The Entrepreneurial University
The Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship leads Florida State University into a new culture of business innovation.
At the February 2010 meeting of the Florida State University board of trustees, his first as president, Eric Barron said he wanted to claim a territory that no other university could. It would be student-centered, he told the trustees, and would boost donations — no small matter given that Barron was charged with raising $1 billion.
He also introduced a few students who had helped cater the meeting, proprietors of Hey, Cupcake, a start-up incubated at the Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship in the FSU College of Business.
“It was a nice way of visualizing what he wanted to do,” said Amanda Chamberlain, who had stayed up all night baking the treats.
Chamberlain and her partners — Carlos Solares, Jeff Boyer and Matthew O’Connell — were part of the Moran Institute’s Sophomore Experience, which accepts 40 students a year and helps them create and manage a firm. Her favorite professor, Jim Dever, had told Barron about Hey, Cupcake, which the new president soon hired to cater a tour of his official residence.
“It really got our name out there,” Chamberlain said.
Now, as Barron’s vision for FSU takes shape, entrepreneurship is at its heart. Not just an entrepreneurship program, which he says has become “fairly typical” at institutions of higher learning, but a cutting-edge concept like JMI’s, which gives students start-up funds, office space, mentoring by gifted local business people and coaching by a dynamic faculty. It serves roughly 1,000 undergraduates and 200 businesses yearly, boasting a youth development program, the new guest lecture series “Advice Straight Up!” and now E-Week, a campus-wide celebration of entrepreneurship in mid-September. A national conference is in the works.
“What distinguishes Florida State is the extent to which we’re looking at this as incubator programs,” Barron said, “and the extent to which we’re assisting companies.”
Companies like Hey, Cupcake, with its cinnamon-bun and peanut-butter-and-jelly flavors; TaxiTab, a pre-paid credit card accepted by cab companies; Moolaguides.com, a web exchange where students buy and sell class notes; and custom T-shirt printer Ignite Apparel.
“It’s not academic experience,” said retired IBM executive Steve Evans, a member of the Institute’s advisory board. “It’s beyond chalk talk. It’s ‘Here’s the ball, get on the mound. You’re pitching in ten minutes.’ ”
Sophomore Experience, begun in 2009, is the essence of this credo. Although the College of Business accepts only third- and fourth-year students, Sophomore Experience allows those chomping at the bit to enter the marketplace that much sooner. And while few of the 2009 student ventures were able to pay back their start-up costs, the second-year class recouped most of theirs — of the 13 firms built in 2010, 11 were profitable.
“It’s really nice to be surrounded by 39 entrepreneurial minds,” said John Sears of Tarpon Springs, who started working in his father’s carpet firm at age 12. Sears’ mother talked him into attending college, he said, on the grounds that “a four-year degree is pretty much what a high school diploma used to be. If it was up to me and my dad, I’d be out selling carpet right now … (But) I feel that I’m truly learning a lot.”
Explained Matt David, a sophomore from Jacksonville, “There’s not too much theory about it. You have to go out and fail a couple of times.”
Growing more entrepreneurial
Then there’s the JMI ChemPreneur program, which pairs faculty and doctoral students with business majors who can help turn their research into sales. Over the academic year, JMI students might learn about stroke-drug development, protein separation or micro-reactor systems, while the university’s scientists learn the basics of marketing.
“The awesome part of ChemPreneur,” said senior Justin Heacock of Lakeland, “is to be able to work with these people in biology and chemistry who are geniuses but don’t know about the business side. To me, business is the most creative thing you can do.”
Barron, in fact, is adamant that the entrepreneurial philosophy can be applied to any academic discipline, even one as counter-intuitive as, say, music.
“Music: If you’re going to be successful, you’d better be able to package it and market it and go forward not just on your talent, but because of what you’ve done to make yourself successful,” he said, “and to have access to all those people who would be listening or watching you.”
To be truly unique, according to Barron, FSU’s entrepreneurship can’t be limited to a few programs, however effective; it must be comprehensive and campus-wide. His strategy calls for an integrated learning environment of classroom instruction, student and faculty business incubators and residential housing with entrepreneurial outreach services. Entrepreneurs-in-residence and other scholars would conduct research, inspire creativity and drive technology into the future. And JMI’s formula of seed money, office space, expert coaches and angel investors would spread across campus.
“Then you can claim to be the most entrepreneurial university in the nation,” Barron said. “And I think you distinguish yourself from all the other business schools that have added entrepreneurial classes.”
In this, Florida State is riding the “zeitgeist,” a German term meaning the “spirit of the times,” given the U.S. economy’s shift from institutional to individual business models. In the 1960s, the 500 largest companies in the world — the “Fortune 500” — employed 80 percent of the U.S. labor force; today less than one in 14 Americans work for these firms. Small businesses took up the slack. According to the FSU “entrepreneurial university” project led by College of Business Dean Caryn Beck-Dudley, of the 34 million jobs created by U.S. businesses between 1985 and 2005, 90 percent were generated by companies less than five years old.
“The need for entrepreneurship to create value has never been greater,” said JMI Executive Director Tim Holcomb.
In Florida, entrepreneurship is even more prevalent. Fully 99.7 percent of the state’s 2.15 million resident businesses have fewer than 100 employees, according to the FSU project, and provide 82.4 percent of the state’s 8.47 million jobs. That’s higher than the national rate of 98.2 percent. Eight percent of Florida’s workforce is self-employed.
“Entrepreneurs embody the promise of America: the idea that if you have a good idea and are willing to work hard and see it through, you can succeed in this country,” said President Barack Obama in January, announcing an initiative called Startup America. “In fulfilling this promise, entrepreneurs also play a critical role in expanding our economy and creating jobs.”
Barron is planting his flag on “the entrepreneurial university:” student-centered, as he promised his trustees, and a magnet for donors, starting with Jan Moran and the Jim Moran Foundation, donors of the lead gift of $4.25 million last April. (The Morans had already given $5 million since endowing JMI in 1995.)
“If you’re going to raise a billion dollars and people are going to donate to it, you have to have transformative ideas,” Beck-Dudley said. “No one’s going to give you that type of money unless you’re going to transform the university.”
Evans is a believer. “I guarantee it’ll help with prospective donors,” he said. “To me, there is no question that FSU will meet, if not exceed, its billion-dollar issue.”
Incubating at JMI
To understand what JMI does, said Holcomb, you have to understand the late Jim Moran. Staked by $360 from his mother, he bought a gas station in 1939 and made it the most profitable Sinclair franchise in Chicago. When he moved to South Florida, he built the largest Toyota distributorship in the world. In 2000, having launched JMI five years before, he and his wife Jan made the Jim Moran Foundation, which has poured $20 million into education and community programs.
“When he was a youngster, he had no one to mentor him,” said Holcomb. “So when he made his first investment here at Florida State and endowed the Jim Moran Institute, his focus was outreach.”
That outreach has touched every part of the state with services and research, from elementary school students to military veterans with disabilities. In its 16 years, JMI has served 3,000 businesses in Northwest Florida, mostly in the Big Bend. It offers one-on-one consulting, executive mentorship and round-tables in which business leaders discuss what’s worked and what hasn’t in their respective shops.
Evans said the founders’ legacy is a values-based system of entrepreneurship that is constantly referenced in board meetings. “It’s a grounding mechanism that causes you to always say, ‘Is this what the Morans intended and would be proud to have happen?’ ”
Hands On Learning
Tim Holcomb, JMI’s executive director, oversees myriad programs that serve 1,000 undergraduates and 200 businesses a year. The program’s outreach has touched every part of Florida with services and research.
“The need for entrepreneurship to create value has never been greater.” — JMI Executive Director Tim Holcomb
More than half of college students want to run their own venture, according to JMI, and its students can’t get the words out fast enough to describe the Institute’s impact on their lives.
“Sophomore Experience is the only class I was excited to wake up every day for,” said David Russell, a junior from Coral Springs.
“I really did produce,” recalled Jean Paul Rodriguez, now transferred to Georgetown. “Employers right now are looking for multi-taskers. It’s a leg up from everyone else.”
Added Eric Fritz, a junior from Clearwater, “The competition pushes you.”
JMI’s faculty boasts such well-known names as Entrepreneur in Residence Ron Frazier and columnist Jerry Osteryoung, the director of outreach services. Evans praises the entire staff. “Everyone in that organization is so doggone committed.” Certainly they’re keeping a dizzying pace, advancing the entrepreneurial university on every front.
Dever has had a profound effect, with students calling him “the best professor I ever had” and “an amazing mentor.” He owned a dozen businesses — trucking and construction firms, motels and restaurants — before retiring at 41. At 50, he returned to Florida State to complete his bachelor’s degree in 2003 and his MBA in 2004. His master’s proposal on entrepreneurship in the former Soviet Union won a Fulbright Scholars Award, allowing him to travel to teach at a Kazakhstan university and counsel local entrepreneurs. In 2009, he completed his Ph.D. at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland.
“He has this ability to pull a student,” said Rodriguez. “He’s more like a football coach in the way he motivates you.”
Students love that Dever has given them all his phone numbers, asking only that when they call his home, they are gracious to his wife. They love that he’s experienced all the business disasters they’re ever likely to encounter, including the theft of 50,000 pounds of sugar.
“We take the mistakes and turn them into a learning experience,” Dever said. “And if you can do that, you’re going to find success … It’s the kids doing the right stuff. I let them go and they are successful.”
JMI students also say that networking — with their peers as well as with the many successful business people who mentor them — is one of the most valuable parts of their education. The common area of the Student Business Incubator is full of shop talk; the students help each other as well as compete.
“Entrepreneurs are all about making contact,” said Russell. “I have referrals left and right from everybody in my class.”
Sears, who daydreamed in school about his job at the family firm, said a successful entrepreneur has “a drive and a passion for work. A lot of people think they can own a business and hire people to work for them, but it doesn’t work that way. An overnight success takes a long time.”
Said Holcomb, “Sometimes you have to remind them, ‘School first.’ ”
“That’s what entrepreneurs do”
No one is more gratified by the Jim Moran Institute’s success than Caryn Beck-Dudley, who as dean of the College of Business oversees it. At a meeting on Barron’s “big ideas” campaign, a discussion of JMI with other deans turned into the entrepreneurial university brainstorm.
“People are very, very excited,” she told the Institute’s advisory board in June, “because it really does have the ability to transform not only Florida State University, but how large public research universities operate in the country.”
JMI Program Highlights
The Mission: To cultivate, train and inspire entrepreneurial leaders via world-class education, leading-edge research, applied training, consulting assistance, mentorship and public recognition.
» The Student Business Incubator, a hatchery space that supports up to eight early-stage student ventures. It helps students launch new businesses to the point that they can
operate independently and connects students with mentors
from the faculty and business community.
» The new ChemPreneur Technology Commercialization Experience, which offers business students the chance to
work with doctoral students on innovations that can be
patented and marketed.
» The Youth Entrepreneurship Development program, through Junior Achievement, which has trained 9,000 Leon County students in workforce readiness, financial literacy and entrepreneurship. (79 percent of students say they felt encouraged to continue their education as a result.)
» The JMI “Advice Straight Up!” national conference and
high-profile speaker series, which kicked off in August 2011.
» E-week, a mid-September slate of meet-and-greet and challenge events — posing the question, “What’s Your Big Idea?”
» The outreach program helped 300 businesses in 2010.
» The entrepreneurship program has trained 120 degree-seeking undergraduate majors and 300 business and non-business students pursuing certificates in entrepreneurship.
» The Junior Achievement program trained 1,650 Leon County high school and middle school students in 2010 — 9,000
» The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans has graduated more than 300 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. (Although technically not part of JMI, it receives much of its support from
» The Sophomore Experience and ChemPreneur programs have launched 33 student-led businesses.
» In its second year, the ChemPreneur Technology Commercialization Experience was the runner-up for the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship
2011 Innovative Entrepreneur Education Course Award.
» JMI was accepted for membership in the Leadership Circle, a group of 20 prestigious university-based centers in the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers.
» Has awarded more than $15,000 in prize money through student competitions.
Having spear-headed another COB contribution, on risk management, to aid Barron’s efforts, Beck-Dudley acknowledged that changing the status quo can be a gamble.
“It is risky, because large public research universities have long traditions, long histories of how they operate. And frankly, they’ve been very, very successful,” she said.
“That’s what entrepreneurs do,” someone called out to her.
“That’s what entrepreneurs do,” she agreed. “You step out.”
Beck-Dudley met with the FSU Foundation board of directors and called the entrepreneurial university a $250 million idea, given the campus-wide need for staff. She also noted the complexities of FSU’s position.
“That is the challenge: to clear the hurdles for a university that comes under a legislature, comes under a governor, that has several boards governing it and is very large and very complex,” she said. “But I think we can do it.”
There’s much more to do. In March, the Student Business Incubator won a Jessie Ball duPont grant for services to minority student entrepreneurs. Research shows that African American and Hispanic-operated businesses are under-represented and face greater survival and growth hurdles. The grant will establish mentoring and consultation programs tailored to meet the needs of minority-led businesses.
Then there’s the question of whether JMI’s approach can be taught online, a discussion Dever said is underway.
Perhaps Florida State’s most tempting asset, though, was the second game of its 2011 football season: the Sept. 17 showdown with Number One-ranked Oklahoma. Televised nationally in prime time, with ESPN’s “College GameDay” crew at Doak Campbell Stadium all day and people coming from across the country, what better time to kick off E-Week?
Beck-Dudley, an entrepreneur contemplating her competitive advantage, happily viewed the game as an opportunity to leverage football to launch the school’s new entrepreneurial concept to 90,000 people. “You only get one Oklahoma game.”
WHO IS JIM MORAN?
James Martin Moran, the biggest Ford dealer in the world, made the cover of Time magazine in 1961. He was 42 and entrepreneurship was in his blood. At the age of seven, he’d sold soft drinks to the crowds at sandlot baseball games near his Chicago home. When his father died in the depths of the Depression, the teenage Moran took an after-school job at a service station. He never went to college. Fascinated by cars, he borrowed $360 in 1939 to buy his own station, which became the most profitable Sinclair outlet in the Windy City.
Moran built both Hudson and Ford dealerships into the world’s largest.
“He personally sells more than 1,000 cars a year,” reported Time — this despite a sales force of 94. “Moran seems to shine with so much sincerity and belief that his cars are the best (‘the most gorgeous car that you have ever seen’) that almost every customer feels he is getting the same deal that Moran would give his own brother.”
He was a natural for television, pioneering its use to sell cars. Known as “Jim Moran, the Courtesy Man” — after the name of his business — his upbeat manner and folksy mien were such a hit that in one local poll he even beat out Ed Sullivan.
Moran went on to found Southeast Toyota Distributors (JM Family Enterprises) in Deerfield Beach, Fla. The company was honored as:
» No. 29 on Forbes’ list of “America’s Largest Private Companies”
» No. 16 on Fortune’s list of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” (on the list 14 consecutive years)
» No. 3 on Computerworld’s “100 Best Places to Work in IT”
He and his wife, Jan, established the Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship in 1995. In 2000, they set up the Jim Moran Foundation, which has invested more than
$20 million in educational and nonprofit agencies in Broward, Palm Beach and Duval Counties. Moran, a billionaire and a member of the Forbes 400, was:
» Awarded the prestigious Horatio Alger Award in 1996;
» Awarded an honorary doctorate by Florida State University in 1997;
» Inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Mich., in 2005.
Jim Moran died in 2007 but earlier this year, Jan Moran made a
$4.25 million lead gift to Florida State University to expand the programs at JMI. Having already given $5 million to the Institute, the Morans are among FSU’s top all-time donors.
“Throughout his life, my husband, Jim, believed that everyone deserved the chance to succeed,” said Jan Moran. “Knowing that hard work, encouragement and the right opportunity could change a person’s life, he created The Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship to impact the future for small business owners and innovative entrepreneurs.
The Institute has been doing that for 16 years by providing services and resources free of charge to emerging and growing businesses.
“I know he would be very proud of FSU’s continued commitment to his vision for an Institute that would foster the spirit of entrepreneurism and the many lives that have been changed because of it — and the many more, in communities around the world, that will benefit for years to come.”