Community Development Coordinator
Patrick Henry Community College
Our small city in southern Virginia was built on entrepreneurship – and we believe it’s the key to revitalizing our area. Together with NACCE, a grant from the Coleman Foundation, and our crazy quilt, Patrick Henry Community College is introducing effectual thinking to our students, staff, and the public.
Once upon a time, at the turn of the previous century, a group of enterprising young businessmen turned a small tobacco town into a hub of furniture and textile production. Martinsville was the Sweatshirt Capital of the World for some time, and it all began with a handful of entrepreneurs starting small businesses that turned into international corporations. Now that much of our former industry has moved overseas, our economy is shifting and making a comeback. Our focus with our Coleman grant is on training people to be their own bosses, to start businesses that can’t be outsourced, to add to our local quality of life and employ our neighbors. We also want to show our stakeholders how effectual thinking can be applied to solve problems and come up with innovative solutions.
PHCC has a great entrepreneurship and small business management program on the credit side of the house that is taught by a successful local businessman. We have worked with NACCE for more than a year to introduce effectual principles to our faculty, staff, and local business leaders. However, we needed to take our efforts to the next level and bring these valuable lessons campus and community-wide.
Last spring, we piloted two entrepreneurial programs, hosting the area’s first Martinsville Mini Maker Faire and a Jump Start! Student Entrepreneurship weekend. Though we had a very short turnaround time to market these events and drum up registrations, there was a great response from the community. The Mini Maker Faire, a free and family-friendly festival of innovation, drew more than 200 members of the public. The Jump Start weekend was marketed to local high school and college students and offered a “crash course” on effectuation and the nuts and bolts of starting a business. More than 20 students signed up and spent their Friday evening and all day Saturday in the workshops, and two new businesses resulted from our program. This showed us that there is a need and a hunger for entrepreneurial education in our community.
We applied to the Coleman Foundation to continue and expand these efforts to encourage innovation and entrepreneurial thinking, as well as providing professional development to our staff. After learning from the NACCE conference how other community colleges are implementing effectuation, we’ve made some strategic pivots and revised our plan. We’ve had to make lemonade when our original plan of a campus-wide rollout in January was not possible, and when a planned speaker proved too expensive for our budget.
First, we decided to take it a bit slower for deeper implementation. We plan to bring a speaker here to “train the trainers” on our campus this semester and then roll out the campus-wide initiative at the beginning of the fall semester. One of our Birds in Hand is the campus SCALE team, which stands for the Southern Center for Active Learning Excellence. The team is comprised of six certified instructors on the PHCC faculty from a variety of disciplines who have successfully delivered trainings to more than 120 other colleges. They will be empowered this spring to disseminate the effectuation message well beyond the end of the grant period.
Also, our Jump Start weekend has changed form. We’re working with members of our Crazy Quilt to bring the Extreme Entrepreneurship tour to Martinsville. (If you were fortunate enough to meet Sheena Lindahl at the NACCE conference, this is her company.) Students who participate in our entrepreneurship event will be eligible to compete in a pitch competition for prizes to get their business idea off the ground.
Partnership gives us a chance to combine our financial and human resources with another workforce organization and the local high schools to make this exciting tour happen. That doesn’t mean this is an easy process – the more partners in our quilt, the longer it takes to make decisions and schedule events. But, together, we will touch a larger audience and will be able to make something happen that formerly was out of reach.