Next week, learn what it takes to start a startup!

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

One of the classic “American Dream” scenarios involves building the proverbial better mousetrap and starting a company to sell it to those in need of one. But most of us come from families where working for an employer, not ourselves, was the norm; contemplating entrepreneurship can seem like an overwhelming, and possibly intimidating, risk.

If you aspire to start your own business - or even if you just want to know what this work style option is all about - ASU Alumni Career Services will be hosting two webinars next week that will explore various issues related to entrepreneurship, as well as introduce attendees to the resources ASU offers to students, alumni and community members.

To learn more about the webinars, we recently chatted with Lauren Dunning, program manager with ASU’s Entrepreneurship + Innovation unit.  

 Lauren Dunning is a program manager with ASU’s Entrepreneurship + Innovation unit.  

Tell us about what you’ll be presenting during the webinars on March 22-23 for ASU Alumni Career Services.
On March 22, I will be hosting a webinar, Becoming an Entrepreneur, that helps define, contextualize and discuss entrepreneurship. We consider entrepreneurship not only to be an opportunity to create a business, but a path to identifying and solving a problem in a sustainable way. A few Sun Devil success stories will be shared, along with information about relevant tools to use when first developing your idea as an aspiring entrepreneur. 

The March 23 online networking event is an interactive way to connect directly with others who are also interested in entrepreneurship, or who are actively pursuing their efforts. This is an opportunity to build connections and relationships, while also learning more about resources available both from Arizona State University and within the large entrepreneurship eco-system. 

 In addition to a virtual networking room, we will have faculty representatives from Technological Entrepreneurship Management program at ASU, which offers undergraduate and graduate degrees on-campus and on-line for individuals who want to pursue entrepreneurship as an academic degree.  We will also have a representative from the Arizona Small Business Development Center available to share more resources available to anyone interested in entrepreneurship. 

How can ASU alumni and current students take advantage of the university’s emphasis on entrepreneurial education?

At ASU, entrepreneurship is a core value, and we focus on helping to nurture an entrepreneurial mindset.  Regardless of your discipline of study, we think students can identify ways to solve problems and create value with their ideas. ASU alumni also benefit from connecting to a network containing hundreds of thousands of Sun Devils. For decades we have celebrated the economic impact of entrepreneurship and the impact it has in our community, as well as globally. 

What are the most important skills and characteristics for an entrepreneur to possess? 

A lot of what I believe to be most important goes back to that entrepreneurial mindset, which includes traits like adaptability, willingness to learn, ask questions and identify sustainable solutions to meaningful problems. Another key characteristic is resourcefulness. Any time you are trying to create something new or different it is not always clear what steps are required for success, and you’re often having to seek out opportunities and resources from team members to investors, to customers, it’s always critical to be able to communicate the value of your idea and find the resources you need to advance your efforts.  

What are some of the reasons that people are drawn to running their own business in 2017? 

An interest in being a business owner isn’t something particularly new, however there are some great recent examples of highly successful startups that might make the idea of being an entrepreneur more appealing. For years, the way we work has been shifting away from having a professional career with one particular company towards something more adaptable and with more changes in terms of both employer and role than what used to be common. As we talk about opportunities to have a meaningful career that impacts, owning your business certainly resonates as a great opportunity. 

What new tools are available to help them now?
There are so many tools and resources available to individuals who want to create their own business. The Phoenix Resource Navigator is an interactive online search platform design to help Phoenix-area entrepreneurs find the right help with their most pressing business challenges. We offer the ASU Venture Devils program, which supports student, faculty, and community entrepreneurs who are working to launch their ideas.  As a participant in Venture Devils, you receive access to dedicated mentorship, and an online Venture Devils course that helps advance your idea as well. ASU Startup School, a self-paced online course, is another resource available for anyone interested in learning more about how to develop a successful venture. Other entrepreneurially focused opportunities and services at ASU available can be found by visiting

Is it necessary to pursue a business idea full time or does it make sense to consider it a “side hustle” at first?

There isn’t a perfect process, and there certainly isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” way of successfully launching a business.  There are many factors to consider when identifying if you should focus on something full or part time, and there are benefits to both approaches. Regardless of if you choose to pursue your business full or part time, there should be some sort of proof of concept. 

What are some common entrepreneurial missteps your unit can help Sun Devils avoid making?

So many people are hesitant to share their ideas, but an important part of the process is talking with your potential customers.Take the time to interview others and do the work to identify if there is a real, paying customer interested in whatever business, service, or resource you are creating. Identifying the need, being open to feedback, and understanding the value you are creating is something you can test. This lean launch methodology is a key component of the Startup School content I mentioned already, and is really a great way to develop your idea, and understand that it is a process.  We can also help you to not feel isolated as an entrepreneur and connect to the larger eco-system within Phoenix.  We regularly offer programs and community workshops to help develop a community of peers.   

What does the future hold for entrepreneurs? How will ASU be involved in shaping the entrepreneurial ecosystem?

ASU values entrepreneurship, and will continue to be a leader in our commitment as a higher education institution that encourages, promotes, and celebrates entrepreneurship and innovation.  We will continue to be an active leader in the Phoenix entrepreneurship eco-system, and will often play a role of connector and convener.  We just recently received a $245,000 grant to develop best practices for diversity and inclusion within entrepreneurship, so we will continue to help support an inclusive ecosystem at all levels.   


~Liz Massey, Managing Editor, ASU Alumni Association