Friday, March 28, 2008

Following Your Passion

I am a great believer in following your passion. To me, the most important thing in my life is to do what I love and to be the kind of person I want to be. One of my hobbies is climbing mountains and there are a great number of extraordinary mountains in China. With a backpack on my back and a pair of good sneakers on my feet, I would climb to the top of a mountain and feel like the happiest person on earth.

When it comes to starting a business, I also believe that following your passion is very important. Among all the student entrepreneurs that I interviewed so far, Constanza Ontaneda is a good example. She followed her passion of design and opened a fabulous fashion company of her own, C.S.O.R.K. Peru

During our interview, she told me, “I want to do what I like and I want to do it to the full extent, give it a 110% and do it well.”

Another good example of a passionate student entrepreneur is Kerry Motelson. For her, entrepreneurship is “a passion for doing something that you love and putting action behind your words”. Kerry found her passion in horseback riding when she was 3 years old and that’s why she developed Motelson Equestrian Academy and started offering horseback riding lessons when she was still a teenager.

There is a Chinese saying that states, "The best time in your life to follow your passion is when you are young. Because when you are young, you have the greatest physical capacity and lots of time and chances to try, to fail, to take risks, and to succeed. Starting to do something you truly love when you are still young can lead to an extremely satisfying life."

Can you turn your passion into a successful business?

By Rui Zhang

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Importance of Being Reliable

Corporations in America are respected because the American businessman has created a great reputation for being reliable.” - Remedios Diaz-Oliver

Being reliable is important to businesspeople such as Diaz-Oliver - the president of All American Containers, Inc., a leading supplier in the United States of glass, plastic and metal containers and caps throughout the world.

When a customer wants the order in one week and your production process takes six weeks, will you say “yes” in order to book the order? In some cultures, they do. According to Diaz-Oliver, however, American businessman would say no if they cannot deliver. She pointed out, “at the beginning they do not like it, at the end they admire and organize and prepare themselves to order six weeks in advance. Many times we know that we can deliver in four weeks but then everybody looks like a hero. I promise six weeks and I deliver in four and the customer is happy. Don’t you promise to deliver in one week and deliver in six weeks because that is it! People don’t trust you and don’t believe you.”

Click below to hear more of Diaz-Olivier’s thoughts on reliability:

What do you think?

By Rui Zhang

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Ever Want to Start Your Own Business?

Have you ever dreamed of becoming your own boss?

Well, I have. From earlier days when I made great profits by selling my used books at school, I have wanted to run my own business. As I got to interview more and more student entrepreneurs through my work with eClips at Cornell, I was inspired to create something of my own too while I'm still in school. I've been thinking for a while now and I got really excited by the idea of starting a small business as soon as possible.

If you feel the same way I do, you might enjoy taking a look at some successful student run businesses. The Cornell student entrepreneurs I have interviewed are taking courses here at Cornell while running their businesses on the side. I was really impressed by what they've been able to accomplish in their early 20s. They made very good use of their time to study and to work.

Take Sumit Mittal for example - the founder, CEO and CMO of SkillsBazaar. SkillsBazaar provides a platform for students where they can commercialize their skills. They can sell their skills to startup/small/mid-size/big companies or to other students/faculty members. Listen to Mittal discuss how SkillsBazaar came together...

It seems to me that the secret of their success stems from passion, good ideas and hard work. All the student entrepreneurs I interviewed are very passionate and confident individuals who are excited about becoming entrepreneurs. In addition, they all seemed to have good ideas to sell and strong networks of friends, teachers, and relatives to help them. Of course, it's not as easy as it sounds to launch a new business. It requires a lot of time and effort to implement the idea, to look for funding, to network, to launch your product, and to finally make profits.

But if you have the passion and the interest, then why not have a try?

It's just like what Sumit said "my business helps me wake up in the morning, I'm really excited about it and I think that is something that really makes my life better."

Tell me if you are still interested in starting your own business. Maybe we can be partners.

I'm serious.

By Rui Zhang

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Students at Work

Here at Cornell, we’re often taught by professors and lecturers a generation or two removed from us. And by all means this is an obvious necessity—imagine what college life would be like without the structure and wisdom given to us by those with more experience and knowledge. Needless to say there is some value in learning from your peers. In fact, much of our informal learning comes from one on one interaction with our friends and student mentors. It is this kind of interaction that I would like to touch on today.

Last week I interviewed two student entrepreneurs here at Cornell and learned some interesting things from my time with them. The first student I interviewed was Joseph Duva, founder and President of His company is an auction website where homeowners and licensed contractors connect through a real-time online biding process. While Joe made many interesting points, one point that stood out the most to me was his comment on the phenomena of translating an idea into a business. He stated that there are dozens of people with great ideas out there, but few who are willing to commit to the process of going from the idea to the implementation of the idea. Listen to the clip below to hear more from Duva:

The second interview I conducted was with Jonathan Santomauro. Jon is a great guy and something of a serial entrepreneur. Currently, he is the president of Global Procurement Strategies, Inc.—a tactical outsourcing firm that creates partnerships with major corporations to increase the efficiency of their procurement divisions. Jonathan is also the president of, a consumer office supplies and furniture company currently in development stages. The most important lesson I learned from Jon was that the attitude of an entrepreneur is absolutely critical. Especially when interacting with people, everything depends on interpersonal skills—skills which can only be developed over time or with the aid of a mentor, in Jon’s case his parents.

If you haven’t already done so, I would highly encourage you to take a look at these interviews as I barely even touched on all that we spoke of. Have a great spring break and I’ll be back with another blog shortly.

Allen Miller

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Cross Cultural Business Challenges

The key element in successful cross cultural business practices is the art of managing cultural differences. According to Ted Teng, founder of Prime Opus Partners and former president and chief operating officer of Wyndham International, looking at things differently is the first and most important step to take. Teng states, “If you can approach cross cultural businesses that way it will help you to be much more open than if you just judge things based on what you know from the past. By looking at things being different, it will allow you to listen a lot better.”

Listen to this clip to hear more from Teng -

Conducting cross cultural business with either diverse business partners or a workforce with differing cultural backgrounds presents challenges in language, cultural values, world views, business ethics and practices, business etiquette and expectations. For instance, there are great differences between the east and the west in doing businesses and it is important to know the major differences underlying how people in the two cultures think.

If you are interested in learning more about the cultural differences, take a look at the chart posted on the Legacee website.

What kind of challenges do you see in cross cultural business?

By Rui Zhang

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Jessica Flannery Discusses Kiva and Social Entrepreneurship

Jessica Jackley Flannery is a co-founder of Kiva, a not-for-profit organization which connects people willing to offer loan money to unique entrepreneurs in the developing world. Kiva partners with existing microfinance institutions to gain access to these outstanding entrepreneurs from impoverished communities world-wide. Essentially, Kiva uses the power of the internet to facilitate one-to-one connections that were previously prohibitively expensive.

During an inteview with eClips, Flannery discussed the inspiration behind Kiva as well as the challenges of being a social entrepreneur and the differences and similarities of operating a not-for-profit organization versus a for-profit business.

To hear an overview of Flannery's comments, watch the following 2-minute video put together by the eClips team:

To learn more from Jessica Flannery, click here to access her interview and lecture in the eClips collection.

Game of the Day: Define this Word

Last week I wrote a little about myself and where we’re headed this semester. This week I’d like to plunge into a discussion on the theme of the eClips site: entrepreneurship.

First, you might want to check out the podcast entitled Entrepreneurs: Born or Made?

I’ve always found it interesting to read various perspectives of entrepreneurship and how people define the word "entrepreneur". To be honest, the term is hard to pin down; it seems to be surrounded by multiple meanings, which give it an almost mystical aura. Yet, ask almost anyone you meet and they will most likely have some kind of understanding of the word. Here in the U.S., the entrepreneurial spirit can be seen everywhere—from the local bakery to search engine giant Google. The ability to become an entrepreneur is a freedom Americans take much pride in. We all love the classic “rags to riches” tale and uphold the virtue of equality of opportunity. But what is the actual definition of the word?

The word “entrepreneur” can be traced back to the 13th century in which it first appeared in the form of the French word entreprende— which literally means: to undertake. Nowadays most economists and experts in the field agree upon some kind of variation of the following:

An entrepreneur is a person who habitually creates and innovates to build something of recognized value around perceived opportunities.

Nevertheless, entrepreneurs rarely have this definition in mind when they start up their businesses. In fact, there is a wide range of reasons why individuals choose to become entrepreneurs. Some entrepreneurs start up ventures for purely financial reasons hoping to “make it big.” Others do it because they like innovating and creating solutions to societal problems. Still others become entrepreneurs for the “coolness factor.” When asked by Forbes magazine how he likes being the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg responded, “I don't care about being a CEO and I never really have. I don't even care about running a company—I just want to build cool things.”

A great way to explore what people think about entrepreneurship is to check out the eClips themes on "Defining An Entrepreneur":

Defining Entrepreneur As Being Your Own Boss
Defining Entrepreneur As Creative, Adaptable and Flexible
Defining Entrepreneur As Creator, Builder and Visionary
Defining Entrepreneur As One Who Takes Ownership and Control
Defining Entrepreneur As Opportunity Finder
Defining Entrepreneur As Passionate and Determined
Defining Entrepreneur As Risk Taker
Defining Entrepreneur As Set of Skills - Not A Career

Entrepreneurship is something that anyone can get involved with, but examining your goals, motives and ambitions is a task that each entrepreneur should do at some point. So what’s your definition of the entrepreneur? And why would you become one?

Allen Miller