Debra Swersky
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Opt-in for weekly journal, not blog, posts.


When I hear the word “express” I think portofino shirts and Madonna. Would I be dating myself if I wrote out the words to “Express Yourself” while rockin’ a bright purple portofino? No? Cool. Moving on. 

When the word expressed was used the other day during a pitch at 1 Million Cups, I found myself completely confused. It didn’t help that the person pitching was talking about genes being expressed vs. not expressed. Recognizing immediately that I wasn’t the only non-medical person in the room, I asked her what she meant by her use of the word expressed. “Like a light switch. You can turn a gene on-and-off.” Pause. Yup, that makes sense (I guess) - see first sentence as to what I start thinking about when I hear the word “express.” The important piece of her answer is: like a light switch - on and off.

For the next week I heard the word expressed used in the context of “on and off” like it was the world’s new favorite word. Then I started using it and recognizing places where it could be used. And then I found an instance that would have perfectly placed the word and it wasn’t. Here’s the instance: “Babson’s students learn to be entrepreneurs…” Out of respect for the person who wrote this fragment, I will withhold their name. 

:: takes out soapbox and stands up ::

One cannot “learn to be an entrepreneur.” Everyone is an entrepreneur. Each and every person is an entrepreneur. Like a light switch turning on and off, Babson teaches its students to express their entrepreneurial qualities in ways that create social and economic value. Learning to be an entrepreneur implies academic study and instruction which puts entrepreneurship in the same category as formal education. (Semantically, learning implies experience, study, or being taught… but…) That lady in Ghana who is selling plantain chips from a bowl on her head at a tollbooth is an entrepreneur. Do you think she needed a degree from Babson to start making a dollar? Definitively, no. She is an entrepreneur. Anyone who identifies a need within their community and leverages their knowledge, skills, and resources to fill the need can express their entrepreneurial qualities as well. 

Babson students learn to express their entrepreneurial qualities and receive feedback from their peers, professors, and teams throughout their degrees to increase their chances of success. Through a wide variety of hands-on projects (and a little bit of coursework), they fail fast, learn by doing, and encounter the ups-and-downs of entrepreneurship in a controlled and supported setting. In each instance they learn when, why, and where to express their entrepreneurial qualities, and how to be the most effective business person. Said differently, in each instance they learn when, why, and where to be the entrepreneur that they already are and when to be an intrapreneur. Graduated or recently admitted, Babson students are entrepreneurs and (in the definition of the word) learn how to most effectively turn on (and off) their light switches and the light switches of others.

:: steps down and puts away soapbox ::

You can’t learn to be an entrepreneur. You already are one. Express yourself! (Hey, hey, hey, heyyyy.)

Debra Swersky