Entrepreneurship is not about building companies. The concept that entrepreneurship is only about start-ups is melting faster than the Greenland Ice Sheet. One school, high in the Sierra Nevada, on the shores of a uniquely clear, blue, alpine lake, is about to double-down on this concept. Sierra Nevada College spent the last five decades building an educational structure established on opportunity and access. Now in its 50th year, the Sierra Nevada College of Entrepreneurial Leadership will hone its vision, beginning with its name.
Entrepreneurship is about identifying a need
Marina McCoy, left, SNC Tahoe ’16, Sustainability and Ski Business and Resort Management Graduate – Founder of Waste-Free Earth, which works to reduce the environmental impacts of music festivals and other large events.
Entrepreneurial leaders like Marina McCoy, identify needs around them and can be educated to meet those needs creatively. For her Interdisciplinary Studies Service Learning Project, she was the Educational Program Assistant for climate change activists Protect Our Winters, reaching out to middle and high schools about the POW climate change program Hot Planet/Cool Athletes. Marina’s connections made at POW resulted in an invitation to lead new sustainability efforts at the Friendly Gathering music festival back in her home state of Vermont. This experience inspired her after graduation to found the sustainability coordination and consulting company Waste-Free Earth, which works to reduce the environmental impacts of music festivals and other large events.
Marina is not unique at SNC Tahoe. She is the norm among top graduates from every program.
Pivotals want to be entrepreneurial in nature
Jason Paladino, SNC Tahoe ’12, Outdoor Adventure Leadership and Journalism, winner of the Society of Professional Journalists – NorCal 2016 James Madison Freedom of Information Student Award.
Sixty-eight percent of Gen Z or Pivotals claim they would rather be an entrepreneur than work for a large corporation. They are uniquely aware that their future jobs will require skill, creativity and specialization. They know that the skills of the true entrepreneur are interdisciplinary and creative in nature. They also know that justice trumps tradition. Consider the diamond as a symbol of commitment. Internet-savvy Pivotals know diamonds come at a cost they are not willing to bear. Their solution is technology. A diamond from a lab is still forever. Additionally, it is cost-conscious and conflict free; a clean symbol of the family-centered, debt-averse, just generation that they are a part of. A symbol provided by entrepreneurs who heard them loud and clear.
Technology as inseparable from self
Pivotals desire, even demand, the mundane be taken care of by technology. Their questions should be answered magically, sincerely, and authentically by those who wish to cater to them as customers. Not in a Minority Report or creepy Alexa way, but in the same way that Google, Facebook/Instagram, and Amazon serve them. Because we have the technology. Pivotals create, not for the sake of riches and passion, but for the far-flung communities they join via technology and stability in their lives. Technology is the way they solve arguments, problems, and find each other. Most importantly, it’s the way they find what they are looking for “in real life.”
Not an addiction but a solution to isolation
Gen Z isn’t wasting time on their phones. They’re learning and connecting. Which is exactly what drives entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurial thinking is rapid specialization in response to a need. It’s the social impact entrepreneurship of Andrew Mason in Bromley-by-Bow that sees a need and fills it, creatively. To create something for the world that didn’t exist, to connect the disconnected. To re-purpose the abandoned through creative thought.
A model of entrepreneurship in the mountains
In the mountains between California and Nevada, on the shores of a uniquely blue and deep lake, there is a university with a profoundly interdisciplinary structure and kick-ass ski-sports teams. From there a widespread entrepreneurial ecosystem has been brewing for years and is about to expand. It will be backed by a group of successful businessmen and women who have volunteered their time. The School of Entrepreneurial Leadership is leaning in to what it has been producing all along – graduates who look to change the world and then do it. SNC Tahoe will supply the mentors who will give them real access and the support they need to do whatever it is they think best. All of this,in Generation Z style, without sacrificing themselves to passion but instead gaining an advantage over the future, together, through technology and community.
At Sierra Nevada College of Entrepreneurial Leadership, a tight-knit group of mentors and faculty are preparing the next generation of entrepreneur artists, scientists, writers, and, yes, enterprise builders. Because entrepreneurship is not about businesses. It is about interdisciplinary problem solving, creativity, and being a good citizen in the 21st century.