Entrepreneurs share experiences
Panelists from roundtable event discuss mistakes, give advice
Students may think entrepreneurs lead glamorous and easygoing lives. But entering the world of entrepreneurship involves hard work, dedication and many, many mistakes, according to some members of a roundtable discussion yesterday titled “Creating a Path to Your Own Success: Entrepreneur Roundtable.”
To give students a true glimpse into this lifestyle, Career Services and the Alpha Phi Delta fraternity co-hosted the event in the Busch Campus Center.
Zion Kim, a School of Arts And Sciences junior, and his fraternity APD coordinated the discussion, where interested students could converse with and ask questions of accomplished entrepreneurs at six-minute roundtable discussions.
Kim himself is an entrepreneur who created E-Z Greek, a company that sells and screen-prints fraternity and sorority clothing and merchandise, he said.
Kim said he seized the opportunity to enter the world of entrepreneurship when the store he worked at, RU Crazy, went out of business. RU Crazy sold greek life gear, and before it closed, the store’s owner gave Kim all of his manufacturer’s contact information.
He said he convinced the owner of a smoke shop in downtown New Brunswick to lend him free space for E-Z Greek, assuring that his company would attract more customers to the store.
“I jumped into it not knowing how to do anything,” he said. “It was kind of just like ‘Oh I have the opportunity, I’m going go start this business now.’”
Kim now works for JuiceTank, an incubator that facilitates and advises the development of start-up companies, he said.
JuiceTank’s founding entrepreneur and CEO, Mukesh Patel, was another speaker at the event.
Entrepreneurs can come into JuiceTank with an idea, prototype or an established business and have access to start-up capital, lawyers and creative design services.
Patel said he has established a firm that accompanies other businesses with the necessary tools to develop and prosper.
But Kim did not have this type of guidance when launching E-Z Greek.
“I learned things by making as many mistakes as possible,” he said.
Kim said his earliest mistake was when he first attempted to buy fabric for the Greek letters in New York City.
“I never walked into a fabric store before it, I Googled it on my phone. I ended up in this really ridiculously expensive fabric store … I think it was on one of the episodes of [America’s Next Top Model],” he said.
He realized he was in New York’s garment district and he said he spent ten times more than he should have.
Mark Annett, who owns a medical device design company, also said his first entrepreneurial endeavor failed greatly.
Annett said he started a business that played on the word scruple, which is commonly known to mean the internal voice that speaks when a person is about to do something wrong.
“I actually was reading an engineering manual, and I saw that scruples were a unit of weight,” he said. “I minted coins that were 10 scruples … I was trying to sell scruples to lawyers and politicians who didn’t have any,” he said.
But Annett said his biggest mistake was making his scruples out of expensive material, and usually his products only yielded a 95 percent return.
“I had a famous Russian sculptor who sculpted metals for the Olympic medallions. I made them out of pure silver,” he said. “I could have gone and tried to market the device with a wooden one, as long as it weighed the 10 scruples.”
Jerry Masin, president and founder of CompasScale, said students have much to consider before entering the world of entrepreneurship.
“When you’re an entrepreneur, you can’t avoid the goods and bads of your business. A lot of people going into work … they want somebody else to have the responsibility,” he said. “An entrepreneur never has the luxury of not knowing where the asteroid is.”
No one should pursue entrepreneurship because they do not want a boss, said Masin, a University alumnus. In most cases, entrepreneurs have to cater to the needs of multiple bosses.
He said a strong entrepreneur is resilient, handles the business’ pitfalls and is ready to take on the responsibility of an entire enterprise.
“That’s an important soul searching conversation that any student that’s approaching entrepreneurship really needs to think through,” he said. “It’s not a matter of not having a boss, not going to work at 10 in the morning and leaving when you want to leave — it’s about those qualities”
But Jason Goldstein, a University alumnus, said he believes his natural entrepreneurial essence pushed him to success.
He created Jason Goldstein Theatricals, LLC, a performing arts and entertainment company that produces a wide variety of events, including the annual Rutgers Hall of Distinguished Alumni Awards Gala and the University commencement ceremony, he said. Goldstein said he began producing at age nine.
“I started raising money and renting buildings and having strangers come and buy tickets when I was 14 and putting up full scale shows. I’ve been producing my whole life,” he said.
Goldstein said he is driven by his passions
“I’m not really driven by money,” Goldstein said. “I think ‘how do I fix this’ or ‘how do I make people laugh or smile or think and improve things.’”
Tom Boylan contributed to this article.