My first experience in teaching anything, let alone entrepreneurship, occurred at Arizona State University's Barrett Honors College in late August 2005. Dean Mark Jacobs was kind enough to let me teach my own version of entrepreneurship in a course I only half-jokingly named "Ready, Fire, Aim."
Inevitably, I was queried by more than one student who wanted to know "What's in it for you?" You see, all Adjuncts teaching in Barrett Honors College Enrichmnt Program instruct pro bono. Why would a decidedly capitalistic businessman take time off from his for-proft ventures to teach 20 undergraduates each week, for free?
Let's go back to the year 1976, when yours truly started at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Enrolling in all of the required freshman subjects, I spied a 4th year Management elective course in the McIntire School of Commerce, entitled "Entrepreneurship." Reading about this unique offering (in 1976, only 4 schools in the country had any entrepreneurship courses), I wanted in. The only problem was that the course was offered only to 4th year students enrolled in McIntire and I wasn't even eligible to apply to the McIntire School of Commerce for two more years.
Did I let that stop me? Of course not! I promptly petitioned my way into the course and after the professor had me get up in front of the rest of the class and explain how I, a lowly first year student, felt that I should be permitted to take this fourth year course, I was in. This course called for each student to come up with an original idea and then develop a business plan to bring that idea to market.
For my project, I picked importing mopeds into the U.S. from Europe and taking advantage of the new Federal legislation that allowed the individual states to allow any automobile licensed driver to ride a moped, which opened up the new niche business of moped rentals in America. That project earned me an "A" in the class but more importantly, my professor took me aside and said that my business idea had a great chance for success and that I should take advantage of the window of opportunity before me. I was sold and that summer after my first year of college, at the tender age of 19, I entered into the world of entrepreneurship on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts.
Fast forward to thirty years later, after learning many hard lesons and paying very high "tuition" involving over 100 business start-ups, I had plenty of "content" for teaching my own brand of entrepreneurship. Barrett Honors College gave me that first forum and I owe a debt of gratitude to both Dean Jacobs and the 100 plus students that I had the honor of teaching that first academic year.
That first semester's class of twenty students grew to over ninety students in the second semester with four separate classes. After the little "challenges" I had with some of the more traditional members of academia at ASU caused me to think about teaching elsewhere I was spurred to even bigger and better things. I decided to start my own College of Entrepreneurship and negotiated a strategic alliance with the private Phoenix-based Grand Canyon University to become my academic partner. On January 11th, 2006, I opened this Nation's first fully accredited College of Entrepreneurship at Grand Canyon University.
Why do I teach entrepreneurship is the question we come back to. Well, for starters, entrepreneurship is my passion and after experiencing the pleasures and challenges of engaging a roomful of bright and eager young minds teaching that subject, I'm hooked.
Secondly, this country was founded by entrepreneurs - no 401Ks or benefits packages for those brave souls coming over on the Mayflower. Students today have seen their parents "short sheeted" by Corporate America with layoffs and outsourcing. There is no more gold watch and pension awaiting those entering America's corporate workforce any longer and if we don't start embracing our natural born American innovation there won't be any America left either.
Teaching entrepreneurship to our youth is of paramount importance and I'm not talking about having a so-called educator, who never had to meet a payroll, teaching entrepreneurship out of a book, either. I'm talking about a bona fide "teacher-entrepreneur" educating our youth with practical subject matter and lessons learned from real life experiences taken from actual businessmen and women.
Finally, like all of us, I want to leave my mark on this world and teaching young people to help light that fire in their hearts and souls is how I want to do it. If I can be responsible for only one young person taking his or her idea and through undertaking a well-honed and practical curriculum, turning that fledgling idea into an actual business that supports the entrepreneur, his or her family and contributes to growing our Nation's economy, we will all have won.
Now, providing a state-of-the art entrepreneurial education is my mission. I have one College of Entrepreneurship in place with hopefully many more to follow. My Institute For Entrepreneurship (www.instituteforentrepreneurship.com) has also recently developed a comprehensive Certificate of Entrepreneurship, which will allow any person interested in starting their own company to learn every step of the way and all online.
There's much more to do and I'm just getting started but I'm loving every step along the way!