It is said that entrepreneurship cannot be taught. But, one can always try to learn by doing, if one wants. Hence, “I learn what I do” can be conveyed as the essence of Entrepreneurship.
I am a culinary arts student who studied in Italy for two years, did my internship in Spain, lived in South Korea for a month, came back to India and was left more confused than before. In this day and age, it is getting more and more difficult for people of my age to form a clear idea of what they want to do in life.
With so many options in hand, it is a continuous battle of choosing the best path for you. Even though I haven’t found my path yet, I have realized that the best thing one can do at my age is experiment.
Experiment by doing, by working at the shop floor, getting your hands dirty and try to understand the basics, practically. What is learnt in educational institutes needs to be complemented by applying the learning in real life situations. Because, if you don’t practice what you learn, knowledge fades away in no time.
United Nation’s Empretec Workshop
After coming back to India, I participated in a United Nation’s entrepreneurship workshop called Empretec. Empretec, as I was made to understand, is about spreading the entrepreneurial culture and creating business linkages after understanding the culture.
When I went through the workshop, I realized that I won’t figure out anything unless I start doing something. Something in this set of behaviors provoked me to think, think about what I was doing, think about what I wished to do, and forced me to introspect under a framework of behaviors, and try to identify them with myself.
At that time my aunt, who is a garment manufacturer needed someone to join the team of her company’s vertical called Meemansa Upcycling. At Upcycling, they work with waste fabric generated from the garment industry and upcycle it into fashionable clothing and accessories. The products enable livelihoods for underprivileged and rural people by generating sustainable incomes and also promote the re-use of waste fabrics.
It is a social vertical where they focus on creating sustainable livelihood and also reduce our impact on the environment by upcycling waste. Even though, it was completely unrelated to what I had studied, I decided to jump in and take over the upcycling division.
I have been learning so much about the practical things that one needs to know when doing a business. Trying to find solutions for the problem statements of the existing business has been the bigger part of my work and in this process, I have managed to bring a little system step by step by solving one problem at a time. Most of the businesses, be it small or big, across the globe face challenges day in and day out. They have a new problem statement every day.
And these exact problems, I believe are the best opportunity for school/college students to get their hands dirty. I now realize after about 2 months, I am actually living the special program Empretec has for the young aspiring entrepreneurs out there who want to test and nurture their entrepreneurial competencies.
Empretec’s 60-Day internship for entrepreneurs
I am now able to relate to the 60-day internship program which is unlike any other traditional desk-job, coffee fetching internship. The first two days involve an interactive workshop with Empretec facilitators, who also happen to be real life entrepreneurs, where the student is sensitized about the Empretec methodology and philosophy. On the third day, the students, along with the facilitators, go out in the city and choose any business of their choice. The student becomes a consultant to this business.
From day four to day twenty-nine, the student tries to find a solution to the problem statements given by the business owner. On day thirty, the students and the facilitators meet again to review the past days and get feedback from the facilitators. From day thirty-one till day fifty-nine, the student goes back to the field with his revised plans. On day sixty, everyone comes together, the students, the facilitators and the business owners as well and discuss about successes and failures. Discussing failures is very important at Empretec because that is where most of the learning happens.
This is exactly what I have been doing in Upcycling in the past two months and I can assure that any forward-looking business would appreciate young brains working on their complex problems.
The only way to learn is by doing and practicing in the real world and practicing with Entrepreneurs enhances the chances of learning by practice faster than by “books”!
Guest author: Nandita Kothari, COO, Meemansa Upcycling
Nandita can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org