In honor of the holiday season, I’d like to share a preview of a special series of profiles I’m writing for the Notre Dame IDEA Center. The purpose is to share the inspiring stories of alumni who have gone on to become successful entrepreneurs. As a Catholic and person of faith, I am honored by this assignment. While I can’t share the finished profiles just yet – the series kicks off in January 2020 – I can give you a taste of what’s to come, stories that demonstrate a higher calling among Notre Dame’s entrepreneurs.
I was wrapping up an interview with the CEO of a startup company whose online educational programs have trained more than 75,000 people. She has also created 35 jobs. Her goal now is to have one million users by the end of 2021. I asked a fairly obvious question: to what do you attribute your success? Her answer was this:
“Belief in God and in myself.”
It wasn’t what I expected. Other entrepreneurs point to having a transformative technology, access to capital, a great product to market fit, or an exceptional leadership team. Not this woman. She was driven by the desire to lift people up to better careers through education, a desire ignited by her family and her alma mater, the University of Notre Dame.
The daughter of Nigerian immigrants continued with this:
“Notre Dame instilled in me the belief that I could fundamentally change the world.”
When the conversation ended, I was in awe. What a unique perspective. Then I interviewed another Notre Dame grad.
This individual had left a major consulting firm to start his own company. Why did he do it? He had a vision to apply the same strategic thinking he offered to Fortune 500 companies to solving societal issues. His reason was this:
“As a Catholic and Notre Dame graduate, I know life’s not just about amassing wealth; we’re called to a higher purpose.”
As our conversation continued, I learned that his consulting firm currently focuses 80 percent of its time on corporate clients and 20 percent on philanthropic pursuits. His goal, however, is to direct even more of his firm’s talents to good works. He has found this corporate culture to be very attractive to others; he now a team of over 50 people, many of whom are also Notre Dame grads. Why is that?
“They understand the importance of doing more with one’s time on earth.”
The most recent entrepreneur I interviewed also credited Notre Dame with giving her the right foundation on which to build a company. For her, it’s simple:
“If I am going to dedicate years of my life to a company, it has to contribute to the greater good.”
Amen to that!
And Merry Christmas to all from Lux-Writes! I look forward to sharing these inspiring profiles with you in the New Year! Be safe and enjoy the holidays!