Posted by: Tom Ross | September 28, 2012

The Education of the Entrepreneur: Part Two

Can entrepreneurship be learned? In Part One (see below) of our series, The Education of the Entrepreneur, we looked at some of the debate surrounding this question and others. The Entrepreneurship in Education Conference, “Launch it! Grow it! Move it!” that took place in Fresno earlier this month provided more perspectives and answers to consider.

There were many fascinating speakers and presentations at the Fresno Conference—from business people to entrepreneurship instructors. To see what you missed, check out the conference agenda.

The keynote speakers included Caroline Cummings and Jason Gallic from Palo Alto Software, Arel Moodie from Empact, Kelly Matthews from the University of Oregon, Scott Gerber, the Young Entrepreneur Council and Fix It America, and remarks by Michael Roessler, State Director of the Business & Entrepreneurship Center and Dr. John Welty, Cal State, Fresno.

Caroline Cummings, Palo Alto Software

Caroline Cummings is a dynamic serial entrepreneur.  She is the vice president of Marketing for Palo Alto Software, which developed the number one selling business planning and management tools, LivePlan—business planning and management tools students and new entrepreneurs will find very useful—as well as Business Plan Pro, and Sales and Marketing Plan Pro. Ms. Cummings co-founded entrepreneurial programs at the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce, including Smart-Ups Pub Talks and the Southern Willamette Angel Network. She also helped create entrepreneurial programs in Southern Oregon including the Southern Oregon Angel Investment Network and Angel Conference through a contract with the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network. Since then her most recent venture, RealLead (mobile marketing for the real estate market) sold in early 2012.

Her fearless tales of entrepreneurial failures and successes are an inspiration to students and new entrepreneurs who about to make the leap–and made the rest of us (well, me) feel like slouches. She is at the level now where she can give insider advice on the initial big decisions a new business requires—like choosing the right co-founder or legal team or how to spend your money wisely. Ms. Cummings spoke on the ten reasons most entrepreneurial startups fail. The top reasons (and solutions) are:

  • You have assembled the wrong team
    — Reevaluate your people and their skill sets.
  • You assembled the wrong legal team
    — Go with your gut when picking lawyers.
  • You took dumb money
    — Know your investors before they invest.
  • You are stuck on your original idea
    — Be flexible: an idea is a living thing, let it evolve.
  • You aren’t paying attention to your customers
    — Ask, listen, implement, reward, and thank!
  • Founder-itis
    — Know when to step down when your business outgrows you.

Arel Moodie, Empact

Another speaker at the conference was Arel Moodie. Mr. Moodie was recognized by USA Today as a Top Generation Y Entrepreneur. He is also a well-known and sought-after professional speaker on entrepreneurship and the co-owner of The Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour, an organization that brings top young entrepreneurs to colleges and universities as well as other organizations to help “spread the entrepreneurial mindset.” He is the author of “Your Starting Point for Student Success,” a book he says helps students “get through college, not just TO college.” His story is compelling—from his youth in a Brooklyn project to beating the odds by going to college, starting his own Internet company, and becoming a professional speaker as well as a bestselling author. He is also a partner with the company Empact, which coordinates entrepreneurship events nationwide.

Mr. Moodie stressed that one of the most important things you can do as an entrepreneurship teacher is get better at promoting your own successes. Put up photos in your classroom of you with celebrities. Add your framed awards. Make connections with local media and be sure your students’ events are covered. And for the love of Pete (Mr. Moodie would say it this way), make your FaceBook page a celebration of your work, your accomplishments, and your successes as well as those of your students.

What Richard Branson’s mom taught him (see Part One), he has parlayed into the Virgin Group of over 400 companies worldwide. He has written a lot on the lessons he’s prepared to teach about entrepreneurship—including his book, Screw It, Let’s Do It. But he does at one point summarize it thus:

To be a successful entrepreneur:

                1. Live in the moment: be decisive and keep the momentum going.
                2. Have fun and love what you’re doing.
                3. Give back: make philanthropy one of your major goals.
                4. Never give up, never surrender!

All of these shared stories and lessons are good ones – the advice seems sound. But the question that follows is, if entrepreneurship can be taught, how should it be taught? We’ll cover that in Part Three of this special series, The Education of an Entrepreneur, to catch the perspective of one more speaker from the Entrepreneurship in Education Conference, “Launch it! Grow it! Move it!” and then include the perspectives of some of our colleagues doing this very thing.

Stay tuned for Part Three: When Entrepreneurs Become Teachers


  1. […] Parts One and Two of our feature series, The Education of the Entrepreneur, we addressed the current debate around […]

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