Business Brief: Educational institutions can help entrepreneurs increase chances for success

Mar 4, 2013

Business analysts have differing opinions on the percentage of small businesses that fail – but conventional wisdom puts the number at 80 percent. 

UNCW Chancellor Gary Miller and Cape Fear Community College President Ted Spring contend their institutions can help entrepreneurs increase their chance of success – thus spurring economic growth.   

The two leaders recently explored that idea with WHQR’s Rachel Lewis Hilburn.

RLH:  What are some of the most surprising ideas that have come out of the meetings between the two of you?


TS:  Careful with that one…
GM:  Right!
[more laughter]
RLH:  We can edit this.
GM:  Besides starting a joint football program?
TS:  Oh, you’re going to tell them about the stadium?
GM:  Yeah, right. Well, one of the things that President and I both enjoy is thinking broadly and innovatively about ideas that have been traditionally intractable or difficult to solve.
RLH:  Why is entrepreneurship such a critical part of planning for the future?
GM:  Well, there are studies, strong studies, that suggest a good deal of new job creation is through – and maybe most job creation in areas – is through new business start-ups.
TS:  Yeah, the track record for small business development and success is not good.  And that’s where the community college and university can partner, come together, and really help people who are interested in  establishing and moving their businesses forward. They need that technical advice and the technical skills to make that happen.

RLH:  How does that work?  Can you take us through a hypothetical situation with a small business owner or potential small business owner?
TS:  Well, there are numerous scenarios.  We might have a small business owner who is experiencing some problems.  They’re able to come to CFCC and get some good, strong advice about what they might do to solve an issue that they have.  We offer opportunities to build business plans.  We work one-on-one with these individuals that can really, you know, help them vision what the future’s going to look like and what their needs are going to be for the future to be successful.
GM:  We focus on giving individuals who want to start – who have an idea – connecting them with people who can fund it or might be interested in it and then incubating and accelerating that through the first two employees and finally into a business that is profitable.
TS:  I think too, that Gary mentioned that many businesses fail.  I can guarantee you that if they take advantage of what’s available in this community either through the university or Cape Fear, that the likelihood of failure is less.
RLH:  That’s so interesting.  So you’re saying… I mean it’s well-known that small businesses, when they start out, have a good chance of going belly-up in the first couple of years.
TS:  80 percent.
GM:  Yeah, very high percentage.  Yeah.
RLH:  So you’re actually saying that that rate of failure is partly due to lack of education or lack of understanding about how to run a business.
TS:  I think education and planning.  Vision.  There are multiple reasons why businesses fail.
 RLH:  And speaking of skills that you can use to get a job, Governor McCrory recently talked about education reform.  We know that’s a big agenda in Raleigh.  And one of things he said that was rather controversial had to do with what was relevant and what would actually translate into…
TS:  Careers.
RLH:  Yes.
TS:  Cape Fear is always concerned about relevancy and appropriate instruction for the world of work.  And I think we have a number of processes in place that allow us through our advisory committees to keep our programs right on the cutting edge.  And I think that, you know what, we’ve got a strong record of building good-quality programs and delivering skilled employees that can go to work.
RLH:  But both institutions are also heavily invested in the arts and culture.  How does that play into preparing someone for the work force?
GM:  Well, the Governor’s, of course, hit the nail on the head with regard to the question.  We expect our graduates with University degrees to have somewhere between 15 and 20 jobs in their lifetime.  Most – over half of those -- probably aren’t existent.  Those jobs don’t exist right now.  And they probably use technology that’s just emerging.  So in order for a student to prosper in that kind of environment, they have to be entrepreneurial in their own career – which means they not only have to have certain skills that are basic to all careers.  But they have to have a broad understanding of the culture and the environment they’re in.  And we believe, and I know the President believes that the arts and music inform that kind of – those kinds of life skills better than almost anything.
TS:   We have a lot of people in the arts and other areas as well coming back to college to develop those skills that they can use to develop their own business.
RLH:  In the arts?
TS:  In the arts – or associated with it – galleries – whatever.   
RLH:  That’s an interesting idea.  So you’re taking the arts into – connecting the entrepreneurial idea and the arts.
TS:  That’s right.  And again, we see people coming back that maybe have been struggling as an artist and decided for whatever reason that maybe they’re going to open a gallery or they’re going to do something associated with that.  And they come back looking for those entrepreneurial skills that the Chancellor and I are both talking about.
RLH:  Which is part of what enriches the landscape here.
TS:  Absolutely.
RLH:  Chancellor Miller, President Spring, is there anything you’d like to add – that you think we haven’t covered?
TS:  Are you sure you don’t want to tell them about the football field?
GM:  Well, you know, I just… you know, we need to hide that until we get a better plan.