Grammar Girl reflects on teaching debut

By Liset Puentes

Fogarty
Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty unknowingly launched her entrepreneurial career during college when her roommate encouraged her to sell the hair bows she had been quietly crafting in her dorm room. The two friends started paying their way through college when most students were deciding where they would find employment.

Years later, Fogarty considers those hair bows to be the beginning of an exciting path towards entrepreneurship. She now teaches Media Entrepreneurship as part of the graduate program coursework at the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno.

An English major, Fogarty admits she had no idea what she would do after graduating. An interest in science eventually led her to study biology at Stanford University. Before she could finish her doctorate degree, she left academia to join her roommate’s software company as her first employee.

“It’s incredibly valuable for everyone to get out of their comfort zone especially when they are younger so that they can see what opportunities are available. Entrepreneurship is one of those opportunities that’s available that sometimes people don’t see,” Fogarty said.

Students in her Media Entrepreneurship course develop business plans, pitches and learn how to finance their hypothetical businesses. Fogarty was excited to find students fully engaged in their businesses with almost half of them showing interest in pursuing their ventures beyond the classroom.

Fogarty not only shares her own expertise from her work as founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network and the Grammar Girl podcast but also invites entrepreneurs to share their experience with students.

So many people think entrepreneurship is hard or that you have to be special in some way, but they are just like you and me. Anyone who is willing to do it, can.

“So many people think entrepreneurship is hard or that you have to be special in some way, but they are just like you and me. Anyone who is willing to do it, can. I really believe that,” Fogarty said.

Fogarty believes starting a business is not any less risky than getting hired at a company. Entrepreneurship gives people an awareness of his or her company’s health whereas employees can be blindsided when companies fail.

In her experience she said, “[Many] people who have successfully bootstrapped a business did so because they were laid off from their job.”

She believes bootstrapping is a great strategy for small business success. Half of her class is geared toward donating hours to a business and being resourceful; the other half focuses on finding venture funding. Fogarty also teaches students the importance of knowing how to tell compelling stories to investors and to the media. She said many entrepreneurs are surprised when they become the media representatives of their businesses.

Her personal journey in the startup world was driven by excitement and meaning. The most meaningful startup she worked for was called Caregiver Zone and was aimed to help those who cared for the sick and elderly.

She said, “It was more than a job, it was a mission.”

Fogarty wants students to walk away from the course with the confidence to start their own businesses not only for the benefits of being self-sufficient but also to know the reward of providing a service to customers.

When something you did made a difference in someone’s life, it’s incredibly powerful.

“When something you did made a difference in someone’s life, it’s incredibly powerful,” Fogarty said.

Fogarty will continue teaching Media Entrepreneurship and is working on developing a podcast alongside the Ozmen Center for Entrepreneurship to feature local entrepreneurs.

Liset Puentes is an intern at the Ozmen Center for Entrepreneurship. She can be reached at LinkedIn.