The I&E Keystone at Duke University is a comprehensive course that teaches students the building blocks of innovation & entrepreneurship through case studies and group work.

Mentor Conversation:

My meeting with Chelsea taught me even more about what it is like to live the life of an entrepreneur. Chelsea really wanted to engage with me and learn about what I had to offer. Therefore, we spent a lot of time during our meeting speaking about my interests. Specifically, I told Chelsea about my interest in arts entrepreneurship. We spoke about the process of starting a television show or film and what it takes to be successful in those fields. Although Chelsea does not work in the arts, she has a plethora of friends involved in film and television.

Additionally, Chelsea and I spoke in detail about the extracurricular activities I am involved in at Duke and how they will serve me in the future. I told her about my involvement with Duke’s premiere theater troupe, Hoof ‘n’ Horn. I also told her about my experience being in the cast of the musical Chicago. We spoke at how I can transfer the skills I have learned from being a part of Hoof ‘n’ Horn to entrepreneurship. Specifically, we spoke about how engaging with the arts at Duke will allow me to understand the entertainment industry in a more positive and in-depth way.

After speaking in-depth about my interests, I asked Chelsea a little more about her bike company she started a few years back. We spoke in-depth about marketing and how the things we have learned in class translate to the real world. I found that being able to identify a problem and solve it is transferable to the world of entrepreneurship. Chelsea identified a problem and chose to solve it by creating her bike company. Therefore, she exemplifies the exact discourse involved in I&E 352. Although her bike company failed in the end, she was extremely happy she had the experience of starting her own company. Bridging of failure, she offered me up an important piece of advice. She told me that in the field of entrepreneurship the most important thing is not the destination, but rather the journey involved. This is a piece of advice I plan on taking with me in my future endeavors.

After speaking more about Chelsea, Chelsea offered to connect me with a few of her friends working in the entertainment industry. Specifically, one of her friends that is a freelance film director. I was thrilled with Chelsea’s willingness and drive to help me. She offered up connections and valuable advice without any questions. I strongly believe that Chelsea will be a valuable connection and friend in the future. Ultimately, my experience with my mentor was incredible and enlightening.


“Simply dedicate yourself to solving problems. It’s solving problems that matters.” -Scott Berkun

At the start of the Innovation & Entrepreneurship keystone course, I was introduced to Scott Berkun’s quote about entrepreneurship. This quote, that we started the semester with, ended up being my key takeaway from the class. It all started with our analysis of the company Dropbox, a file storage company. At the beginning of class, we took a deeper look into the innovative and entrepreneurial aspects that made Dropbox a successful venture. Specifically, we identified the ways that the founder, Drew Houston, came up with his initial idea. Houston came up with the idea for Dropbox when he encountered a problem accessing files on a bus ride. He came up with the initial idea of Dropbox to solve this problem, thus relating his initiative back to Berkun’s quote. I learned from Dropbox, and the rest of the case studies throughout the semester, what solving a problem truly means. I found that a good idea isn’t one focused on an end goal, but more so the journey.

In terms of the journey, it is important to make sure the path to innovation is worth it. To put this in context, an entrepreneur must identify a market where a product has the potential to be successful. Without a market, innovation cannot thrive, thus making the journey worthless. The key thing that I learned in class related to identifying whether or not a product/service has a market. I found that the best way to figure this out is through research and trial and error. I believe that the best way to determine whether or not to enter a new venture into the market is by first looking at previous data and speaking with potential customers. If positive results are found, then the innovator should start testing the waters. This constitutes taking a risk in a lot of cases. Through the course, I learned that in a lot of cases, successful entrepreneurs took risks that resulted in success. As an entrepreneur, it is important to take risks.

Another aspect of the course was the emphasis on team-based assignments. Throughout the semester we were placed in different groups of three students to complete various tasks. I found this experience to be extremely rewarding because it enabled me to meet new people and learn time management skills. I found that the first group I worked in ended up being the most efficient and well-balanced. During the first half of the semester, I worked alongside two students with different perspectives and skillsets than mine. Because of this, we were able to successfully accomplish tasks on time and with the proper answers. For example, at the beginning of the course, we worked together on the Envirofit case slides. While working together on this assignment, we cohesively figured out how to utilize our skills in different ways. I spearheaded the qualitative portion of the assignment and the other two took the lead on the quantitative and recommendation portions. The three of us really clicked even though we were from different backgrounds and had different skill sets. That is one thing that Duke and the I&E certificate both do really well; they bring people together with different interests and backgrounds to broaden a student’s horizon. I believe that in the future I will be able to work with people from different backgrounds, interests, and skillsets to solve problems. I will be able to take advantage of a person’s individual skills and tailor them to what needs to be accomplished.

In order to be ethical as an entrepreneur, it takes a sense of social awareness and the ability to make money while not exploiting the vulnerable. In this course, we spoke a lot about the ethical dilemmas behind pricing, innovation, and marketing. An example that comes to mind when thinking about this problem is the product EpiPen. EpiPen takes advantage of those allergic to substances. EpiPen has jacked up the price of a unit over the years to make more money, thus creating an ethical dilemma. In class, we spoke about this exact dilemma and how EpiPen takes advantage of people in a vulnerable state. Many people need EpiPen to survive but find it difficult to pay the price for one. Therefore, jacking up the prices of a unit is unethical. I think there is a grey area between what is ethical and unethical. An entrepreneurial venture needs to make money, but at the same time not do too much to take advantage of a vulnerable group of people. Therefore, I believe that to make a venture ethical, an entrepreneur must take everything into consideration.

This course has taught me a lot about the world of entrepreneurship. As someone who intends to go into the entertainment industry, I believe the skills this course has taught me will be beneficial in the future. I will be able to conduct an analysis of the financial, marketing, and other aspects of any creative venture I want to start. Therefore, the course will serve me in a positive way in the future. Additionally, this class will help me in future business classes and internships because I will be able to understand the jargon utilized in a business setting. Finally, as a part of the I&E certificate, I will be able to use these skills to complete my internships and remaining coursework in the initiative.