Surviving the Storm: How Pharmapreneurs Persevere in Difficult Climates

Written By: Jeff Banaszak, Second-Year Student Pharmacist

It has been said that every good author must “set the scene” to captivate the reader’s attention. I do not claim to be an author, but I would like to set the scene surrounding my experience at the School of Pharmacy’s first Pharmapreneurship™ Panel held in October.

Arriving for the Big Event

The first thing that I noticed when arriving for the Pharmapreneurship Panel was the enthusiastic faces in the room. These faces included our distinguished panelists, as well as School of Pharmacy faculty, staff, students, and the panelists’ family members. The panel was comprised of five entrepreneurial leaders:

  • Greg Cangialosi, Chairman and Co-Founder of Betamore
  • Theresa Cangialosi, Owner of SoBotanical
  • Chris Jones, Owner of Jones ITech
  • Matthew King, MBA, Founding President of Harlem Park Community Development Corporation
  • Jim Smeeding, MBA, President and Founder of Indication BioScience Rx

Daniel Mullins, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Health Services Research (PHSR) and Joey Mattingly, PharmD, MBA, PhD, associate professor in PHSR, moderated the panel. Each panelist spoke about his/her education, experiences, and acquired entrepreneurial wisdom.

Furthering a Passion for Innovation

While I possess a degree of bias due to my fascination with entrepreneurism and passion for an individualized approach to the PharmD degree, the topics discussed by the panel were enlightening.

Each of the fantastic panelists provided a unique perspective on our School’s Pharmapreneurship initiative and how student pharmacists can embrace entrepreneurship and innovation to solve the world’s challenges. My own interest in entrepreneurship and innovation began in my undergraduate work and has only grown since enrolling in the School’s PharmD program and being selected for its inaugural Pharmapreneurship Pathway. Listening to the panel allowed me to reflect on ways I can improve as a potential pharmapreneur and how building my network through organizations such as the Interprofessional Entrepreneurship and Innovation Network (EIN) may help me reach the next level as a future pharmapreneur.

In speaking to fellow students about pharmapreneurship prior to the panel, some expressed uncertainty about the future of the pharmacy profession, as well as low self-confidence in their entrepreneurial capabilities. Hearing from the panelists helped shine some light on the challenges that entrepreneurs face, especially with uncertainty, and how entrepreneurs persevere through challenges when they truly believe in their innovation. While the students I spoke with are becoming increasingly aware of new opportunities blossoming at the School, such as the Pharmapreneurship Pathway in the PharmD curriculum and the Pharmapreneurs’ Farm, a soon to be opened space in Pharmacy Hall designed to foster innovation and creativity, we need to continue promoting resources available to students to develop their entrepreneurial skills. 

Imparting Advice to Future Pharmapreneurs

After discussing their careers and journeys to become entrepreneurs, the panelists answered questions from the audience and imparted several tenets of entrepreneurism to us.

Interestingly, there was not a single panelist that had a tell-tale marking that would say “I am an entrepreneur!” This is the first tenet of entrepreneurism: you do not enter this world as a trademarked or patented entrepreneur. There is no process at the hospital that divides newborns into those who are entrepreneurs and those who are not. Additionally, there is no early education program that singles out children who are destined for a path of innovation. But, these panelists knew early on that they had an appetite for enterprise. For some, it was the drive to retain their childhood creativity and curiosity. For others, it was the need for income or the desire to avoid the typical 9-5 job grind. But for all, it was the burning desire to fulfill a passion.

Tenet two evolved from the first: an entrepreneur does not let his/her passion fade. An entrepreneur possesses the patience, resiliency, tenacity, and perseverance to deal with the hurdles along their journey. You might be saying to yourself, “I have those skills, but where can I find my passion?”

Look no further than the third tenet: a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) provides unique value for aspiring entrepreneurs. The School of Pharmacy guides students to specialize in a pharmacy career that interests us most. Pharmacists practice in a wide array of settings such as community, clinical, research, industry, and more. Each of these environments has unique subdivisions and even more unique challenges that require an innovative mindset to overcome. The PharmD allows us to perform services that only health care practitioners are capable of, and provides unique value to any entrepreneur. In each of these career settings, we as pharmacists possess the most powerful entrepreneurial tools — problem identification and problem solving. If you follow your passions as a pharmacist, you are sure to come across problems that need fixing, services that beg for innovation, and unexplored ideas that need to be put into action.

The fourth tenet shared by the panel encompasses all that came before: the importance of risk, reward, and failure.  No business venture or innovative idea is without a degree of risk, but the potential reward(s) drive our pursuits. The risk of failure can be intimidating to anyone, and doubly so when it might include costly interventions or even the safety of patients. As pharmapreneurs, we can be expected to undertake calculated risks in order to minimize failure and maximize reward. Fortunately, passionate pharmapreneurs have the opportunity to claim the greatest reward: self-gratification through helping others, including our patients.

All of the tenets discussed above can serve as a pharmapreneur’s foundation when dealing with the inevitable failures that arise from entrepreneurship. If pharmapreneurs hold strong to these tenets, then failure will never stop us. Instead, failure will only make our passionate flame burn brighter.

Applying Lessons Learned to the Real World

At the end of the panel, I felt motivated, enthused, and inspired. Yet, when I ventured outside to return to class, the cold and rainy weather I immediately encountered deflated my spirits. Oddly enough, it was here, outside in the cold rain, without an umbrella, that I found the first opportunity to employ the new entrepreneurial pearls I had acquired to help me “survive the storm.”

I realized that, until now, my day was going smoothly because I was surrounded by the comfort of a familiar environment. This changed when I stepped outside into the “real world.” This experience is analogous to life as a student pharmacist being molded into a pharmapreneur. It is easy to be comfortable when pursuing a traditional career path for a pharmacist. But as a pharmapreneur, it is not easy to venture into the challenges of enterprise. Pharmapreneurs understand that they must leave the safety of their comfort zone in order to pursue their passion. A pharmapreneur understands that surviving the storm might require an encounter with some rainy days along the way, but the pursuit of passion will carry their goals to a brighter day.

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