NORWALK -- Sen. Chris Murphy and Mayor Harry Rilling met with students in Norwalk High School's Future Business Leaders of America Club to discuss the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship Thursday.
While the two have experienced success in the political arena, they told students that many of the characteristics of successful politicians can be applied to the world of business.
"A lot of things that I learned that allowed me to become a United States Senator at a relatively young age are also lessons that would apply to those of you that want to start up businesses," said Murphy.
At 24 years old, Murphy was elected to the Connecticut House of Representatives.
Despite the naysayers who said he was "too young and too inexperienced," Murphy defeated a longtime incumbent by possessing a positive attitude, executing a plan and practicing resilience.
"The most important characteristic of a successful business is refusing rejection. Refuse to listen to people that tell you that you're not good enough or your idea isn't strong enough," said Murphy.
"Every single startup business encounters moments where they hit a brick wall. You must have the strength of your convictions to bust through the wall."
In his first run for the General Assembly, Murphy executed a plan to knock on 50 doors each night over a six-month period.
"I set a goal of talking to everybody at their door at least twice," he said, eventually visiting 8,000 homes.
"I won the election by 10 percentage points. As I moved up the ladder politically, I executed other plans."
Today, as a U.S. senator, Murphy advocates for small businesses in Connecticut, among other issues affecting the state.
"Today, 90 percent of jobs created in this country are created by small businesses. Big companies are downsizing and shipping jobs overseas. We want the big businesses to stay in Connecticut and grow but we recognize that the vast majority of job growth is going to come from startup companies," he said.
"We want Connecticut to be viewed as a center of startup activity. When you think of startup companies today, you think about places like Silicon Valley and Palo Alto but Connecticut has all of the same advantages that Silicon Valley has."
The state's advantages include access to funding, great educational institutions and its quality of life, said Murphy.
Mayor Harry Rilling told students interested in starting a business to create a business plan and research their competition.
"Fifty percent of small businesses fail because there's not a plan in place," said Rilling. "The best advice I can give you is to find a passion, something that stimulates you and gets you excited."
He also encouraged students to take advantage of local resources such as SCORE, the Women's Business Development Council and the local Chamber of Commerce.