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Guest Post: Dream, Girl!

Being an entrepreneur is no easy journey — but it’s even more so for women. It’s no secret that the field of entrepreneurship is largely male-dominated, especially in tech-related startups. However, the future for female entrepreneurs are promising. While not nearly as much as their male counterparts, female entrepreneurs are starting over 1200 businesses a day. If you happen to be one of them, here are some tips that might help in starting and thriving in your entrepreneurial journey:

1. Be brave not perfect: “It’s important to be willing to make mistakes. The worst thing that can happen is you become memorable” — Sara Blakely. Girls are traditionally taught to avoid risk and failure, smile and get straight As, whereas boys are taught to play rough and are habituated to take risks. Additionally, women only apply for a job where they have 100% of the qualifications, whereas the number is much lower for men with only 60%. The best way to practice bravery is to familiarize yourself with rejections and failures. You can try this by: learning something new, asking someone out and constantly putting yourself outside your comfort zone. Be gritty, and think growth mindset instead of fixed minset.

2. Strengthen your vision: “You can’t be what you can’t see” — Marian Wright Edelman. Find a role model, know what you want and do everything you can to get there. Once you know what you want, it gets a lot easier to know who to surround yourself with, and what to learn and do. Action leads to clarity.

3. Don’t let genetics define your narrative: You don’t have to follow societal expectations, especially if they don’t work well in your favor. Your background, race, gender, or sexuality might get people to perceive you in a certain way, but don’t let that stop you! Be conscious of stereotypes and generalizations, but don’t let it discourage you in any way.

4. Surround yourself with the right people: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” — Jim Rohn. With that, don’t spend your time with negative and unsupportive people, rather be around people who challenge you and support you to be your best possible self. Nowadays you can find communities and support groups everywhere — online, in person, through mutual friends, and more. With that said, get help from people and help people as well. There’s no better feeling that being in a supportive community who helps each other succeed.

5. Own who you are: Be unapologetically confident. What may be categorized as feminine traits, such as being graceful and loving, are not drawbacks — they are advantageous in their own ways. Know what your strengths and weaknesses are, but don’t doubt yourself, or judge yourself too harshly.

6. Actually do the work: At the end of the day, being an entrepreneur is getting your business off the ground, creating something viable and making sales. There’s really no substitute for hardwork, so there’s really no better advice than to be a lifelong learner and to work hard and smart. Know how to manage your time and energy.

This blogpost was inspired by the “Dream, Girl!” event on the 14th of April. The incubator where I work in, DUHatch, worked together with the Pratt Masters Program to host a screening of a new documentary, “Dream, Girl!,” which follows the journeys of several women entrepreneurs of all ages, colors, backgrounds and ventures. We invited Tatiana Birgisson, the founder of MATI Energy and Cecilia Polanco, the founder of So Good Pupusas, to be our panelists. Both shared their stories on the challenges of being female entrepreneurs and gave advice on how to tackle these obstacles.


Elena Lie is a sophomore from Indonesia studying Political Science and Economics. She started social enterprises, interned in a tech start-up and worked as a freelance graphic designer. At Duke’s entrepreneurship scene, she’s in the executive board of DUHatch incubator and The Cube selective living group. She is interested in toilet designs and the food and beverages industry. 

Get Noticed! Social Media Tips & Tricks

People everywhere tell you that you should be on social media. To connect, to share, etc. – but how? Why? How can you get noticed by the right people? Read on for some tips.

Having a variety of social media accounts is pretty normal these days. But sharing quality content isn’t. What can you gain from sharing your internships, course projects, ventures, etc. on social media? A lot, it turns out. You can develop a strong personal brand – one that people know before even knowing you. You can get connected to industries and people of interest. Perhaps it can give you a leg up on future opportunities – because you may see them faster, or engage with people via social media who tell you about them. Moving to a new city for an internship or job? Social media can help you build relationships in places you may know no one.

In short, social media – and quality use of social media – helps you get noticed. Noticed by alumni, by industry experts, and by whoever else you want to get noticed by. So when thinking about your summer experiences, whether they be research, internships, DukeEngage, or other opportunities – consider the following tips for making you stand out.

  1. Know Yourself & Your Goals. Before even trying to develop a presence on social media, consider what matters to you. What do you want people to know about you? Who do you want to know you? Spend time brainstorming answers to these questions. Then, take a look at your last 10 posts on your different social media channels. Would people know these things about you based on your current profiles? If not, it’s time to get to work.
  2. Create a Plan. The biggest challenge people face when trying to be more intentional on social media is figuring out what to post. So, build a calendar! Write it wherever you will remember it – in your Outlook calendar, in your paper agenda, on your bathroom mirror – and then stick to it. Perhaps every Monday, you’re sharing an article from an industry-leading news source. On Fridays, you’re sharing something you’re doing over the weekend to expand your knowledge/skills. The biggest piece is to make sure that your calendar is aligned with the goals & values you brainstormed.
  3. Different Platforms Require Different Content. While Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn all have the ability to sync your posts, avoid it. The languages of these platforms are different – and so are your audiences.You may share the same photo, but the caption may be different – perhaps your LinkedIn post, knowing that your followers are more technical, explains your Mechanical Engineering project in engineering terms; whereas the Facebook post, knowing that your followers are your friends & family, explains the project in terms that anyone could understand. This requires a little more work, but is worth it.
  4. Engage with Others. Being a lurker on social media is creepy. In your brainstorm, you should have identified people and companies that you want to know you. Be sure to follow them on their various channels, and then engage with them through those channels. If they share articles, repost ones that are particularly interesting to you, with commentary. Show that you have opinions. Ask people for feedback in your own posts. For instance, maybe on Wednesdays, your calendar has you showing a brief video of a project you’ve been working on. When you post it, end it with a question for your followers: “What is a project you’ve been working on recently? How does it change the world?”
  5. Photos & Videos are a Must. This is the best way to tell your story. And the best way to combine your personal and professional interests. Be sure that the photos and videos you share are action shots – people should actually be working/doing something, not just standing around with their arms around each other. If you hope that your quick Boomerang from your tour of Apple gets picked up by other accounts, consider lighting – film from places that show a clear view of your activity. Sometimes, taking photos can require some thinking ahead – can you do a before & after series for a summer project you’re doing? Don’t just think about it at the end of an experience – start documenting from the beginning.
  6. Create & Use Hashtags. This is one way that people may find you – especially in the Duke world. Investigate hashtags on Twitter and Instagram that people in your industries of interest are already using, and start to use them. Connect with others who are. If you are really trying to build your own brand, create your own hashtag. Just be sure that it isn’t being used somewhere else, and that it isn’t terribly long – especially for Twitter characters. Interested in being noticed by Duke I&E? Consider hashtags like #dukeinnovation, #innovationstartshere, #dukeiseverywhere, #dukesummer, and #pictureduke.
  7. Be Public. None of this matters if people can’t find you. You can use discretion if you don’t want all your accounts open to the public. But keep in mind – the more people can see about you before connecting, the easier & more often people will actually connect. For example, be sure your accounts have quality profile photos of you. Keep your information up to date with regard to jobs and universities in your networks. Use your actual name. That way, when someone you meet at a networking event tries to become your Facebook friend, they know they have the right person.

Now – go out and update your LinkedIn. And maybe remove that strange photo from LDOC on your Instagram page.

Guest Post: Making the Most Out of the I&E Certificate Program

Innovation is a trending topic across the globe including fueling entrepreneurship, strategic corporate growth, development, and investing. At its core, innovation means creating more effective processes, products, and ideas to help solve an unmet need or appeal to a specific customer segment. As broad as the term innovation seems, the I&E Certificate Program at Duke combines classes, lectures, and events to help students immerse themselves in the study of entrepreneurship while at Duke and outside the classroom in real world experiences.

Being a Duke I&E student has introduced me to classes, professors, entrepreneurs, and students who have collectively shaped my Duke experience. The combination of experiences and courses separates the I&E Certificate from others at Duke. It provides the opportunity to apply classroom concepts to internships and jobs and vice versa. The I&E Initiative offers tailored innovation and entrepreneurship assets to guide students through the certificate. Prospective and current innovation and entrepreneurship students should take advantage of five benefits the I&E Certificate offers for students to tailor their experiences at Duke.

Keystone Mini-Series

Keystone Mini-Series consists of thirty minute lessons that occur a few times throughout the semester after the I&E Keystone class in Fuqua. The Keystone Mini-Series presents students with advice for interviewing, interning, and entering the business world. The last session helped students navigate informational interviews including what to ask and how to approach potential interviewers.

I&E Academy

I&E Academy provides lectures and demonstrations to help expand skill sets vital to innovation and entrepreneurship including design thinking, developing solutions, venture funding, protecting intellectual property, and writing business plans. Examples of Academy sessions include advice from lawyers, pitch tutorials, and risk-taking lessons.

The Bullpen

The Bullpen is home to Duke’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative providing a hub for Duke students to collaborate as well as facilities for events, meetings, and classes. While the Bullpen is not immediately on Duke’s Campus, it is a nearby space offering various activities and opportunities to study and work, creating a sense of community for Duke students away from the immediate distractions on campus. Having this type of space fosters conversation and collaboration between students interested in innovation and entrepreneurship.

Office Hours

Office Hours, similar to a professor’s office hours, allows prospective and current I&E students to ask questions, work on assignments, and receive guidance on crafting e-portfolios. Throughout the course of the semester, the I&E Education Team will hold Office Hours in West Union or other locations on campus easily accessible to students.

Published E-portfolios

Every student in the I&E Certificate needs to create an e-portfolio capturing their individual experiences and courses in the program. Published e-portfolios by students who have recently graduated or other students currently in the program provide helpful guidance as to how to present.


Ariel Burde is an Innovation & Entrepreneurship Certificate Ambassador and a sophomore pursuing a History major with a concentration in business and economic cultures and Neuroscience minor. She is also a classically trained ballet dancer, performing on stage at Duke and at basketball games on the Dancing Devils. Ariel currently writes social media content for Qnary and interned with the startup, Ussie, last summer.

Duke Basketball & Entrepreneurship: What Can We Learn?

What do Duke men’s basketball and entrepreneurship have in common? A bit more than you may think! Read on to hear about lessons you could learn from the culture of Coach K and 2017 ACC Tournament Champions.

People advise you to read books and articles about entrepreneurship when considering starting your own company – learn about the lean startup, delve deep into business plans and financial models, consider product market fit and customer needs. But sometimes, you need to look outside the typical startup environment for good examples. What better place to look than to the Duke men’s basketball program? Here are a few startup tips you can learn from the 2017 team.

Recruit the best. Duke men’s basketball consistently is a top 10 recruiting program. 2016-2017 was no different – with the program seeing ratings as high as 5 or 6 in the country. In order to compete for championships, you have to compete for the best players. Same goes for your company – who are the best people doing the work you want to do? What can you offer them that is different (and better!) than what they have now?

Hold team members accountable. The 2016-2017 season had some rough weeks. Coach K was out for back surgery, players missed games for injuries and suspensions, and things started to unravel from their early successes. During that time, players were told not to come to the locker room, and not to wear their Duke basketball apparel – until they could live up to the program’s standards. Set high standards for your team – and then expect that they live up to them. What are the values by which you want your company to operate? How will you confront team members whose actions don’t align with those values?

(Sports Illustrated, 2017)

Don’t get too confident. The Duke men’s basketball team started as the preseason #1 team in the nation. By mid-season, they fell as low as #17 before ending the season as ACC Tournament Champions. With the nation watching and expecting great things, the team knew that the rankings didn’t matter – they had to stay humble, work hard, and great things would happen. Hopefully, as you start a company, you too will see early success, but know that there will be bumps in the road. How can you be proud of your accomplishments while also staying humble? What are things you know you still can improve upon?

Communicate. That commercial of Coach K texting emojis to Kyrie Irving wasn’t far off. Coach K knows the importance and value in strong communication with his team – he leads the way. By connecting to the players in ways they prefer and in places they are already communicating, he garners greater respect, which in turn leads to a stronger and better team. And a team that then communicates with each other in similar ways. Consider the methods by which you will communicate with your team. Can you be sure you’re showing genuine interest in their success and well-being? How can you demonstrate to them that you care?

Share the wealth. After Duke beat out Notre Dame for the ACC Championship, Luke Kennard (Naismith College Player of the Year Candidate) was interviewed. Kennard had an outstanding game – but his interview focused on their team growth and team success. He talked about how much they had overcome together, and how much he could see them growing moving forward. Consider ways you can also share successes as a team. How can you recognize people who work hard? How can the team celebrate accomplishments and milestones?

Study effective teams – regardless of industry – and you can always find some things to learn. Study teams like Duke basketball and you may end up with some national championships!

Perfecting the Pitch

You may know the content of your pitch backwards and forwards, but what about your presentation? What about your tone of voice or body language? Are you giving the most persuasive pitch possible or is something distracting the audience from your presentation?As part of our I&E Academy series, Andy Roth, co-founder of RocketBolt, led a session on pitch preparation. See the slides below for tips on all the things you can control when getting ready for your next big pitch.

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