Alumni with entrepreneurial attitude

If entrepreneurship is an attitude, the faculty of EDEM Escuela de Empresarios surely knows how to share this attitude with their students!

The classroom is buzzing as ice-cold bottles of brand new cola is distributed to the fifty-five students attending the Monday lecture. Some are as young as seventeen, and this is their first year of higher education. Their teacher, Jorge Villagrasa, reads the names of every one, and their hands go up followed by a short  or presente. They have to be present in all lectures. If they miss fifteen percent of their classes, in this case five lectures, it is basically “game over” for the academic results this year. The rules are strict to prepare students for the work life awaiting them after graduation, as intrapreneurs, entrepreneurs, company managers or business developers. During this class they will get an introduction to the mastery of developing an idea for a target customer, and how this connects to the rest of the business model. Jorge has invited two of his former students that are developing their ideas in Lanzadera, a business accelerator that is part of the university. These alumni lead an example of how to make it from student to self-employed entrepreneur directly after graduation.

Creating a new cola – and selling it too

The first entrepreneur on stage, Lucia Mompó, is the one bringing the desirable bottles. They are filled with a brand new soda called Malferida, and the label states “Cola con ingredientes naturales”. Lucia opens her presentation by explaining the problem of extensive amounts of sugar in soft drinks. She wanted to create an alternative to the existing products, and worked on differentiating her offer from other brands. She managed to create a new cola without sugar, and chose to sell her products to restaurants instead of focusing on grocery stores. As she speaks, the students listen carefully over the soon empty bottles, and when it is time for questions, their hands raises towards the ceiling.

The value of an idea

-How much is an idea worth? The man at the center of attention looks at the students as some of their hands are raising. His name is Borja Cusy, director general of Tatuing, an online service connecting tattoo artists with potential customers considering their future ink art. Borja is an alumnus, and like Lucia, he graduated from an EDEM master’s program this June. Now, five months later, he is back in the classroom as an entrepreneur working full time with his own business, showing the students where they might be in four years’ time. Borja is not afraid to share his business insights, as he thinks the risk of competitors may only make him stronger. Borja speaks rapidly and energetically, and has built a slide deck filled with humor. Illustrations and GIFs from the Simpsons and Lord of the Rings to funny failures captured on “home video”, makes the students pay attention and laugh from the very first slide. Borja states his main takeaways in huge letters. “Get the f*** out of you comfort zone”, “Shit happens”, and “Go big or go home”.  He seems to know his subject, these are advices earned the hard way. Another of his self-experienced councils to the new students is to emphasize persons over ideas. How much is an idea worth? Nada. People, however, are key.

Giving and gaining

Borja is right, people are key. Some of these valuable human beings are our alumni – and we must give them the chance of giving back, getting involved, sharing experiences. This may serve both our current students and our alumni in their common goal towards sustainable entrepreneurship. On one hand, alumni may provide stories close to the heart of the students. They have created their businesses while being at the same age, living in the same region, having the same available resources, and while studying the same topics in the exact same locations as the current freshmen. On the other hand, alumni giving a lecture about their work experiences may serve as a reflection upon their own practices. Sharing the journey towards a target market, may connect the entrepreneur with potential customers. In addition, while involving students in their own network of entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs simultaneously access the networks surrounding the students. Yes, they are first year students now, but in a few years’ time, this network consists of business developers and managers in a wide range of markets.

Role models

“Entrepreneurship is not just about starting a business from scratch. Entrepreneurship is an attitude.” This message is printed in one of many welcoming papers from EDEM University Center. Similar to EDEM Escuela de Empresarios, Engage Centre for Engaged Education through Entrepreneurship also connects alumni and current entrepreneurship education students. At the NTNU School of Entrepreneurship, for instance, alumni are included as guest lecturers, mentors and opponents for the students in a variety of situations. They share everything with the current students, from the topic of idea generation, feasibility testing and business models, to the art of pitching. When it is time for feedback, alumni may provide the students with really though suggestions for improvements. Not to be mean, not to be superior, but to practice for the real world, and to tap into the unleashed potential in the students. In Valencia, Lucia and Borja are examples of entrepreneurs with strong ties to their former business school, choosing to share their experiences pursuing a dream of creation and impact. People are key. Sharing is vital. Lucia, Borja and other entrepreneurship alumni serve as inspirers, mentors and role models for future change makers.

Gunn-Berit Sæter is a PhD Candidate at Engage. Normally, she is working out of NTNU, however the following two weeks she is “desk surfing” at EDEM Escuela de Empresarios, a business school in Valencia, Spain.

This is sharing entrepreneurship as an attitude. This is an engaging entrepreneurship education.

Do you want to learn more about the companies and schools mentioned in this blogpost? Here are the webpages:

The business accelerator Lanzadera:

EDEM Escuela de Empresarios:

NTNU School of Entrepreneurship:

The startup Tatuing:

The startup Malferida: