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It's All About Timing for Freshman Entrepreneur Ni Min

This multilingual Drexel freshman could have waited until college to study abroad. Instead, she did it at 15.

Ni Min
Ni Min at headquarters in San Francisco, Calif.

June 9, 2014

by Joseph Master

In March, Ni Min stood on a balcony in downtown San Francisco with her peers from the Close School’s inaugural Entrepreneurship Living-Learning Community (ELLC) and listened to the founders of tell their origin story. They spoke about how the right idea isn’t nearly as important as the right timing. Min couldn’t have agreed more.

At age 15, the South Vietnam native made the life changing decision to move to the United States, all on her own, to attend high school in California.  She knew she didn’t want to wait until college to jump head first into a new culture. So she made a choice that would prove the most cathartic (and entrepreneurial) of her life.

She chose wisely.

Today, Min, who has a wise-beyond-her-years gaze and a modest smile, continues to step outside of her comfort zone on a daily basis. And since arriving at Drexel, those experiences have paid dividends.

We sat down with Ni to speak about her freshman year and how entrepreneurship continues to pay off.

How did you get to this point as an inaugural member of the ELLC?

I was born and raised in South Vietnam. I came to the United States as an international student. My interest in business comes from my dad, who was an entrepreneur with industrial chemicals. When I was little, I often went with my dad to his company, stayed at his office and stared at the piles of paperwork. I didn't understand what they were, but I thought it was cool to work with those papers and numbers. I wanted to deal with them one day. 

Why did you choose Drexel?

Drexel actually wasn’t my first choice. After receiving all of my acceptance letters, I leaned towards committing to UCSC, as going to a UC school had always been one of my goals. I decided to do a final round of virtual tours of colleges before I committed. It was when an article on Drexel’s newly established ELLC and Close School came across on my Google page. After I read that article, I decided to commit to Drexel.

What does the ELLC mean to you? Why is it special?

The ELLC has given me an experience that I have never had before. It introduced me to a community of different people with different mindsets. It is so diverse: everyone comes from different backgrounds with different stories. But we all have entrepreneurship as our mutual interest.

I hear people talk from time to time about startup and what they want to do after graduating with passion. They teach me so many things that I don't think I could learn from any classroom: startup experiences; to have confidence in what you love; and the determination to grow. They give me the opportunity to visit Silicon Valley and visit companies such as Apple and eBay. For a college freshman, that was really something. I think that to be part of this community, with such amazing people and to visit different places … is very special. 

Tell us about a time when you forced yourself to step outside your comfort zone and it paid off 

It would be deciding to study abroad. I came to the U.S by myself for high school when I was 15. It was a frightening experience for me, being far away from family, friends and everything that I'm used to. I had culture shocks for almost half a year before I started to settle down. Yet stepping out of my comfort zone paid off.  It has been three years since I've studied in the U.S. and I've learned so much. I became more open-minded and objective of my surroundings. I learned how to accept differences in a diverse environment. I learned how to be independent; and I’m still learning more and more. It was tough, but it paid off.

What is your personal definition of entrepreneurship? Why are you an entrepreneur?

My personal definition of entrepreneurship is that entrepreneurship doesn't limit to anyone or anything, as long as you have the passion to pursue your dream. It is to be who you really are and do what you like to do. It is not to be afraid of failing only to stand up again, to learn from mistakes and use them as motivations to grow. 

Why am I an entrepreneur? Because I want to be my own boss, to do what I like, and to give back to community.  

Tell us something about you no one would ever know. Any guilty pleasures? Hidden talents?

I have huge interests in archaeology and physical cosmology. If I didn't choose business, I would go for either one of these majors.

I play piano and percussion, too. I’m also a bit tech-savvy.

What is your fondest memory since you came to Drexel?

Basically all of my experiences so far at Drexel, but the trip to Silicon Valley with the Close School was one of the most special. I couldn’t have asked for a better spring break, visiting big companies and incubators and meeting people like Jim Bean.

Why is entrepreneurship education so important to learn in a college setting?

It teaches a student to think out of the box, to be innovative, to dream, and to learn. It encourages a student to learn from mistakes, to grow, to believe in what you want to do, and to try out new experiences. I mean, it is college, there’s nothing there to lose.

Favorite band? Avenged Sevenfold

Favorite book? The Catcher in the Rye

Favorite entrepreneur? Warren Buffett. He’s a humble guy with a great mind.