Center for Entrepreneurship
Notis Pagiavlas, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Marketing
Reynolds Center, Rm 102A
Created in the Fall of 2006, the WSSU Center For Entrepreneurship falls within operational purview of the School of Business and Economics and is focused on meeting the regional demands for entrepreneurship training. In this effort, the Center has focused on course offerings, academic research and outreach programs designed to provide specific training on-campus and on partnerships to provide entrepreneurship training throughout the regional community. The mission of the CFE is:
“To operate as a catalyst in the creation and dissemination of entrepreneurial knowledge through education, research, and community outreach programs. We contribute to the economic transformation of the broader region, especially focusing on the needs and circumstances of urban, minority, and economically disadvantaged populations. We accomplish our mission by encouraging and supporting aspiring entrepreneurs to become successful, ethical, and socially conscientious business leaders.”
With this in mind, the Center For Entrepreneurship (CFE) will provide a broad spectrum of academic training. Faculty will be invited and supported to create new entrepreneurship courses in both undergraduate and graduate levels. They will be reflective of current minority research and evidence. The first activity might be a faculty brown bag luncheon to discuss the process and seek feedback from colleagues. The intellectual stimulation that comes from intra- and inter-disciplinary work has to be harvested and supported in this early stage of transformation. The next step will be a relevant conference presentation with the requirement to share with the campus community upon return at least 3-4 interesting facts. The final state will be a refined journal submission or even better, a series of published studies.
This project will create peripheral pedagogic materials that will benefit our students with more relevant information and pragmatic circumstances. For instance, African American entrepreneurs have limited access to capital because of shorter financial histories, and more importantly because of very low if any, accumulated family wealth. Finance strategies should be tailored to these findings. In every domain of entrepreneurship that coves the foundations of business, our courses will be fresh, relevant, and creatively proper. In weak areas of research we could establish our presence by defining the agenda and methods. For instance, the psychological complexities of entrepreneurship are rarely examined, especially among minorities.
Another tangible benefit of this scholarly work will be the creation of a program we humbly call “prelude in E-minor.” It will be designed as a process of creating four courses (either one at a time or concurrently), covering the foundations of creating and running a new enterprise. The “prelude” will be followed by a “concert in E-minor” series including the four completed new courses. The remaining two designed as Practicum, will apply directly to a project or idea a student has, especially outside the school of business. This minor program could be attractive to all of our students and naturally lead to a “symphony in E-minor.”
To promote and standardize another medium to disseminate knowledge, a WSSU based business plan competition will encourage and support activities that lead to a pro forma business plan. The best will be provided further support to prepare for a campus-wide judged competitive session with scholarships going to best 1-5 plans. The highest one will go (with all expenses-paid) to the annual OFC National Challenge to represent our institution among other sister HBCUs. The next logical step will be a similar process to strengthen the program further and blossom to a “Symphony in E-Major,” a very pertinent and critical degree in North Carolina.
As a key outcome of this process, faculty supervisors will coordinate the preparation of a business plan that will reflect a student’s future aspirations. In WSSU and other places, the most exciting business ideas come from outside the traditional schools of business. Our nurses could create social entrepreneurship projects with downtown wellness centers. Our music graduates could create, record, and produce their own and others’ creative work. The potential on campus and the immediate region is enormous. The projects with the highest potential will be provided incubator space in downtown building(s) to create and nurture their programs under our guidance. In the same location cohabited by our Center For Community Safety, we could provide a very visible and meaningful presence in the heart of the city. We are very hopeful that a solid outreach program will attract attention and inspire support from many sources.
The accumulated knowledge, exposure, prestige and credibility will give us the framework we need to establish a model entrepreneurship program. Then we could get the closer attention of foundations, corporations, and alumni in inspiring support. Thus, our strategic approach is to strengthen our educational and research activities before we expect significant external support. This does not mean that we will not pursue aggressively external opportunities. To the contrary, the CFE will be active this year having already submitted to Kauffman Foundation two distinct and separate ideas as “Letters of inquiry.” Many more are to follow in the coming months with different audiences, with the firm belief that some of them will be awarded. However, with the proper internal developments, our story becomes more interesting and worthy of a second look. Fund raising on solid ground is much more efficient than promising programs without evidence of past success.
Along with considering fund-raising, we must also consider the importance of community partnerships. This allows us to meet the regional demands for entrepreneurship training and to leverage funding opportunities for initiatives based on those partnerships. We have formed partnerships with local organizations such as the Winston-Salem Urban League to explore ways that we can assist African-Americans seeking training and preparation for starting a business. In so doing, we are considering ways to leverage partnerships with other community organizations to provide a full spectrum of the needs that entrepreneurs need as they prepare their business ideas. This includes market research, identifying funding, obtaining funding, and other facets of entrepreneurship that go beyond the classroom.
We have also partnered with economically challenged communities and counties peripheral to Forsyth county. One example of such outreach is Mt. Airy’s invitation to determine ways that we may assist with their efforts for economic revitalization. A community that has a population of just over 1,000 people, it has recently lost roughly 1,000 textile and manufacturing jobs; WSSU has a clear mandate and obligation to find creative ways to assist and leverage limited resources. In a meeting with the mayor, the town manager, and the economic development director for the city, it became clear that they envision many ways that WSSU may assist them in economic recovery, including offering our support services at their to-be-constructed community center. The WSSU Center for Entrepreneurship will continue to explore the possibilities for assistance through this partnership. Closer to our community, we have developed relationships with critical civic, religious, and political leaders. The Director of CFE is already member of Boards and regional teams that explore ways to transform the region to a knowledge-based economy reflective of the true circumstances of the region. We approach economic development as a very complex social issue that ultimately affects lives beyond economic domains; it becomes an issue of quality of life.
For instance, one of our critical projects to facilitate community outreach is the creation of a "satellite" Center for Entrepreneurship in downtown Winston-Salem. Its focus will be to accommodate urban and rural populations in need of support, but with no easy access to campus facilities. In there, in co-habitation with the Center for Community Safety and other WSSU Centers, we will provide a number of valuable services including business analysis, economic strategy, legal awareness, community development services, financial planning and reporting, health care planning, governmental contract and public services, and numerous more that would be identified as awareness for our services becomes widespread. Without being necessarily a "project" per se, one of the most ambitious and inspiring ideas would be the creation of the "Institute of Regional Transformation" that would have a tremendous impact on the future of outreach programs and community involvement for WSSU and the region. The Institute will operate as an overarching umbrella of the Centers of Community Safety, Entrepreneurship, Financial Services, Health Disparities, Economic Policy, Community Development, and any more new ones we are inspired to create in the future. The downtown location will be a centrally located and efficient means to leverage our resources. We can share costs and expertise and become a significant player in the State's approach to the new era. Plus, the title of the Institute gives us the chance to reinvent or refresh its focus based on environmental changes.
A hypothetical example of a project that might capitalize on the Institute:
A minority construction worker considers the start up of a local company to undertake private and governmental contracts by hiring local workers, preferably from underprivileged populations. The Center for Community Safety (CCS) provides an analysis of demographic population details by geographic concentration, construction activity, and profitability of existing operations. The analysis identifies a potential corridor that the Center for Community Development (CDC) approaches for renovation through acquisition and management. The Center for Financial Planning provides a framework to incorporate strategies to strengthen creditworthiness, financial planning, project financing approaches, cash flow projections, projected investment options and returns, and report preparation. The Center for Health Disparities (CHD) provides a low-cost alternative to prevention and basic care, a serious impediment to small business creation. The Center for Legal Support (CLS) advises on issues relating to legal affairs, worker’s law and compensation issues, and bonding requirements. The Center for Entrepreneurship (CFE) provides advice on every aspect of opportunity identification, business planning, marketing strategic research, and incubator space for the first 12 months, until the future site of the corporation is ready. The incubator space will be fitted to provide comprehensive support in space, equipment, and communication options at reduced symbolic “rent” rates. The Center for Economic Policy (CEP) will provide fundamental analysis of industrial trends and governmental programs that support and promote regional economic and social development. This exact scenario would apply with modifications to a local talented artist in graphic design, to a restaurant start up, to an urban fashion designer, to a grocer, to a farm cooperative, to every possible dream and plan for revitalizing and transforming the region to a new era.
Those of the highest quality, commitment, and future promise will be supported with incubator space for the most critical stage of new entity creation – the first 18 months. The CFE through the efforts of the Dean of the SBE has already purchased materials, computer equipment, furniture and supplies to support the first cohort as soon as the new location is established.
To leverage regional resources, during the last 12 months, we have developed very strong ties with institutions and individuals that share our common mission to uplift our region and populations that go through a very traumatic transformation. For instance, with our colleagues at UNCG we plan on infusing undergraduate research components in most business courses supporting small business in the region and formation of new enterprises. We have also developed collaborations with Wake Forest medical researchers to address the need for food retailer alternatives in urban areas. We will examine the relative disparity of such institutions and the implication of marketing strategies by fast food organizations in the same areas. The health
Whether through academia or through direct community engagement, the Center has an excellent opportunity to support the paradigm shift that many communities are facing in North Carolina, especially in the Piedmont Triad Region. To accomplish this goal, the Center needs the continued support of external and internal funding along with the support of related academic programs. With this support, the Center is poised and ready for meeting the demands of the region.