This is the first article in a series of four chronicling the development of the M State Business and Entrepreneurial Services (BES) in the rural community of Detroit Lakes, MN. By way of introduction, the vision of the BES is to develop and strengthen entrepreneurial services in West-central Minnesota; the center was envisioned as a comprehensive entity that would be the centerpiece of entrepreneurial activity in the region. The BES was initiated in March 2007, and the college has actively grown this entity for nearly 18 months.
As we researched successful entrepreneurship ventures on other campuses, we heard one resounding theme: the need to acquire college-wide buy-in and ownership. We have successfully experienced a high level of integrated leadership, and we attribute that to the following three constructs of the BES: educated administration, engaged core group, and experienced advisory board.
Early in this venture, the M State administration conducted thorough research regarding best practices in community college entrepreneurship. Our greatest source of information has been the NACCE organization. One or more representatives have attended the annual conferences and both symposiums since we began our endeavor. The NACCE resources on staffing, capacity, structure and operations have been invaluable. This connection also led us to successful models at Springfield Technical, Johnson County, North Iowa Area, and Dakota Technical college campuses. These visits were instrumental in the development of our strategic and business plans.
Engaged Core Group
Our first design was to develop a “core” group of campus leaders to conceptualize and oversee the development of the services to the community. We had representation from administration, faculty and staff; the core group’s composition included five faculty members ranging from Administrative Management to Web Development. We included the Dean of Academics, the interim Director and the Campus CEO. This group was charged with developing the mission, vision and business plan including marketing and financial plans.
For those interested in developing entrepreneurship services on your campus, we highly recommend a development team that represents a cross section of the major stakeholder groups from within your college. We found great success from the opportunities for discourse (and, at times, outright disagreement), multiple perspectives, and participatory leadership.
Experienced Advisory Board
We recruited a cross-section of economic developers, entrepreneurs, banking and lending professionals, manufacturers, marketing researchers, and community leaders. This group, along with the Angel Investor Network, has pushed the BES to organize and expand our service area to a larger region. They have also fostered the promotion of entrepreneurship via our Speakers Series, which invites successful local entrepreneurs to share their experience and insight with the community.
To date, the BES has secured over $300,000 in grant funding for start-up, operations and training. We have strong partnerships with the local SBDC, economic development, and employment agencies. Our recently created Business Entrepreneurship program has nearly 40 students enrolled. By the time this article reaches print, we will have hired our first permanent director with a charge to open an incubator by fall.
We feel fortunate to experience such a great deal of success so early on in this effort. Moreover, we feel compelled to share our experiences with others who desire to contribute to the economic and business development in their communities.
For more information about Business & Entrepreneurial Services of M State, contact Cristobal “Cris” Valdez at (218) 846-3778 or via email at