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Entrepreneurs Can Learn it All in School
CEO Fosters U Program

Entrepreneurs Can Learn it All in School

Colleges and universities are giving young entrepreneurs a head start on their startups

Entrepreneurship education is hot. In 1975, U.S. colleges and universities offered about 100 “formal” entrepreneurship majors, minors and certificates, according to the Kauffman Foundation. By 2006, there were more than 500. There are almost certainly more today.

Minnesota’s colleges and universities are doing their part to help put the state on the map as a vital startup community. We asked representatives from five programs to describe their offerings.

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

Program(s): Entrepreneurship Major, Entrepreneurship Minor, Kabara Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies
Director: Dr. Thomas Marpe, Dean of Business and Technology
Notable Alums: Dr. Jon Kabara ’48, Kabara Institute’s namesake and founder of school of osteopathic medicine (at Michigan State U.); Dr. Bill Hendrickson ’39, chairman of St. Jude Medical and co-founder of Saint Mary’s Hendrickson Institute for Ethical Leadership

St. Mary’s is a coed Catholic university with four Minnesota locations: the main campus in Winona, two extension campuses in Rochester, and an urban outpost in south Minneapolis. Its entrepreneurial hub is in Winona, where undergrad entrepreneurship majors and minors mingle with fellow liberal arts and sciences scholars. The adjacent Kabara Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies is a microcosm of entrepreneurial culture, with business competitions, speaker series and resources for tech entrepreneurs.

From Dean Marpe: “Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in Entrepreneurship [major] and an entrepreneurship minor on its undergraduate, residential college campus in Winona, Minnesota.

“In addition, Saint Mary’s University is home to the Kabara Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies. This 12-year-old Institute offers much programming that enhances the major and minor curriculum and is a learning resource for all students and the entire community. The Kabara Institute has offered and continues to offer programming and events such as the Business Idea Contest, Elevator Pitch Competitions, Entrepreneur-in-Training Program, business plan workshops, entrepreneur speaker series, an Internet of Things event and more.”

Minn. State University Mankato

Program(s): Entrepreneurship and Innovation minor, Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship
Director: Dr. Brenda Flannery, Dean of the College of Business at MNSU Mankato
Notable Alums (College of Business, all majors): Glen Taylor ‘62, current Minnesota Timberwolves owner and former assistant Minnesota Senate Minority Leader; Mark Davis ’63, chairman of Davis Family Holdings (holdings include Cambria and Sun Country Airlines); Darren Cotter ‘04, founder of InboxDollars;

Launched in 2014, Mankato State’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation minor is a relative newbie. But it’s ambitious: the United Prairie Bank Integrated Business Experience (IBE) is a semester-long, real-world, deep dive into the nitty-gritty of running one’s own business — complete with a real business loan and (potentially) real profits. The off-campus Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship bridges the town-gown divide.

From Amy Linde, COB Director of Communication and Events: “The Entrepreneurship and Innovation minor is a relatively new academic program in the College of Business, established in 2014. The minor is for any student, from any discipline, who wants to explore and implement ideas that create social, environmental or economic value. From an engineering major developing the next energy-efficient vehicle, to the sports management student learning to coordinate events, to the artist wanting to open their own gallery, the Entrepreneurship & Innovation minor is developed to help prepare students for what lies ahead in the working world.

“The hallmark of the minor includes the popular United Prairie Bank Integrated Business Experience, a semester-long experience where students create and operate their own real start-up companies. Throughout the semester, they organize the company, create a business plan, apply for a business loan from United Prairie Bank and manage the business. At the end of the semester, all profits are donated to a non-profit organization of their choice.

“In addition to the minor and the IBE experience, our students have the unique opportunity to work on their business ideas or with regional businesses at our new Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship. The Center is located off-campus in downtown Mankato and features space and programs designed to bring students and business people together in a variety of ways.”

University of St. Thomas
Program(s): Schulze School of Entrepreneurship (Opus College of Business) — entrepreneurship majors and minors
Director: Laura C. Dunham
Notable Alums: Zachary Quinn and Brian Keller ’15, cofounders of Love Your Melon; Susan Johnson ’85, ’95 M.B.A., President/CEO of Magellan Medical Technology Consultants; Joe Keeley ’03, founder of College Nannies & Tutors

Housed within the Opus College of Business, St. Thomas’s Schulze School of Entrepreneurship throws promising first-years right into the fire with its Freshman Innovation Immersion, a summer boot camp for high achievers. Entrepreneurship majors and minors are encouraged (okay, forced) to start their own businesses. With six figures in cash prizes and scholarship funds on the line, the most ambitious entrepreneurs can profit handsomely here.

From Laura C. Dunham: “The Schulze School of Entrepreneurship serves as an innovation hub for the full University of St. Thomas community, offering an Entrepreneurship major, an Entrepreneurship minor for non-business majors, and a forthcoming Social Innovation Minor (the latter of which will be offered in conjunction with two other departments in the College of Arts and Sciences).

Our belief is that learning the tools of innovation and entrepreneurship can serve as a vehicle for transformative education, unlocking the entrepreneurial potential of all St. Thomas students and providing each student with the skills and confidence they need to challenge the status quo, craft better solutions, and create enduring value in whatever field they choose to pursue. The unifying theme is enabling students to combine their own knowledge, experience, interests and insights with new skills around entrepreneurial action in order to build careers around solving problems that matter to them and to society. Students have the opportunity to practice what they are learning in their courses by participating in a variety of extra-curricular activities that include the Fowler New Concept Challenge and E-Fest Business Plan Competition, weekly Practicing Entrepreneurs meetings, the student club Entrepreneurship Society, and Design for America projects. Our students participate in national programs for innovators and entrepreneurs, such as Clinton Global Initiative University, the Hult Prize and Stanford University Innovation Fellowships. And our entrepreneurs make an impact in our local community — one survey currently in progress suggests that our alumni of the last decade have generated in excess of $200 million in revenue and hundreds of full- and part-time jobs.”

Metropolitan State University
Program(s): Bachelor of Science in Entrepreneurship and Innovation
Director: Pat Borchert, Management/Entrepreneurship/HR Management Chair
Notable Alums (College of Management): Alhaji Samuel Sidique Sam-Sumana, former vice president of Sierra Leone; Carl Eller, former Minnesota Viking; Sandy Pappas, long-serving DFL senator and former President of the Minnesota Senate

Metro State’s B.S. in Entrepreneurship and Innovation is brand new — so new that, with apologies, program administrator Pat Borchert wasn’t able to provide us with a list of notable graduates. We’re confident that the program’s grads will go on to do great things in the years ahead, though.

From Pat Borchert: “Metropolitan State’s new Bachelor of Science in Entrepreneurship and Innovation helps students think like entrepreneurs, build confidence and create their own destiny. Core courses develop an entrepreneurship mindset and the skills needed to evaluate and plan the development of new products and services in an existing or new organization. Elective courses help students explore in more depth entrepreneurship law, financing, marketing and technology as well as social entrepreneurship.

“Taught by experts in the industry and scholars with entrepreneurial experience, the Entrepreneurship and Innovation program is uniquely tied to the extensive entrepreneurial ecosystem of the Twin Cities and the nation. Students are exposed to a broad range of community experts that further supplement their education, career options and resources.”

University of Minnesota (Carlson School of Management)
Program(s): Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship
Director: John Stavig, Professional Director
Notable Alums: Ryan Broshar, founder of Matchstick Ventures and managing director of TechStars Retail Accelerator; Kyle Rolfing, co-founder of Bright Health, RedBrick Health, Definity Health; Dan Mallin and Scott Litman, co-founders of Equals 3, Magnet360, Imaginet and MN Cup

The Carlson School of Management is probably the best-known of any Minnesota business school, at least beyond Minnesota’s borders. Does that make the Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship the entrepeneurship education hub to beat? Perhaps. There’s certainly a lot going on here, from a hands-on venture simulator, to a product-design crash course, to the venerable MN Cup startup competition.

From John Stavig, professional director of the Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship: “A couple innovative classes I’d call out at the undergraduate level are the Entre in Action course and the Introduction to Global Entrepreneurship in Cuba course. Both have received a lot of attention.

“At the graduate level, the highlights are the Carlson Ventures Enterprise that the Full-Time MBA Students participate in; the New Product Design and Business Development Program that has been around for 20+ years and pairs Carlson students with those in the College of Science and Engineering; and the STARTUP: Customer Development and Testing course that is part of the U’s MIN-CORPS initiative.

“Also worth noting: How we connect our students with the entrepreneurial community through MN Cup, Grow North and WE*. Plus, our alums are leading a broad range of organizations supporting MN entrepreneurs — MN Cup, Twin Cities Startup Week, Beta.MN, Minne*, Gopher Angels, TechStars, and more.


CEO Fosters U Program

Richard Brown of JNBA helped launch financial planning program at U of M Duluth

What happens when a successful business owner launches a university degree program for budding entrepreneurs? To find out, we spoke with Richard S. Brown, CEO of Bloomington-based JNBA Financial Advisors and a driving force behind the Financial Planning Program at the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Labovitz School of Business and Economics (LSBE).

What initially drew you to the finance industry?
Happenstance. My mother, Judith Brown, started JNBA in 1979, with my father Al Brown and my sister Carrie. In the early 1990s, after both my dad and sister became ill, my mother asked if I would help her manage the practice. Working alongside my mother, observing her skills and learning the industry, I took over as CEO in 1995. I haven’t looked back since.

What were you doing before you joined JNBA?
I was an Executive Domestic and International Contract Negotiator at Irwin Jacobs Companies. Prior to that (from 1985 to 1990), I was General Manager at Ladbroke Racing. Both experiences aligned perfectly with the work ethic and personal drive instilled in me by my parents. These attributes are fundamental to the success of the entire JNBA team.

Who helped you most along the way?
My wife, JNBA President Kim Brown. Since joining the firm 10 years ago, Kim was key in establishing an impeccable client service model — demonstrated through our more than 96% client retention rate. Her unrelenting drive to exceptional client service, her ability to build highly functioning teams, and our combined desire to give back to the community foster a culture that delivers nationally recognized wealth management services.

What is JNBA’s “no conflict of interest” fiduciary model?
My mother was one of the first advisers in the country to do away with commission-based sales. She developed a model that ensures the advisor is working for their client and not being motivated, or compensated, by a particular fund, investment firm or parent company. This independent, no-conflict-of-interest business model is now being emulated around the country. The Department of Labor fiduciary rule — intended to ensure that advisers act in the best interests of their clients — may be in flux for the industry, but it is the way JNBA has been doing business for nearly four decades.

How did you help launch the financial planning certificate program?
I started by hiring interns from UMD [Brown’s alma mater] and putting them to work in JNBA’s office. We quickly discovered two important things: 1) UMD’s Markets Program focused on investments only, and 2) UMD students had no comparable opportunity to experience real-world applications of Financial Planning. We partnered with TD Ameritrade Institutional to launch an interactive learning lab [the TD Ameritrade Learning Lab]. The lab quickly became an integral part of LSBE’s new Certified Financial Planning program.

Did your experience help shape the curriculum?
The most important thing I brought to the Certified Financial Planning program was an understanding of responsible leadership. Having unwavering integrity and ethics, transparency and acting in your clients’ best interests are core values that books can’t teach.

What is the program’s trajectory thus far?
It began with the recognition that LSBE Financial Markets students in JNBA’s internship program were learning great skills from that program, and that a similar program for financial planning curriculum was needed. This quickly led to conversations with then-Dean Kjell Knudsen, who demonstrated interest in the program. We then went to TD Ameritrade to secure its support for the program and we quickly went to work.

The CFP program soon became a minor in the business school, and eventually a major. Accreditation allows students to move directly into the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) exam, rather than log at least two years of required service in the industry before taking the test.

Why should someone aim for the CFP?
Students interested in finance careers should consider it for three reasons: 1) CFP accreditation is a well-respected certification; 2) it makes younger employees more marketable because they understand the basics of financial planning right out of the gate; and 3) it demonstrates their commitment to the profession. Those are all very valuable distinctions in the highly competitive financial planning industry.