Meet the Diamond Challenge Team: Julie Frieswyk, Rachel Strauss, and Chuck Liddiard!
The Diamond Challenge is the world’s largest entrepreneurship competition for high-schoolers. It is an international feat of planning and organization that requires tremendous time and effort on the part of all individuals involved. In particular, there are three people who have truly dedicated their lives to making the Diamond Challenge a unique experience. These individuals serve as the Diamond Challenge masterminds and work behind the scenes to ensure that the competition season runs smoothly all throughout the year. Oh, and then there’s me! Here I am pictured on the right –>
A brief introduction: I am currently a sophomore at the University of Delaware studying Finance and Marketing, and I also serve as the Digital Marketing Intern for the Diamond Challenge. I run point on all things social media, and also curate unique stories like this one to really connect with our Diamond Challenge community. I recently had the privilege of interviewing Julie Frieswyk, Rachel Strauss, and Chuck Liddiard. Read on to see how they each personally define entrepreneurship and gain a little insight into their day-to-day jobs!
Grace Zhang: Welcome to the Diamond Challenge Coordinator Interview! First off, can you please introduce yourself and state what your affiliation is to Diamond Challenge?
Julie Frieswyk: My name is Julie Frieswyk, and I have had the great honor of co-creating and growing the Diamond Challenge from the very beginning. I am the Assistant Director of Horn Youth at the University of Delaware.
Chuck Liddiard: My name is Chuck Liddiard and I am the Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions for the University of Delaware. I also serve as the West Coast Youth Entrepreneurship Coordinator with the Diamond Challenge & Horn Entrepreneurship. I assist our two California Diamond Challenge partners in planning and implementing their events. In addition, I promote the Diamond Challenge competition throughout the West Coast region.
Rachel Strauss: My name is Rachel Strauss, and I am a Program Coordinator for Horn Youth (most specifically, the Diamond Challenge) ! I am responsible for managing the competition including the annual summit, our partnerships, student advisory board, software and more!
G: How did you first hear about Diamond Challenge and why did you choose to join the Diamond Challenge team?
J: I first heard about the Diamond Challenge from Dan Freeman, the founding director of Horn Entrepreneurship at the University of Delaware. At the time, I was working as a Peace Corp volunteer in Moldova when he told me about this amazing idea he had to start an international entrepreneurship competition for high schoolers. I agreed to work with him and extended my Peace Corp service, later launching the competition in Moldova as an economic development project. After my service ended, I decided to join the Diamond Challenge team full-time and the rest is history!
C: I met Julie Frieswyk at a University of Delaware recruitment event in the fall of 2013. Through our conversation, I learned about the Diamond Challenge and was amazed by its global reach. Since I am based full-time for my position in California, I asked Julie if she would consider extending the competition to The Golden State. It took a year of planning, but in 2014, we launched two live pitch locations on the west coast and it has grown exponentially year after year.
R: I first learned about the Diamond Challenge from my colleague Vince DiFelice. He was a social entrepreneur for 30 years of his life, and served as a mentor to me during my final college year and formative post-college years. He presented the opportunity to me. I ultimately joined the Diamond Challenge team because it aligns with my core value of social impact work through helping students recognize and push themselves toward reaching personal capacities they wouldn’t have otherwise realize existed. I was drawn to the culture of purpose, impact and support that is found with University of Delaware Horn Entrepreneurship.
G: In the time that you have worked with Diamond Challenge, what would you consider your favorite memory?
J: That’s tough. I would say my favorite moments are the instances of collaboration between people who have met from the Diamond Challenge. It’s amazing to watch the new partnerships, jobs, friendships and programs that result from the competition. There is a lot of momentum gained from those who interact with the program, and that is truly my favorite part to watch.
C: It still has to be the first live pitch event at The Athenian School in 2015. The Diamond Challenge modified its format and added the virtual track. We weren’t sure how much participation the Diamond Challenge would bring its first year, but we had an amazing turnout. In addition, the CA teams invited to the Summit did very well at the global stage that year.
R: My favorite memories are in the perceived “small” moments. For example, when I receive an email from a student saying they are so grateful there is a platform for high school entrepreneurs. Or when team Skillboard from the Republic of Georgia squealed and openly celebrated in front of the registration desk at the Summit when they found out they made it in to the top 18. When a student goes out “on a whim” and pushes themselves to make a new connection and talk to “that” person. Or when a student realizes that entrepreneurship has enabled them to identify what they are truly passionate about, and what they want to pursue for life.
G: How would you define an entrepreneur, and what is your personal style of entrepreneurship?
J: An entrepreneur is someone who creates something that is valuable that wasn’t there before. In my opinion, entrepreneurship is one of the highest forms of human ability. It forces an individual to utilize so many different skills and faculties, and the process itself is an orchestra of dexterity and action. When you are an entrepreneur, it’s all about knowing when to push and when to rest, who to reach out to and when, because there is no one correct path in entrepreneurship: sometimes things work and sometimes they don’t. For me, my personal style of entrepreneurship focuses on really listening to the surrounding energy and ultimately following my gut feeling. I’ve learned not to push in an area where there doesn’t seem a lot of momentum, but really direct my energy to something that I am passionate about.
C: To me, an entrepreneur is anyone who is bringing new value into this world, hopefully by pursing an area of passion. Where it is important to be methodical, I usually am a man of action. I love to dive right into solving problems and issues that I’m passionate about—specifically regarding higher education and access. It let me to create The Paratum Scholars, a non-profit with a mission to provide affordable, consistent guidance to prepare students for their life path.
R: An entrepreneur is someone who creates new value for people that ultimately transforms the way they live and experience their every-day lives.
G: Who is your entrepreneur inspiration?
J: I think the founder of Gangster Vegan Organics, Vincent DePaul, is really an inspirational entrepreneurial figure for me. I really admire the story behind the creation of his company, and I think his passion really shines through in everything he shares. He truly embodies the grit and perseverance of an entrepreneur, remaining consistent in his mission statements and never giving up on his goals.
C: Although there are many inspirations who are well known, I would have to say my grandfather. After World War II, he came home and made a living as a mailman. Wanting to be his own boss, he went to radio repair school at night and eventually started his own electronic repair store—later expanding to furniture and appliance as well. Regionally, his store, named Al & Lid Furniture & Appliances, grew to one of the biggest independent furniture stores in central Utah. I had the pleasure of working many summers for my grandfather. He taught me the value of hard work, sacrifice, importance of self-learning and putting your customers first.
R: I guess it would have to be Sara Blakely. Sara Blakely ultimately learned and problem solved her way through to make an impact for women and girls, despite her lack of knowledge, experience, etc. in the field. She essentially defied all odds and stood up for her vision when others continued to push her down. Her process and grit in particular is truly admirable. She also saw a problem and took action instead of idly letting the problem persist. That is oftentimes the simple yet significant difference between those who become entrepreneurs and those who do not.
G: For our last question, what kind of advice would you give to students looking to break into the field of entrepreneurship?
J: I would tell students to build your network. Get experiences in different roles in various startup developments to best understand the entrepreneurship process, because you will definitely be required to wear a lot of hats in the future. Be open to trying new things and learn to experiment, fail, and still believe in yourself. Most importantly, build trust in yourself so that when times get tough, you will always be able to get back up and stay true to your goals and ambition.
C: If done right, the entrepreneurial process will bring failure. Students who are in high school going through the college process are constantly trying to be perfect but perfection is not attainable. Get out of your comfort zone and start conversations with strangers. Don’t be afraid to tell them of your passions and, if you find someone who is working in an area that excites you, do not be afraid to ask if they could be a mentor. Lastly, work hard on your public speaking–consider joining a local Toastmasters club. Half of entrepreneurship is storytelling and human connection and you need to work on these skills as well.
R: If you have resilience, you will make it far beyond many of your peers personally and professionally. Focus on why you’re pursuing what you’re pursuing, create the appropriate support network, goals, and measurements of success. You can never lose if you do these things.
Safe to say that was a treasure trove of tips and insights into entrepreneurship! We hope you enjoyed this in-depth look into the behind-the-scenes work that we do here at the Diamond Challenge and we look forward to sharing more interesting tidbits about the competition in the future!
About Horn Entrepreneurship
Horn Entrepreneurship serves as the University of Delaware’s creative engine for entrepreneurship education and advancement. Built and actively supported by successful entrepreneurs and thought leaders, Horn Entrepreneurship empowers aspiring innovators and entrepreneurs as they pursue new ideas for a better world.