Somewhere between buttercream icing and blissful dreams I realized I had no idea how to get a business off the ground. I continued with classes, work and small orders for a month or so and I made the decision to keep up with orders as long as they were in demand. The orders began to expand to cakes, cookies and cake pops but my “business” would end as soon as I stopped receiving cupcake requests, which I thought was coming soon.
Then the universe sent me a clear sign in the form of a strange college boy.
I sat in my marketing class at Ohio University, pretending to absorb the lecture when the professor announced that we had a guest presentation from the College of Business. He was there to talk to us about an opportunity: a certificate in entrepreneurship.
I had one semester left before graduation, and I was at a standstill with my schedule. I needed only two more classes to graduate, but I wasn’t satisfied with letting myself slack off. I had been in search of three classes to pick up in the spring, but I knew it was nearly impossible that those classes would correlate with the certificate that was being offered.
As class wrapped up, I immediately sent a text to my boyfriend. “Babe, I could get a certificate in entrepreneurship. Wouldn’t that be cool?!” When I sent that text, the idea of the certificate was just that: a cool idea.
Over the next week I researched the classes necessary, and it turned out I had taken all of them but three. No way. I was determined the universe was whispering in my ear, urging me to see where this could take me.
I got REALLY excited. I was about to learn how to run a business.
My adviser was a bit concerned. Here I was, a junior graduating early with three specializations on top of my major, and I wanted to add a certificate in something that had very little to do with my major. I also had zero experience in business or entrepreneurship.
My adviser’s concern was nothing new. My first semester at OU I took 17 hours, six of them in senior-level classes: African-American Studies and Greek History. Somehow I made Dean’s List that semester, and every one after that, so he dismissed his concern and lifted the advising hold.
I was free to throw myself into three junior-level business classes my final semester. That is, until I realized I had to interview to be accepted into the Entrepreneurship Program.
I briefly panicked. Our business school is top-notch and I had no business entering into anything associated with it because I was a journalist. Despite my better judgment, I emailed the executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, Dr. Luke Pittaway.
Days later my interview with Dr. Pittaway was secured and I was back to panicking. I had only four days to figure out how to prepare and what to wear. I didn’t have the slightest indication of if this was a casual, business casual or professional interview.
My four days flew by. I had an hour to go and my room was littered with dresses, skirts and shoes, all strong contenders at some point in the day. My resume lay on my bed, doing nothing but reminding me it had not one thing on it that would appeal to the executive director of the program.
I stumbled to Copeland Hall 15 minutes early, sweating more than I ever had. I prepared myself for everything but the long, unstable walk on the bricks in heels.
Deep breaths persisted in the elevator and suddenly there I was in Dr. Pittaway’s doorway, introducing myself and forgetting to shake his hand.
After a few questions about my academics and career path, it was clear that Dr. Pittaway had a decision made. It was the first time someone had looked at me and told me I might actually fail. Dr. Pittaway wasn’t rude or mean by any stretch of the imagination. He was simply honest.
I showed up to the cupcake game a bit late.
We sat in his office for about 30 minutes discussing my plan. “Do you have a menu? What flavors do you offer? How are your cupcakes innovative?” he asked.
In that moment, everything collapsed for me. I didn’t have a menu. At that point I had sold only four different flavors, and I certainly couldn’t call them innovative.
I was ready to thank Dr. Pittaway for his time and throw in the towel. I was a journalist who had a crazy whim to run a business and bake cupcakes; my notion was a bit senseless from the start.
After listening to me stutter through my answers, Dr. Pittaway began listing the classes required for the certificate. If I was to be accepted, instead of taking the courses in progression I would have to green-slip in and take all three classes at once. For the final class, Dr. Pittaway suggested I partake in an independent study with him.
I didn’t know how to react. All I knew was that five minutes prior I was sure that my business had no value, creative or otherwise, but suddenly I was agreeing to an independent study to develop that very idea.