Why I Stopped Attending Entrepreneurship Class

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The most important thing I learned in my grad school entrepreneurship course was how to spell “entrepreneurship.”

The thing was that I had to beg to get into that class, both from the College of Fine Arts end and the College of Business end. On the Fine Arts end, I had to explain why an artsy-fartsy MFA candidate (who had been specifically advised, in her last departmental advising session, to work on her feelings) wanted to take a class in running a business. On the College of Business end, well… I had to explain why an artsy-fartsy MFA candidate wanted to take a class in running a business.

This should have been obvious to everyone involved, and I’m still kind of put out that nobody responded with “oh, sure, of course you might be interested in starting a theater someday, or becoming a freelancer, or having any kind of job that would require a bit of entrepreneurial skill.”

In the end it was decided that I could audit the course. Which was probably for the best, because I stopped attending after the first six weeks.

What I didn’t realize, after the initial look at “what is a business plan?” and “how do businesses make money?”—which are, by the way, two very useful concepts for a MFA student to understand—was that the professor expected everyone to spend the rest of the semester starting an actual business.

He had two rules:

1. No restaurants.

2. Work in groups, unless you had a very, very good reason for working alone.

It took me about two minutes to realize that starting a business in the last year of my MFA program was not going to be a smart move for my degree plan—or, for that matter, my life plan.

I mean, god forbid, what if I teamed up with a few of my classmates and our dorm room cleaning service idea turned out to be successful? Then I’d be running a dorm room cleaning service with a bunch of people whose names, at that moment, I did not know. Plus, it was 2007, so we couldn’t gig economy the labor part. Until we got enough capital to hire staff, I’d be cleaning those dorms myself.

So I just stopped showing up, and nobody ever asked me about it.

In retrospect it’s pretty clear that both the Colleges of Fine Arts and Business were right: I didn’t belong in that class. I didn’t have the same long-term career goals as the students who were really excited to start a lawn care company—not because they cared about lawn care, of course, but because they cared about starting a business.

But I wish there had been another class where I would have belonged. Maybe Freelancing 101, or Entrepreneurship for Artists, or “How to make it through the next 50 years understanding that you’re going to be hustling for, and creating, your own jobs.”

In the end I figured it out on my own.

 

This story is part of our College Month series.

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