Currently, about 34% of the U.S. workforce is part of the gig economy, with that number expected to increase to 40% by 2020.
On March 6th, Nita Baum, founder of b*free, joined students and staff at CCE for an intimate dinner and discussion where she shared her experiences as an entrepreneur and her advice for those who are considering a career in entrepreneurship or freelancing.
The evening began with dinner and a sit-down discussion, where the students were able to learn a little more about Nita’s path to entrepreneurship, which included consulting work, business school, founding a private educational consulting business, and finally founding b*free.
STICK WITH WHAT INTERESTS YOU, EVEN IF AT FIRST YOU’RE NOT SUCCESSFUL
Nita started by walking us through her time at Columbia and how it formed her interests and passions in the long term. While a pre-med student, she became interested in East Asian studies. Even though she was extremely passionate about the subject matter, her grades in the courses were lower than what she was used to achieving in academics. Nita stressed that this should not stop you from pursuing coursework. She stuck with the classes and continues her education on the topic to this day, as it inspires her work and mission with b*free.
Think Like a Child
Nita referenced a study by George Land, who found that “non-creative behavior is learned.” In his study, he specifically examined the capacity for divergent thinking, the ability to look for many options at once and something that is necessary for creativity, in children and adults. Land found that children who were given the test for divergent thinking, originally developed for NASA, they scored at “genius levels” with 98%. When adults were given the test they scored around 2%.
According to Nita, as children, many people have a stronger capacity for creative and non-linear thinking. This is something that many of us lose over time as the process of failure changes our perceptions and views of the world. However, she believes that it is an ability that can be accessed again and also can be learned over time.
During the event, Nita walked the attendees through a guided visualization designed to help them connect with some of the times they felt most excited as children. Some of the prompts she used included, “How did you prefer to play? With whom?” and “When did you feel most engage?” After the exercise, the participants discussed themes that emerged for each of them.
Build Relationships and Convey Your Humanity
Nita characterizes some of her success to the fact that she is constantly trying to build relationships, not sell her product or brand. She mentioned during the night that 85% of business is generated from word of mouth and credited her authenticity to her ability to win others to her cause. When building her team at b*free, she looked for others who resonated with the mission and interested in the possibility of being able to contribute their personal skills and experiences to the enterprise.
Curate Your Inspiration TO ITERATE & STAY MOTIVATED
Through Nita’s personal journey, she developed the idea of curating your inspiration. This exercise encourages a person to take stock of the different components in their lives currently and remove anything that does not inspire them. Then, add things that do inspire you. This could be changing your news sources, who you spend the most time with, the hobbies you devote most of your time, what you try to learn, etc. From curating her inspiration, she was able to develop the mission and business model for her company, b*free.
STRUCTURE DOES NOT LESSEN YOUR FREEDOMS
She is also a proponent of building healthy habits. In Nita’s opinion, having structure is essential to entrepreneurs and can be a strong base to build from and enable free thinking. Nita explained that with structure, the disorganization that distracts from your work will be eliminated.
“Structure gives you freedom.”
EXPERIENCE HELPS YOU Understand the System you want to change
During the dinner, students asked Nita if it was a good idea to have a strong personal brand or experience at a notable company before launching as an entrepreneur.
Although experience isn’t necessary, you do need to understand the system before you can make changes.
Nita explained that building credibility is important, but not all successful entrepreneurs have industry experience before they go solo. She stressed that it’s important to be able to identify the things that work and don’t work in the field in order to create a solution for a ubiquitous problem.
Nita stated that when she originally created b*free, it was in response to a problem that she was continuously noticing as a professional; people were interested in taking advantage of the changing economy and workplace trends to strike out as entrepreneurs, but that there were no programs or sources for guidance during the process. B*free creates learning experiences and delivers guidance through their 5-week program, individual coaching, and workshops.