University of Michigan: Ross - Entrepreneur and Venture Club

Erin Braddock, Co-President of the Entrepreneur and Venture Club talks about SXSW and welcoming the founder of Groupon to "Entrepalooza"

Erin Braddock has worked as Account Executive at mobile advertising firm 4INFO and as Business Development Manager at Nokia before starting an MBA at Michigan: Ross.

As Co-president of the Entrepreneur and Venture Club, she discusses the club’s main goals along with how the recession has affected entrepreneurs. Groupon is a fantastic example of one major company that the Entrepreneur and Venture Club partners with.

What are your club's big initiatives this year?
One of our club's major initiatives is to connect business school students with entrepreneurial opportunities beyond the business school.

The University of Michigan, the city of Detroit, and the greater Midwest have so many resources for aspiring entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. We want to expand students' horizons and connect them to ideas and resources they may not have discovered otherwise.

Another major initiative of ours is to expand the definition of what it means to be an entrepreneur. Many business school graduates think they have to start their own companies to be entrepreneurs; we want to connect students to start-ups or help them find entrepreneurial roles within larger firms, such as product development, sales or business development.

What does the Entrepreneur and Venture Club hope to achieve?
We want Michigan Ross students to feel empowered in their entrepreneurial endeavors. This means connecting students with mentors, partners, and resources to pursue their goals. We also believe it is very important to build a strong base of alumni willing to work with aspiring entrepreneurs.

What companies are you partnering with?
We have worked with a broad range of companies ranging from the Innovatrium in our own Ann Arbor, MI, to Groupon, whose founder Brad Keywell spoke at the business school's Entrepalooza event last fall. One of our goals this year is to provide more opportunities for firms to hire directly through our club to attract innovative leaders into their companies.

What is the club's main event of the year, and how do you think it prepares the members to be successful entrepreneurs?
Our main event is the trip to Austin, TX to participate in the South by Southwest Interactive conference. Each year a group of about 40-50 Ross MBAs head down on an 18-hour bus ride and pitch ideas to each other that they eventually present at the conference.

It's been a huge hit with students because it not only takes them out of the bubble of business school, but also puts them in front of real investors and real tech company founders to see how they do. Part of being an entrepreneur is learning how to build momentum, how to fail gracefully and adapt quickly, and this event helps our members practice all three skills.

Do you think the recession has resulted in more or less entrepreneurs?
I think it's resulted in fewer but smarter entrepreneurs. To be successful in any business in a recession, it's all about understanding what your customers truly need versus what they may have been willing to pay for in times where disposable income is readily available.

What would you say is the most important factor in entrepreneurial success?
Hunger to be the best. I used to think it was only hunger; entrepreneurs have to have the drive to win, to not be easily deterred when a few things go wrong, and to be passionate about their work.

I recently added the piece about wanting to be the best because ultimately, your solution, idea, service or product has to capture people's attention and make them want to support your business over all the others. You don't have to be an expert, but you have to be willing to work hard to see your idea beat out all the others.

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