Hi, my name’s Reagan. I’m a student at UNC Chapel Hill and spent a portion of this year working at Innovation Depot in the UAB iLab to learn more about startups and career opportunities in the technology space.

Prior to spending time in the UAB iLab, I would have told you it takes a genius with a brilliant ‘ah-ha’ moment for a startup to take off. Now I know that’s not true. It takes persistence, the right connections, hard work, and a whole lot of other things, but genius isn’t necessary.

I would have said that successful startup founders drop out of college with term sheets in hand before their peers have a diploma. But that’s not true either.

The UAB iLab brings together entrepreneurial-minded people, and some people, like myself, who may not know what that means but want to find out. In my four months here, I’ve seen over fifteen student CEOs building out their company and countless others contemplating business ideas. There are students who aren’t yet ready to jump into the risk of starting a company, but want to learn from the experience of other CEOs. There are artists, engineers, programmers, accountants—students from all academic disciplines with a common desire to create.

The UAB iLab houses a vibrant community of students experimenting, failing, learning, and trying again until they reach their goals. This is a place where things happen. You don’t just talk about wanting to start a company here: you talk about it, write up a business plan (or ten), and then choose to pursue it or not. It’s a place to make mistakes and learn, and ultimately succeed.

In the UAB iLab, I’ve witnessed first-hand the development of student-run companies from idea to business plan, through constant iterations, and eventually, pitching to investors. It’s through watching them and touring other startups housed at Innovation Depot that I learned what it takes to start a business. I’ve watched them grow and face challenges and then decide if it’s wise to pursue one of their ideas. For right now, I don’t have an idea for which I’m ready to accept all the risks. But from spending time in the UAB iLab, I’ll know what to expect when I am ready.