The case for entrepreneurship

gilbertsen fry nation photo
Ramsey Gilbertsen, ’09 and his Jamie Gilbertsen, ’09 own two businesses, Fry Nation and Champion Events. The first is a french fry restaurant in RiverTown mall, the second is a mobile retailing business. We’ll be selling the official gear down at Art Prize, for example. These businesses give us the freedom to live life our own way, and we couldn’t imagine doing anything else!

Congratulations! You picked the right major, got good grades, networked, graduated, and settled right into your dream job. Right?

No? That’s not you?

It wasn’t me either. Six months after graduation I was working a low paying job using none of my hard-earned skills, and I know many fellow alums from the class of 2009 that were doing the same. How could this be? The economy was terrible, and jobs were nowhere to be found.

I had to move across the country just for a shot at an internship. After a couple of months, our entire department was herded into the conference room and let go. “Corporate restructuring” they called it. Some people had been there 15-20 years.

I wanted to succeed or fail based on my own efforts, not by the economy or some VP’s budget decision. It was time to stop giving control of my future to other people. It was time to go into business for myself. It’s an option for everyone, maybe even you!

Why could it be right for you?


Everyone will work 40-plus hours a week. Might as well spend those hours doing something you love. Your imagination is the limit to what kind of business you can start.

Beyond controlling what you do, you have full control over how you do it. Structuring your work week, picking your hours, planning your life. These are all things you are able to manage for yourself.


If it’s money you’re after, being an entrepreneur is the best way to make it big. In 2013, 68% of the 400 American billionaires were self-made entrepreneurs. Most of the others inherited their wealth from previous generations of self-made entrepreneurs.

If you’re looking to make an impact on your community, business is an excellent tool. Check out Homeboy Industries for example. They help former gang members transition back into society. How do they accomplish this? By employing them in their various social enterprises.


The beauty of business is that anyone can do it. You don’t need a certain GPA or degree to qualify. All you need is an idea and the determination to pull it off.

One thing you don’t need is a lot of money. One of the biggest misconceptions about owning a business is that you need a lot of money to get started. According to US Census data, 40% of small businesses were started with less than $5,000.

If you asked your family and friends for help and are still a little short on funds, look around online. The internet is loaded with options. Business-lending, peer-to-peer lending, and crowdfunding sites have been booming for the past few years. It’s never been easier to raise money for a startup online.

How do I get started?

In a word: Read. The best way to learn the basics of business ownership is to pick up a book about business ownership. And I do mean a book. Internet articles are great, but they will not cover everything. Think of these books as required reading for Entrepreneurship 101.

Start Your Own Business by Entrepreneur Magazine. This book takes you through the basics of marketing, hiring, accounting, etc. It holds your hand while thoroughly covering all the baby steps from idea conception to opening your doors.

The E-myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber. Knowing how to build a product or provide a service is one thing. Running a business that builds products/provides services is a very different thing. This book teaches you the differences and prepares you to make the jump to business ownership.

After you’ve read these two books, keep reading! There’s always more to know. Hopefully, you’ve just learned that business ownership is an option for everyone, including you! Just remember, you can either work on your dreams, or get paid to work on someone else’s. The choice is yours.

– Ramsey Gilbertsen, ’09


How to Win the Interview

I was fortunate enough to have essentially grown up with GVSU as a part of me.  My dad, an alum has been employed by GVSU for most of his life, my two sisters are both alumni and there was little doubt that GVSU would be a part of my life as a student.  GVSU is special to me because it is the perfect balance of large and small which caters to a wide variety of people, which in my opinion is critical to achieve a healthy student body.
Christian Sack, ’07                             I was fortunate enough to have essentially grown up with GVSU as a part of me. My dad, an alum has been employed by GVSU for most of his life, my two sisters are both alumni and there was little doubt that GVSU would be a part of my life as a student. GVSU is special to me because it is the perfect balance of large and small which caters to a wide variety of people, which in my opinion is critical to achieve a healthy student body.

Do Not Over Prepare!

The first thing you always should do before an interview is to do research on the particular company you are looking to potential join and prepare in certain instances.  Sounds simple enough and it is absolutely the truth.  However, a common issue I see with those who over prepare is that the candidate comes almost too rehearsed and canned.  As a result, they tend to come in nervous and the conversation tends to be somewhat flat.  Research and prepare just enough to have a general idea of the company’s product (if applicable) and industry.  By doing so, this allows you to naturally have questions ready for the interview.

Dress Appropriately for the Interview

Before you interview, don’t feel embarrassed to email your recruiter or hiring manager asking about the appropriate dress code.  The rule of thumb is to always wear a suit but depending on the culture of the organization, you may be overdressed and awkward if the rest of the team is in jeans.

Overcome Nervousness

The best interviews I have are ones that feel like a conversation.  The worst ones are ones that feel one-sided and awkward.  Go into the interview and view it is a conversation and introductory meeting, which is easier said than done.  Nervousness is natural and I actually like to see that a person is nervous because it means that they truly want to put their best foot forward.  The best way to overcome nervousness is to have a question or comment ready to break the ice upon arrival such as a comment about the building, the weather, maybe something in the interviewer’s office that catches your eye and creates a bond to kick things off.

Tell them Why!

So the interview seems to be going well, conversation is flowing, you feel comfortable and excited about the opportunity at hand.  Now what?  The biggest, most common problem I see with very good candidates is their lack of showing interest in the position because the candidate assumes that I know they are interested.  The best way to show this is not to simply say “I want this job because…” but rather tell me why you want to work for my company.  I guarantee you that this simple statement will separate you from other candidates because you are looking beyond a day to day “job”.  I recently asked a candidate “what about our company interests you and why would you be a good fit here?” and they had no response.  They locked up and told me that they felt the job was a good fit for their background.  Look beyond the actual job!  The better answer would be to tell me that they respect the organization’s stability, culture and growth potential and can see themselves fitting into this role and other roles down the road. Before you step into the interview, ask yourself why XYZ company and be ready to tell them why they should hire you.

Follow Up

This final step is the easiest way to separate you from other candidates.  After the interview (even as soon as hours after), email every person you interviewed with a simple thank you for taking time to consider you for the opportunity.  This also gives you the opportunity to sell yourself once again with a final “close” to tell them why you would be a great fit in the role and within their company.  I phone interview 15-20 candidates per week in my job and I get 1-2 email thank you’s from that pool.  To me, even a phone interview warrants a thank you note because 1.) it shows you’re interested and 2.) it keeps your name fresh in my mind.  I also always forward the thank you note to the hiring manager to show them you’re on the ball and interested.  One final example: we had 15 recent college graduates come on-site to interview with my company earlier this spring for a full-time graduate rotation program.  Of the 15 interviews, I got one email back from a candidate and we ended up hiring that person because we knew they were interested and excited for the position.  That wasn’t the sole reason we hired that person but it definitely didn’t hurt them.

All in all, I hope this helps give my fellow GVSU alumni some insight on interviewing.  HR and Recruiting is a passion of mine and would welcome any graduates to email me ( any questions or comments they have regarding what goes on inside the minds of hiring managers and Human Resources.