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Seeking to brand itself as a national hub for entrepreneurship, Columbia College invited successful business leaders to Launer Auditorium Thursday night, hoping the panelists would give insight into their wide-ranging success.
“You’re going to be wowed by their ideas,” Susan Solovic said to a crowd of students and local business people. Solovic is a Columbia College alumna, founder SBTV.com and is a contributor on the FOX Business Network. “There’s going to be all sorts of ideas spinning in your head.”
The panelists invited built their success in the ever-growing tech industry.
Austin and Zach Hurst, known as the “Tech Twins” and founders of Hurst Capital, famously made a bid to purchase the struggling Hostess Brands Inc. Also in attendance was Beth Shawluk, the founder of Implicity Solutions, and Ted Dhanik, a driving force behind MySpace.com and engage:BDR.
The discussion covered an array of topics ranging from social media to the largest challenges the panelists had faced.
Dhanik said the two main challenges he had when first starting out was finding what he called a “parallel synergy” between partners and raising capital.
Starting out, instead of raising capital to offer salaried positions, entrepreneurs should consider partnering and sharing potential revenue, Dhanik said. When raising capital, be weary of whom the investor is, he said. They should be adding a strategic value to the company in addition to their monetary contribution. Shawluk said that she has even turned money down because the investor’s goals did not match her own.
Austin Hurst told the crowd to find a partner you can work with in the long run; he was fortunate to have his brother, Zach.
The panelists said to not be afraid of taking risks, because at a young age, entrepreneurs have less to lose.
“Fear is the number one thing holding us back,” said Austin Hurst. “It comes from someone telling us something isn’t possible. [Start a business] while you’re young; get the fear out of the way.”
The panelists told the students that their age should be leveraged to their advantage.
“As a college student, no one expects you to have money, but they do expect you to have an innovative idea that you’re passionate about,” Austin Hurst said.
Older people can start businesses, too, Solovic said; it’s all just a matter of motivation and learning from mistakes.
The event was put on in part to raise awareness for the school’s new Center for Entrepreneurship, founded by Steve and Barbara Fishman. Steve Fishman, an alumni and president and CEO of Big Lots, has donated $500,000 to start the new program.
“Entrepreneurship is a mindset, not an occupation. The key is innovation readiness,” said Sean Siebert, an adjunct professor and founder of Social Era Entrepreneurs.
Using the hashtag “TrepTakeover” the event’s tweets were able to reach 1.12 million people on Twitter, said Jeff Branscom, coordinator of the school’s News Bureau.