Mary Laci Motley is a student at UNC Chapel Hill and completed the New Ventures Development course taught by CEI Executive Director, Prof. Jamie Jones.
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”Winston Churchill
A pivot in business is defined as a change in direction when the concept of a company or service is not properly meeting the needs of their customers. But a pivot is not restricted to the business world, rather pivots exist in nearly every sphere of life. How we choose to approach and accept change is a vital insight every entrepreneur and person can benefit from.
For most of my life, my entire identity was defined as an athlete. I had tunnel vision to compete at the collegiate level and committed to play soccer at the University of Kentucky on scholarship. However, late in my senior year of high school, my foot shattered along with my entire understanding of self, my goals, and my college plans. At the time I had no idea, but I had just experienced what would be the first of many pivots in my life.
In my first semester of college, I applied to the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program. On acceptance, my summer plans quickly changed from a private equity internship in NYC to working construction in New Orleans for Habitat for Humanity. It was this pivot that redefined my understanding of personal success and exposed me to the intersection of entrepreneurship and social impact. I saw an immense opportunity for business to positively transform areas in the public and nonprofit sectors and carried this lesson back to UNC and Duke. I formed my company, EATS2SEATS to expand fundraising access for local nonprofits. Our mission-driven model produced over $20,000 for community improvement efforts in Chapel Hill in the first season. The success of the 2019 season was encouraging but COVID-19 forced another pivot.
Nearly overnight, our company was unable to operate. Given the reality that the company works in large event venues, I began to question my plans to pursue the industry post-graduation. This was around the same time I (thankfully) enrolled in New Ventures Development where pivots are the name of the game. From market segmentation to customer interviews, the course pushes each of us to seek out information that may create pivots or validate assumptions. The willingness to embrace the discomfort and fear of potentially bad news, lack of customer interest, or weak financials (to name a few) is necessary for any entrepreneur and a central theme throughout the course.
If I have learned anything since breaking my foot, it is with pivots comes perspective and grit. Pivots may seem like the end of the world at times, but the most successful companies recognize the power within the ability to pivot and what successes can come from their perseverance. Winston Churchill summed it up pretty perfectly: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Boil down Churchill’s message into a single word, and it would be grit. Grit is one of the famous buzzwords thrown around the entrepreneurial sphere, but the buzz is well deserved. Without grit, entrepreneurial success would not be achievable and the perspective necessary to willingly change paths would be lost. I am thankful New Ventures Development has continued to encourage each entrepreneur to embrace the power of the pivot.
For more information on the New Ventures courses and other experiential learning opportunities, see our Curriculum page.