By: Lexie Newhouse
John Ray of Business Radio X sat down with Jackie Davis, Associate Director of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute, to learn more about ENI’s offerings and influence on the Georgia State University campus and local Atlanta entrepreneurial ecosystem. To quote Ray, “Where was all this cool stuff when I was in school?” echoed by a “No kidding!” in response to hearing about ENI’s uniquely-crafted experiences and opportunities for students and local startups.
What is the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute?
The Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute located at Georgia State University develops student entrepreneurs by blending the education and application of entrepreneurship. We have several academic degree programs in different areas of entrepreneurship, and we host regular courses, events, workshops, guest speakers, and competitions.
What kind of academic degree programs does Georgia State offer?
One of the differentiating factors of Georgia State’s entrepreneurship programs is that we feature general and industry-based entrepreneurship programs. We partner with the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies to offer a program focused on social entrepreneurship for those who want to lead in the nonprofit, social enterprise or governmental spaces. We have a program in Media Entrepreneurship for those students interested in game design, augmented reality, virtual reality and film production. We also have a major and a minor in Entrepreneurship through the J. Mack Robinson College of Business. There’s even a biomedical enterprise track for those research scientists interested in commercializing their research.
What differentiates Georgia State’s entrepreneurship programs from other universities?
All of our courses are open to the entire Georgia State student population. That’s different from most universities – usually entrepreneurship is only tied to the college of business. By nature, our programs are interdisciplinary and reflect the real world because we have business students mixed with art majors, psychology majors, education majors and more! We believe that any student in any industry can be an entrepreneur!
What have you modeled your courses and programming after?
While we offer small business and franchising support, we’ve modeled our classes around the LEAN startup methodology. Our co-curricular activities build a community of student entrepreneurs at Georgia State, offering one to two events a week, open to all students. Our programing follows the best practices of successful Atlanta area co-working spaces, incubators, and accelerators.
Many people tend to be skilled at a particular discipline, but not necessarily business. How is ENI addressing this void?
That’s the main goal of our minor in entrepreneurship. Any undergraduate student working towards a degree at Georgia State can declare our minor, which consists of five courses in Entrepreneurship. The program compliments the skills that they’re already learning in their industry. We believe that entrepreneurship is more than just starting a business though. Entrepreneurship is a mindset that can be applied to a range of disciplines.
What does that mean to have an “entrepreneurial mindset”?
The first course we teach our students is “Entrepreneurial Thinking for Startups” where students take a business idea, form teams, and spend three to four months of the semester developing that idea using the Business Model Canvas all the way to succinct business pitch. For us, entrepreneurship a way of thinking and acting – It’s about solving problems regardless of industry and developing unique and innovation solutions for those problems.
Now ENI recently launched E-House. What’s E-House?
E-House is a living learning community in the University Commons, which is one of our residence halls on campus. We built the program about two years ago, and I’m excited to say that this year we have 48 beds available in the Commons. It’s an entire floor dedicated to student entrepreneurs. On that floor, students have a dedicated study lounge with flexible furniture, whiteboard walls, and technology. It’s swipe card access only, so think Delta Sky Lounge.
How do students become involved with E-House?
In order to be in E-House, you have to apply. There’s no additional cost to those students. It’s included with their regular housing costs. We also host special programming for those E-House residents, so they reap the benefit of living, learning, and connecting with other student entrepreneurs or aspiring student entrepreneurs.
What kind of programs has E-House offered in the past?
We’ve had guest speakers visit, eat pizza in the lounge, and talk with students about what it’s like starting a business. We’ve also taken students on trips to co-working spaces like Switchyards, which is just two blocks away from campus, and taken a tour of their facilities. It’s all about giving students exposure to what could be when they leave Georgia State, places where they could rent hot desks or even an office. We’ve also gone to Atlanta Tech Village for their “Student 2 Startups” internship fair, and many of our students have secured internships with some of those startup companies. Being a part of E-House is bridging the gap between the classroom and what goes on in the real entrepreneurial ecosystem in Atlanta.
Are these programs open to people within the business community?
For people who may want to continue their education, we do offer that degree in Biomedical Enterprise at the master’s level. For business folks who might be interested in earning their MBA, we also have a concentration in entrepreneurship. It’s focused a little bit more on “intrapreneurship” and being innovative and entrepreneurial within large organizations. On our campus, we have a Small Business Development Center (SBDC), and they provide consulting and educational training to Atlanta area entrepreneurs. The SBDC is primarily focused on assisting business owners with business plans, marketing strategies, and accessing capital. For more information, visit SBDC.robinson.gsu.edu
How can local entrepreneurs give back to support students?
At Georgia State, we have organic relationships with business owners. Considering Georgia State’s location alone, we’re a part of the fabric of Atlanta’s business district. We would love to engage with all our alumni. As you can image though, there was no check box for “entrepreneur graduates” at Georgia State until now. We are looking to connect with Georgia State alumni who want to get involved with our entrepreneurship programs, whether it be speaking to students as a guest speaker or even hosting a workshop if they are a subject-matter expert.
What mentorship or internship opportunities are available to students and how can local entrepreneurs become involved in those programs?
We are developing a mentoring program for students in our business incubation course. We’re looking for subject matter experts and mentors. We also engage with the business community. Sometimes businesses have specific projects that are searching for outside perspectives to identify innovative solutions. We welcome those kinds of projects to bring real world experiences to our students. Many local entrepreneurs also connect us with internship opportunities for students at their startups or companies. We’ll take any contributions whether it be time, talent, or treasure. For anyone interested in becoming involved, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now you’ve done a lot of work in supporting women entrepreneurs. What kind of programs does Georgia State offer to address this?
Before my role with the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute, I helped establish a program in the Robinson College of Business called the “WomenLead Center.” The center itself actually just had its grand opening last week. The WomenLead Center was initially a course for undergraduate female students who are interested in excelling to leadership positions in the corporate, nonprofit and sciences sectors. They now have a signature experience program where students receive coaching, mentoring, attend workshops and learn about biases that women deal with in business – Not just what others put on them, but biases and limitations they put on themselves in the business world.
We’ve blended my passion for women with my colleagues at the WomenLead Center and our department, the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute, to host a “Women in Entrepreneurship” panel every fall and spring semester. We have about 250 seats in the auditorium, and every year, it sells out. We have students mixed in with entrepreneurs and community folks and friends of Georgia State. We’re always looking for women to feature either on that panel or as a guest for other events.
As Ray put it, “There’s no excuse to not get connected!” – So be sure to follow ENI on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn at @ENIGSU to for the latest events and news updates!