UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School


Risk vs. reward at the front lines of entrepreneurship


CWIB Innovation PanelAt the front lines of entrepreneurship, great risk often comes with great reward.

Five Triangle entrepreneurs discussed what it takes to work at startups and differences in entrepreneurship at large and small companies at the 8th annual Carolina Women in Business conference Nov. 8.

Entrepreneurs must be perseverant, creative and willing to accept risk, said Nick Jordan (BSBA ’03), managing director of the Durham-based app developer Smashing Boxes. With startups, there is always a significant risk of going broke, he said.

“Entrepreneurs are all a little bit crazy,” added Vickie Gibbs (MBA ’98), founder and general manager of Albright Digital, which provides products and services to auto dealers. Those in startups are expected to wear many hats and be self-motivated, said Gibbs, who also has worked for large corporations like Mitsubishi and Viacom. At larger companies, innovation is more structured, expectations are clearer and there are more chances to move around.

Jennifer Durbin (EMBA ’07) has innovated within large companies, but in smaller companies, the wins have felt bigger. Durbin is an information security officer at RTI International and founder of The Clueless Chick, a blog and book series started to help “uncomplicate women’s lives.” Starting a business affects more than just your career. “You own every aspect of it,” said Durbin, who became interested in entrepreneurship while at UNC Kenan-Flagler. “It’s not just a financial career, it impacts every bit of your life,” she said.

“Find people who are just as passionate as you are, who have high levels of emotional intelligence,” said Phaedra Boinodiris (MBA ’08), global serious games and gamification program manager at IBM. She has been an entrepreneur for 14 years. After college she founded a software company with her mother, and later started another company with her sister.

Entrepreneurs must be patient, said Angela Hollen, founder and CEO of Spitter Spatter, a children’s clothing company. She launched her business directly out of graduate school, and her biggest challenge was accepting the time it took for things to get done.

And, of course, selling your idea is critical. “You need to be able to communicate your vision and share your passion for your product,” Durbin said. “Everyone wants to feel that excitement.”