By Sam Areman, Student Advising & Partner Relations Coordinator
Countless factors contribute to a successful entrepreneur’s career path, but what is the role that education abroad specifically contributes to this process? Is there an actual correlation between entrepreneurship and traveling abroad? Let’s take a look.
A History of Entrepreneurs Abroad
In 1983, Howard Schultz, former Starbucks CEO and chairman, traveled to Italy and was awe-struck at the brilliant espresso cafes he witnessed throughout Milan. The cafes gave people a meeting place to share in an experience, a novel idea at the time for the United States. Schultz brought this idea back to the US, and thus, the Starbucks “coffeehouse” was born. It’s a global brand now worth billions, but what would have happened had Schultz never traveled abroad and been inspired by the Milan cafes?
TOMS Founder Blake Mycoskie, started a multi-million dollar brand after visiting Argentina in 2006. The trip’s initial intention was simply a vacation and opportunity for Mycoskie to take a break from reality. But, while immersing himself in the local culture, Mycoskie saw the hardships faced by children growing up without shoes, and was inspired to find a way to help. Thus, TOMS was launched, promising to match every pair of shoes purchased with a new pair of shoes for a child in need.
In 2010, Warby Parker was started after four friends traveled abroad for a backpacking trip. During the trip, one of the founders lost his glasses, and was distraught knowing he was out hundreds of dollars. They identified a problem—eyeglasses were so expensive because a single company was monopolizing the industry—and were committed to finding a solution. Warby Parker was launched to provide affordable eyewear by circumventing traditional channels and bringing the product straight to the consumer. One billion dollars later, Warby Parker owns much of the market share and is successfully delivering a solution to meet everyday needs.
How Traveling Abroad Affects the Entrepreneurial Spirit
These entrepreneurs didn’t embark on these trips knowing they’d achieve a realization of their wildest start-up dreams. But, traveling and seeing the world through a different lens forces people to alter their traditional way of thinking and typical processes. While traveling, we recognize gaps between what is and what could be.
Traveling abroad is an invitation to intercultural experiences, new environments, language barriers, problem-solving opportunities, etc. All these experiences force us outside of our comfort zones—an often intimidating place, but one that challenges us to evolve and adapt; to creatively brainstorm and think differently than we ever have in the past.
In fact, studies show that travel is linked to greater creativity, one of the main components of entrepreneurship and innovation. Plus, we may discover, as did Schultz, that people elsewhere might be doing things better than us. We naturally compare this new environment to our old one and are able to identify gaps and opportunities. It’s not wrong to take an idea from another place and make it our own—where we fault is in a rigidness to evolve.
Our point here? Travel abroad and see the opportunities all around you. We can’t promise you’ll invent the next Starbucks, but we do know you’ll have some perspective-shifting experiences that may just lead to something special…
Want to kick-start your start-up with an experience abroad? Take your ideas abroad and apply for our exclusive Entrepreneurship summer program in Barcelona, Berlin, and London.