Colin Croat (2020)

Outside of taking the same course work in the masters of entrepreneurship program, Colin Croat has been a stranger behind a GroupMe message, Blackboard post, or class email. I always speculated that we had similar thought patterns because of our reactions to class activities (group work can be so much fun!), but my thoughts were truly speculation. I had nothing real to base my thoughts on.

It wasn’t until recently that I heard Colin’s voice for the first time. In a brief interview about himself, it was his quote from North Carolina native hip hop artist J. Cole that made me reconcile that my initial thoughts about Colin were pretty much on point – we are very similar in more ways than we are different.

I asked five questions that are similar to questions that I ask applicants in job interviews to understand who they are as potential staff members. This time my goal was to understand who Colin was as an entrepreneur. He surprised me with a few of his answers, but I am always up for a challenge.

What is your background?

Colin describes his education interest and professional background as mixed. He holds a bachelors degree from Western Carolina University in Communications with a concentration in Public Relations. His interest when it comes to public relations is crisis control because it allows one to understand communication on a deeper level.

As a student and young professional, Colin had several internships and jobs in student affairs. This has led to opportunities where he is responsible for overseeing undergraduate students.

This question evolved into the natural conversation about what is in store for his future. He has set goals for year five, ten, and twenty, but there is no direct path to how he will get there. Colin (pleasantly) surprised me when he said he once aspired to attend law school. I was surprised mainly because he’s currently pursuing a masters in entrepreneurship and innovative leadership (MILE). That doesn’t really scream attorney to me! The reason for not pursuing law school made perfect sense for me – going to law school wasn’t the most fiscally responsible decision for him.

See, we do think alike. That is one of the main reasons I took so long to further my education – more student debt, if I didn’t do it the right way. I figured out the “right” way for me, just like Colin.

How do you see what you are currently doing as preparation for your entrepreneurial endeavors?

Colin shocked me again. The degree he is currently pursuing (MILE) is more for the leadership aspect. I found that extremely interesting because I would assume most students are the opposite (pursuing the degree for the entrepreneurial gain).

As he continued telling me more about his plan, his decision started to make more sense.

Colin has an interest in politics. This degree – the leadership aspect – allows him to hone his networking skills. The readings and articles that are assigned in the coursework are transferrable in meetings and committees that will be essential in building communities.What do you believe are the essentials to a successful business?

Colin referenced the Surfers Rules of leadership. This was new to me. I would have never correlated surfing to leadership – but after looking up what those rules are, it works! Two other essentials that Colin feels builds a successful business are passion and impact.

“The hard part isn’t starting, the hard part is stopping.”

Relatable! Anyone that has ever been passionate about something knows first hand how true this statement is.

This was the question where Colin referenced our mutual lyrical connection with J. Cole. As a matter of fact, before writing this interview, I had to take a listen to “Love Yourz” on J. Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive, even though I have heard it more times than I can count.

Paraphrasing J. Cole’s lyrics “…the good news is, you came a long way. The bad news is ….. you went the wrong way…”. Impact. Colin believes that re-evaluting his/your impact that you are making is essential not only to business, but life experiences.

What does retirement look like to you?

Colin talked more about his interest in politics. His fluid path was still prevalent in this question as he spoke about maybe one day being a mayor or governor to build communities. One thing he was sure of was his desire to be the youngest person ever elected as President of the United States.

Swoon. Suddenly I felt inadequate (in my goal setting – ha!) and then almost immediately I was inspired. There are obvious selfless reasons Colin aspires to be President of the United States of America, but his retirement vision doesn’t end there.

Colin hopes to be in a position, “at retirement age”, to look forward to waking up to what he enjoys and loves, even if that means waking up at 8:00 AM.

“It is important to always keep working”.

What truly defines you as a leader?

This question was somewhat impromptu after speaking with Colin about his background, goals and aspirations. I loved the vulnerability of his answer because it wasn’t a “cookie cutter” response. 

He said “A year ago I wouldn’t have known how to answer that question and in a week my answer may be completely different.” While some people may find that statement wishy washy, it makes perfect sense in the grand scheme of leadership – you have to be flexible.

It is clear from our short conversation that Colin has not only an entrepreneurial spirit, but even more so a leadership state of mind.

He describes himself as a motivator and supporter, which is backed up with the the last quote he left me with: “(I) unfill my cup for someone because I know I can fill it back up.”

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