Dave Calnan participated in 2018 EO Global Student Entrepreneur Award (GSEA) Global Finals in Toronto, Canada.
His company, SourceAcademy, partners with talented students who freelance to create affordable websites for small businesses. The innovative organization offers a clear win-win situation: Students get real-life professional experience while businesses get a creative and affordable service.
Today, Dave Calnan (pictured at left) is home in Cork, Ireland, working hard to continue growing and managing his business. We recently caught up with him to ask him to reflect on his experiences at EO GSEA.
Describe your journey to EO GSEA Global Finals.
My friend Marie was the Irish finalist at EO GSEA 2017 in Frankfurt, Germany. She asked me to come as her guest, and I had an incredible and inspirational few days surrounded by these student entrepreneurs and EO members. I told myself (and the incoming GSEA chair) that I was going to be back next year, as a national finalist.
What was it like meeting other student entrepreneurs from around the world at the Global Finals?
It was unreal. I’m a people-person, so I loved getting to know this diverse group of people from all over the world—learning how things are different and similar where they’re from. I learned a lot about different cultures, as well as their businesses and specific industry insights which have been extremely helpful.
How does EO GSEA compare with other business competitions you’ve taken part in?
What I really liked about EO GSEA is that it feels like it’s 70% about the entrepreneur and 30% about the business. All of us are more than just what we’re doing at the moment, and taking that into account is all too rare. I appreciate EO doing that!
How did GSEA change you as a person? As an entrepreneur? As a world citizen?
Well, after EO GSEA 2017, I realized how little I knew of the world after meeting people from a few countries I hadn’t heard of and many more I couldn’t point to on a map. So, I learned all the countries in the world before my own GSEA so I would be a little less ignorant!
I made an effort to get to know as many people as I possibly could while I was there. It’s such a unique, talented, inspiring group of people that I am shocked and honored I am a part of.
I wrote a blog post a week or so before my GSEA about impostor syndrome. I had no idea how I was getting to compete on the same stage as all these incredibly talented people from all over the world. I was nervous. Talking to other competitors helped me realize that many of them had similar feelings. It was reassuring to know I wasn’t the only one faking it until I one day make it!
Taking part in the competition also cemented for me that I was going to continue down the entrepreneurial route after university rather than a traditional corporate career.
Tell us where you and your business are today.
SourceAcademy is still going. Making websites was never the end-game, but rather a way to work with businesses, get to know their pain points and be in a position to make broadly applicable solutions for their problems. What’s happened quicker than I expected is realizing how much administration small businesses deal with. In the last few months, I’ve launched a new platform called Be Freer, which automates admin for small businesses.
I’ve found the transition from being a student entrepreneur to a full-time (grown-up?) entrepreneur difficult. My first business at 15 started as a way to avoid studying for state exams, and that pattern continued over the next seven years! I still haven’t quite figured out the self-discipline part of it, but I’m getting there.
There have been times of anxiety, watching my friends from college move away and start jobs they are loving and wondering if I made the right choice. But every time I get positive feedback from a client, it reminds me that I’m on the right path!
I love small businesses. I love working with small businesses. My primary goal is to help small businesses run their businesses and make their lives even a little bit easier. If I can continue to solve interesting problems and work with interesting people I’ll be incredibly happy!
Are you an EO member who wishes to enhance your leadership skills? Check out how to get involved as a mentor at 2019 EO GSEA Global Finals.
Have you stayed in touch with EO members or EO GSEA participants?
I happened to have plans to travel for the summer after GSEA, so I spent every moment possible at GSEA getting to know people and asking if I could come visit!
In the end, I met up with about 10 GSEA and EO people during travels from Dublin to Amsterdam, to Athens, to Cairo, to Tel Aviv, to Bahrain, to Colombo, and then Perth!
Catching up with each one of them was the highlight of my summer, as they were able to give me local insight into their city and deliver the “real experience.”
One of my judges from the semi-final round invited me to his house in the Netherlands during my travels (thank you Eduard!) and Dave Stein from EO Brooklyn gave me the best recommendations for what to do in New York. I text back and forth with EO Ireland member Stephen Shortt [pictured at right] almost daily (sorry, Stephen!). He has helped me out a lot personally and professionally.
Those are just a few of the EO members I got to know over the few days in Toronto but there are too many to mention I’ve chatted with since!
It’s a goal of mine to become an EO member. I have a bit of growth ahead of me to get there, but I’ll apply to EO Accelerator and then EO itself—keep an eye out!