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Entrepreneurship is for everyone

The leaders of The Garage have written a guide for early-stage student founders
Mike Raab and Melissa Kaufman.

An aspiring film director and recent Northwestern graduate, Lauren Washington is like many of the eager, ambitious students who’ve joined us at The Garage during their college careers. She had preconceived ideas about what made someone an entrepreneur. And, at first, she didn’t think she fit the mold.

It turns out many students associate entrepreneurship only with high-profile, venture-backed success stories like Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. But the truth is most entrepreneurs are not billionaire tech founders. Less than 1% of all startups are venture-backed, while the vast majority are run by people like Lauren who saw an opportunity and ran with it.

As a young artist, Lauren knew she was headed down an uncertain path. But she was determined to take ownership of her career. And through her experiences at The Garage and the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, she unlocked a different side of herself and learned the world of entrepreneurship is broader than she ever knew. With her brother, she co-founded Project FILO, a creative hub, incubator and platform that helps artists get seen and heard.

“Artists are inherently entrepreneurs because they come up with new ideas and put them out in the world,” she said. “So, I realized I was a creative entrepreneur.”

Having led The Garage for the past six years, we’ve helped thousands of students like Lauren find their own way. 

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Having led The Garage for the past six years, we’ve helped thousands of students ... find their own way. 

We’ve built a community of fearless, entrepreneurial leaders who launch companies, join startups and lend their brilliance to innovative companies. Our students have been named Thiel Fellows, founded successful ventures and even raised millions of dollars from prominent investors. We’ve watched students from different backgrounds go the distance from idea to execution, and we’ve learned a lot about helping first-time founders along the way.

At one point we looked for a resource that could provide a framework, debunk common myths and speak to students in relatable and accessible ways. Of course, there are thousands of books and endless blog posts on the subject, but we couldn’t find an encouraging, straightforward and honest guide. So, in true entrepreneurial fashion, we wrote our own book, “Founded: The No B.S. Guide for Student Entrepreneurs.”

Based on our experience mentoring early-stage student founders, the book is a guide for anyone looking to start something new. We explore the most common mistakes people make, how to learn by doing and why failure is actually a good thing. We discuss how to get out of your own way, how to make sure you’re building something people want and how to take immediate steps forward as you turn your idea into something real.

It may be our humble opinion, but we think the book is a must read for first-time founders. And if Lauren Washington offers any proof or perspective, perhaps it’s because we’re convinced entrepreneurship is for everyone.

Melissa Kaufman is the founding executive director of The Garage at Northwestern. Mike Raab is associate director of The Garage and will serve as interim director when Kaufman steps down from her role in May. Their new book, “Founded,” is the 2022 AXIOM Business Book Award silver medalist for entrepreneurship and small business.