Divya’s View: Getting Bit by the Entrepreneurial Bug

This post was written by Divya Mani, T'12:

Full disclosure: I do NOT self-identify as an entrepreneurial person.  Before Tuck, I spent five years as a strategy consultant for large for-profit and non-profit organizations; after Tuck, I’m headed to Procter and Gamble, where I’ll be working on one of the biggest brands in the world (Gillette).  Though I saw New Orleans Entrepreneur Week (NOEW) as a way to get outside of my “established organization” comfort zone, I was more motivated by the opportunity to do something good in New Orleans. 

I didn’t quite know what to expect beyond what I had experienced in dozens of consulting projects, which (to caricature it for simplicity’s sake) went something like: project team comes in and gets to know the business; project team develops a solid relationship with the client; final recommendations summarize the main “a has” and provide some snazzy PowerPoint-heavy strategies for addressing them; implementation begins at some undefined point after the team goes away.

Our experience at NOEW has left these expectations in the dust, and got me excited about the impact that “non-entrepreneurial” people like me can have in early-stage organizations. 

On the first point, I’ve never been part of a team that created so much impact in such a short period of time (~200 actionable slides in 4 days).  I attribute most of this to our amazing entrepreneurs, who impressed us every day with their energy, openness, passion, and willingness to roll up their sleeves as we tackled both the nitty-gritty and the big picture questions around their business.  It didn’t hurt to have a multi-faceted, deeply committed Tuck team and a ton of support from the folks at Idea Village.  That said, the entrepreneurial setup transformed the project into something really special: since ChapterSpot's founders (Joe and Brendan) literally live and breathe the business, we felt a deep and personal investment in its (and their) success and we knew with absolute confidence that our work would change the way they think and operate tomorrow, next month, and next year.

That gets me to my second point: impact.  NOEW contradicted an assumption I’ve carried around for a while, namely that you have to be big to have a big impact.  Our experience (small team, relatively early-stage business, intimate New Orleans community) showed me the potential of a different model for impact.  After our first-hand exposure to what it means to be an entrepreneur, I finally get why people can’t shake the entrepreneurial bug.  The opportunity to meet a need you’re really passionate about by building an organization that reflects your values and vision?  The variety of consulting (via the constant juggling of strategic and operational priorities, big and little picture issues, etc.) with the flexibility and ownership of being your own boss?  Sign me up!

At least, as soon as I can come up with a brilliant idea and / or convince Joe and Brendan to hire me.