Thoughts On Entrepreneurship

Summer is winding down. School is ready to start. A change in leadership, which seems to be really good, an unexpected loss of a colleague, starting of new programs, and revising old ones, all point to a very interesting, and difficult, year.

Christine Tokonitz, a faculty member, friend, and colleague, died suddenly yesterday. She was the brains behind our Health Care Administration program, and the heart of our department. She will be missed. Dr. Reginald Nichols is my new boss, and if my meetings with him over the last few weeks are any indication of his leadership skills, I am a happy camper. He is an incredible leader who will help our school rise to its potential.

I am looking forward to the many improvements I have devised for my classes this year. However, the one I want to focus on this morning is the Capstone course for the Social Entrepreneurship major. I don’t want our program to end up like the Moxie Center for Student Entrepreneurship at the University of California. It closed at the end of the June, “having finally run out of other people’s money.” I read about this during my morning reading time.

It appears that a San Diego philanthropist named Irwin Moxie donated $1 million to fund student start-ups. According to Ken Kuang “UCSD no doubt sees the Moxie Center’s 2 ½ year run as a great success.” It helped many young entrepreneurs bring their ideas to implementation. The only problem was the Center did not sustain itself. “The Moxie Center, while promoting the entrepreneurial spirit was run like a charity, in that it didn’t seek any returns on its investments in student’s enterprise.” When I read this, I felt like I awoke out of a deep sleep. Wow, this makes total sense.

Ken Kuang illustrated this failure by noting how the Center was not teaching the students about win-win. “Win-win means that both parties in a transaction come out of it feeling satisfied that they got a fair shake.” What this means is the school should have been investing in these students with the expectation of a return. However, Kuang pointed out some other deficiencies.

It appears that the center was not emphasizing the right things related to running a strong business. Things like profit-and-loss statements, “covering payroll taxes, worker’s compensation, and other basic costs.” There also seemed some issues with understanding overhead costs and how much to pay one’s self. As I read this editorial I pondered what to do with our Social Entrepreneurship program?

Ken’s comments about growing up in China really got me thinking. “Too many U.S. business schools are focused on producing future leaders for big corporations and Wall Street firms – not equipping people to venture out on their own.” I think this makes sense. However, it has been my experience that most students don’t want to venture out on their own.

Ken stated that business schools in China are focused on “the basics of running a small business and how to create a profitable company. They want to pull as many people out of poverty in as short a time as possible, and they know the rising tide will lift the most boats is the small business community.” This is why I think our Social Entrepreneurship program is so important.

Mr. Kuang is doing something about this need in San Diego. He and a few other entrepreneurs are creating internships for budding entrepreneurs. His actions have me thinking. Any entrepreneurial program should involve action learning not just theoretical discussions. I also think the connecting of entrepreneurs with mentors is critical. However, I also think the practice of gift giving is not a good thing. I think a program needs to teach the student about dealing with investors.

I have already made changes to the Capstone project for this year, that I think will improve the process, and now I am planning to do more, which I am sure I will write about over the next few weeks. I am very excited the Social Entrepreneurship program, and I know it will be even better this year. I guarantee it.

And that is my thought for the day!

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