Launching All Future Entrepreneurs
Panelists: Jason Jannati | Sheena Lindahl | Chris Allen | Thom Ruhe
Submitted by Braden Croy - Syracuse University
This discussion revolves around the entrepreneurship mindset and how to bring it to every student on campus.
What type of students have you seen on the Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour?
Sheena: We’ve seen all types of students. Our primary goal is the spread entrepreneurship to every student across campus and help them realize they can be their own type of entrepreneur. We want to help students find the great resources already in their community and begin to self-identify their own entrepreneurial type. Sometimes it’s hard for studnets to realize their potential.
Who do you see as the non-traditional business owner you’re trying to teach?
Thom: Everybody has the potential to be an entrepreneur. We used to have these philosophical discussions of whether entrepreneurs are born or made. But now the whole discussion is about the entrepreneurial mindset and the fact anyone can think entrepreneurially. We can help empower these students by giving them the mindset; whether they’re and employee or a business owner, they need this mindset. With some data we hope to prove once and for all how necessary the entrepreneurial mindset is and how we must all embrace it.
As a former student, how do you reach all students, not just business students?
Jason: You could have hit me in the head with an entrepreneurial stamp and I wouldn’t know what it meant. I never considered myself an entrepreneur, I was just somebody who wanted to control his time and his future. Some community colleges have done a really good job at turning themselves into magnets for mentors. These colleges’ uses these mentors as a value add and they’re seeing students are naturally drawn to these programs. Mentors are critical at helping students demystify the allure of entrepreneurship and the risk inherent in the process. It also helps humanize this very large and broad process of starting a business.
What do you think about incorporating industry into the entrepreneurial process?
Thom: Most community colleges work very closely with the large corporations in their community. The deficit we’re seeing though is the soft skills—team orientation, critical thinking, communications, etc. What if someone took initiative in the corporate structure like Jason did—taking control of his income and time, we’d promote them all day long. We need to get entrepreneurship education in the same context as reading or mathematics. The problem with current curriculum is that it relies on self-selection, what about the people who don’t yet realize they need to be entrepreneurial.
Sheena: while working on my company, we came up with this idea of the ice berg. The top part being material success, but most people don’t realize how important the things below the water are to success—personal brand, networks, etc. Even if the business fails, because of the mass of assets below the water you will always have an opportunity afterwards.
How do you reach students across campus, what types of messages do you give and how do you do it?
Chris: it’s a huge challenge, probably the biggest challenge. With such a wide and varied population there can’t be one answer or one strategy. One thing which doesn’t seem like a benefit but is, is that our area has been blessed with poverty. Poverty has forced us to tap into family, community, and natural resource assets. It’s made us a stronger community and forced us to cocreate the ecosystem and businesses.
Jason: Around the fire last night we got talking about innovation and how critical the ability to think outside of the box is. Break your students into two teams and make them go earn the most money in a single day. That will get them so uncomfortable the can do nothing but grow.
Chris: A versatile program is important. We’re not all the same and some programs will work better for other students than others.
We are in a new world of work…
Thom: We’ve used terms like ecosystem and networking, but really it’s community. Community is the new form of currency. The smart and successful entrepreneurs realize how to leverage their community greater than any amount of investment money. We have to be intentional about building these supportive communities.
Chris: I wouldn’t be here if it was for community. The mentorship and the support there is zero chance we’d be here.
Sheena: It’s important to remember some of the best businesses are the sexy businesses. Too many times we’re focused on the high-growth or the raise of investment money. Too many entrepreneurs will focus too much on raising money when in reality they don’t need it. Raising money can actually hurt your company because it takes you away from the most important tasks in building a great businesses. Communities need to recognize and glorify even the unsexy companies.
Chris: sometimes the less glamorous the better. I love hearing how many more young farmers there are in my area—it’s not sexy but there isn’t anything more important than food.
How do we get across the industry gap?
Jason: There are some conceptual and tactical truths. The conceptual truths can be great at getting the light bulb to go off in students. I love the quote, “The want is more important than the how.” I also love, “it takes pressure to create diamonds.” Entrepreneurship isn’t supposed to be a fluffy ride, it’s going to be hard and people should recognize that taking hits means you’re doing things the right way. Tactically a residual sales model is so much better than a transactional model. A sales force gets burnt out if you only ever focus on transactional sales, entrepreneurs need to leverage all of their resources.
Thom: I love talking about the importance of the entrepreneurial mindset. When the Vatican thinks entrepreneurial thinking should be a basic human right, we’re in for some great things. Entrepreneurship and IceHouse is growing faster off our shores than on our shores. My ask is don’t let this year’s NACCE be the year where you get inspired but let the machine beat you down when you get home. You cannot let yourselves get beaten down, there’s too much at stake for each of us and our country. The French may have given us the word, but we’ve given it meaning.
What are some tactical suggestions for the folks in the crowd?
Jason: As an entrepreneur you can have a great plan in place, but you need to be able to adapt. Be able to supplement your core skills with the business management skills. The question should be what can I do to turn my program into a magnet for high potential entrepreneurs. As people are attracted to your program you’ll build momentum and you’ll see so many great changes.
What is your recommendation for how to create your ask?
Thom: From experience, the message behind an ask and what it means for the community is a very attractive product or package for philanthropists to fund. Find the people who don’t want their names on a building or don’t need a brick and mortar type of give. Investment in education programming is a lifetime of giving, it will change entire generations.
Sheena: Finding the common ground and how your solutions fit into a very large problem is crucial. You have to work with what you’re starting with, realizing you’ll need to translate from one cluster to another. Networking is about bridging the clusters.
Chris: It’ll all come down to accessibility. Students need to realize the programs are there for everyone, not just the people who self-select into entrepreneurship. Make sure people realize the programs and resources are open to everyone. You can’t sell this entrepreneur thing as easy. Be very honest with it or you won’t end up with the type of entrepreneurs you want.
Jason: Put your marketing hats on. Market it as we’re going to teach you how to secure your own financial future.
Our Second panel…
Mike Hennessy | Sara Whiffen | Angeline Godwin
We need some direction on the entrepreneurial mindset and an accumulation of small actions. Instead of talking about method, we put it into action. NACCE wants the stories, it doesn’t just want the words, and it wants to see the assets and inventories of community college ecosystems.
What is your reaction on how you might fund the entrepreneurial method?
Mike: We have a very traditional approach to funding. As time has gone on, we’ve tried to become more and more targeted on identifying results. It’s necessary to find ways to bulletproof the grants and the outcomes. If someone leaves too many times the programs die because that evangelist is no longer there. I believe we need to fight for a focus on what we’re talking about and what is expected out of incorporating entrepreneurship on campus. One of my big fears is that we only focus on supporting the next big ideas. The Effectuation framework and the NACCE process helps people find that target. Too many times we’re focused on the end game not the first step.
What value did you see in the community assessment and entrepreneurial method?
Angeline: it resonated with me because it just seemed to make sense. Effectuation gave a clear framework to wrestle with the problems we all face. Having started and run my own businesses, it made real sense. I felt this overwhelming sense of urgency to cocreate our future. I saw effectuation as a path forward not a path out. I first did an effectuation of myself, to thy own self be true. We all have 24 hours and we choose what to do with that time. Taking this framework to start the conversation was great. It’s not academic and it spoke to everyone regardless of whether you’re a student, a faculty, or an entrepreneur.
Can you talk about poverty as an asset…
Angeline: We’ve always talked about how to overcome the intense poverty, we have the highest poverty level in Virginia. However, what we realized is to embrace our poverty, we have those students and community members with the survival mentality. Our community uses entrepreneurial principles to survive every day. Now we can use that to our advantage.
There’s interest from corporations in the Effectuation model, could you share a little?
Sara: I came from a corporate background and couldn’t wait to finally do my own startup thing. However, I quickly realized when you’re calling with your own name and not the reputation of a huge corporation people don’t throw money at you. I had the opportunity to participate in an Effectuation accelerator with Saras which really helped place everything into context. Through that accelerator I was able to build a relationship and partnership with Saras, and it’s grown from there.
The more someone asks the more confident they are to ask. It’s this feedback cycle. A self-fulfilling prophecy which helps move an entrepreneur up the ladder. When coaching the community college crowd, I always get this one questions, “I’m drowning in opportunity, but how do I know where to go?”
There are certain concepts people don’t understand, could you speak to your work with companies and what are some challenges as they go through this process?
Sara: Affordable loss is probably the number one issue we see people grappling with. Just because something sounds easy doesn’t mean it’s easy to implement. When they get to roadblocks, people will start to blame the process. However, stumbling and being challenged is part of the process. It’s a marathon not a sprint. Starting with the bird in the hand and setting affordable loss will keep you going.
Mike: In higher education there aren’t too many reasons to ask. Getting out of your comfort zone and especially your experiential zone is critical. Take advantage of the ask to come up with new ideas and new ways of doing things.
You can’t just wholesale and make all of these changes. It takes time and it’ll get muddy, but from there great things will emerge. Emphasis needs to be placed on the action.
What are some things you hope to accomplish with this year’s college pitch winners?
Mike: we’ve been doing pitch contests for a long time, never really having put formality or structure around them. Now we’ve taken a little more intention to observing these winners as using effectuation. We’d like to see some more train the trainer opportunities to colleges can learn from each other. We also want to see what the colleges have done that they never did before, what’s the impact? We have a great opportunity to help push beyond falling back into our typical routines.
Angeline: we’ve learned so much from each other, we’re grappling with so many of the same problems. Between this year and next year I’d like to see this implosion of action. I’m sick of hearing the flavor of the day and chasing some random pot of money. I would love to see entrepreneurship on campuses move beyond conversation and into action. We are in control of everything, we don’t have to be emotionally or financially fragile.
Sara: I’d like to see that shift in attitudes and actions. Community colleges need to realize how many great resources they have and which can be utilized. A college’s students are so valuable and are so eager to help build the future with the college. I’d like colleges to combine forces with their students. Hearing success and failures would be great—if you’re not failing, you’re not pushing hard enough. Apply effectual thinking not causal thinking.
Failed entrepreneurs and successful entrepreneurs are the same person. Every successful entrepreneur has many failures. Failure and success isn’t something that has to define the person, it’s only a single part of the whole.
Angeline: we’re adding failed entrepreneurs to our crazy quilt. They’ve never been at the table but we’re going to go back and ask them to join us. We can learn so much from their stories and their failures.
Maybe failed entrepreneurs only failed because they stopped. Perhaps we can help them take that label off and reengage with their communities.
NACCE: we want the stories, not at the end of the quarter, we want stories in real time. We want to see what your asks were and we want to now the results. Show us the dots and how you put the quilt together.
Coleman Grant Winners!
From The Coleman Foundation: Mike Hennessy | Clark McCain
This year’s competition called for proposals from colleges focused on how their college would implement 5 action steps to the 5 President’s Pledge principles. There were 10 finalists:
Eastern West Virginia Community and Technical College
Fox Valley Technical College
Indian River State College
Ivy Technology Community College of Indiana
Maricopa Corporate College
Middlesex Community College
Northeast State Community College
Patrick Henry Community College
South Mountain Community College
Each of these finalists are the winners of this competition. They are the co-creators of the future of community college entrepreneurship.
A huge congratulations to them all!