paconfimdonna decarolis headshot

As a lawyer turned entrepreneur I was intrigued when I heard about Donna and her position as the founding dean of Drexel University’s Close School of Entrepreneurship.  The Close School is the first degree-granting school of entrepreneurship in the country. De Carolis states the program “provides pathways to entrepreneurs” and that her hope is that whether it is through simply taking a class or getting a full degree, all students will get exposed to and experience some degree of entrepreneurship.

I spoke to Donna about the importance of networking for entrepreneurs since networking is my career path. Donna discussed the “myth of the solopreneur.” She stated that networking is extremely important but it is also very important for entrepreneurs to have their own network or informal board they can rely on and turn to for advice. Since I was interviewing Donna in connection with her involvement with the Pennsylvania Conference for Women this year, I had to ask her about the value of women networking with other women. Donna stressed the idea of figuring out your networking goals. She said while there is a commonality and support networking with other women, it may make sense to diversify your networking. I mentioned to Donna that as an entrepreneur I find it helpful to surround myself with other entrepreneurs, because they “get it.”  Donna stressed the value of having diversity in the people you talk to outside the entrepreneurial space and keeping your contacts open.  She mentioned having people in your network who are older, retired and in the corporate world as well.  You “get different things from different groups,” she said.  Donna also indicated it is helpful to stay involved in trade associations in your industry and schedule coffee meet-ups with colleagues to build relationships.

With regard to innovation in corporate America, Donna states that innovation is a process and that the people likely to be hired and move up are the ones who know how to get things done beyond just a good idea. Companies need employees with people skills, negotiation skills, planning skills, networking skills and business skills to innovate within a corporate environment. Donna’s vision is to teach those involved with the Close School to be resilient, and to “pivot.”

Entrepreneurship is a “habit of mind,” De Carolis says.

Of course, near the end I had to ask Donna about “Shark Tank.” As it turns out, a student from the Close School will be appearing on the show promoting an app called “Scholly.”

Donna recommended three books for Entrepreneurs:

The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson

Worthless, Impossible and Stupid: How Contrarian Entrepreneurs Create and Capture Extraordinary Value by Daniel Isenberg

The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? by Seth Godin

In an October 6th, 2014 Philadelphia Business Journal article titled “How one Woman is changing the world of entrepreneurship education,” writer Stan Silverman stated “De Carolis and her team are driven by a cause, by the belief that entrepreneurship education will change the course of their students’ lives.”

I thought this was a fitting way to close my interview.