I often like to paraphrase that great English statesman and warrior, Winston Churchill, who stated "Never, ever give up..." If that isn't the best war cry of the entrepreneur, I don't know what is. As a self-proclaimed "pureblood" entrepreneur, I really do "walk the walk" and have especially done so these past several years. Starting in 2006, I taught my first class in the field of entrepreneurship, as an Adjunct at the Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University. I called the class, "Ready, Fire, Aim" and those 19 students ignited my interest in education in a big way.
I was invited back by Dean Mark Jacobs to teach and oversee four classes that second semester and our enrollment grew to 94 students. My "Barrett Honors Entrepreneurship Program" was gaining great traction and I had high hopes to expand the entrepreneurship curriculum throughout Arizona State University. Naively, I reached out for what I thought was a logical ally, the W.P. Carey School of Business and was soundly trounced as a "non-academic," teaching what would surely prove to be a "fad," according to their Dean. I was disappointed but not beaten.
At the urging of the principals of the Phoenix-based Grand Canyon University, I laid out my ambitious plans to create the unique College of Entrepreneurship, hopefully at their university. I shared my disillusionment at ASU's short sightedness at not working with me on what promised to become a unique differentiator and real asset to their school and we fashioned plans to go ahead together.
Eight months after our first meeting, Grand Canyon University was the first school in the country to offer a College of Entrepreneurship. That was January, 2007. The first students followed me from ASU over to GCU on a full academic scholarship and I set about creating the pipeline of new students to enroll in our new school. Aside from giving me this great opportunity, GCU really didn't commit any effort or resources to market our school but I was wholly committed, so I spent my own money to pave the way for the Nation's first College of Entrepreneurship, figuring that their success was my success.
Along the way, the little-known Grand Canyon University started getting some seriously positive press because of the new CoE. We were written up in the venerable WALL STREET JOURNAL, CNN Money wrote about us, along with scores of other periodicals and online sources that were very interested in the "NEW Business School" model that I invented. Only 6 or 7 months after the school's start, FORTUNE Small Business Magazine named GCU's College of Entrepreneurship as #2 out of the top 5 entrepreneurship programs in the United States. I promptly mailed the story to ASU'S Dean to share with him how my "fad" was doing!
The program at GCU gained great traction and I enthusiastically threw myself into the project. I had created a revenue share arrangement with the school and based upon the anticipated future income, I started spending tens of thousands of dollars on new lead generation software and campaigns as well as advertising in targeted publications for the new school. All this came for naught because after only a few more months I received a termination notice of our deal together, citing the lack of student enrollment. This was ludicrous because we had only just gotten started. I learned of the real motivation for this months later when GCU became the only public offering in 2009 and raised their cap rate to over $1.5B. Apparently, they just didn't want to share.
I went to my attorneys to discuss what had happened and they gave me invaluable advice, "get over it and move on." GCU had way too much money for me to fight back but they couldn't take away the fact that I founded the country's first College of Entrepreneurship and despite what Grand Canyon University claimed, it was very successful. I decided, at my attorney's urging, to find a compatible school, that would actually sign my contract, and start another College of Entrepreneurship. I took this advice to heart.
I am now the Dean and on a contracted rev share basis with the accredited online school called Andrew Jackson University in Birmingham, Alabama. I was made the Chancellor of the new College of Entrepreneurship at Southern States University, which just received their accreditation status. SSU is in San Diego and we're now working on another of their schools which has it's own law school and we're discussing forming the country's first JD/MBA in Entrepreneurship together. I'm also working on a new CoE in Michigan and am even in discussions with the local Indian Nation to open up our program at their university.
As an eternal optimist, (read: entrepreneur) I know that when tough things are thrown at you, it is important to see them as opportunities and that you must "Never, ever give up!"