I had an awesome trip down South. It was exactly what I was hoping it would be – a long break from my routine. I wasn’t really trying to forget about work so much as just spend an extended amount of time in a different atmosphere with people I don’t get to see nearly often enough.
The first few days were spent in Harrisonburg, Virginia at James Madison University where I gave my “Entrepreneurship as a Career Choice” talk. Previously I had just spoken to individual classes of say 15 – 30 people. This time Prof. Wales and the business school at JMU decided to have me do one large presentation instead of several smaller ones. They opened it up to the entire school and promoted it through the business school’s Facebook account and around campus with flyers. In addition to his three classes, there was another professor who had his students attend, and there were also some walk-ins who must have seen the flyers or the Facebook account.
When I walked in, I was taken back by how full the large lecture hall was…especially considering it was a Friday afternoon at 2:30 PM. It was jam packed – there were kids standing in the back and sitting on the stairs. Prof. Wales actually had to go check that the room hadn’t accidentally been double-booked. As usual, I try to tell my story as fast as possible and then open the session back up to the students for questions. I make it my goal to try to show them that I’m willing to talk about anything related to my business experiences. Once I answer a few tough questions, the flood gates open up and they asked me anything and everything about my personal life and our business…and I answer every single question as best I can. My “Discussion Topics” slide that I have on screen during the Q&A also worked well again, helping spark some of those questions:
Afterward probably ten students came up and asked me questions, which again I thought was awesome for a Friday afternoon. I always encourage them to email me if they have any questions, and many of them often do. Even if I don’t know the answer to their questions, I can often point them in the right direction of someone or some resource that does. There is definitely no shortage of college students out there who want to try their hand at starting a business. I love that Prof. Wales puts together such a fantastic entrepreneurship program for these kids. At the end of my presentation he also announced a “web ventures” class that he will be teaching starting next semester as a follow-up to the entrepreneurship course. For students who take both, they’ll have started multiple real businesses while in college. They have weeks, not months or years, to try to generate profits. While theory certainly has it’s place, you don’t know if something is for you until you actually do it. These classes give students the chance to try their hand at a viable career option. I wish more colleges and more programs built these types of courses into their curriculum. His class is the #1 most popular elective in the entire school. To me that shows how intrigued kids are by entrepreneurship.
The Rest of the Trip
I spent the rest of the trip in Virginia and North Carolina visiting friends and family. I attended my first Virginia Tech football game in Blacksburg. I had my first southern BBQ in North Carolina. I met a ton of interesting people. Everyone was so nice and so accommodating. It’s so much more fun traveling somewhere when you know people who live there and can show you around. In a lot of ways I wish I stretched the trip out a little longer.
Culturally, the only real oddity (besides the Southern accents) was that restaurants just automatically split up your checks when you eat out in groups. So if four people go out to eat, you get four separate checks. In the Northeast they bring you one check and you divvy it up yourself. You can ask for separate checks, but if you have a large group at a busy restaurant it’s definitely seen as an annoyance for the wait staff. I don’t really prefer one way to another, just found it interesting.
In total, I drove about 25 hours. For the most part I don’t mind taking a road trip solo. In a lot of ways I prefer being able to listen to what I want, stop for food when I want to, and hit the road in the morning as early or late as I want to. Still, by the last few hours of the last day I was sick of being in the car.
While I was gone I didn’t do much work – just checked email 1-2 times/day and Skype’d in for our Monday meeting (the group video call feature worked great). I did however have a very interesting series of email and phone chats regarding a big opportunity for LockerPulse. I signed a NDA so I can’t say anything yet, but it’s the type of thing that could end up being huge for LP and our business if it works out. I’ll likely be working a ton of extra hours the rest of the year when you combine this LP stuff with the crazy DI holiday season, but to be honest it really doesn’t bother me. These times are why I love being a web developer and a business owner. Should be fun!