Lessons Learned: Creative Founder

The semester has come to an end and I am so happy I chose to take (and stay) in creative founder. I have learned many valuable things from this class, not only about business and startups, but about myself.

Before this class…

I was excited and nervous to be in a class that simulated a real startup and to work in a group for longer than a few weeks. I heard that “Creative Founder is amazing and that no matter what you will learn so much, so just take it”. It was number one on my list for classes and when I finally got a spot in the class I was SO HAPPY. Then the first day came around and I was scared shitless. I was in a room full of seniors that I felt had much more experience than me. Christina said that this class is far from easy, especially working with groups (she was right). I was considering if I could really handle this class but Christina said it really didn’t matter if I was a junior or senior, I should just stay..so I did.

Before the first day I thought this class would be easier than it was, I didn’t think it would take as much time as it did and I really thought I wouldn’t have to put in as many hours as I did. I thought this class would be something fun I could do as a break from my other classes. I quickly learned how much time, effort, and energy goes into starting a business. There is lots of uncertainty, proving what you believe, and trying to sell your idea.

During this class..

We did several exercises in class that particularly stood out to me and that I will carry on in the future. My most favorite activity was team empathy maps, writing how each other is perceived by the team and how we think they view the world, their pains, keeps, and changes. This really helped me to get into the mind of my teammates and see how they might view situations differently. It built empathy within the team and helped us critically. We honestly saw what we each needed to change, keep doing, and what to really work on. This really helped us care for one another.

Another favorite exercise was the design charrettes, this is where we came up with our idea for aroma! It really brought out great ideas and we worked as a team to build something together that we were very proud of.

Presenting every week really helped me gain confidence, practice public speaking, and be comfortable in front of a crowd of people. Recording presentations and watching myself was definitely cringeworthy but worth it. I recommend that to everyone. I learned that I need to be much more persuasive and stronger with my tone of voice and use my body language to show confidence. I learned how to stand tall and proud, use a strong voice, and to speak in a courageous tone (the biggest improvement overall).

I learned…

About how a startup works! I learned that business involves lots of sweat, tears, and determination. If you don’t believe in what you are doing and you don’t love your idea, you won’t put yourself into your work and it will show. I thankfully really believe in our product. I love our business and I dedicated myself to it. If I didn’t care about it, I probably I wouldn’t put this much time and effort into it and the business would surely suffer. I am proud of myself for taking the position of CEO. Christina is right, it is really the hardest job. The most difficult part of being CEO for me was being tough on other people. I enjoy leading and see myself as a natural leader, but I lacked the firm and strict character. Over the course of the semester I really saw myself change into adopting more of those qualities. In the begining I really tried not to hurt anyone’s feelings, I was too soft, and I let people walk over me. At the end of the semester I was strong, stood up for myself, and I said things that needed to be said. This is the biggest learning of all. I have never had a defined role as a leader in a group with hierarchy, but this responsibility really helped me see my weaknesses and improve on them.

I learned how to work with others. I learned that I am a compassionate person but I let that take over more often than I should. I learn that I often gravitate to leading a group and I should take charge when I can. I learned that a team works best with trust and individual responsibility. I learned that leading people with inspiration and excitement is more effective than leading with bitterness.

When I go out in this world…

I will be firm when I need to be, I will have an understanding of business, and I will take on leadership roles because it helped me grow more than I ever have in any other class. I will know how to communicate effectively with the people around me. I will know the basics of how to run a startup, if I decide to pursue Aroma or start my own (I will definitely need Christina’s help and guidance though)!