Jan
19

An Entrepreneurship Community

Written by: Jeffrey Nytch,http://www.jeffreynytch.com/
DMA Director, Entrepreneurship Center for Music
University of Colorado – Boulder

In the 18 months since my arrival in Boulder to run The University of Colorado’s Entrepreneurship Center for Music (“ECM”), I’ve witnessed a number of sessions in which students are asked about the entrepreneurial ideas they are developing. It often takes some encouragement: students are wary of tipping their hands and having someone steal their idea away from them. And while in some situations that might be a legitimate concern (some sort of proprietary technology, for instance), most of the time I’m able to tell them, Look: your idea is much more than just a notion – it’s an authentic expression of you, borne out of your passion, your interests, and your experience. And that means that you’re the only one who can shepherd this thing through to completion.

And then I talk about teamwork. While some entrepreneurial ventures are fulfilled with the work of a single individual, in most cases the process is more likely to succeed when a team is involved. Nobody can be an expert in everything, and most entrepreneurial ventures require a very wide range of skills; there’s the creative idea process, but there’s also fiscal management, taxes, legal issues, marketing, and a host of other areas where somebody else might be more effective. An entrepreneurial venture of any complexity at all takes a team, and for a team to be effective there has to be an openness, a willingness to share our needs and seek help from others. It takes a certain kind of vulnerability.

I got thinking about this because I’ve been to a lot of conferences lately. Being a teacher of entrepreneurship in the field of higher education is an interesting combination: theory can be divorced of practice, and sometimes educators think that entrepreneurship is some sort of magic bullet, some sort of end in itself that they can plug into their curricula and guarantee the success of their students. As someone with an advanced degree (but not in entrepreneurship – I’m a composer), and one who learned entrepreneurship “on the street” (i.e., through trial and lots of error!), I can appreciate both the joy of pure scholarship and the limits of it, and am often the one in the room to gently explain that entrepreneurship is about process, that one best learns it by practicing, and that programs to implement it within an educational context can be a varied as the institutions themselves. Sometimes I’m heard, and sometimes it can be a frustrating conversation.

But one really positive thing that I’ve experienced at these conferences is the sense of teamwork embodied by my colleagues in entrepreneurship education. We share not only an interest in entrepreneurship and its potentially powerful impact on arts education, we also share a passion for our students and for equipping them to go out into the world and find their dreams. There is a tremendous generosity of spirit with these folks, a willingness to share their insights and innovations, to seek out knowledge from each other when we lack it ourselves, and to work together to solve our shared challenges. There is, in essence, a community of higher ed arts entrepreneurs – a community I am both honored and greatly blessed to be a part of.

I write about this, though, not just to express gratitude for that community but also because it’s a great illustration of an important aspect of entrepreneurship itself: the necessity of collaboration and teamwork in order to accomplish shared goals. Because entrepreneurship is more than just the idea. In fact, an idea in and of itself isn’t entrepreneurial at all. Entrepreneurship is the process by which an idea is brought to fruition, and it’s a process that is greatly facilitated by teamwork and collaboration.

I don’t need to look very far to see how this idea plays out, either: my own program in Boulder may be directed by me, but it’s a product of my predecessors, who laid important groundwork in establishing the program, my colleagues at CU, who partner with me to promote our programming and aid with their expertise, and this community of arts entrepreneurs nationwide, whose wisdom and whose own successes inform so many others beyond their institutions. In February, the ECM will be bringing Lisa Canning out to Boulder as our Spring Keynote Guest, and once again this community will be in evidence: as Lisa shares her wisdom and experience with the CU community, I’m sure she and I will also be talking about her ventures and, just possibly, she’ll take home with her some tidbits of her own. That’s the nature of community, of collaboration: the mutual exchange of ideas for the edification of all. It’s also a key component of entrepreneurship – and one I particularly enjoy reveling in.

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