Himani Bhat is a student at Duke University and completed the New Ventures Development course taught by CEI Executive Director, Prof. Jamie Jones.
“I’m just an average woman who listened to the universe when it told me to believe in myself.”Lisa Price, founder of Carol’s Daughter
Coming into New Ventures: Development, I was initially apprehensive because this was my first experience with entrepreneurship. That apprehension only grew when I attended the first class and was introducing myself to classmates that were 5-10 years older than me if not closer to the age of my parents. I will admit that I browsed the LinkedIn profiles of some of my peers in slight awe, realizing that these were people that had held actual jobs with a great deal of responsibility. They were incredible people with experience and impressive achievements to their name. They knew what they were doing, or so I thought.
I certainly did not know what I was doing, and the only real-world job I’d ever had was at my neighborhood grocery store. I kind of felt like an underqualified and stressed 19-year old engineering student that was peering into this course via a glass window. But as the class continued, I realized that not only did I enjoy coming up with opportunity and problem statements—I was actually kind of good at it. I started identifying opportunities and problems in my own life outside of class, just for fun. As our team-based projects continued, I realized that my teammates, despite being older and more experienced than me, were just as confused by the process and our problem: the palm-oil crisis. My fear that I was worthless to my team or to the course faded when I realized that I was, in fact, “doing entrepreneurship” just like my peers, and that the biggest difference between us was confidence. This led me to my first big insight—anyone can be an entrepreneur, and I can be an entrepreneur. The story of skin and haircare entrepreneur Lisa Price, as told in “How I Built This” by Guy Raz, was a particularly inspiring one that showed how Price built her own success story with grit, passion, and a willingness to learn. It sounds simple, but it was a hugely important confidence builder for me to realize that I could do it too.
The subject of grit leads me to my next big insight from the semester. This is something incredibly simple that Professor Jamie Jones mentioned on the first day of the semester: “we don’t just talk, we act.” This was something that I was familiar with from my experiences as an engineering student. Anyone trying to be an entrepreneur needs to know that true growth happens when you ask the hard questions and push yourself out of your comfort zone. A precursor to the process is learning the concepts, but the actual process is finding a problem (for example, our team’s palm-oil crisis problem) and practicing wielding your new entrepreneurship tactics against that problem. Only then will you empower yourself to be a better entrepreneur.
In the second phase of the course, through my team’s interviews with various professionals in the palm-oil industry, I was blown away by these individuals that were complete strangers, oftentimes located thousands of miles away from me. Their willingness to hop on Zoom and share their perspectives led me to another important takeaway from the course: don’t underestimate the power of the people around you. And now that almost everyone is just a Zoom meeting away, I am using the word “around” in a very loose sense. At the beginning of our interview process, I felt so overwhelmed by this complex problem of the palm-oil crisis. Now, I’m still overwhelmed by the problem. It’s still incredibly complex. But I realized that nobody is ever truly alone in entrepreneurship. There’s an amazing number of people that are willing to share their knowledge and perspective, and help you grow as an entrepreneur and as a person. The hardest part of the whole process is reaching out your hand and asking for their help.
For more information on the New Ventures courses and other experiential learning opportunities, see our Curriculum page.