Entrepreneur Brin Enterkin speaks of her life lessons as founder of The African SOUP
By Kristen Ziccarelli
A college student less than a decade ago and an entrepreneur today, twenty-eight-year-old Brin Enterkin had a multitude of lessons and a wealth of experiences to share with a full audience of Honors students last Thursday at Peebles theater.
Enterkin is the campus president of Watson Institute and founder of The African SOUP, an organization that leads various initiatives in Uganda. Speaking at the CNU Honors Program’s third Toner Lecture, she also is Honors Assistant Alyssa Hollingsworth’s college friend. Director of the Honors Program Jay Paul, provost Robert Colvin and several other guests were in attendance.
Named one of the Forbes “30 under 30,” Enterkin took the stage with a smile, abandoning the podium for the center stage and directly engaging with the audience from the beginning.
Lessons from her life derived from all edges of the earth. From Ugandan villages, Indian train stations to her current home in Colorado, Enterkin’s experiences tied together under a few central messages.
Reenacting a particularly bizarre experience in India with plenty of gestures and a wide smile, Enterkin pulled some of her most important lessons from one day of a steep learning curve.
After spending time with a local Indian family and receiving a personal tour of the Taj Mahal, Enterkin found herself running from an angry train conductor who she escaped by leaping on to her departing train and being pulled inside by passengers right before she nearly crashed into a beam.
Although study abroad experiences generally do not feature such near-death experiences, Enterkin found her experience highly applicable to her audience’s positions as college students.
“Maybe some of you guys are in a proverbial train station,” she said, emphasizing that the leap of faith is an important action to stay out of one’s comfort zone.
“Comfort for too long leads to complacency,” Enterkin said. “We can’t change the world in comfort.”
In a broader sense, she articulated her story of embracing the unknown and trusting in others as a method to success. From trusting an Indian local to negotiate with the angry train conductor, to relying on help from her friends and colleagues in the business world, Enterkin spoke of trust as a testament to one’s humility.
“Successful people trust people,” Enterkin said. “Be humble enough to say, ‘yes, I need your help.’”
Perhaps surprisingly, Enterkin’s experience leaving Uganda comprised some of her most teachable moments, as she had to trust others to take the reigns and once again leave her comfort zone.
Specifically, she came back to America with a flip phone and no idea what Snapchat was.
In moments like these, Enterkin was able to convey her humility with relatable one-liners and short anecdotes. Stating that she was not a hero, she relayed the relatable story of a burrito falling apart in her hands, adding, “that’s the kind of normal your looking at.”
Like the messiness of dinner falling apart in your hands, Enterkin underscored the importance of hands-on, sometimes challenging preparation that goes into such a leap of faith. The less-talked about or glamorized parts of her journey, such as learning about development, researching all facets of education, learning how to fundraise and ultimately becoming a student of the world define her success more than anything.
“Ninety percent of the time, I’m learning stuff,” Enterkin said. “To prepare thyself is a very powerful story that the American culture does not teach.”
Not shying away from details, Enterkin described googling even the most basic questions about her destinations, comparing it to seemingly mundane studying at school. Education, according to Enterkin, ultimately informs you of “which train is going to stop” and “what your train is going to look like.”
Before she even began the speech, no one could deny that Brin Enterkin’s resume is impressive – possibly because society labels success stories with ‘entrepreneur’ instead of ‘college student.’ But her own words and wide-ranging stories were derivative of one essence that anyone can strive to be – a student of the world.
“Trust the right people… Never stay comfortable… Preparing for your leap of faith is everything”Brin Enterkin