Four months ago, I began my Enterprise Co-op (E Co-op) term as a 3A student of English and History at the University of Waterloo. I am currently finishing up the term as a published author… and still a student. I have no plans to quit my day job just yet.
I spent my E Co-op term interviewing seniors in Stratford about their past, and gathering their stories into an anthology which is now available for purchase by family and community members. E Co-op allowed me to spend a work term doing exactly what I want, and have always wanted-to do: write a book.
The impetus to pursue my own business through E Co-op came last January when I found myself contemplating my post-graduation career prospects with uncertainty and despair. Like many Arts students, I'm not exactly sure where my degree will take me. I've heard "so you're going to be a teacher" so many times I barely bother to dispute it anymore. With today's focus on everything Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), it sometimes seems that there's no place for the Arts students' unquantifiable 'soft skills'.
That's why entrepreneurship is such a perfect fit for Arts students. We know that the skills we develop completing an Arts degree have value— even if job posting boards do not reflect that. We can see where the world needs us. Entrepreneurship allows us to take matters into our own hands. Instead of waiting to land the increasingly-difficult-to-attain 'perfect job', we can go out and make it ourselves.
It's a lot of work, but it's worth it. This term was incredibly challenging, rewarding, and enriching. Here are a few of the lessons I've learned along the way:
People are Nicer than You Expect
In June, the Conrad Centre hosted the Innovation Showcase, an event which offered Master of Business, Entrepreneurship, and Technology (MBET) and E Co-op students a chance to exhibit their projects.
Most of the projects were hugely impressive startups which were on the forefront of the latest technology— meanwhile, I was writing a book of quaint stories about the past. The majority of the students had engineering, math, business, or science backgrounds. Needless to say, I felt pretty intimidated. However, I was blown away by the interest in my project, the friendliness of the other students, and the many offers of support and advice. It turned out to be one of the most encouraging and fun days of my entire term.
You will hear this again and again in entrepreneurship: people are your best resources. It's true — and they're also usually really nice.
Time is Not Money
I'm a slave to deadlines- and there are a lot of deadlines when writing a book in three months. Many days of my term were spent dashing from one retirement home to the next, meeting seniors, interviewing, collecting photos, getting stories approved, and delivering invitations.
On one particularly hectic day, I arrived at the apartment of my fourth interviewee. There was a little plaque on the door which read "Where there is love, there is time, and nothing is too much trouble".
I stopped short. I had been so caught up in getting things done that I forgot to enjoy and appreciate what I was actually doing. This stayed in the back of my mind, reminding me that it is worth it to spend a little extra time chatting with a lonely retirement home resident, looking at photos of grandchildren, and truly appreciating the stories they were sharing.
Deadlines are great- but there are more important things.
You Have to Do What Scares You
Once the interviewing, drafting, writing, editing, formatting, and printing were finished, I thought my work was pretty much done.
I was mistaken.
I still had to plan, promote, and host the launch party, stir up media coverage, give interviews on live radio, plan speaking engagements, and pitch my book to local book stores. These steps, to me, were far more daunting than the prospect of actually writing a 250 page book…but they were all completely necessary.
As an entrepreneur, you have to do things that scare you- not just once in a while, but regularly. Because all those little, terrifying things take you one step closer to one big, amazing thing.
Like publishing a book, for example.
Check out my website stratfordstoryproject.ca for more information.