Steve Jobs. Howard Schultz. Carly Fiorina. All highly successful entrepreneurs; all liberal arts educated.
The connection between entrepreneurship and liberal arts might seem odd to some, but as director of Hampden-Sydney’s Flemming Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Andrew King is empowering students to take their liberal arts education to the next level. “The purpose of the center is to demystify the process of creating new ventures. Our programs inspire students to overcome their fears of starting a business as well as innovating solutions to complex problems. Liberal arts students have the ability to challenge conventional thinking and gather and integrate new knowledge which is crucial when starting a new business,” says King, who is entering his second semester as director of the center.
Similarly, a liberal arts education enables students to question the world around them and to find connections that others may not have seen. It is the intangible, soft skills that students learn in inter-disciplinary settings that make them uniquely qualified to pivot to meet the demands of an ever-changing economy; these skills include a willingness to consider alternate ideas, awareness of global influences on both culture and economy, and the confidence to defy the status quo.
Zachary Keys ’23 is no stranger to defying the status quo. As a sophomore in high school, Zachary started a website design and online marketing company, Business Cannon, which he has grown to serve more than 50 clients throughout Virginia and North Carolina in just three years. After his early success with entrepreneurship, Zachary was all but convinced that he did not need to attend college in order to continue that success. Through the mentorship of Christian Blankenship ’20 and friends and family, however, he decided to pursue a liberal arts education after all.
“Hampden-Sydney has pushed me to get out of my comfort zone. In high school, I took classes that were catered to business but nothing that really made me think harder,” says Zachary. “Dr. King has really pushed me to expand and grow the business into something I could do full time when I graduate. He’s been a helpful resource in getting me in touch with the right people and helping me push beyond being complacent and just continuing to do what I’ve been doing.” Currently taking Entrepreneurial Thinking, a 200-level Business class taught by King, Zachary is looking to build out his services to include amenities such as a client portal.