Interview: David Askaripour, Mind Petals

David Askaripour, Mind PetalsOne of the strongest ways for youths to make a difference is through building networks and collaborating with each other, sharing knowledge, ideas, and skills. David Askaripour, founder of youth media company CashCampus, had that in mind when forming Mind Petals, a blog network connecting young entrepreneurs online and distributing content related to youth entrepreneurship.

EducateDeviate recently had a chance to chat with David about entrepreneurship and Mind Petals:

Basic introductories: who are you, and what do you do?

My name is David Askaripour and I am the founder of Mind Petals. Mind Petals was created in June 2006 as a way to connect various young entrepreneurs across the world. Through experiences, insights, failures, and success, Mind Petals is a great place to share information with other young entrepreneurs.

On the Mind Petals profile it’s stated that you started being an entrepreneur when you were selling candy in 4th grade. What else in your life has motivated you towards entrepreneurship and marketing?

I can’t put my finger on any one moment that motivated me towards entrepreneurship. I guess it had a lot to do with the support from my parents, they always told me that I could do anything in this world. Ever since I can remember, I was always running some sort of business and constantly thinking about how I can change the world someday.

You started CashCampus, a media company aimed at youths. How did CashCampus come about? What does CashCampus do now (or will do)? What is the overall vision for CashCampus and its projects?

I created Cashcampus as a service that would allow students to purchase and sell class notes and study material to their classmates. Currently, I have sold the service which at the time was “cashcampus.com” and I still use the domain name for my corporate site. The future of Cashcampus, LLC lies in Mind Petals.

Mind Petals is now my life’s pride and joy. I wake up every morning ready to help as many entrepreneurs as possible — as many people as possible. Mind Petals is turning into a more than a company, it’s becoming an idea. An idea that anyone can have what they want out of life if they are willing to fight for it and help others along the way.

How did Mind Petals come about?

It came about when I noticed the lack of unification of young entrepreneurs on the net. So I got to planning and made it happen.

Your advisory board consists of a variety of young entrepreneurs in various fields. How did all of you get together, and how do you work together? What sort of people make up the Advisory Board?

Over the past year I have come across various intelligent, motivated, and savvy entrepreneurs over the internet and events. The advisory board consists of a well-rounded group of trusted entrepreneurs that I have become close friends upon starting my network.

Some of the people in the board run entrepreneurship programs at major colleges, some run marketing companies, some are in business school, and others run their own venture development firms. Together, we provide great synergy to help steer Mind Petals in the right direction. We all have an extreme love for entrepreneurship and always willing to lend a helping hand.

There are plenty of blog networks online, with varying degrees of success. What does it take to form and manage a successful blog network?

Well, I don’t consider Mind Petals a blog network as many would. But in many ways, it does work like a blog network, indeed. It takes a lot of organizational skills to properly run any sort of network. You have to be a good leader and know exactly what type of people to include in the network. It all comes down to preparation and having a focused aim for the network.

Some entries in the Mind Petals network have questioned the need for traditional education when it comes to entrepreneurship. In your opinion, is traditional schooling necessary for one to be an entrepreneur? Does it hinder entrepreneurship? What sort of education would be best for entrepreneurial people?

Absolutely not. Traditional education has nothing to do with entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is a state of mind and something that simply can’t be taught. Business can be taught, but not entrepreneurship.

However, in most cases I don’t look at school as a hindrance to entrepreneurship. School usually complements entrepreneurship and helps put you in a position to meet tons of great people who can help you succeed in life.

The best education is to get started with your company right away. The lessons you learn while running a company is the truest form of education for any entrepreneur.

A recent post suggests that young entrepreneurs would be better at teaching entrepreneurial classes at university than the actual lecturers. Is this always true? How could young entrepreneurs reach out to each other and share knowledge amongst themselves?

The post suggested that if more and more young entrepreneurs continue to start businesses while colleges continue to hire professors who have no real experience in entrepreneurship, then sure: there will me more young entrepreneurs out there with more lessons, experiences, and insights to share than professors in college.

The best way for young entrepreneurs to reach out is to start a blog and to attend events. Starting a blog will allow you to connect with the world. The blogosphere is really heating up and we now how over 60 Million blogs on the net. It’s a perfect platform to reach out to fellow young entrepreneurs. Additionally, services such as meetup.com make it easy to find entrepreneurs ship groups in your area as well as create your own events.

In a post on another of your projects, Marktale, you mention that entrepreneurs shouldn’t be afraid to take risks and do something out-of-the-ordinary. In Malaysia, and many other places, young people are often afraid to take risks as it’s often not seen as “proper” or “safe”. How can youths gain more courage to take those risks? What can they do to motivate themselves?

True entrepreneurs are naturally motivated people. You have to be able to “listen to yourself first.” Which means being able to ignore any thoughts of doubt and fear. Spend time everyday thinking about what you want out of this world and how you plan on making it happen. Read books on entrepreneurs such as Gates, Branson, and Walton. Constantly think about your vision and never let go of those thoughts. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something in life. Forget the status-quo and allow yourself to be the leader that you are.

The more and more risks that you take, the easier that it will become. So it’s in any entrepreneurs best interest to start working on their venture now and not later. Entrepreneurs have to seek opportunity where others see risk.

How was your education like? Did you go through the typical schooling process (kindergarden, elementary, high school, college/university) or was yours more unusual? Where did you think you obtained the most learning and education?

I finished college in December 2006. I attended Pace University in NYC and graduated with a degree in English. The number one thing that I learned in college was understanding social interaction.

Through all the parties, classes, events, study sessions, presentations, etc… I really began to understand how people react, respond, and interact with one another. This is priceless information that I used to help build my business. Information that I will use for a lifetime.

In the larger scheme of things, school is more focused on “certification” and not “education.” Most of the real education in life should come from your “own” studies and experiences gathered throughout life. College is just a small piece of the puzzle.

In Malaysia, the common ideal is that everyone should get straight As, go to university and get a degree so that they will get a high-paying job and a respectable life. What do you think of that ideal? Are degrees, grades, or high-paying jobs really necessarily for satisfaction and happiness?

The average GPA of millionaires is a C so I would say that getting straight As does not correlate to success in life. Satisfaction and happiness is in the eyes of the beholder. We each have to seek what makes us truly happy in life. For some, it’ll be making money. For others, it’ll be changing the world. And for others, it’ll be both.

What does entrepreneurship mean to you?

It means changing the world in some positive way through a business and helping as many people as possible along the way.

Where do you get your ideas and energy for all of them? You seem to be a very busy and active person!

My ideas come from my passion to change the world. That is what keeps me energized and motivated, the desire to bring about change. Additionally, I do a lot of reading, studying of various business models, and hanging around extremely ambitious and intelligent people who know a lot more than I do.

Where do you see yourself and your projects in the future?

I see myself expanding Mind Petals into a young entrepreneurship powerhouse. I see myself doing a lot more public speaking about entrepreneurship, more writing, and continuing to help as many other entrepreneurs as possible.

Who or what have been your greatest influences, in entrepreneurship and in life in general?

My mother has been my greatest influence in life. All of my successes would not have been possible without her guidance, support, and love. She’s been in my corner from the beginning and someone who I truly look up to.

Richard Branson is an entrepreneur that I definitely look up to. His fun, energetic, and innovative way of conducting business has taught me many lessons.

How does one become an entrepreneur? Do you need a great idea, or enthusiasm, or specialized knowledge, or anything else?

Entrepreneurs are born, not made. It’s one of those things that is either in you or isn’t. The entrepreneur has a burning desire to succeed no matter how difficult it gets.

What would you like to say to budding entrepreneurs out there?

Stop waiting and start doing. Life is too short to be sitting on the sidelines while the whole world passes you by. The time to act is now, not later. Embrace the unknown. Embrace uncertainty. Embrace fear. Follow your dream no matter what and you’ll find success.

Do you know any other youths with interesting stories to tell? Let me know!

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