INTERVIEW WITH PILAR HERNÁNDEZ, CHAIRWOMAN OF STARTCOMILLAS

"It is essential to encourage social awareness and the importance of working for a fairer and more sustainable world"

#business #entrepreneurship

The world is advancing at a dizzying pace and opportunities are multiplying for those who have the vision and right attitude. StartComillas, an initiative by the Universidad Pontificia Comillas, foster the entrepreneurial spirit of its students by offering them the training, support and resources they need. Find out more about this initiative directly from its chairwoman, Pilar Hernández.

StartComillas, an association created in June 2011 by students of the Universidad Pontificia Comillas, has become the meeting point for young people who are keen to start their own businesses. "We collate the experiences of those who have started their own projects and share them with those who are excited about starting to develop their own business ideas", its chairwoman Pilar Hernández points out.

The students find the training, support and resources they need to transform their ideas into something tangible, but that's not all they discover. "Anybody who wants to form part of StartComillas will find themselves joining a team that is both really keen and motivated to break away from routine and do different things. A good atmosphere is vital for moving projects forward", says Pilar.

StartComillas came into being in 2011: how did the idea come about and what is it you do?

The idea came about when a group of ICADE and ICAI students working on different projects came to the conclusion they needed a place where they could support each other and meet other people with questions on how to get their businesses off the ground. Via different events and workshops, StartComillas provides a meeting point for everybody linked with the world of university education interested in starting their own businesses. We collate the experiences of those who have started their own projects and share them with those who are excited about starting to develop their own business ideas.

Can you give us an example of the type of workshops or events StartComillas organises?

We organise various activities during the academic year. These include our 'Start Build Up' training course, which puts the students into contact with the knowledge — business models, marketing and prototyping — that any entrepreneur should have. Another of our star events is the StartCamp with Iberdrola, which sees the participants spend a weekend developing an idea.

Against a background such as the current one, is encouraging an entrepreneurial spirit within the university key for the future?

The speed with which the world is changing is breathtaking, and our young people must be trained to be able to adapt themselves and come up with new solutions. Furthermore, it is essential to encourage awareness regarding social issues and the importance of working for a fairer and more sustainable world. This can be achieved thanks to nimble and dynamic companies capable of adapting themselves to the new needs, that are, above all, able to plan ahead. We should all be entrepreneurs as a lifestyle choice.

What is the attraction of having their own business for a young person and what skills must they have to be successful?

Running ones own business is not only a matter of setting up a company, but also of improving every day, fighting for what you want and perseverance. It is while we are young that we have a lot of energy and vitality for working and pushing ourselves. The most important aptitudes are hard work and self-control. A lot of work is needed for a project to succeed and it is important to stay calm if the project comes to nothing because it is not a failure, it's a learning opportunity.

What are the barriers faced by a young entrepreneur when it comes to implementing their business idea?

Nowadays, the main problem is finding the necessary resources. Bureaucracy and red tape can be additional barriers that make it difficult for young people to move new projects forward.

Many young people go into business for themselves without any previous training, to what extent is the right training important?

I personally believe that training must be a constant process. The more highly trained you are, the better prepared you'll be to meet the challenges of a new project. And this applies to every stage in life.

What can the young entrepreneurs expect to find on joining StartComillas?

Anybody who wants to form part of StartComillas will find themselves joining a team that is both really keen and motivated to break away from the routine and do different things. Our work involves creating a strong team and a good working atmosphere, something that is essential for making new projects a success.

Is the diversity within the teams of entrepreneurs a fundamental aspect when it comes to creating attractive business ideas?

The perfect scenario is a team whose members complement each other. Finding people capable of making up for your shortcomings is, in my opinion, the most important factor when working as part of a team. Having different profiles and points of view enables the projects to be seen from a broader and more objective perspective.

StartComillas encourages a collaborative atmosphere. In this sense, what value does the function of the mentors have?

The entrepreneurial ecosystem creates a sense of wanting to pay back into it among the people involved. Many of the speakers or mentors who collaborate with StartComillas have found themselves in the same situation as the students and are prepared to both help and guide. This represents a unique opportunity for the students.

On a personal level, how did you come into contact with the world of entrepreneurship?

I joined StartComillas just after its 5th anniversary. We held a meeting at Google Campus during which former students referred to their experiences to explain to their current counterparts what StartComillas was and what could be achieved by going down this route. The good atmosphere, the companionship and the sheer number of projects I was shown there persuaded me to join.

From taking part in the StartCamp in 2017 to becoming chairwoman of StartComillas, how have you met the challenge?

It has been a huge change for me, especially as regards responsibility. I suddenly find myself in situations I never thought I would be in. When all's said and done, it's like running a small company with all its paperwork, accounts, equipment, etc. It's a challenge that excites and inspires me, and I face it with a great deal of enthusiasm to ensure StartComillas keeps growing.

If you had to give one piece of advice, just one, to a young entrepreneur, what would it be?

I'm a bit new to this game and I don't think I'm in a position to give anybody any advice. However, something I have learned is just how important personal relationships are. Listening to different opinions, getting to know people and working as part of a team opens a lot of doors and enables you to enrich yourself both personally and professionally.


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