READY SET STARTUP

Columnist . Katrina Becker

READY SET STARTUP

I realized that I was always going to be an entrepreneur, in one way or another.

I was in fourth grade when I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I started a dog-walking business in my neighborhood, then a newsletter, a class fundraiser for “Saving the Rainforest,” and then I sold t-shirt designs online. In high school I took a “starting a business” class, and decided that I wanted to go to the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. Flash forward four years to the present day, where I somehow made it through calculus (the second time) and now have a degree in Entrepreneurial and Public/Nonprofit Management.

I don’t think it occurred to me at the time, but in choosing the two majors that were most interesting to me, I was also choosing the ones that make the least amount of money. I was completely fine with this realization and my parents seemed to be fine with it too, at least until it sunk in that I was not getting a “normal” job after graduation. Unlike most of my peers at Carlson, I had absolutely no interest in working for the big corporate giants of Target, Cargill, or 3M. Instead, I decided to work full time on a startup social enterprise called Pragati Palms which I found through an internship program at Carlson my last semester.

Pragati was just going through a big transition phase, and one of the cofounders asked if I wanted to work with him full time after I graduated.

Being a fair trade social enterprise that created unique products from palm-leaf waste in India, Pragati was a perfect culmination of my three main interests: environmental sustainability, international development,  and entrepreneurship.

While I saw this opportunity as a way to continue doing something I’m passionate about, my parents saw it as “Katrina graduated and  doesn’t have a real job so she’s never going to pay back her student loans.”  I’m still figuring out how to respond to that one but thankfully they’ve been fairly supportive otherwise.

One of the other factors that led me to pursue the microbusiness path after college was a class I took senior year. The capstone entrepreneurship class had us come up with ideas for businesses and then actually start and operate them for a semester, which was as close to starting a business in the “real-world” as you can get.

My two teammates and I ended up creating Co-Lab, the first collaborative workspace at the University that aimed    to bring entrepreneurial resources to all students, not just those in the business school.

From the beginning, our professor told us that this was going to be a lot of work, which became apparent very quickly.

We learned the hard way how to deal with many important things, such as disagreements between teammates, or what to do when your credit card is declined after ringing up $1,500 worth of Ikea furniture.

It was also through Co-Lab that I finally understood why I had chosen to study entrepreneurship in the first place.

It may have been the most work I had ever put into something up to that point, but it was also the most meaningful.

Seeing the business run successfully and customers actually pay us to use this space we had created from nothing was truly inspiring, and I realized that I was always going to be an entrepreneur, in one way or another.

So that’s where I am now. Each day working on Pragati is different than the last which makes it exciting, and because I have to deal with all aspects of the business, I’m constantly learning new things.

One of the main realizations I’ve had over the past couple of months is that doing something you’re passionate about and the experience you gain from it is really invaluable.

Starting and running a microbusiness is a roller coaster ride filled with plenty of ups and downs, but as long as you have a passion for what you’re doing, it’s all worth it.