Carolina senior Marianne Cruzat has always been wired to be an entrepreneur. In her first year at Carolina, she was already working on a startup, but wasn’t sure of the path she should take to gain additional experience and find resources. The Entrepreneurship Center and Shuford Program both provided clarity.
“Through both programs, I met some incredible entrepreneurs who have been helpful in my journey. They’ve guided and mentored me along the way, which has helped me grow tremendously as an entrepreneur,” she says. “When I compare myself to when I first arrived at UNC and when I was trying to start a business, I didn’t know where to start. I feel a lot more confident now. I can navigate the entrepreneurial journey.”
As a business major working on an entrepreneurship minor in the Shuford Program, Cruzat wanted to take advantage of the Adams Apprenticeship, a mentorship program in the Entrepreneurship Center that matches highly qualified, successful professionals with high-achieving students.
Although applying for the Adams Apprenticeship initially didn’t work out as she hoped, the wait opened the door to a new opportunity: traveling to Singapore to learn about venture capital, which gave her hands-on, real-world experience in new field. Upon returning to Carolina, she was accepted into the Adams Apprenticeship program. And it’s then when the lessons she learned in Singapore combined with her time as a Shuford and Adams Apprenticeship student helped her appreciate and apply and well-rounded perspectives.
“The Adams Apprenticeship builds students as leaders, it builds the individuals,” Cruzat says. “And with Shuford, I’ve been exposed to a lot of awesome events and classes. An economics class with Bernard Bell was one of my favorites – and one of the most impactful classes I’ve taken. The concepts I learned were simple but effective, such as developing a 30-second elevator speech and the meaning of a solid handshake. That class was amazing – almost every week we had incredible entrepreneurs from different industries share their journeys.”
Cruzat credits the two programs for boosting her entrepreneurial network. “As a result of both programs, I’ve been able to grow my network. My first year was intimidating, but now I know a lot of people in the programs who’ve been able to help me. Not only have I grown my network, but I’ve grown my support group. If I have questions, concerns, or if I don’t know what to do, I have people I can come back to.”
Cruzat’s multi-faceted experiences have added up to a learning path that, while untraditional, sets the foundation for new opportunities that she says she wouldn’t have pursued otherwise.
“Don’t be afraid to take the path that’s not common. Entrepreneurship is not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” she says. “I’m spending my last semester as an undergrad away from UNC. But knowing what I want, I’ve been able to find the courage to do something less traditional. Stepping out of my comfort zone and being a little different and embracing a different journey has been amazing.”