5 Ways to Be a Successful Entrepreneur

Do you dream of becoming an entrepreneur and a leader? Summerfuel’s Leadership & Innovation program at Columbia University and Social Enterprise program at Stanford University provide students with the experience and tools they need to do just that. From business finances and marketing to team-building and action plans, we cover it all.

This article from Inc. outlines what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur and leader in this day and age:

Is Entrepreneurship Getting Harder? 5 Ways to Be Successful in the Digital Age

You need more than passion and dreams to reach entrepreneurial success.

Entrepreneurs aren’t a dime a dozen anymore. According to The Wall Street Journal’s research, the number of entrepreneurs is the lowest it’s been since before Y2K. It seems that for every Mark Zuckerberg or Brian Acton, thousands upon thousands of Millennials are eschewing the founder path.

Perhaps they’ve realized what Marc Fischer, CEO and founder of mobile technology studio Dogtown Media, has learned: “Startup founders have a duty to question the status quo, state a bold vision, hack the system, and disrupt everything they touch. Joining the club of entrepreneurship is easy; executing on the vision is hard.”

His words ring true for anyone who’s had a brilliant idea only to discover that breathing life into it makes Dr. Frankenstein’s job look like a piece of cake.

As Fischer learned in his time as a mobile app developer, “Graveyards are filled with founders who floundered and failed for a million and one different reasons.” Why? Most people just aren’t ready to question the status quo and disrupt en masse.

Whether you already have a revolutionary concept you want to bring to the world or you’re merely eager to write your own paycheck, you need more than passion and dreams to reach successful entrepreneurship. You must be willing to adopt true leader characteristics and integrate them into the fabric of your working philosophy.

1. Track your finances like a hawk.

You don’t have to become obsessive, but you should know as much about your balance sheets as your accountant.

“Many new businesses underestimate their operating costs and overestimate their profits, which can lead to failure pretty quickly,” says David Disiere, founder and CEO of transportation insurance agency QEO Insurance Group. “Make sure your projections are realistic and your startup is well-funded before you get started, and once you do, stay on top of your finances. Even if you use an accountant or hire an employee to manage the financial side of your business, you still need to understand your fiscal standing at all times to ensure your business stays in the black.”

Not sure how to understand all those numbers and make smart projections? Gain a basic education by doing some in-depth research online or asking for advice from a finance whiz. The more comfortable you are with your accounts, the better you’ll be able to stay afloat.

2. Just do something already.

Everyone knows someone who has tons of plans and knows a million and one useless facts yet never takes one step forward. That’s akin to planning a whirlwind trip to Europe, mapping out every step of the journey, and then shelving the itinerary. Serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk took a no-holds-barred viewpoint of this mindset during a recent blog rant: “Too many of you just read and consume and make pretend. …”

Don’t be that guy or gal. Sure, it’s fine to study up on the competition, create all sorts of disruptive objectives, and brainstorm until the cows come home. But at the end of the day, all talk and no action equates to zero entrepreneurship. Allow your dreams to leverage actions. No one snagged a client by sitting on the sofa and wishing something would happen.

3. Give yourself mental and physical breaks.

If you haven’t realized it already, all work and no play really is a recipe for disaster. As an entrepreneur, you can expect to work like a dog. Hey, Elon Musk reportedly still works 80-90 hours weekly, after all. However, he’s stepped back a bit because he realizes that bodies and minds aren’t computers.

Even if you can’t do more than snag 30-minute walks or bike rides or use your favorite app to enjoy a few solid hours of REM sleep per night, you’ll be doing more than the workaholics on their way to burnout city.

4. Ask for — and take — all the advice you can get.

You don’t know everything. Neither do I. Augment your knowledge gaps with a little assistance and advice from others. Of course, be sure to implement what you learn as well. One of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make is seeking counsel but never using it to better themselves or their processes.

At the same time, don’t forget to share what you find out. Author, coach, and speaker John Maxwell has noted: “The true measure of leadership is not how much you achieve; it is how much you inspire others to achieve.” Stop being selfish; generously spread your insights like seeds ready to burst.

5. Replace bad habits with smarter ones.

Human beings are reliably consistent. You can depend on it. Unfortunately, they’re not always consistently making good choices.

Take time to jot down your worst work habits standing in the way of you becoming a founder. Are you a procrastinator? A self-saboteur? Generally afraid of failure? Be honest with yourself. Systematically work to turn your poor habits into smarter ones, inching closer to becoming a leader who can pick up the torch and get people to eagerly follow. I’ve written a book on this topic.

Truth be told, just about anyone who’s willing to make changes and take action has the capacity for entrepreneurship. Figure out what’s standing in your way, and push it aside.


What IS Social Enterprise?


Our Social Enterprise Program at Stanford University is one of the most exciting and innovative programs that Summerfuel offers, but what exactly IS Social Enterprise?

A Social Enterprise is an organization or initiative that marries the social mission of a non-profit or government program with the market-driven approach of a business, the goal being to solve a social issue for a specific group of people.

Social Enterprise is on the rise as people want change in the world and want to make a difference with what they do every day, in their jobs, in the products and services they buy, in where and how they get their energy, and more.

Despite progress, there are still big issues to be fixed in the world – from poverty and inequality, to climate change and access to basic goods and services. All of these complex problems require creative and sustainable solutions in order to make real progress – and this is where Social Enterprise comes in.

The night before the last

The day that we have all been waiting for is here. It is time for the kids to finally pitch their business plans. We started out our day in the morning where everyone met at the house buzzing with excitement and anxiousness. Through each presentation, you can see the growth from the kids that first entered this program, to the young adults who stand before us now. Each group presented a good pitch, and three groups truly stood out to the judges – Lemoncare, Transparensea, and FLO.






All of our kids are winners!!!

All of our kids are winners!!!

After the competition, each student was allowed to head to the mall or downtown Palo Alto where they had free time to relax and have dinner with friends.  Afterwards, they returned to the house where the staff hosted a fun glow in the dark party with a playlist of the students’ favorite songs. The night was filled with laughter and dancing from people of many different backgrounds.

Its not a party without glow sticks.

Its not a party without glow sticks.

Last RA Night

One last outing!!!

One last outing!!!


As the program comes to a close, the students are putting the finishing touches on their projects and practicing their presentations. The time and energy these students have put into their projects has shown the dedication and determination they have towards this program and their social topics. Research, collaborations, innovations, and networking all took place in order for the students to come up with their projects, and the outcomes are beyond spectacular. Before the students jumped into adding the finishing touches to their presentations, they were able to partake in a hike and enjoy some cookie dough for their afternoon activities. Also being that this is their last week, we gathered together one last time as individual RA groups. The evening ended with presentation practice runs, and it is hard to tell who is more excited for Thursday, the presenters or the audience.

We have the perfect pitch!

We have the perfect pitch!


All tired out from practice.

All tired out from practice.

Movie Night!!!

We love Spiderman!

We love Spiderman!


Popcorn, candy, slushes, and many many more sweets are the best forms of movie food, and those are just a few things the students indulged in at the Century Cinema 16 on this wonderful Tuesday Night. The movie of the hour portrayed villains, tall buildings, webs, and the one and only Spider Man. The students got to see what all the hype was about in terms of the Spider Man movie, and they enjoyed all the action as well as the comfortable seating arrangements that the movie theater provided. Before the movie night started some of the students got to play a few games of basketball and meet up with their groups to work on their presentations. Friendships, popcorn, candy, and live action packed movies are the best ways to relieve some of the stresses these students may be feeling, and from the smiling faces and jam-packed conversations about the Spider Man movie it seemed to be a wonderful success.


OMG!!! These seats are so Comfty!

OMG!!! These seats are so Comfty!



Can you believe that movie?

Can you believe that movie?


Fire Pit & S’mores!

As the program enters its final week, we are taking full advantage of the sunny California weather before we head back to our respective home countries and states. Students had the opportunity to explore the Stanford Dish Hiking Trail, which was approximately 5 kms and offered amazing views of the surrounding area. As an alternative to the hike, students painted personalized mason jars. In true Summer fashion, we ended the day with a roaring campfire, good music, and plenty of S’mores.

Scenic view of the Stanford Dish Hiking Trail..

Scenic view of the Stanford Dish Hiking Trail


Peiru creating her Pokemon mason jar..

Peiru creating her Pokemon mason jar


Jocelyn using one of the many beautiful landscapes that Stanford University has to offer, in order to spark some creative writing.

Jocelyn using one of the many beautiful landscapes that Stanford University has to offer, in order to spark some creative writing


A few of our students roasting their marshmallows to create their s'more.

A few of our students roasting their marshmallows to create their s’more


The s'mores were a hit!! Students lining up to get seconds.

The s’mores were a hit!! Students lining up to get seconds






Golden Gate Bridge and Union Square

On Sunday the students were excited to head back to the Golden Gate Bridge and snap a few more iconic photos before the end of the program. Last weekends foggy views were replaced with blue, sunny skies this weekend. Thankfully, this time the weather cooperated with us, allowing for a clear view of the bridge, Alcatraz and the surrounding area. After taking in these iconic sights of San Francisco, we spent the day exploring Union Square. Here the students were able to take advantage of the most popular and beautiful shopping area in San Francisco. Nike, Tiffany & Co., Nordtroms, Bloomingdales, an awesome food court and even more amazing places to shop and eat. It was quite an exciting   After an adventure filled day in San Francisco, the students returned to campus and set about working on their final projects and presentations, which are beginning to come to fruition. We have an exciting last week at Summerfuel planned!


Our students posing for a group photo in front of the Golden Gate Bridge..


Our students Juilo and Ignacio taking a picture in front the Golden Gate Bridge Heart..

Our students Juilo and Ignacio taking a picture in front of the Golden Gate Bridge Heart.

Talented Mock Rockers!

The day that we have all been waiting for has finally arrived, Mock Rock and the Summerfuel Talent Show!!!! The students have been practicing for quite some time and their performances were spectacular. Before the show could begin the students got to interact with a guest speaker by the name of Ryan Oliver. Ryan is an education leader for innovative schools using experiential learning to create youth entrepreneurs. In Ryan’s presentation he inspired our students with a message on the importance of having the proper proposal and the need for prototyping. The students were able to get a sense of how to show, and sell, their product or service. It also gave them insight into what challenges they may meet along the way. The kids are now taking what they are learning from the presenters and putting it into their final presentation.

Ryan Oliver

Ryan Oliver


Preparing to present their prototype/

Preparing to present their prototype


In the afternoon we continue to prepare and practice for tonight’s show. Students went shopping for costumes and others took part in getting henna tattoos for decoration for their performances.

One direction in the building.

One direction reunited just for Summerfuel Stanford


In the evening the kids really brought down the house! We were all blown away by the talent and effort that the kids have shown us. From singing to dancing, poetry, and playing instruments, the room was filled with laughter and amazement. The night ended in a tie between two mock rock groups who battled for first place in a dance battle. Our talent show runner-up, Sam, amazed us with his duct tape art while the winners, Spencer and Tori, played guitar and sang a beautiful song! All performances were amazing!


The Crowd!!!

The Crowd, and judges, enjoying the performances!!!