How do you describe entrepreneurship?
“Entrepreneurship is the process of starting a business, working for yourself. An entrepreneur looks for opportunity, thinks about what could go in this vacant storefront or what could be built here. An entrepreneur is someone who can see what has been done, and thinks about how they can do that a little bit differently, how they manage resources for financial gain.”
Why has Meredith added these programs?
“Entrepreneurship is the fastest growing discipline in Schools of Business worldwide. We are also seeing general interest in our own students. More than 70 of our students made reference in their application for admission about wanting to start a business. Eighty percent of high school students are saying they are interested in one day owning a business – that’s dramatically up over generations past.”
What are the benefits of learning entrepreneurship in an academic program?
“If you have a business idea, and you decide you want to forgo college to jump into the business, you’re going to gain skills quicker, but you also have a greater chance of failure. The majority of businesses fail within the first two years, often because of inadequate business planning. Our students will understand why businesses fail. They will learn how to plan and learn how to mitigate those risks. Those are lessons we can teach them in a classroom so that perhaps they wouldn’t make the same mistakes that they would have in the School of Hard Knocks.”
What about the family business aspect of the program?
“Entrepreneurship and family business was designed very purposefully for our student population because we have a lot of students who come from family businesses that they have the opportunity to take over some day. There are very different dynamics to a family business than one you start yourself, especially when you start getting into the second or third generation of a family business.”
How will students gain the needed skills?
“They have to make it real. I don’t want to talk theory, or hypotheticals. If they say they don’t want to open their business until 2028, let’s start planning now. Let’s use 2028 as an ideal startup date. If they think about it being real, they approach it from a different perspective that puts them into an environment in which they are able to learn. They are not just studying vocabulary terms with the intention of passing a test, they’re studying concepts with the intention of opening a business. What we intend in Venture Management, which is the third course in the sequence, is that it will be a hybrid of an internship and a class. The students will spend two hours a week in a business, we’re hoping to partner with businesses, and then they’ll spend an hour in class. They’ll have assignments, but they’ll be shadowing for 30 hours, getting that hands-on experience.”
What makes Meredith a good option for entrepreneurs?
“Large research institutions typically focus on high growth businesses — like Tesla, Facebook, those usually associated with tech. What we are focusing on are long term businesses. If you are a student in dance, interior design, computer science, marketing, or communication, and you want to open a dance studio, a marketing firm, a design firm, or some kind of lifestyle business, we help you open up a dance studio and run it for the next 30 years. That’s our focus. I think that fits very well with the type of degree programs that we already have on campus. We want liberal arts students to come and do entrepreneurship. We blend well with those programs across campus where the students are creative thinkers. We help them build a business out of those ideas.”
How does Meredith foster an entrepreneurial environment?
“We want it to be hands on and experiential. Last spring we hosted an elevator pitch challenge, where the students had 32 seconds to pitch their idea. We did a quick pitch night, like speed dating. We had eight alumnae business owners who spent five minutes with each student and they got to pitch their business idea, and get feedback. This was all part of our social entrepreneurship challenge. We want to have events that students from across campus, whether they’ve taken an entrepreneurship class or not, are able to do. Our hope is that it is contributing to the culture, and allowing students to think about themselves as business owners.”
How can Meredith graduates support the program?
“We want to have alums involved. If you have business ownership experience or have worked in a family business, and you want to help, I can use you. You can come speak in class, or write a case study for me, be a judge for the entrepreneurship challenge, or talk to students during an event. I’d love to have a mentorship program and connect every student that comes through this program with an alumna business owner.
I study entrepreneurship, I’ve met with more than one hundred entrepreneurs to talk about their business ideas, I’ve started a business, and my family had a business, but I don’t know everything. I’ve never been a part of a family business that’s a third generation where I was potentially competing against my uncle to be president. I’ve never tried to get a product into Whole Foods. I’ve never had a stake in a multi-million company. It’s just impossible to know everything – there’s too much to it. But our graduates do. What we can do is take that community approach to entrepreneurship. Everybody wins.”
Think you have a great idea for a business?
Nathan Woolard, assistant professor of business at Meredith College, explains how to determine if your idea could result in a successful business in a new episode of The Meredith Minute. youtube.com/meredithcollege