This school year I am serving as the assistant director of the UNCG Coleman Fellows program. Professor Dianne Welsh continues as our hard-working program director. She will be teaching in Vienna as a Fulbright Scholar next spring semester, and so I will probably help with the writing of our final report and serve as local support for the three newest UNCG fellows. I’m also now a “veteran fellow” and will teach my ENT/GEO/LIS 530 class a second time in the spring.
On Friday, August 15, I joined Professor Welsh and the three new UNCG fellows (representing the Public Health Education, Kinesiology, and Hospitality & Tourism departments) in flying to Chicago for the 2014 Coleman Summit. I blogged about the 2013 version, which I attended as a new fellow. The format of the 2014 summit was very different. It ran from noon on Friday until 5pm on Saturday, with a networking dinner Friday night at the Morton Arboretum. The location was a hotel on the western edge of Chicagoland near the arboretum, not downtown at McCormick.
Whereas the 2013 day-long summit focused on a Drucker training program, the 2014 1.5 day version was centered on discussion, networking, and training provided by the program directors, veteran fellows, and Coleman Foundation officers.
I’ll reflect on two events at the summit: attending the program directors’ discussion, and co-teaching feasibility analysis to fellows from across the country.
The directors’ discussion was facilitated by the president of the Coleman Foundation. Each Coleman Fellows campus has an official director, who usually is the entrepreneurship program chair or coordinator on his or her campus. Assistant directors also attended the discussion. It was very interesting to hear what these folks had to say to each other behind closed doors.
The directors discussed success stories and frustrations on running cross-campus campus entrepreneurship programs. Funding (not surprising) was a concern at most campuses. The directors shared stories of influencing the provosts and chancellors and trying to work with the campus development offices. I can’t provide specific examples, but was reminded how mellow the politics and conflict in my library are compared to what goes on at some campuses or business schools.
The directors emphasized the value of telling stories, not just collecting statistics. One director emphasized the need to provide value-added content through social networks, not just PR stories; she asserted that the content posted from the entrepreneurship program or business school should be 60 to 70% value added, at least. As the only librarian in the room (and the only one at the summit once again), I joined in the discussion of the alt-metrics of social networking, a discussion that came out of the stories discussion. But mostly I just listened.
During this session and later in the summit, I grew to appreciate how open and helpful the directors were to any fellow who approached them.
On Saturday morning, Professor Welsh and I provided two sessions of a two-hour workshop we titled “Teaching Business Models & Feasibility Analysis: Precursors to the Business Plan”. From the summit program:
Through examples, discussion, and hands-on exercises, Dianne Welsh and Steve Cramer of UNC Greensboro will introduce the business model and feasibility analysis as preliminaries to creating a full business plan. A business model establishes a blueprint for a business idea, while a feasibility analysis determines if the idea is viable. They will also review core strategies and sources for the market, industry, competitive, and financial research that should go into feasibility studies. Fellows will have a chance to sketch business model and feasibility ideas relevant for the students in their academic backgrounds.
Our slides are available from libguide I created for the event. The guide also includes documentation and notes from my ENT research class.
Prof. Welsh began the workshops with explanations of the business model, feasibility analysis, and business plan, and described how those three activities can fit into different types of entrepreneurship classes. There was some discussion about the workload and merits of each. We had several law professors in the first round who got into somewhat spirited but civil disagreements with each other regarding intellectual property.
I concluded each session with discussions and examples of research topics and strategies. (We didn’t have time for the capstone idea.)
This was new to me: training professors from other campuses. Some of the profs were new fellows (getting ready to add entrepreneurship to an existing course or creating a new one); others were veteran fellows; the remainder were program directors (the only folks there from business departments). I had my laptop, wireless access, and projector. Being in a hotel conference room, there were no white boards; I used a blank Word document as a canvas for our brainstorming and list making.
Most of the participants didn’t have a machine and were instead taking notes. There were around 25 folks in each session. To summarize:
- Most of the profs were not from a business department (instead backgrounds in arts, sciences, engineering, and law were common);
- Most were new to business research;
- I couldn’t make any assumptions about databases available on their campuses.
As an introduction to NAICS codes and industry research, I asked the fellows to list all the industries associated with “shoes”. In the process we defined supply chains and contrasted some of the big sectors like manufacturing, retailing, and professional services.
We began the consumer marketing discussion by making a list of ways to segment consumers. They had no problems coming up with a bunch of demographic variables, and also brought up lifestyles and behaviors. We took quick looks at 2010 Census and American Community Service data and at the BLS for consumer spending. I showed some quick examples from DemographicsNow and SimplyMap to introduce the value of private market research and analysis. We discussed where the psychographic data comes from (ex. surveys and scanner data).
One of the directors knew BizMiner. He mentioned that database when a fellow asked about researching emerging or niche industries that don’t conveniently fall under any 5- or 6-digit NAICS code.
As we wrapped up, I reminded the participants that our libguide covered additional feasibility research topics and encouraged them to contact me with any follow-up questions or idea. In both sessions, the fellows seemed very interested, readily participated in the discussions, and asked good questions.
The second workshop session ended at 1pm for lunch.
Feedback and wrap-up
The Coleman officers heard some feedback that my research workshop was very useful but really needed a lot more time. The foundation provided an assessment survey of the summit that included a section on the workshops, but I haven’t seen the results yet.
Later in the day, when I met new people, I heard “Oh, you are the librarian!” several times. Fame or notoriety?
I met one professor of music and computer science who was in a moderately well-known indie band I enjoyed seeing in Chapel Hill during my library school years.
The five folks from UNCG landed in Greensboro Saturday night at 10:30pm. (Professor Welsh and I enjoyed bonding with the three new UNCG fellows.) We were all very tired, and had classes beginning on campus the following Monday. But the summit was a good experience.