The Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA) is the premier global competition for high school, undergraduate and graduate students who own and operate businesses. Nominees compete against their peers from around the world for the chance to win capital and in-kind prizes from sponsor organisations.
In April 2015, I competed at the GSEA Finals in Washington DC. This was an amazing experience where I got to learn from the world’s best and brightest student entrepreneurs.
Here is what I learnt:
1. Passion is Crucial For Success
All the entrepreneurs I met in DC were driven by a bigger purpose. They started their companies because of a problem they had personally experienced or were particularly passionate about. Take for instance Scott Mungía from Mexico; he has created a company called Biofase that produces plastic from a compound found within avocados. This innovation originated from his passion for science and environmental sustainability.
Passion is crucial because it keeps you going when the going gets really tough. Scott for example has to operate in an environment where there are drug cartels. To an entrepreneur who has no passion or strong sense of purpose, they would probably quit. But for an entrepreneur who has that passion, that sense of purpose, it does not matter how tough the road, they will persevere. Scott came third at the GSEA Finals.
2. Entrepreneurship Isn’t Just Technology
When people think of startups in this day and age, they typically think of technology businesses such as Airbnb and Uber. I thought the same way too until I met Alex MaClean. Alex is the Founder of East Coast Lifestyle (ECL); a clothing company. Alex was born and raised in Nova Scotia and founded ECL on the basis that people want to wear and represent the east coast and the lifestyle they have there. Since its inception, ECL has sold over 250,000 units. Alex’s story reminds us of the definition of an entrepreneur.
“An entrepreneur is a person who organises and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.”
Alex came second at the GSEA Finals.
3. Don’t Let Your Age Hold You Back
As a student entrepreneur, age is one of our greatest advantages because we have lots of energy and limited responsibilities. It can also be one of our greatest disadvantages due to our lack of experience and skills. However, if the GSEA Final is anything to go by, student entrepreneurs are highly capable. Take Steinar Henskes from the Netherlands as an example. Steinar is the Founder of the Bird Control Group which creates lasers designed to scare birds away. Bird collisions are a major hazard especially in the aviation industry. Founded in 2012, the company operates in 52 countries around the globe including major airports in London and Amsterdam.
Steinar’s achievement is phenomenal because he is operating in an area of business where his customers are large companies and he is dealing with industry professionals much older than himself. Steinar came first at the GSEA Finals.
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