In today’s economy, failure isn’t quite what it seems. Failure is a building block to success, an essential experience for entrepreneurs to learn from and understand in order for their endeavors to thrive. At Drexel University’s Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship, students are taught how to embrace failure and use their experiences to establish and build future successes.
These students experience business in a unique way that most college students are never exposed to. Many students aspire to be entrepreneurs, but often are not ready or do not fully understand the risk that comes with starting and growing a business. Entrepreneurship students are immersed in hands-on, enlightening classes that engage and teach valuable professional and personal lessons.
In courses like Ready, Set, Fail, students learn that taking risks requires a deep appreciation of failure. Some entrepreneurs are afraid of making the assertive decisions that are often needed to succeed, and opt for a conservative strategy. Students learn that taking risks and experiencing failure attributes to success in their future.
But these lessons go beyond the classroom. The Close School’s Founding Dean, Dr. Donna De Carolis, hosts entrepreneurs on her CBS Philly series, the Starter’s Review. These interviews focus on how entrepreneurs earned their success and overcame obstacles. Entrepreneurs like Nick Bayer, Founder of Saxbys, Karen Jehanian, CEO of KMJ Consulting, and Emily Bittenbender, Managing Partner of Bittenbender Construction, discuss and share their insight during interviews students and professionals can learn from.
In Emily Bittenbender’s interview, she recalled her business hitting rock bottom during the recession a few years ago. Revenue was down, profits were non-existent, and she received a job offer from another firm. Bittenbender took this time to identify her failure, apply immediate solutions, and (most importantly) not give up. She declined the job offer and poured all her energy and focus into her fledgling business. With fortitude and stark team loyalty, Bittenbender Construction prevailed through the storm. It has since flourished and in 2015 achieved 250% growth in revenue.
In 2007, Nick Bayer received an email on his birthday from the prospective investor stating his intention to withdraw from funding the company. Bayer was out of funds, unable to pay rent or make payroll, but still refused to let this obstacle deter him. Bayer advises entrepreneurs that, “You got to have a grittiness and determination that never turns off.” He ultimately made the funding deal, and moved the business to Philadelphia.
During her interview, Karen Jehanian advised that if plans go awry, take an hour or two to “give yourself time to mourn.” Think out your next plan of action and “get out of your comfort zone, and make it happen.” The characteristics entrepreneurs like Bayer, Jehanian, and Bittenbender have in common are unwavering passion, tireless work ethic, and problem solving abilities. These are the traits that help entrepreneurs stand out among the competition and propel them to new heights.
The Close School is educating Philadelphia’s entrepreneurs about failure through courses like Ready, Set, Fail and providing insight from prominent professionals featured on the Starters’ Review series; while empowering tomorrow’s leaders to overcome obstacles and achieve success. So remember, the next time you lose, don’t lose the lesson. Reflect on your failures and go forward with confidence knowing that you are now stronger than ever because of your experience.
Sarah Temple, Communications, Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship
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