Entrepreneurship:  The Ultimate Act of Self- Actualization 

by Deborah Hoover

Burton D. Morgan Foundation has long served as a champion of entrepreneurship on college and university campuses, realizing the vision of our founder, a pioneer in advancing university-based entrepreneurship.  Recently, a group of college students from one of our Northeast Ohio campuses stopped by the Foundation as part of a regional ecosystem tour that also included JumpStart and Bounce Innovation Hub.  We talked about all the ways the Foundation helps to foster campus programming to support student entrepreneurs and simultaneously contribute to a vibrant ecosystem. 

After our presentation, one of the student entrepreneurs shared his story with me.  He has a new venture underway and is very excited about what the future may hold for him.  He mentioned that he is a first generation college student and that his parents are very proud of all he has achieved so far.  He has taken advantage of many of the programs supported through Morgan Foundation funding—pitch competitions, mentoring, along with curricular and co-curricular programs. He made clear that these offerings have contributed significantly to his entrepreneurial progress and overall educational experience.  He expressed deep gratitude to the Foundation for helping him pursue his dreams.  This story aptly captures the reason we go to great lengths to enhance students’ educational experience through entrepreneurship. 

As I think about the significance of a college education strengthened through entrepreneurship skill building, I am drawn to Maslow’s theory of self-actualization.  To American psychologist Abraham Maslow (1908-1970), self-actualization represented the capacity to grow into the most optimal  version of oneself. Maslow described this state of being, “as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.”

The beauty of thinking about entrepreneurship through a self-actualization lens is that the entrepreneurial skillset is completely malleable and can be deployed in many different ways.  Each of us possesses varying talents, predilections, and values that can drive an array of dreams and goals.  One can start a for-profit venture, become a social entrepreneur, blend for-profit and social motives in one venture, pursue the creative arts, become an activist for a cause, or work as an innovator inside a large company. 

As Maslow observed, “[w]hat is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.” Entrepreneurship can be the vehicle that mobilizes individuals to pursue lofty goals and be confident they have the tools to figure out the way forward even when they don’t initially possess all the answers.  For these reasons and many more, there can be no more powerful set of skills to complement an educational or life experience than development of the entrepreneurial mindset.