Big Idea Blog

My Entrepreneurial Journey - Shivani Tuli '21

Born into a family of entrepreneurs, I am a third-generation engineer and an entrepreneur. At the age of 3, I was expected to have formal attire. And by the age of 5, I was groomed into having proper etiquette. I started learning about the basics of entrepreneurship, walking into the office, and having weekend conversations with my grandfather. And dad always stirred my mind with interesting management and system thinking books, rather than fiction. At the age of 10, I was given books like "Winnie-the-Pooh on Management: In Which a Very Important Bear and His Friends are Introduced to a Very Important Subject" by Roger Allen. It was always made clear to me that entrepreneurship was the way in life. I did not know the exact meaning of entrepreneurship until I was 13 when I attended a camp at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), a prestigious management institute. This camp had reiterated a lot that I had learned in childhood. However, it was an assimilation of everything, and helped me learn about concepts such as pitching, profit, loss, risk, and other basic entrepreneurship concepts. This is where I turned my first real profit with the business project we set up at the end of the camp. Following this, I participated in multiple entrepreneurship competitions at my school and was also labelled as “Entrepreneur of the Year” during my sophomore year in high school.
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Get to Know our Entrepreneur in Residence, Rhonda Schuldt!

What inspired you to become an entrepreneur? That’s an interesting question. I don’t know if there was a moment of “inspiration.” As a kid I was always playing and pretending I had a business so there must be something about that! :-) But really, at heart, I see myself more of a problem-solver than an “entrepreneur”, comfortable with chaos and uncertainty. So, I suppose I’ve always been attracted to opportunities to jump in to uncertain situations, where the problems are somewhat wicked or undefined. In doing so, I’ve been in jobs working for someone else where I’ve had opportunities to be innovative/entrepreneurial and play a part in solving some really wicked problems; I’ve worked in and with start-ups across many industries and sectors; and I’ve taken the step to start my own businesses when I’ve seen a problem worth solving. So, while it wasn’t a moment of inspiration to become an entrepreneur, it was certainly a journey... and a mindset.  
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Solutions as Bridges - Phil Marzolf

A solution is meaningless if it is not associated with a problem. Problems aren’t generic abstractions, but rather they impact specific people in specific ways. Our entrepreneurial journey begins only when we identify the “who” (whom we serve). Once we identify the people, we need to understand how we can improve their lives; that is, what benefits do they desire that they cannot economically realize today?
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Babs's Top 10 Entrepreneurship Book Recommendations - Babs Carryer

Books are much more than, well, books. It’s helpful to read about entrepreneurship, and there’s plenty of great material out there. Whether you read online, on the Kindle, audiobooks, or actual books, they are a guide to help get you over a few humps and bumps that you can experience throughout your entrepreneurial journey while you are actually out doing business in real life. That being said, here are my top 10 picks for entrepreneurship books that cover the good, bad, and ugly about startups:
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Get to Know Our RFBIC 2020 Grand Prize Team, Polycarbin!

After our Randall Family Big Idea Competition Virtual Awards Ceremony, we at the Big Idea Center caught up with the grand prize winning team, Polycarbin, to discuss how three medical school students became entrepreneurs and what their next steps are to bring to life their idea to reduce the amount of biomedical waste that ends up in landfills or incinerated.
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My Blast Furnace Journey - Brooke Walker, CEO of Healthy Soul

My startup, Healthy Soul, first came to me as a dream to try and fix the ever-increasing issues of hunger and food-related illnesses within my community’s homeless population.  To help bring this dream alive, I went all around campus in the search of resources that could support me with my idea. Luckily, I stumbled upon the Big Idea Center, saw a large poster for the Randall Family Big Idea Competition (RFBIC) at their office, and decided to participate in the competition. Throughout the RFBIC, we pitched our ideas and received feedback from numerous judges in the innovation community. Right before the final round, I was first introduced to the Big Idea Center’s Blast Furnace (BF) program.  Babs Carryer, the director of the Big Idea Center, and I had set up a Randall progress meeting and during that time she had informed me of their summer accelerator program. Essentially, it would be a key factor in helping me understand all the nooks and crannies of what goes into a startup. At this point, I had been working on Healthy Soul for about 5 months. If I was serious about getting my business up off the ground, Blast Furnace would be essential for my progress, and the next step of turning my idea into a reality.  
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Customer Discovery - Kit Needham

Let’s talk about Customer Discovery.
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Life as an Innovation Intern - Danielle Isenberg

Hi guys! My name’s Danielle. I’m a senior marketing and supply chain management major at Pitt and I will be graduating in Spring 2020. With that being said, my two years as a Big Idea Center intern are sadly coming to an end. As I get ready to say goodbye, I thought I would reflect on some of the best parts of my internship. 
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The Importance of Networking in a New Social World - Jeanine McCreary, EIR

Decades ago, the most successful people took pride in the size of their Rolodex, a simple wheel with alphabetical slots was specially designed to hold index cards containing people’s contact information that could be inserted or removed. The Rolodex was a status symbol that showed the size of their network. Although every person in a network was not necessarily a job opportunity or potential client, each was an entry point to meeting other people.
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Creating The Perfect Pitch - Don Morrison, EIR

Every business competition is essentially a story telling competition.  Pitching your idea involves telling a good story.  “IN A GALAXY FAR AWAY AND LONG AGO”…… all good stories have a STRONG BEGINNING, a middle that has a logical flow, and a strong ending. The best openings are the ones that grab your listeners (judges, investors, etc.) early.  If you can make an emotional connection with your audience, then you’re off to a good start as you have their attention.  The story for business competition pitches must include all the elements of starting a business.
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