By Michael Hebert
Senior marketing major Kaitlin Lutz always wanted to be an entrepreneur.
She started a dog walking business when she was younger, making flyers with her face, a picture of a dog and a little dog bone to promote her service around the neighborhood.“I’ve always had some sort of itch for entrepreneurship as long as I can remember,” Lutz said.
As a student at the University of Georgia, Lutz sought out the training offered through the UGA Idea Accelerator, an eight-week program where students are trained in how to develop a business. Lutz won the program’s pitch competition and its $5,000 prize with SparkWomen, an organization to train and place women in the construction industry.
“It seemed like an untapped resource for these construction companies to have women fill those spots,” Lutz said. “Also, an opportunity for women to have a sustainable career they never knew about before.”
She interviewed over a hundred people in the construction industry to understand all the aspects of it. The prize money has gone to planning trips to several conferences, setting up tests to see if people will pay for the service and organizing the launch of a website.
Lutz’s original idea was to service microloans for low-income entrepreneurs. The intention was to help entrepreneurs, but working on the idea convinced her that such loans could drive them more into debt.
“I had to learn that it wasn’t really my idea that mattered so much,” Lutz said. “But it’s you that matters as an entrepreneur, continuing to iterate and problem solve.”
SparkWomen sprang from research where Lutz found a deficit between the number of skilled workers and jobs available in the construction industry. Further, she found that only 1.2 percent of those workers are women.
She said the industry is supportive of the idea. She’s meeting with subcontractors and providing contact information of graduates and people from local trade schools in hopes of creating a pipeline of workers.
Lutz plans to pursue this venture full time after her May graduation.
Cali Brutz, a lecturer and associate director of the UGA Entrepreneurship Program, noted there are two misconceptions with entrepreneurship that people should understand before trying to become one.
First, people often think a great idea is all it takes and then people think entrepreneurship is all about “being your own boss.”
“The ability to assemble the resources to execute that idea is a totally different ball game,” Brutz said, adding that while there isn’t technically a “boss,” there are investors and customers requiring accountability.
A common thread between entrepreneurs and students is the struggle to find work-life balance.
Brutz compared it to studying. There becomes a point where no matter how long you spend studying for something you’re only going to accrue incremental gains of knowledge.
“There are things you can do more efficiently,” Brutz said. “So, I just think it’s a matter of figuring (it) out for yourself. It’s a balance.”
Lutz learned through her own experiences how to balance life as a student while also pursuing entrepreneurship. Learning to manage her time on an idea was important, she said, noting that the best way was to prove an idea wrong and move on to the next one.
“Then, you don’t waste time on it,” Lutz said. “There’s always going to be more problems, so just find solutions to them and don’t quit.”
Michael Hebert is a journalism student at the University of Georgia.