Entering my journey at UNC as a chemistry major, the last thing I thought I would be doing within my first two months would be competing in a campus-wide entrepreneurship and innovation event against some of the top business school students in the University. Growing up, I always was interested in how things work and how to make them better, which is the main reason I joined BLUE. As time went on I became more focused my schoolwork, and less on my childhood interests.
So when I heard about the opportunity to come up with a business idea and pitch it to entrepreneurs and business people in the Chapel Hill area, I thought that it would be a fun way to check in on my social skills and see what life is like as a business student/entrepreneur.
In reality, the experience I gained at the Carolina Challenge Pitch Party far exceeded my learning how to pitch properly, and was some of the most valuable information a student of any field of study could get during their first semester in college. Talking to hundreds of some of the area’s top movers and shakers over the course of three hours, I learned about business, risk taking and the importance of following your passion.
But most of all I really saw the impact and importance of giving back to the community. Here were some of the top business minds in the University spending three hours of their evening in a crowded auditorium talking and giving invaluable advice to a bunch of college students about small, probably infeasible business ideas they had, all with smiles on their faces. The generosity they showed us, and the enthusiasm we showed in return, demonstrated to me how just a two-minute conversation with someone can make a big impact.
Later in the semester, we had another pitch competition, this time just within our BLUE Residential Learning Program group. Teaming up with a fellow chemistry major, we designed a collapsible water bottle to preserve carbonation within liquids as well as flavor, and the design is actually being used now by the company Que. Learning how to combine my academic background with a real-world problem was a unique experience that I hope to carry with me as I move out of college into a corporate setting.
So to anyone out there who’s interested in entrepreneurship but maybe doesn’t know where to start or is nervous about talking with people – just reach out to the Carolina community! One thing I’ve learned at UNC is that people are here for you – they want you to succeed, to grow and to expand your horizons beyond what you ever thought they could be.
Just dive in. Believe me, once you’ve entered the world of entrepreneurship and innovation, you’ll never look at the world the same way again.
By Anthony Schinelli (BS ’21)