#NACCE2014 Lunch Panel: From Mindset to Meaningful Action
Submitted by Braden Croy - Syracuse University
Lunchtime Panelists: Julie Lenzer Kirk | Earl Gohl | Jon Robinson | Timothy McNulty
This discussion will revolve around entrepreneurship ecosystems and building vibrant communities. No one owns the ecosystem and every member comes to the ecosystem for different reasons. However, this diversity is critical to building strong business
What role do you see yourself playing in an entrepreneurship ecosystem and how does the ecosystem work with community colleges?
Julie: as a recovering entrepreneur, ecosystems are extremely important to me. In my role at the federal government and as a founding member of Startup America, I find ecosystem to be vital. There’s a lot of thought leadership happening right now with what ecosystems need to be developed. Ecosystems move up the hierarchy of needs:
Engines of innovation
The government helps fund every aspect of this hierarchy. The government is a catalyst to what community’s needs, especially communities in need—economic distress. However, now the government can help with seed funds, technology purchases, and program developments.
Earl: Appalachia runs from Alabama to New York and could be considered one of the great next investment opportunities of the century. The area has everything and every type of entrepreneur. Huge potential in education, health care, energy, etc. It will be vital for diverse partners to help facilitate, finance, and grow entrepreneurial ecosystems.
The community college structure throughout Appalachia is critical to its ecosystem. These colleges are important technical training and stepping stone institutions for students and potential entrepreneurs. Poverty is a serious is in Appalachia though. Strategy has ebbed and flowed to reflect the political whims. Residents and leaders have taken over and defined the region from a grassroots movement. These communities are incredibly engaged and committed to working together to build their own ecosystems from the ground up—they’re taking their destiny into their own hands.
Jon: The Kauffman foundation tries to operate in the top three slices of the ecosystem’s hierarchy of needs. The organization is an evangelist for the prosperity of communities, it’s a leading resource for research, and helps with the specific performance of various entrepreneurship assets. It does a little myth-busting as well, to show what truly helps entrepreneurs grow. The Kauffman Foundation also has numerous educational programs and curricular opportunities for colleges and communities to leverage.
Put simply, Kauffman is a catalyst for collaboration; both regionally and nationally. Helping to create that patchwork quilt.
Tim: If you’re dealing with communities facing radical changes, community colleges are a key anchor everyone can rally around. The ‘maker movement’ is becoming a critical aspect of the modern education and method for preparing students for 21st century jobs. Hundreds of thousands of campus space has been devoted to the construction of maker spaces. Community colleges have played a critical role in growing the maker movement and empowering students to build in new ways, with new technologies, and generating new companies.
Maker spaces have attracted some major corporate collaborations and helped bridge the gap between 2 year and 4 year institutions. We have the chance to work together to develop entirely new tools for makers and entrepreneurs.
What are examples of successes or failures to developing ecosystems and what is the specific role of the community college?
Earl: It’s a challenge because there’s no finish line. There’s lots of goals and mileposts, but just because you’ve completed one project doesn’t mean you’re done. You’ll spend your career working on new and old programs. However, that process helps you community grow best. It will always be an ongoing process.
Julie: Forget about thinking outside of the box; here is no box. It’s important to look at the synergies across the community, no matter size or scope. It doesn’t have to be just a university thing, everyone needs to be involved and helping to find those gaps.
Jon: many times community colleges are the most collaborative institutions in an ecosystem—no ego and no need for credit. However, this means you’ll have to deal with very large egos from larger, more brand conscious institutions. Community colleges can at some level be considered the most democratic organization in an entrepreneurship ecosystem. Many organizations are rent seekers, looking to extract some sort of value from the entrepreneurs they say they’re trying to help—the community college isn’t like this.
Vibrant entrepreneurship ecosystem s are entirely about talent, human capital. Very few institutions outside of community colleges can say they are solely focused on developing human capital. If you really want to help you entrepreneurs, you have to get off campus and find where the entrepreneurs live.
Tim: The opportunity space is huge for community colleges. The direction of technology is towards democratization of access. Things like Kickstarter make it so easy for an entrepreneur in a rural area to find supporters and sales.
Community colleges are key intersections for communities to help entrepreneurs find tools.
Julie: failures in ecosystems have happened because of ego.
Jon: you really have to work to keep egos from creeping in and destroying an ecosystem. It behooves you to focus on tools not credit.
Heather: the role of the community college should be as a voice and as a leader. They can unify because of a lack of ego.
What would be your ask of community colleges and what would you like community colleges to ask from you?
Jon: The Kauffman foundation is looking to you, the people in this room, to help entrepreneurs. We need help testing our hypotheses and communicate to us what entrepreneurs are asking for and what type of help are they looking for. We need sample size and lots and lots of data.
Julie: we’d like to see good projects come from community college projects. We have money and are eager to fund your projects. November 3rd is the deadline for EDA grants—apply!
We’re looking to develop a mentor protégé program. We want to be the catalyst for your community.
Tim: The most critical thing we can do together is break down the silos and break down the barriers.
Earl: My ask—be bold, don’t hold back. Be engaged in your community and when other people have sharp elbows, have sharp elbows yourself. The opportunity is now and community colleges are critical to helping build the future workforce. We are becoming an entrepreneurial nation, community colleges can be the leaders and the center for this national change. With your ideas and our help we can put together some pretty great community structures.
NACCE Lifetime Achievement Award…
…and the honor goes to John Chemaly!
“Some people enjoy being an employee, an entrepreneur enjoys being an employer.” ~ John Chemaly
A man with a good spirit and good heart. John knows how to get the audience laughing and applauding with this short anecdotes. Only 60 something, John believes he still has many accomplishments ahead of him and opportunities to help his fellow entrepreneurs.
John takes us on a journey 12 years back, recounting moments with his daughter and family. A man who plays the tough love thing but is never heartless or uncaring. He cares deeply and is truly grateful for what Middle Essex Community College has given to his daughter, other students, and the community around it. The college has given hope and opportunity, but most importantly, it’s given possibility to those who could never find their way before.
A small world indeed. Pat, an employee at Middle Essex, was unexpectedly brought up on stage and it turns out her son works for Trinity. John truly loves this college.
The time fast approaches when the majority of jobs will only require an associate’s degree and community college certificates. We have the opportunity to make that future vibrant and prosperous.
John disagrees with the freedom to fail. A true entrepreneur has the mindset—failure is not an option. In his own companies, john has zero appetite for failure.
The definition of value is doing more with less. Everyone wants more for less in a quicker period of time. Community colleges embody the definition of value. They have figured out affordability, access, and employability.
You can teach accessibility and affordability, but you can’t teach passion. Being an entrepreneur is like being in love. It’s a feeling of, “I can do this.” Daily being able to look your business in the eye and saying I can do this.