Top 3 Reasons All Northwestern Students Should Experience The Garage

As you may know, The Garage is the new entrepreneurial hub for all Northwestern students on campus.  But you ask yourself, I am already so busy with classes and clubs, why should I get involved with something else? Here are the top three reasons to come to The Garage and work on a startup.       

1. Learn Real Teamwork.

Whether you hope to build innovative technology, discover the next medical breakthrough, or participate in the next Broadway sensation, you will be part of a team at The Garage.  While working on your idea, you may need to hire and fire employees, manage difficult team dynamics, and learn to communicate in new ways.  Edmond Lau, Quora Engineer explains, “Working effectively as part of a team is incredibly important for output quality, morale, and retention.”  

You might already take classes that have team projects, but this is different. All team members on a class project have the same goal: getting a good grade, on both the content and team player aspects of the project, thus you might hold back and be more diplomatic because you are concerned about grades.  In comparison, you come to The Garage because you are passionate about a project, so team dynamics can get hairy. Each team member’s goals may not be in sync, as team members may have differing visions and priorities to make the startup successful.  Also, the class project ends after ten weeks, but the startup does not end unless you take action, and taking that action could be hard from both an interpersonal and financial perspective.

Motivational speaker Brian Tracy explains that, “Teamwork is so important that it is virtually impossible for you to reach the heights of your capabilities or make the money that you want without becoming very good at it.” So having the tools to work well on a team and to help build a team where opposing ideas are considered and yet all members are valued and work collaboratively will serve you well in any 21st century career.

2. Learn to Pitch. 

Whether you are pitching your idea to fellow students to convince them to come work on your team, persuading your professor to be your mentor for your startup, or selling your idea to investors to raise capital, you will be practicing your pitch over and over.  This is a great example of “practice makes perfect.” At The Garage, you will have plenty of opportunities to practice your pitch, from informal sessions  at our Family Dinners and Office Hours, to the intensive-feedback sessions during Wildfire.  You will learn to take facts and weave them into a story that engages the audience and ends with a call to action.

For some, pitching comes naturally and for others it is very uncomfortable, but it is an important skill that you will need in your career.  You will need pitching proficiency to sell yourself in a job interview, to convince the team that your idea is the one the team should pursue, or even to sell your boss on giving you a raise.

Dan Schawbel, a New York Times bestselling author, describes why honing your pitching or sales skills is important: “If you don’t have sales skills, it’s hard to succeed at work because we are always selling. You have to sell yourself, your products and your ideas constantly. You have to influence those around you to take action or you won’t get very far … Selling is something we all do naturally but we can all improve on it.”

3. Learn to Fail, Recover, and Succeed.

At some point in your life, you will fail at something and it will be devastating.  How will you cope?  The Garage is a safe place to take risks, leave your comfort zone, try new things, struggle and then fail.  Not just fail, but fail miserably–a huge colossal fail.  It will feel bad, but you will be supported by The Garage community and we will celebrate that failure together.

During the process, you will learn the skills to evaluate the failure, develop a method to manage the uncomfortable feelings and learn the steps needed to improve.  As Carol Diener, professor at University of Illinois and former graduate student of Carol Dweck, explains, “Failure is information—we label it failure, but it’s more like, ‘This didn’t work, I’m a problem solver, and I’ll try something else.’”

The skills to make any failure into a positive learning experience will serve you well throughout your life, no matter what career path you take.  The former CTO of PayPal, Max Levchin, had the resiliency to fail multiple times and learn from each experience: “The very first company I started failed with a great bang. The second one failed a little bit less, but still failed. The third one, you know, proper failed, but it was kind of okay. I recovered quickly. Number four almost didn’t fail. It still didn’t really feel great, but it did okay. Number five was PayPal.”

While learning to cope with failure, collaborating with team members and honing your pitching skills you will get a taste of entrepreneurship.  Not only are these skills important for whatever career path you choose, but at some point in your career, if you are working for someone else, you may wonder, should I go out on my own?

You tell yourself that you will have more independence and freedom, but know that entrepreneurship is risky. If you worked on building an idea during your time in college, you will have a sense as to whether entrepreneurship is for you and whether you have the risk tolerance and the drive to be an entrepreneur.  Paul Graham, co-founder of Y Combinator compares entrepreneurship to parenthood: “Like having a child, running a startup is the sort of experience that’s hard to imagine unless you’ve done it yourself.”

Come to The Garage and work on your ideas.

We look forward to seeing you soon.

Elisa Mitchell is the Operations Manager at The Garage and enjoys helping each student start a unique entrepreneurial journey.  She is an accomplished attorney and CPA and brings strong organizational skills, attention to detail and a can-do attitude to every project. She is thrilled to be a part of The Garage.