Interview with Elisa Mitchell, Assistant Director at The Garage

“One person working toward their dream is worth 99 people just working because they are PASSIONATE about their work.”

Elisa Mitchell is an accomplished attorney and CPA with 18 years of experience in the financial securities industry, bringing new investment products to market. As a team member at Allstate, Van Kampen, Morgan Stanley, and Invesco, Elisa helped business leaders navigate a complex competitive landscape and a challenging regulatory framework. She brings strong organizational skills, attention to detail and a can-do attitude to every project. She is thrilled to be the Assistant Director of Operations and Finance at The Garage and enjoys helping each student start a unique entrepreneurial journey.

During “Global Opportunities Beyond Borders” conference which took part at Faculty of Economics in Split, we sat down with Elisa for an interview.

About her work

The Garage is Northwestern university hub for student entrepreneurship and innovation. We opened in June 2015 and incubate 60 teams or 200 students each quarter (3 quarters a year). The students come and work on their startup ideas and The Garage helps them by providing a physical space to work in, a community that supports them, and mentorship to help guide them. Our focus is that, “We build billion dollar people, not billion dollar companies.” Ninety percent of the students at The Garage take jobs at companies after graduation and only ten percent continue with their startups. We focus on the entrepreneurial toolkit. Tools like teamwork, pitching, having difficult conversations and resiliency skills of taking risks and failing, figuring out what to learn and repeating the cycle. Mentors come from both the faculty and experts from the business world. The tools are always the same; you work for a company or you start your own company. One person working toward their dream is worth 99 people just working because they are passionate about their work. Whether you work for a company or for yourself depends on many factors including a level of risk tolerance that varies depending on life’s circumstances.

About differences regarding entrepreneurial challenges in Croatia vs. USA

At the core, the problems are the same: students are passionate about their ideas; they want to hire people, build solutions and solve problems. What you have to work on is the idea of failure and changing the perception that failure is negative. Learning from the failure is the best thing you could do; be open to feedback, and really listen to the feedback and the learning opportunities so you can keep performing better and better. It is continuous improvement so that you keep growing as a person. From what I saw, you are at the point of doing some great things. All of the people that I met have a positive outlook to change things and are open to entrepreneurial ideas. I really admire the passion all of the students I met have about their ideas. They want to learn, they want to improve themselves, and they want to grow their businesses. It was very exciting watching them–their passion and bravery, and we have to keep in mind that they were pitching in a second language. They just need to focus on telling their story to their audience and making sure that the problem they are solving and the solution they are providing fit together.

Words of advice for entrepreneurs

Don’t give up. Keep going. Keep that passion in pursuing to solve the problem that you see needs to be solved. You have to be firm about your goal and the problem you have to solve, and be flexible about the solutions to it. You may have to pivot your solution. Entrepreneurs who are married to their solution sometimes are not so successful because they are not able to pivot. Those who are passionate and married to the problem that needs to be solved are the ones who are the most successful.

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Startup.hr

Misija udruge je biti neovisna središnja institucija kroz koju splitska tehnološka zajednica ostvaruje svoje opće interese. Vizija udruge je da tehnološki sektor bude najznačajnija gospodarska aktivnost u Splitu.