Skip E-ship Class, Read This—Introduction

Today, I’m launching a series of “how to” posts designed to help you create and develop new ideas.  These posts will save you thousands of dollars in unnecessary entrepreneurship coursework, help you work across disciplines to bring your great ideas to life, and provide a systematic approach to developing creative solutions to the problems we face in our 21st-century world.

Your ideas will take many shapes over the next several weeks including: on campus programs, partnerships, and new venture creation. Today I’ll set the stage, giving you five steps necessary for success in the weeks ahead.


  1. Don’t pay to learn about entrepreneurship.  Learn by doing.
  2. Do work with people outside your discipline.
  3. Don’t be afraid to fail.

Step 1. Start with you.
Above and beyond your degree, your guiding values are the most important.  What are you passionate about, outside your art?  How can you fuse your passions outside the practice room with your great work inside the practice room?  One of the best ways to find your path is to seek out opportunities that fuel your passions on your campus or in your community.   If you’re not sure about what you’re passionate about, start with this post I wrote a few weeks ago.

Step 2. Become familiar with these terms.
One of the biggest barriers between the arts and business worlds is often the terms we use to define what we do.  Each week I’ll define a few terms for you.  Here are four terms to get you started:

  • Action-based learning: Learning through real, practical experiences, not in the classroom. In entrepreneurship, action-based learning allows you to have the opportunity to try your ideas in a safe, low-risk environment.
  • Bottom Line: A company’s total earnings (or profit). Net income is calculated by taking revenues and adjusting for the cost of doing business, depreciation, interest, taxes and other expenses. This number is found on a company’s income statement and is an important measure of how profitable the company is over a period of time. The measure is also used to calculate earnings per share.
  • Double Bottom Line: A business term used in socially responsible enterprise and investment. While all businesses have a conventional bottom line to measure their fiscal performance (financial profit or loss), enterprises that seek a second bottom line look to measure their performance in terms of positive social impact.
  • Social Entrepreneur: Social entrepreneurs are individuals with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems. They are ambitious and persistent, tackling major social issues and offering new ideas for wide-scale change. Social entrepreneurs often seem to be possessed by their ideas, committing their lives to changing the direction of their field. They are both visionaries and ultimate realists, concerned with the practical implementation of their vision above all else.  Check out Ashoka for more information.

Step 3.  Form a cross-disciplinary team
Find 3-5 people who align with your values and work together towards a common goal of bringing your great ideas to life. With any new venture, diversity of thought is an asset.  Not only will you learn about other disciplines, you can lean on each others strengths as you develop your idea.

Step 4. Goals

  • Develop ideas that use community-based partnerships and principles of social entrepreneurship to change the direction of the business and arts fields.
  • Create sustainable programs that last long after you implement your ideas.
  • Begin at a grassroots level, then work to reach a broad audience.
  • Be socially empathetic and concerned about how you can make a positive difference in the world.
  • Become the arts and business leaders of tomorrow.

Step 5.  Get to work!
The process you and your team are about to embark upon is rooted in the idea that entrepreneurship is a state of mind and not just about new venture creation. These posts will help your team focus on your core values and develop the skills of an entrepreneur.  In addition to thinking like an entrepreneur, you must also understand the entrepreneurial process to cultivate your ideas in an organized and universally understood fashion.  Over the next six weeks, I’ll lay out the following step-by-step process for developing your ideas:

  1. Identify an Opportunity—Brainstorming activities designed to help you focus your ideas.
  2. Develop the Concept—A strategy for success, rooted in tangible, achievable goals to meet the need or demand you are addressing.
  3. Identify Required Resources—Who will you work with, where will you work, and how much will it cost to launch.
  4. Acquire the Necessary Resources—Raising capital, assembling a knowledgeable team, and recruiting great advisors.
  5. Implement and Manage the Venture—Develop a business plan, conduct additional market research and explore bootstrapping.
  6. Harvest the Venture—Exit strategy and sustainable venture development.

As you assemble your team, remember that the hardest part about all of this is getting started.  Your work over the next six weeks will be less about a for-profit, non-profit trajectory, and more about trying and seeing what feels right as it relates to your passions.

What barriers do you face in starting a new venture/project? What ideas do you have percolating?  I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.  Thanks and I look forward to working with you over the next six weeks!


Header image  “Dimension” by KT King, CC-BY-2.0.

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Nate Zeisler is the Dean for Community Initiatives at the Colburn School in Los Angeles. He envisions a world where students majoring in the arts have a clear path to a sustainable career, where creative minds are empowered and inspired to rule the workforce, and where access to the arts is not just for the privileged few, but for all.

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