CIA Students Think Like—and Learn from—Entrepreneurs
CIA bachelor’s students who take the Intrapreneurship concentration are decidedly entrepreneurially minded. Um, what? It means they’re interested in starting their own business (“entre”), or they want to apply that same drive to launch new products or operations within a corporation (“intra”).
In their Introduction to Corporate Ventures course, students learn about leadership styles, customer expectations, competitive analysis, globalization, business organization, and product development with Assistant Professor of Business Management Anthony Chando and a series of guest lecturers.
“We bring in a well-balanced portfolio of professionals who have a variety of experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives,” says Professor Chando. “They’re able to share the excitement, benefits, and challenges of an entrepreneurial venture.”
Corporate Ventures students recently benefited from four such business professionals, who visited the class to share their insights:
Get a mentor
Meeting with a SCORE mentor is a great first step to getting your idea off the ground. According to volunteer mentor Yogi Singh, a 44-year tech professional, SCORE is a nationwide organization affiliated with the U.S. Small Business Administration, and its mentors provide free confidential advisement for both startups and existing small businesses.
“SCORE sets you up with a mentor that is the best fit for you,” says Mr. Singh. “They’ll help you understand things like risk factors, customers, competition, strategy, and financials, and assist you with your business plan, vision, and mission.”
Asking for a show of hands from students interested in starting their own business, Mr. Singh then asked the future entrepreneurs to share their idea with the class. He probed with a few questions and then offered suggestions to each. In parting, he stressed: “Start with a good idea. Then, establish a business plan and modify it as you go along.”
Protect your business
A former attorney who specialized in intellectual property, Jennifer Mercurio is now president and founder of Eleanor’s Best LLC, maker of artisanal jams, jellies, preserves, and marmalades.
After sharing her story of how Eleanor’s Best came to be, Ms. Mercurio talked to the students about the business formation process, emphasizing the importance of protecting yourself and your enterprise with an LLC. She also talked about her product branding and packaging, which included a jar design that she had patented.
During Q&A, students quizzed her more about how to launch a business, and how she built relationships and got her products into Whole Foods and other outlets.
Connect, connect, connect
One of the most important factors for small business success is being connected to other local businesspeople. So says Frank Castella, president and CEO of the 1,500-member Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Mr. Castella explained that you can find a Chamber of Commerce—which helps with economic development and advocacy on behalf of small businesses—in communities across the country.
“One of the biggest benefits of joining is having the opportunity to network and develop face-to-face relationships,” he says. “Because who are you more likely to trust with your money and your business—someone you connected to online or someone you know personally?”
Plan, package, and market
The discussion was lively and questions plentiful for Paul Halayko, president and chief operating officer of Newburgh Brewing Company, a full-scale production brewery.
Mr. Halayko talked about the explosive growth and increased competition that the local craft beer segment has seen since Newburgh Brewing opened in 2012. It’s one of the reasons he’s adamant about having a well-thought-out plan before you start. “I can’t stress enough how important it is to write a business plan,” he says. “It helps you clarify your vision and ensure financing from banks and investors.”
Smart packaging and branding are also vital. “Packaging is the first line of communication to the consumer,” Mr. Halayko says. “You’re conveying the style and the ABV [alcohol by volume], but you’re also telling the story of the beer.”
He urged students to take advantage of no-cost marketing channels like social media and cross-promotional opportunities with other local businesses. “Take all calls, answer all e-mails. It will cost you only time.”