College has typically been thought of as an opportunity to attend an institution in order to earn a degree that can prepare you for a good job to provide for yourself and your family.
In today’s global economy, the role of college and university institutions has changed due to the disruptive power of technology and the entrepreneurial spirit. More and more students are now graduating college and working outside of their field of study.
The BLNDED Media team recently spoke with Bobby Akinboro, an entrepreneur who created a graphic design and apparel company while in college. He’s since leveraged his entrepreneurial experience to earn a position as Program Manager at Microsoft Stream.
BLNDED Media: What inspired you to start your company?
Bobby Akinboro: One of the ways most kids got their first job in my hometown was by working at Six Flags. When I was 15, I told my brother I wanted to go and apply for a job there and he said, “No, figure out something else you can do in the long run that will help make you better.” I was so upset, but it helped me realize that I should never tell myself no and to attempt something rather than not attempt anything at all.
“Failure will come in certain areas but you can’t be afraid of that. You just need to go after it and do it!”
As my clientele expanded, so did the locations from which they came. I was getting clients from Nigeria, Switzerland, and South Africa. I learned quite a bit about cultural differences, how to ask the right questions to understand what the customer really wanted, conducting my due diligence, how to overcome barriers to entry, and how language affects communication.
BLNDED: How can college students develop entrepreneurial skill sets?
Akinboro: Becoming an entrepreneur on a college campus is probably easier than most think as it’s a great place to develop goals for yourself and identify what needs to happen in order to achieve those goals. Then you just have to go figure it out!
Here are a few steps:
- Become goal oriented
- Put a due date on your goals
- Continue to raise the bar of your goals
- Manage your time wisely
- Start a side hustle
- Find your work-life balance
- Go do it!
Continuing to raise the bar of your goals and challenging yourself to execute them will help you develop a process for pushing yourself like an entrepreneur as well as prioritize what’s necessary to make your dreams come true.
BLNDED: How would you describe your mindset in college?
Akinboro: Not taking no for an answer. I literally had times where my back was against the wall and I had to take control of the moment by doing everything in my power to make it happen. I’m originally from Lagos, Nigeria, so everyone around me pretty much has an entrepreneurial mindset. When my family came to the U.S. in 1995, we had two suitcases and $50. The only option was for us to grow.
My humble beginnings have helped me to understand the concept of “the more you give away the more you get.” I pray and ask God to order my steps to success. Without Him, none of this would be possible.
BLNDED: How can college students leverage internships at companies?
Akinboro: It’s so important to build your network while you’re in college as it’s a great place to meet people from different walks of life. You never know who you might be talking to.
I was able to intern at Microsoft for three summers consecutively, so each time I went back I was building personal relationships with people in each department and team.
By developing a wide network of people, I was able to chat about goals that would eventually help point me in the right direction. The team at Microsoft knew I had an affinity for media, so when I applied for the Program Manager role at Microsoft Stream, I was a leading candidate for that position and the decision makers for the role knew who I was.
BLNDED: How did your experiences as an entrepreneur help you land a job at Microsoft?
Akinboro: I got an interview at MSFT because I had entrepreneurship experience on my résumé. Being able to say I ran a business and actually break down exactly what I did and learned showcased my experience, growth, and mindset to the hiring manager. Today’s hiring managers are looking for these skills.
BLNDED: What helped you the most in your role at Microsoft?
- Developing a growth mindset
- Staying humble
- Understanding that pride is the beginning of downfall
“When you get hungry your talents get loud.”
BLNDED: What does diversity mean to you?
Akinboro: To me, diversity is having diversity of thought.
At a lot of meetings, I’m the only black guy in the room. Everybody needs to be at the table for the thoughts to be diverse. The rooms I’m in that make the most impact are the ones where there’s someone represented from every culture, creed, and walk of life. It’s more than just color, it’s also about being inclusive to get people from different walks of life into the same room but also giving them the necessary room to grow and to be heard.
BLNDED: What resources or advice do you have for college students interested in entrepreneurship?
Akinboro: Keep things simple and develop a mindset of not taking no for an answer. Also remember:
- Just start. Don’t overthink the process
- Read Rich Dad, Poor Dad
- Build your network
Failure will come in certain areas but you can’t be afraid of that.
“If you make 100K but you surround yourself with six millionaires, guaranteed you’ll become the seventh millionaire. Guaranteed!”