What It's Like Being an Entrpreneur at FSU with Courtney Vega Simoncelli

I sat down with Courtney Vega Simoncelli to get the inside scoop on Florida State’s Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship. She tells us what it is like starting a business at just the age of 20-years-old and gives us advice to make sure we live our college life to the fullest.

Courtesy: Courtney Vega Simoncelli

Her Campus (HC): How would you describe the Jim Moran school to future students?

Courtney Vega Simoncelli (CVS): It is one of the first stand-alone entrepreneurship schools in the country, and I was lucky enough to be a part of the first class for students in the program. It is a school where professors are entrepreneurs themselves, and they teach from their first-hand experience and allow you to gain knowledge from what they've experienced as entrepreneurs. All of the classes work together to give you real-world knowledge of what is like to be an entrepreneur, and what steps to go about in order to create a successful business. The school also provides you with the opportunity to meet with other students who have similar mindsets and provide you the tools and funding you need to get your ideas in action.

HC: Was entrepreneurship your first choice as a major?

CVS: No, I initially was a marketing major when I came into college but during my sophomore year I was tutoring at the Reading-Writing Center, and a girl came in and had me edit her application for the Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship. So, I was talking to her about the school and found out that the applications were due that night, and I thought that the entrepreneurship program sounded interesting. I whipped out an application in a few hours and then submitted it that night and that led me to where I am now.

HC: What made you want to go into entrepreneurship?

CVS: Throughout college, I have had a lot of dietary restrictions because of a disease I have, so I had actually been talking about it with my mom the summer prior [about] how I wanted to start, later in life, a fast food healthy drive-thru chain. It can be very hard to eat healthy in college and also in life on the go and be able to get food quickly that is healthy, so that’s been something [the healthy fast food chain] that I have always wanted to do. I knew I wasn’t going to get that business started while I was in college, but I thought joining the entrepreneur program would be a good first step in gaining knowledge on how to go about that, and that’s what led me to that, along with that fateful moment at the Reading-Writing Center, because I didn’t even know that the Jim Moran School was a thing so it all just fell into place.

 

Courtesy: Courtney Vega Simoncelli

HC: What opportunities has the school provided you that you find the business school didn’t?

CVS: I think there’s a lot of events through the Jim Moran School. Obviously, the opportunity to have the space to create a business and work under established entrepreneurs. All of the professors in the Jim Moran School are entrepreneurs themselves or have been in the past so that’s definitely a different type of learning that allows you to gain more real-life experience from them and learn from their knowledge. But also, a lot of events that the school provides like the Entrepreneurship Expo, where every April on Landis Green they have this Entrepreneurship Expo where all of the students who have student-run businesses within the school get to have a booth and sell their products and showcase themselves. It’s like a community vibe and so there’s definitely a lot of opportunities through that. Not to say that the business school doesn’t have these opportunities, it is just different.

HC: What’s been your best experience?

CVS: One thing I really liked doing was an event called “Planting Your Roots in Tallahassee” or something along those lines, and [that] was a panel discussion where the featured entrepreneurs and people who were interested in running a business or any aspect of entrepreneurship could come and ask questions. It was facilitated discussion at the Innovation Hub. I was asked to be on the panel so that’s something that I probably wouldn’t have had the connection for without the entrepreneurship school, so that was really cool. I was up there with the director of Domi Station and Dustin Daniels, the guy running for mayor. It was definitely an experience that pushed me out of my comfort zone. It was probably one of the highlights of being in the entrepreneurship program because it was such a standout experience in college. 

Courtesy: Florida State University

HC: I know you started your own business. Could you state the name and describe it for us?

CVS: My business was called Smart Snax, and it was a healthy snack box subscription service, so all of the snacks were gluten free, dairy free, soy free and non-GMO. I catered to students and families in the Tallahassee area, and it was basically a service you could buy on a one-time subscription basis, and I would deliver boxes of these healthy snacks to your home and apartment.

HC: How did the Jim Moran School help with your business or with steps on becoming an entrepreneur?

CVS: While you are creating a business, you are also taking this class at the same time called “Experiences in Entrepreneurship.” It’s a class that is basically facilitating you starting a business so everything you’re learning you are also at the same time doing hands-on. And again, this class was also taught by two experienced entrepreneurs. They kind of walk you through the process but also let you have some freedom with it as well. Also, through the Jim Moran School, they also give you funding to a certain extent, so you have to come up with a budget and explain what you need certain amounts of money for and break it down for them. For example, they gave me the funding that I needed to initially to cover my start-up costs.

HC: Do you think that you’ll ever restart this business or create a new business anytime in your future?

CVS: I don’t think I’ll restart this business because it was more catered to my college experience. I think in the future I still would like to do what I said earlier, like start a healthy fast food drive-thru chain so that it could make life easier for people with dietary restrictions who want to eat healthy but are on the go. I think that’s something later down the line that I want to do, but a lot of my professors say that you should go into the workforce before you start your real company because it is good to gain insight on the behind-the-scenes of a business and what-not. So, I do think I do want to go into the workforce for a few years, and then maybe later down the line that’s something I’d want to do. I think this was a great first-stepping stone especially since my business was catered to people with dietary restrictions, and so I was able to learn a lot about that. I also learned about, even on a small scale, on what it’s like running a business. It was definitely an experience you have to have for yourself. So, maybe later down the line but not right away.

HC: Any advice you can give to future entrepreneurs?

CVS: Don’t be afraid to take a risk or a leap because it is really scary to be 20 years old and try to launch your first business and figure everything out. It is easy to want to give up on your business and decide what the safe decision is, but you have to try and just push yourself to take a risk and go for it. Sometimes, in the end, it ends up being worth it. If you have an idea or a dream, you can’t let fear get in the way of it.

HC: Any advice you can give to any underclassmen?

CVS: Live in the moment and appreciate where you are at because everything goes by so fast and it is so easy to get caught up in things, especially with the pressure of a future and everything. Just appreciate how special life is now during these years because it really does go by fast and you’ll never have another time in life just like this. So, just try and look around you and appreciate where you are at. Also, get involved on campus with stuff that you are passionate about because I got involved on campus in a bunch of things freshman year, and it led me to so many opportunities and so many friendships, and it made me feel like I really made this campus was my own and that I was able to do everything I wanted to do in college. I am leaving with no regrets and leaving with new friendships, new experiences, and new opportunities. So, get involved and push yourself to try new things because that is really what college and life are about.

Courtesy: Courtney Vega Simoncelli

Want to learn how to start your own business or are interested in becoming an entrepreneur? Head over to the Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship website to learn more.