When my high school launched a new Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, my perception was that entrepreneurship was a very difficult task that only a genius like Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg could do.
However, as the year began, I quickly struck up a friendship with one of the program's directors Rahilla Zafar. She encouraged me to take her entrepreneurship class that made think about the field differently. The course showed me how to minimize the chance of failure by testing ideas using tools such as the business model canvas and the validation board. It also showed me that failure is good because from it you can learn not to make the same mistake again and again. This class gave me a new perspective and showed me another path in business. The path of entrepreneurship seemed to have opened up to me and now I believe it's one that can be followed by anyone with the right amount of work and dedication.
I was fortunate enough to interview Wharton Business School professor and entrepreneur Patrick Fitzgerald. Patrick started his own business called Recyclebank two years after graduating from law school. He also was CEO of Nanny Caddy and is currently working on a new startup called ChargeItSpot, which allows you to charge your mobile phone while you're out.
Where did you go to high school and what was your experience in school like?
I went to Germantown Academy (outside of Philadelphia) and had a fantastic experience there. It chartered me on a course of independent thinking and it helped me in networking and provided me with many vital resources I find helpful even today.
What was your experience as an undergrad at the University of Pennsylvania?
I was intimidated at first and it was very daunting to be around so many smart people. A lot of them were already in pre-professional tracks and I had no idea what I wanted to major in. It wasn't until my junior or senior year that I got comfortable with my experience there and found Penn to be a place where I built a great network.
Did your time there help you become the entrepreneur you are today? If so, how?
Networking at Penn really helped and gave me the ability to find experts in different fields. Reaching out to them really helps with your ideas in research and vetting an idea.
Can you tell me a little bit about your experience working for a law firm?
The legal field is not for everyone. Law wasn't for me and the structure there was difficult for me. It helped me understand contracts, business law, and the field in general.
Why did you leave your law firm early on?
I had a great idea before graduate school called Recyclebank, but since I went to law school, I had to delay it. After two years, I knew I was wasting time. I decided to leave my firm and that it was now or never.
What is the biggest difference between an entrepreneur and one who works for corporate America?
On the plus side, there is no better thrill than being an entrepreneur. Being able to create something from a concept to it becoming a real thing and selling it to people. On the negative side, there's not a lot of stability and you may create a concept that doesn't work.
What are the pros and cons of being an entrepreneur?
Pros: The thrill -- there are some huge highs in making something happen fast.
Con: Financial instability -- great deal of stress, everything on your shoulder, no days off.
What is your favorite part of entrepreneurship?
What do you believe is the most challenging aspect of entrepreneurship?
It is usually raising the capital. You have to convince people of your vision while running your company at the same time.
What do you think are the most important qualities of an entrepreneur?
Persistence, patience, and an ability to see around obstacles.
What advice would you like to give future entrepreneurs that you think would've been helpful to you when you started?
I think you should keep one ear open and one ear closed. Most people are very pessimistic. Have one ear to hear the positivity and learn to shut off the negativity.