How do you define entrepreneurship? The more than 600,000 people who start new businesses each year certainly fit the traditional definition. So does the child who launches a lemonade stand.
But what about the technologist who creates a fairer criminal justice system? The journalist who heals political divides by forging conversations? Each individual identifies a problem — whether personal or societal — and attempts to solve it. Each uses their unique talents to change lives for the better. When I talk about entrepreneurs, these individuals are some of the people I’m thinking about.
That’s because “for-profit” and “private–sector” are not the defining markers of entrepreneurs. Mindset is.
Entrepreneurs certainly are risk takers. The technologist mentioned above — Clementine Jacoby of Recidiviz — left a potentially lucrative Silicon Valley career to help change the country’s justice system. She is a lot like Sal Khan, who left a hedge fund to create Khan Academy and Schoolhouse.world.
But an entrepreneurial mindset is more than risk taking. It’s a way of seeing the world in terms of opportunity. Entrepreneurs identify problems, but also propose solutions. They see needs, and creatively work to address them in new and better ways.
Can you learn to think entrepreneurially? Yes. CKI’s educational programs would not exist if we did not think so.
I’ve seen this over and over again as participants in our programs develop an entrepreneurial mindset and take action. Oftentimes this coincides with discovery of each participant’s unique talents. When you discover your gifts and grow your skills, you’re far better positioned to solve problems in a productive way.
For example: alumna Tanya Gonzalez came to the Koch Associate Program through the recommendation of a friend familiar with CKI. “I was eager to learn Market-Based Management because as a new leader I needed a management style that was proven to work.” The chief of staff for a Boston think tank, Gonzalez wanted space to think about what comes next.
What she received was more than space. She entered a community focused on helping her identify her talents and apply them for the sake of others. “Through learning how to become self-actualized, what my comparative advantages are, how to identify risks and assumptions, and what a great vision looks like, I am now better able to create a program that will be sustainable.” She’s now applying this knowledge to her passion project — creating a home for youth aging out of the foster-care system.
Successful business owners do the same. Kalene Smith, a participant in Youth Entrepreneurs, was an accountant after college, but it wasn’t until she thought about her own health that she found her passion. She started GoTimeTraining, a personal training and nutrition business in Wichita, Kansas, that works with doctors and other professionals to give clients “a fully healthy life.”
The mindset behind Tanya Gonzalez and Kalene Smith is the same. At its core, both have spent time identifying their passions and aptitudes. All three have identified a barrier others are facing that they’re passionate about removing. And all three are proposing a solution to meet that need.
Embracing this way of operating in the world leads to deep, meaningful success. It’s how our society moves forward. And it’s a whole lot of fun.
If you join our community at CKI, we’ll do everything in our power to help you catch this vision. You have unique potential. And if that potential is discovered, developed, and applied, our world will be a far better place.
CKI’s educational programs equip innovators to discover their personal passions and make an immediate impact — to create new ventures, improve existing institutions, and contribute right away. Whether you are just beginning your venture or further along, we want to hear from you.