What Should a College of Entrepreneurship Be?

by francine Hardaway on May 1, 2007

I have been struggling with the concept of how to use a college environment to educate students about entrepreneurship all year, as I work with Peter Burns on the College of Entrepreneurship at Grand Canyon University. I’ve been thinking in my head about what the curriculum should be, and I welcome your thoughts. here are my (very) rough ideas.

First of all, the first two years of core liberal arts requirements are a must. No one can start a company in a vacuum, even with a good idea. Then comes the nitty gritty, and I think it must be consumed by the student in this order, most of which is derived from the Kauffman Foundation’s FastTrac program. This is a terrific program, although I think it is difficult to adapt to a university atmosphere because it was made for adults. But having been a professor, and a FastTrac facilitator, I can visualize all this. I can’t, however, fit it neatly into Bloom’s Taxonomy :-)

1.What does it mean to be an entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurship v. jobs. Micro-entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, technology commercialization, real estate, professional services. What does entrepreneurship mean in any and all of these? This program involves guest resources from all of these segments.
2.Developing a concept. This is a “rip-off” of a class taught at Stanford, where students are given problems, or an assignment to come up with a problem themselves, and figure out how to make money solving it. They are also “seeded” with $20 a team to start the business. This is a workshop.
3. Market Research. What’s a market anyway? Nobody knows how to do this, and many businesses fail as a result. This will be a semester of researching either your own concept or one what is given to you, using both primary and secondary research. The outcome of this is to understand how to do your own market research or hire a firm to do the actual research you want done.
4. Accounting and finance 1 – financial feasibility and financial tools. Accountants, bookkeepers, and controllers — what are they? These are financial analysis sessions, in which everyone’s concept is tested for financial feasibility using the real tools entrepreneurs use. Every entrepreneur should know how to read a balance sheet, a financial statement, and a cash flow statement. The second half of this course is a financial module.
5. Getting your idea to the product stage. What’s the difference between a concept and a product. Producing a prototype. Figuring out whether you have intellectual property, and how to protect it if you do. This is a combination of product development and law.
6. Writing a marketing plan. How do you get a product to market with no money? This is the second half of market research.
7. Branding and communicating the brand. Building the brand into the company from the beginning. Using marketing and advertising, social media, guerrilla tactics, and PR. Differentiating among them. Getting a real return on your investment in them.
8. Building an organization: Advisory Boards, Boards of Directors, hiring, firing, EEOC rules, HR concepts, corporate culture.
9. Building an organization: Leadership and motivation. Principles of management. This is the second part of corporate culture class.
10. Operational risk management. Insurance, being sued, getting the right legal entity set up. All aspects of corporate law and insurance.
12. Information technology in business. ERP, Contact management, Sales Force Automation, dashboards, business intelligence, knowledge management. What are these, and when do I need them?
13. Writing a business plan. After considering all these other issues, you are ready to write a business plan. This could be a senior thesis. Requires a lot of instruction in writing and editing.
14. “Putting the Numbers Behind It”Cash flow, profitability and metrics. Outside sources of funding and finance. This is the second half of “Accounting for Entrepreneurs” above. This will involve preparing real spread sheets and projections for a real business as though you were going to present to a funding source.
15. Presentation skills and networking. How do we get this thing off the ground? Investor pitches, friends, family and fools, etc.

None of these are “classes.” They are all labs. There are only fifteen because I imagine people will want to have some electives. The labs should be facilitated by an entrepreneur/mentor, not a professor. There’s nothing to profess, although there’s a lot to share. The dynamic of the group is as important as anything else, since the group can consist of customers, strategic partners, employees, vendors, financing sources. Who knows what people will be in the future? The class should be a network that will go forward into “real life.”

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Sean Tierney May 1, 2007 at 4:20 pm

Francine, that’s an excellent list. Other topics of importance that come to mind:

-Negotiations- while this is an artform, good negotiating skills can be studied and learned. It’s critical both from the perspective of getting the best deal for what you want and disarming people that use negotiating gambits against you. Ed referred me to Roger Dawson’s audio series and I’ve found it invaluable. I posted a mindmap of the notes here-> http://www.scrollinondubs.com/2006/09/11/the-20-gambits-of-power-negotiating-mind-map/

-Viral Studies – I would argue that this is a topic unto itself separate from guerilla marketing tactics. Bloggging and Podcasting is one thing but embedding a viral component into your offering creates a huge advantage if you can do it.

-SWOT – swot analysis needs some place in this list whether it falls under market research or it’s own category. This tool was hugely valuable to us in the early stage when we didn’t know what we were doing.

-Hiring (or better put: delegating) – knowing when to recognize the time economics of a situation that make more sense to outsource or bring in another resource.

-“Bootscrapping”- the art of living lean. you alluded to it but I believe it extends beyond reducing company burn rate- a key precondition for us being able to JumpBox was Kimbro and I reducing our personal burn rates to below $2k/mo.

sounds like an awesome course… i wish it existed 10yrs ago when i was in school ;-)

francine hardaway May 1, 2007 at 4:37 pm

I hope it will exist some day. I don’t think it does now. I did forget sales and negotiations. Thanks!

danny May 2, 2007 at 11:18 am

How about a section on creative thinking. Thinking outside the box, generating ideas. Perhaps, Edward DeBono material.

Eduardo Olvera May 3, 2007 at 4:26 pm

Along the lines of creative thinking, I would suggest including something for “Inventive Thinking”. There are methodologies out there such as TRIZ and ASIT whose main focus is the generation of *creative* solutions and not compromises (e.g. I reduce my cost by sacrificing quality). In particular, I love the idea about a ‘closed world’ where you need to think about how to solve a problem using the elements within the problem itself – therefore you’re not allowed to add anything else from the ‘outside world’ (which in an Entrepreneurial setting could mean how to solve a problem without adding more money)

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