Trinity University has often been described as "a safe place to fail." But what is it about Trinity that inspires the entrepreneurial spirit—strong enough to pick up the pieces, blaze forward, and succeed? In the Entrepreneurship Issue, the Winter 2017 edition of Trinity magazine, hear from six women who forged trails as female entrepreneurs, shattering the glass ceilings above them along the way. You'll also get the chance to meet alumni and student entrepreneurs from all walks of life who are using their determination to make our world a better place.
My first foray into entrepreneurship started when I was 9 years old. My grandmother taught me how to sew on the grown-up sewing machine, and (much to her hesitation) I was ready to piece together my own projects. It was the mid-90s, and hair scrunchies were all the rage. For those of us brave enough to admit it, we adorned our hair, our side-tied t-shirts, and our bangle-clad wrists with the brightest, velvety-est scrunchies we could find. All the cool girls had the coolest scrunchies. Well, that is, all the cool girls that could sweet-talk their way into an 80-mile trip to the mall and spend their entire week’s worth of an allowance on a $5 scrunchie.
I wasn’t much of a sweet talker, and my parents never really fell for it. But I, on the other hand, had much more powerful tools: I had a grown-up sewing machine, and I had scraps of glorious ’90s fabric to sew as I saw fit. I spent my $5 allowance that week on a package of thick elastic and hot pink thread. In my one-person assembly line, I measured and cut the elastic and fabric, sewed them together, and stitched the scrunched-up tubes shut. That first afternoon, I produced six or seven scrunchies; as weekends passed and my assembly line grew more efficient, I could make 25 or 30 in one day.
But what was I going to do with 186 scrunchies?
I was going to sell them at school, of course—and by my elementary calculations, at 50 cents a piece (10 percent of the going rate), I could recoup my $5 allowance and hopefully pocket a nice profit ... or at least enough for an extra Little Debbie Star Crunch bar.
After one recess on the playground, I’d successfully earned enough to purchase at least one more package of elastic and four Star Crunch bars; I had also been shut down by the administration for lack of proper permits. Briefly considering a stint on the scrunchie black market, I closed for business and stuffed the rest of the scrunchies in Christmas stockings for the next three years.
Despite my thwarted attempt at big business, my entrepreneurial spirit hasn’t left me—in fact, my time at Trinity only fueled the flames. It is both amazing and, to me, somewhat not surprising that more than 2,200 Trinity Tigers identify themselves as entrepreneurs on LinkedIn; we call ourselves lifelong learners, and entrepreneurship is one of many outlets through which we push ourselves toward our goals.
As we began researching for this issue of Trinity magazine, a pair of questions stood out: What is entrepreneurship? And what makes it different at Trinity? Chris Warren ’78, a mentor, friend, and Trinity’s first entrepreneur-in-residence, once told me that his favorite definition of an entrepreneur is “someone who is too naive to see the obstacles that are obvious to others.” I’d like to offer a polite revision: A Tiger entrepreneur is someone who is determined to overcome the obstacles that are obvious to others—no matter what it takes.
In this issue, you’ll read stories of Trinity being a safe place to fail. You’ll experience the guts that go into getting back up again, and the glory felt when you succeed. Hopefully by the end, you’ll find the spirit in yourself to sit down at your own grown-up sewing machine and make your own scrunchies. I hear they’re coming back in style!
Jeanna Goodrich Balreira ’08