research Companies tab to browse popular industries, or search for key terms using the search bar. You will need to create an account using your Colgate e-mail address to view this content.
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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As Associate Vice President of Institutional Advancement and Career Initiatives, Michael guides his team in providing students with direct, informed access to Colgate’s alumni and parent community while amplifying the ongoing focus on student development and personal reflection.
Before coming to Colgate in 2012, Mike was director of Career Services at Wesleyan University, worked in career services at Brown University and the University of Rhode Island, and held a variety of student affairs positions at the University of Rhode Island, the California State University, Fresno, and the University of New Hampshire. Mike is a graduate of the University of Rhode Island with a BS in gerontology and an MS in human development, counseling, and family studies. His career has encompassed a few twists and turns including training in clinical hypnosis; spinal cord injury rehabilitation; and singing backup for Mr. Kenny Rogers.
Questions? Call 315-228-7380 for an advising appointment.