This Insights comes from Dr. Stephen C. Harper. Dr. Harper is the Progress Energy/Betty Cameron Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship at UNCW. He is a best-selling author, award-winning professor, entrepreneur, former president of four organizations, consultant, speaker, and seminar leader. He has written eight books on leadership and entrepreneurship. His latest book, “Here’s to the Crazy Entrepreneurs: Is Entrepreneurism a Mental Disorder?”, was published last year. He earned his Ph.D. from Arizona State University and has been a visiting professor in Duke’s Executive MBA program.
Entrepreneurship has always involved finding gaps in the marketplace where people’s needs are not being met. These gaps – often defined as problems – represent opportunities. Someone once noted, “Within every problem lies at least one disguised opportunity.”
When Brett Martin, co-founder of Castle Branch and UNCW’s resident entrepreneur, speaks to entrepreneurship classes at UNCW, he notes that opportunities arise when there is pain or significant change in marketplace. Through our major in entrepreneurship and business development, as well as our minor in entrepreneurship and innovation, our students are taught to scan the marketplace for “pain points.” They recognize that the greater the pain, the more people are motivated to purchase goods or services that reduce or eliminate the pain – or to solve the problem.
Our students are also taught to look for opportunities that arise with changes in the marketplace. They know that entrepreneurs who sense changes, or better yet anticipate them, and position their startups to seize the opportunities associated with change increase their chances for success.
Our students learn that the best entrepreneurs have numerous qualities that separate them from the “wannabes.” Our faculty and guest speakers often note that the best entrepreneurs are like Sherlock Holmes in that they create and maintain customers by identifying problems and providing innovative solutions. They are the status-quo “killers” and use innovation to change the way the game is played so their competitors are irrelevant. They are the Star Trek explorers. They boldly go where no one and no firm has gone.
Entrepreneurship education is in UNCW’s DNA. Most business schools jumped on the entrepreneurship bandwagon in the late 1990s when the Internet created a whole new world for startups. Yet, UNCW started teaching entrepreneurship nearly 20 years earlier.
UNCW’s approach to teaching entrepreneurship goes well beyond textbooks and lectures. Our students benefit from guest speakers, the Entrepreneurship Club, Entrepreneurs’ Roundtable, Cameron Executive Network, Innovation Concept Pitch Competition, Entrepreneurship Fast Track program, Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, TekMountain at Castle Branch, Innovation Challenge, Entrepreneurship Case Competition, Entrepreneurship Shadow program, Entrepreneurship Advisory Board, Entrepreneurship Week, Business Week and WITX.
Most of our entrepreneurship classes involve “applied learning” projects that give our students the opportunity to analyze business situations, tap databases and apply analytics, and harness the speed of the Internet and the power of social media to develop products, services, business models and businesses that capitalize on opportunities.
If the proof of the pudding is in the eating, then the proof of the efficacy in UNCW’s emphasis on entrepreneurship is in the increased:
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