Two years into college, I made a resolution: I decided that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. And then I decided that I would take a year off from school, and test this resolution.
I wanted to create my own path instead of following one chosen for me, but I was anxious. What if my abilities weren’t enough for this kind of challenge? I worried that if I abandoned the traditional path, I might fail, and not be able to support myself or my endeavors. To me, the way to dispel this anxiety was to face it head on, so I took a year off school, moved into an apartment far from home, and completely abandoned any emotional and financial support from friends and family.
This decision might seem like a rash, almost reckless decision, but for me it was crucial. I spent the year developing my abilities in programming, and learning all about finance and business, things I had not learned during my undergraduate years as a Psychology and Cognitive Science major. I made a small amount of money from a bitcoin trading operation and an eBay-arbitrage scheme—this was enough to cover food and rent. At the end of this period, I was fully confident that I was capable of providing for myself without following the traditional path.
Towards the end of that year, I recruited a high school friend in the area to join me, and we attempted to start a real business. He had been directly involved in the startup world for several years. We formed an LLC, bought a couple of domain names, and started market research on several ideas. The business we ended up founding was in education, but at the time the subject matter was secondary to me. I just wanted a problem to solve.
One year later, I’m back at Penn, and my company, Eager Academy, has pivoted twice, is almost finished with product development, and has several huge partnerships and pilot studies we are about to launch. Ultimately, I have become passionate about education, through realizing how much I believe Eager Academy can do to improve student performance.
Through working at my company and working with all the entrepreneurship resources here at Penn, I have realized that the path of an entrepreneur, although tough, isn’t as risky as I once thought. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone, but there are people like me out there, built for this, and programs like Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship and the VIP program can help to find and cultivate these people, making their lives clearer and ultimately improving the lives of others through the value they will create.
Bio: Chris Hanson is a senior at Penn, majoring in Psychology and Cognitive Science. He is the Founder of Eager Academy.