Starting an Entrepreneurship Epidemic
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Posted by: Matthew Montoya
By Shane Turner
Professor of Entrepreneurship
Arizona Western College, Yuma, AZ
As I was thinking about a topic for my latest column, I was reminded of a book I recently read. While it’s not a new book, it has great applications to marketing your entrepreneurship program. In The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Malcolm Gladwell artfully describes the way epidemics get started. He weaves fascinating historical examples from epidemiology, sociology, and popular culture with his theories of three types of people crucial to starting an epidemic: mavens, connectors, and salespeople. Each of these types of people can be the reason that a phenomenon reaches a tipping point and becomes an epidemic.
Mavens are those individuals who make it their business to have the best information about a topic and selflessly share that information with anyone who can use it. Connectors are those people who seem to know everyone and can put you in touch with them quickly. As the name implies, salespeople are those individuals who can help people get past their objections to pursue a particular course of action. You may not need all three to get your entrepreneurship epidemic rolling, but if you can find and enlist the help of all three types of people, all the better.
Who are the mavens on your campus? Sometimes they will be in traditional locations like career development, counseling services, and the library. Start there. But, rather than market to them, talk with them. Tell them your story and why it matters. Mavens are interested in sharing information to help people, so you need to connect with them on a personal level for the information to matter to them.
At Arizona Western College, we’ve had several meetings with our academic counselors, and are planning to invite a member of the counseling staff to attend this year’s NACCE Conference. How better to tell the story of entrepreneurship than by letting one of the counselors experience it firsthand at the NACCE Conference?
If you think for a few moments, you won’t have trouble coming up with the connectors. They’re probably among the first people you met when you were hired, seem to be involved in everything on campus or in the community and everyone seems to know them and like them. Let them know what you need help with, and be specific. Chances are good they know someone who can help and can put you in touch with them.
Who are the salespeople on your campus? Not sure? Watch the course schedule during registration. Which professor has students waiting to get into their full classes? Think about how you can partner with them. Chances are they are just as good at selling to colleagues as students. At AWC, our professor of welding is a salesperson who understands the value of entrepreneurship. He’s embedded entrepreneurship courses in all of his degree and certificate programs, and he’s sold his colleagues in the other trades areas like carpentry and HVAC on adding entrepreneurship courses to their programs as well.
It is easy to lose focus when trying to get an entrepreneurship program off of the ground, moving from one idea to the next in hopes of growing it sufficiently. The reality is that getting a program to reach a tipping point takes time. By finding and focusing on the mavens, connectors, and salespeople at your school and in your community, you’ll shorten the time it takes and substantially increase the impact of your marketing efforts. Let the entrepreneurship epidemic begin!