The week after I quit my job, I was sitting at my family’s kitchen table in Brooklyn, compulsively proofreading emails to people who would ultimately never write me back.
This was my first day of being an ‘entrepreneur,’ and it was not glamorous.
Next to me sat my new business partner, and longtime high school friend, Pablo Marvel. We were two 23-year-olds who had a passion for new technology and an idea that we could channel that passion into building a media company from the ground up.
Just the week before, I had been the youngest member of a business development team working for the Miami Dolphins’ venture capital firm. I had a solid salary, a great team and one degree of separation to some of the most exciting startup companies in NYC.
Now, I was having a hard time not second-guessing my decision. My partner and I knew where we wanted to go with our newly formed company. Yet for all our planning up to this moment, we had limited practical understanding of how to get there.
Just a few days later, I received an email from Hamilton about their 6th annual pitch competition. Thinking it was an opportunity only available to students, I dismissed it. But just a few hours later, a friend of mine forwarded me the same email with “DO IT!” as the subject line.
Seeing it again in my inbox, I reconsidered. Why was I hesitating? Here I was, on the cusp of my new career. Why wouldn’t I tap into my college for support and guidance? In many ways, the opportunity could not have been better-timed. Just a couple of weeks later, I found myself back on the hill competing.
At the time, our business was fairly simple: We had a firm understanding of drone technology and envisioned the ways it could benefit architects, developers and designers. We were hired to take aerial photos for marketing, site surveying and landscape studies.
The moment I arrived at Hamilton, I knew I had made the right decision. Every step of the competition was helpful. Even the process of putting together a pitch deck was clarifying—it forced me to think about our business objectively, through the eyes of an investor, honestly examining all the strengths and weaknesses of our proposal.
After three days of coaching sessions, refining and pitching, I was fortunate enough to win the competition. Beyond validation, I received seed money and a year of business consulting from Hedy Foreman and Michael Fawcett, all of which has proved to be invaluable.
If there is one thing I’ve learned from my first year as a business owner, it is that you have to decide to trust yourself. One year in, five full-time employees and a roster of new business later, I still have days where I am plagued with self-doubt, indecision and worry. There are still times when money is tight and the next project is uncertain. But then it’s a new day, and I get up and go work as hard as I can to realize our company’s potential and—between setting my own hours, getting first-hand business experience and having full ownership over my future—I realize that I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Just last year, I was at a desk job helping a large company make money. Today I am running a business, learning something at every turn and have a world of possibilities in the future. It’s hard to say how different things would have been had I not attended the pitch competition last year, but what is for sure is how formative the experience was in shaping our initial business plan. The competition is a direct window into what life is like as an entrepreneur, and anyone considering building their own business, should take this opportunity to see if they are really cut out for it.
Go for it. Put it this way: What do you have to gain?
Nile Berry ’14 majored in public policy at Hamilton and returned to the Hill in 2016 to compete in the Pitch Competition. He received first place by pitching his company, Nova Concepts (formerly known as Marvel Vision), a Brooklyn-based creative agency focused on the intersection of media and new technology.