Really solid post from Dr. Jeff Cornwall of Belmont University on whether more students were choosing entrepreneurship given the recent recession. There are some amazing things in his post given that Belmont is a small, private university and it underscores the importance of strong entrepreneurship programs with hands on faculty and effective entrepreneurship centers:
Each year we usually see about 15-20 new businesses started by our undergraduate students. Mind you, they do this in the midst of taking classes and often while also working part-time.
This year we have seen a tripling of new practicing student entrepreneurs. We went from 18 last year to 54 this year. Keep in mind that these students are not just our majors. They are coming from all across our campus from many different majors.
In my mind that is amazing. Read his entire post as it is well worth it and inspiring.
Is the Entrepreneurial Generation Willing? – The Entrepreneurial Mind.
Jeff Cornwall, Prof of Entrepreneurship and writer of The Entrepreneurial Mind blog, provides an update on one of his former MBA students. From Jeff’s blog:
Congratulations for Pathfinder Therapeutics, Inc. (PTI), a medical device company focused on the development of “surgical GPS” systems for the abdomen, announced that it has closed on a Series A financing. Everyone in Nashville is excited that this company will be growing right here where the technology was born.
We at Belmont are particularly proud about this announcement as Dr. Jim Stefansic, COO of Pathfinder, is an alumn of our Massey School MDA program! It was a pleasure to be able to work with Jim on this project in its early stages while he was a student in my classes.
Great to see that students are taking the knowledge gained on campus (not to mention the great talent, such as Jeff Cornwall) in order to launch new firms. Congrats to PTI and Belmont U.
Early in ’08 we blogged about Belmont University being named the ‘model’ undergrad entrepreneurship program in the US. Donna Fenn has written about Belmont over at Inc.com. From her piece,
The school has three “hatcheries” or incubators, where 65 students operate businesses with access to mentors and business center services. Belmont has also invested several hundred thousand dollars in six on-campus student-run businesses, five of which are in the black. There’s a dorm store, a public relations firm, an audio production company, a graphic design shop, and a clothing store that serve not only the university but the greater Nashville community
What does your school offer for entrepreneurs? Does your school push you to be an entrepreneur, either on campus or after graduation? Its not uncommon for school leaders to be unsure how to make this change in mindset. As Fenn continues,
All of this, of course, is wildly different from the way entrepreneurship was taught even as recently 5-10 years ago. Far fewer undergrads studied entrepreneurship and those who did were typically bogged down in theory and core requirements until junior year. Now, says Jeff Cornwall, who runs the program at Belmont, “it’s a whole new world.” Fully 40% of undergrads come to Belmont with businesses already started – an astounding number. “
Last week this blog discussed the changing nature of business plans (a la Tim Berry) and whether business plan competitions truly teach the students anything about really using the business plan as a tool.
Belmont Prof and blogger Jeff Cornwall investigates focus on business plans in a great post/reaction to BusinessWeek’s recent entrepreneurship special issue. I had not even seen the issue, but judging from Cornwall’s write up, I may not have missed much. From Cornwall’s post,
It is as if we are telling aspiring entrepreneurs that once they unlock the secrets of the business plan, the world of entrepreneurial wealth will come pouring out at them.
Sorry, but this is just not true.
On the other hand, there is now a debate raging as to whether we should even teach entrepreneurs about business plans. a growing number of experts now fundamentally question whether business plans even matter. It seems that some data suggests that business plans have no impact on the overall success of entrepreneurial ventures.
All of this — and I mean both sides of this debate — is missing the point.
Are business plans all you need to know to unlock the door to success? Of course not.
Is writing a business plan a complete waste of time? Also, not true.
So why do we teach about business plans? It is because they are a way to help organize what can be a complex and overwhelming array of issues. It is because it forces us to integrate our marketing plans, or operating plans and our financial plans into one, coherent story. It is because we need to put it all down on paper to make sure that we have thought of all of the important stuff that goes into a successful start-up. It is because business plans have become the standard for communicating about a business to those with money.
I have come to believe that unless you are really going out to raise serious funds from institutional/professional new venture investors, a formal business plan is unnecessary. Which underscores Cornwall’s questions on why so much focus is placed on writing business plans?
Belmont University in Tennessee, where Jeff Cornwall teaches and blogs out of, has just been named ‘model’ undergraduate entrepreneurship program by US Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Here is the blog post from Jeff. I don’t know much about the school or the program, but Jeff is one of the best writers out there on entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship programs.