The team from left to right: Lara Hakkert, Marjin van der Linden, Cassey Shapiro, Marieke van der Werf, and Maarten Dan Dunnen
I was recently contacted by Cassey Shapiro, a graduate student studying at Vrije University in Amsterdam. She pitched a great article about her school and the unique entrepreneurial focus of a collaboration between her school and the Amsterdam Centre for Entrepreneurship. While a guest post would’ve been entertaining, I decided to sit down with Ms. Shapiro and her team in order to learn a little bit more about her school and how small to medium sized businesses are able to collaborate with higher ed institutions to arm the next generation of entrepreneurs with the varied skill-sets that could potentially build empires.
Her team is made up of 5 grad students, each focusing their grad school experiences around the specialization in entrepreneurship. Our conversation was enlightening, and highlighted some important ways through which state-side higher-ed might be able to immerse its students in the entrepreneurial experience.
Adam: What sparked your interest in entrepreneurship?
Cassey Shapiro: We wanted to study entrepreneurship because we think it’s an important facet of our modern economy – now more than ever. Our generation has really felt the effects of the recession, and we’ve seen a lot of unemployment and layoffs. But in the face of this adversity: It’s entrepreneurs who are shaping the face of a new economy, allowing people to take more control of their livelihoods. So while not all of the students in our course want to be entrepreneurs, there’s still so much value in studying entrepreneurship – because even in a corporate role, there’s always room to think and act like an entrepreneur!
Adam: So, why grad school? Why not jump in the deep end?
Cassey Shapiro: There’s already a huge variety of courses available on how best to start a business -both online and through smaller schools. The entrepreneurship masters program at Vrije University, however, takes more of a theoretical approach which we think is important. It gives us the logical foundation upon which we can build our careers. We’re learning things like what motivates entrepreneurs, barrier to entrepreneurship, how entrepreneurship affects economies, how role models affect budding entrepreneurs, and how funding entrepreneurs fosters innovation (amongst other topics).
Adam: Could you give me an example of an assignment you might be tasked with?
Cassey Shapiro: Our very first assignment was an Amazing Race style challenge where we needed to run around Amsterdam and interact with various business owners and the council to learn first hand about Entrepreneurial policy from a state government perspective and a business owner’s perspective – so it’s not all about theory!
Also, we know employers are always looking for employees with initiative and clear problem-solving skills, and who would possess more of those than Masters of Entrepreneurship students!
Adam: What are your unique goals in pursuing a Masters in Entrepreneurship?
Lara Hakkert: I would like to gain more knowledge concerning the entrepreneurial field. Not just the theory you need to know to start your own business, but also learn more about the phenomenon of entrepreneurship. I am really looking forward to doing my own research and contribute to the entrepreneurial field.
Maarten Dan Dunnen: I’d like to become more aware of the theoretical framework of entrepreneurship. As entrepreneurship is one of the most important aspects of an economy, I’d like to get a better understanding of this definition from a academic perspective. And maybe there’ll be a moment that I can put my theoretical knowledge into practice.
Cassey Shapiro: I’d like to strengthen my entrepreneurial competencies from a theoretical standpoint. I run a home wares online shop with my business partner, www.moraapproved.com and while I’m good with all the day-to-day practical matters, I know that this masters will really help me improve the business by putting the theory into practice and making decisions based on solid learnings.
Marieke van der Werf: I would like to learn more about entrepreneurship. Not necessarily how to be an entrepreneur, but what factors can lead to successful entrepreneurship.
Marjin van der Linden: I want to learn more about entrepreneurship and improve my entrepreneurial competencies. I also think that there will master entrepreneurship students have an advantage over other students, because of the knowledge they’ll have about entrepreneurship.
Adam: So, some of you don’t actually plan on becoming entrepreneurs?
Cassey Shapiro: Well as mentioned, I, along with my business partner, currently run Mora Approved, which has been both incredibly rewarding and challenging. It was through Mora Approved that I taught myself basic coding, online marketing, photography, networking, UI and design! And it was the online shop that made me decide to the Masters of Business specializing in Entrepreneurship. So yes, I think in some capacity I’ll always be entrepreneurial at a minimum!
Lara Hakkert: I don’t have any plans yet to start my own business in the short future. But if the right idea comes along I would definitely want to have my own company. I know about the pros and cons of having your own business as I learn at university. The bad economic climate has had its effects on my entrepreneur motivation in the sense that I have put off the idea of starting for myself.
Maarten Dan Dunnen: I definitely want to be an entrepreneur sometime. It is hard to say when that is going to happen, but I am sure at some time I’ll start my own business. I have really no idea what kind of business, but at this moment that doesn’t really matter. I hope I’ll end up as a committed, competitively-driven and successful business-owner.
Marieke van der Werf: I really would like to be an entrepreneur. I don’t know what kind of business yet, but I think you just need the right opportunity at the right time!
Marjin van der Linden: That is not my first goal with this study. I’m more interested in corporate entrepreneurship. How to be an entrepreneur within a large enterprise.
The entrepreneurial mindset is something that can be applied to almost any field, and it was refreshing to hear about a college that inspires students to study innovation. Not only that, but the hands-on nature of the program builds some real-world experience to back up the theoretical knowledge that they take home from the classroom. Entrepreneurship is about taking risks, but understanding the theory behind those risks will help just about anyone as they continue down the long road to success.
Adam Toren is an Award Winning Author, Serial Entrepreneur, and Investor. He Co-Founded YoungEntrepreneur.com along with his brother Matthew. Adam is co-author of the newly released book: Small Business, Big Vision: “Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right” and also co-author of Kidpreneurs.
Follow Adam on Twitter: @thebizguy