Three Lessons For Young Entrepreneurs This Summer
For most teenagers, summer is a welcome break from school, a few months to play before college starts, or a great time to get ahead academically. For me, I always looked forward to summer because it meant a break from classes and time to focus on my passion: Building businesses.
I have been an entrepreneur for as long as I can remember. From delivering newspapers daily during grade school to running a variety of service-based businesses in high school, I made my first acquisition of a business in college, buying a screen printing company. Summer was always my most productive time of the year. While my friends (or as I viewed them, potential competitors) slept in and took jobs flipping burgers, I taught myself how to build an enterprise from the ground up with the help of great mentors.
For young adults and recent high-school graduates thinking about entrepreneurship or what that might mean, summer is a critical time to begin developing the abilities, knowledge, and relationships necessary to succeed in business. Take the time to invest in yourself. Take an unpaid internship at a great firm, or volunteer with a community group that provides services in your area.
Here are my top three lessons young entrepreneurs can take away from a summer internship or volunteer program:
1. Opportunity Evaluation
Entrepreneurs constantly think about new opportunities. Since we have limitations (time, money, and knowledge, to name a few) your success as an entrepreneur depends upon your ability to find and compare opportunities, determining which are worth investing in, and which should go back to the drawing board (or the garbage can).
Your decision to volunteer or intern this summer is a great time to practice your opportunity evaluation skills. What are your priorities? What hours are you available? In what type of team do you operate? Are any of the internships paid? Could your manager or sponsor offer a recommendation letter to a new employer or a college you would like to attend?
2. Networking and Relationship Development
One of the aspects of Puerto Rican business culture that impressed me since I moved here almost six years ago is Puerto Rican passion for networking and meeting new people. Bootstrap entrepreneurs - those who build businesses from the ground up, on small budgets and with limited resources - rely on one another for support when starting businesses.
By interning or volunteering this summer, you will be exposed to new people and new ways of thinking. Get to know your coworkers, business managers, and the people you serve. Engage with the community. Go to a municipal meeting. Introduce yourself to as many people as you can, tell them about the business you hope to pursue, and find out what they do (and take notes). Save their business cards so you can contact them down the road, they may be able to help you with a problem. Always send them a thank you note for their help or counsel.
3. Thinking Critically About Successes and Failures - the 'Post-mortem'
At the end of every product launch, software project, or marketing campaign, my teams engage in an honest, frank discussion of what went well, what went wrong, and what we can learn for next time. These meetings, which we jokingly call 'post-mortems,' are critical in understanding strengths, weaknesses, and areas of improvement.
As your summer winds to a close, take time to evaluate your volunteer experience. Did you enjoy it? Why or why not? Did your opportunity assessment process work? Were you matched with the right organization? What can you do to better choose an internship next year? And most importantly, what did your co-workers and supervisor think of the job you did, and how do they think you can improve?
4. Bonus Tip - Volunteer Opportunities in Puerto Rico
We contacted a few non-profits while writing this article and learned that many of them are still looking for volunteers this summer. Here are a few contacts to get you started on your search for the perfect volunteer opportunity in summer 2018. Good luck!
Habitat for Humanity of Puerto Rico
La Fondita de Jesús
Contact: Vanessa Lugo
(787) 724-4051 ext. 213
Boys & Girls Clubs de Puerto Rico
Contact: Francisco Mesa
(787) 728-4040 ext. 1242
Para la Naturaleza
Instituto Nueva Escuela
Proyecto ENLACE del Caño MartÍn Peña
Casa Protegida Julia de Burgos
Contact: Sara Silva
*Mark E. Curry is a leading entrepreneur, philanthropist and impact investor. Curry founded SOL Partners in Puerto Rico in 2012, and in January 2017 completed acquisition of NotiCel. As Chair of the Mark E. Curry Family Foundation, he invests in critical community charitable organizations.