Creating a start-up company

By Kathryn Christopher and Leah Bauer | 1/4/15 11:48pm


When most engineering students hear the word entrepreneurship they think risk, obstacles and business politics. In general, these are not things most people like to encounter, but they fail to see the bigger picture: the link between entrepreneurship, innovation, start-ups, creativity and economic growth.

As engineering students ourselves, we were hesitant to even try starting a company because it was something completely foreign to us. This unknown made it hard to see anything but the risk and commitment involved. Engineers tend to be very logical in their thinking, and we were no different.

The fact that only 1 in 10 start-up companies are actually successful initially deterred us from attempting to create a start-up. However, with a little encouragement from our professors and our teammates, we took the first step by entering an innovation competition called Michigan Collegiate Innovation Prize. After that, we took bigger and bigger steps toward entrepreneurship and eventually took the plunge together by starting a small medical device company, Fluition LLC.

We quickly learned that, while engineers could come up with innovative products, they are useless without research, business and marketing to back them up. If our products are not in demand, or no one knows they exist, they would be extremely difficult to sell! Once our engineering and business sides came together, our large obstacles seemed to shrink. Every question had an answer, even if it was difficult to find, and not only did we collaborate on our projects, but we pushed each other to grow personally and professionally.

While our story is not over yet, we have come a long way since our beginning. We are completing the last year of our undergraduate degrees, and we agree that starting this company has taught us more than any classroom assignment ever could have. It is our hope that students everywhere can be exposed to how engineering and business can work together to develop truly amazing products. Exposure to entrepreneurship should start early and occur often, and projects that span multiple disciplines should be the standard, not a happy accident. The curriculum in our schools desperately needs to catch up to reflect the innovative spirit of the 21st century.

Our experience starting a company and joining the University Innovation Fellows has opened our eyes more that we ever thought possible. Now that we have realized the importance of entrepreneurship to our education, our next step is to provide other students with similar opportunities to innovate and change the world around them. We need to step up and support our community just like it supported us at our fragile beginning. If we had to identify the single most important thing we have learned through this process it would be this: Students really can change the world, but only if you allow them to.

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