SPN Spaces is a new series that takes a look inside the region’s most inspiring startups, workspaces, incubators, accelerators and organizations.
Inside Mammel Hall on the south side of the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s campus is the Center for Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Franchising. The Center supports entrepreneurial education and collaboration, innovative hands-on learning experiences, as well as faculty research, conferences and mentorship. CIEF also provides advisory services to start-ups and small business entities throughout the region.
The CIEF website says the center serves as a bridge between the entrepreneurs of tomorrow and the diverse entrepreneurial community in the Omaha, Nebraska area. SPN dropped in on UNO’s Maverick Startups class led by Dr. Dale T. Eesley, Director and John Morgan Community Chair in Entrepreneurship to talk more about how the CIEF and UNO are preparing the region’s next wave of founders.
Center for Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Franchising at University of Nebraska at Omaha’s College of Business Administration
Lead by: Dr. Dale T. Eesley, Director & John Morgan Community Chair in Entrepreneurship
SPN: What classes and programs does UNO offer through the CIEF that are supporting the Silicon Prairie’s next generation of business founders?
DE: The CIEF at UNO’s College of Business Administration offers a wide range of entrepreneurial classes, all of which have a heavy applied focus. These include Entrepreneurial Foundations, Maverick Startups, New Venture Formation, Entrepreneurial Finance, Social Venturing, Entrepreneurial Selling, Commercializing Technology and Technology Ventures (IS&T students paired up with Business students in teams).
We also have a number of classes taught by faculty outside the College of Business Administration including Media Entrepreneurship, Geography, Gender & Entrepreneurship, Political Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship & the Arts, Entrepreneurship & Leadership in British Literature, and Creativity & Innovation in Organizations (taught by the Psychology department).
SPN: How are you emulating real-life business problems and experiences in the classroom?
DE: Classes such as Entrepreneurial Foundation and Social Venturing have hands-on projects where they apply their classroom learning to solve problems for local startups, businesses and non-profit organizations. In Maverick Startups students engage in customer discovery and validation with 50 potential customers using their own concepts and business models. New Venture Formation and Technology Ventures are classes where students work on their own business concepts and try to create new businesses or at least test their viability.
A new program we have started, the Maverick Venture Fund, trains 12 students a year on how to do seed-stage investing. After a semester of training, they make actual investments in student, alumni, and community startups. It doesn’t get any more real than that! By the way, if you are searching for funding, please apply to pitch your venture to the fund!
SPN: Do things like startup classes and entrepreneurial groups in college give students an advantage over their self-taught peers once they graduate?
DE: Our classes are very hands-on and applied classes always enhance students’ ability to understand and master the content, so it stays with them long after graduation. Our students have to venture “outside the building” and in so doing, they learn about the startup community in Omaha. So compared to the self-taught, they know where to go for advice, partners and funding when they are ready to launch a new company. Our graduates tend to stay in the Omaha area, so the connections they make through our classes have long-term benefits.
SPN: How are you teaching young entrepreneurs to look at their talents and skills (everything from music, to design, to athletics) differently?
DE: In our classes, we train students to think empathetically and to really understand their customers’ true needs. We do this by having them identify their interests and experiences and then identify an area in which they can contribute. We also use Gallup’s Builder Profile assessment to help them better understand how their talents can be used to create solutions. We emphasize the development of an entrepreneurial mindset that can be used for much more than starting a new venture. For example, our classes in Journalism, Political Science, Theater and Psychology apply entrepreneurial thinking and processes to topics far outside of business.
In the last two years, we have offered an Entrepreneurial Living Learning Community where freshman live together, take cohort classes, travel to places like Denver and Silicon Valley and engage in 30 hours of entrepreneurial activity each semester. This is an incredible way for them to explore their entrepreneurial interests and what they discover about themselves helps shape what they do and the way they do it throughout their college experience.
SPN: Every entrepreneur will experience at least one “small failure” in their career. What advice do you give students for when they inevitably face setbacks?
My best advice, and one we teach in our classes, is that the startup process is a search for information, and failures are really important pieces of information! By taking the steps to minimize the financial risk in the earliest stages, students will have the ability to fail fast multiple times while searching for the right business model. I also support students who start their careers working for others because it lets them build their skills, save money, and let their employers pay the price for their early mistakes. At the same time, if they have a great idea, I think now is the perfect time to go for it, before they are saddled with responsibilities and commitments we take on as older adults.
SPN: What CIEF events are coming up that will give the community a chance to get involved with the program and UNO?
The CIEF offers a lot of events and programs outside of the classroom to enhance their entrepreneurial development. We are always in search of judges, mentors, and sponsors for events such as:
We are particularly excited about this year’s Midwest Entrepreneurship Conference April 6 & 7. Over 400 people from Omaha and more than 25 universities will come together to learn from speakers that include billionaires, shark tank contestants and social entrepreneurs. There’s something for everybody and it is open to the public.
In its ongoing efforts to redefine popular beauty standards as part of its decade-long Real Beauty campaigns, Dove learned the hard way about the thin line that exists between positive social message and controversy. For a company that has so successfully promoted positive body image in the past, it must have come as a shock that an idea so well thought out (or so it thought) ended up being so misinterpreted.
But that’s just one of many examples that what looks good on paper might not look as good on Twitter.
While the marketing mistakes we saw in 2017 might have taught us a thing or two about social marketing, 2018 might bring with it a fresh list of public relations mishaps, legal issues and other unanticipated challenges.
By looking at trends, we can predict and prepare for what’s to come in 2018.
People will expect authenticity
As brand messaging, giving to charity and claims of “green” become popular ways to attract customers, consumers are putting their guard up and being very selective about what they believe.
“Consumers are no longer being impressed by new old tactics that used to be woven together into cause marketing,” Electra Cruises CEO Randy Clayton said. “Going forward, businesses will need to be more believable.”
The answer to this is authenticity. To be able to connect with consumers at a personal level, social marketers––and marketers in general––will need to cultivate an authentic voice that customers can easily identify with. The messages sent out must reach customers, be genuine and at the same time enhance brand principles—something that’s not been very popular in 2017.
So, what can you do to make your voice more believable?
“The time is ripe for transitory content,” RockHer CEO Jim Vernon said. “Social marketing will need to pick up the momentum set on transitory content such as Instagram Stories and Facebook Live videos in 2017. This type of content has a better shot at making your brand credible, as opposed to other types of content, which look and feel rehearsed and perfected.”
Brands will be required to be even more transparent
This is a case of influencer marketing done right (Machinima had promised its client 19 million views) but against the law.
With the rising application of influencer marketing, sponsored content and other related techniques taking center stage in social marketing, brands are under a lot of scrutiny. This has called for more transparency on their part in the way that they leverage these methods to get their products out there.
Speaking of the Machinima settlement, Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, explained, “When people see a product touted online, they have a right to know whether they’re looking at an authentic opinion or a paid marketing pitch.”
Lawsuit Settlement Funding CEO Chris Janish said, “The legal aspect of advertising has long been a non-issue, but now, companies will need to carefully consider this area before they can even begin to sell their message.”
With such developments, influencer marketing might become irrelevant, or at least not as effective in 2018 as it has been in the previous years. Customers will find it hard to believe a message if they can clearly see that an influencer has been paid to push it.
Managing messaging across channels will be more challenging
Traditionally, the idea of optimizing content for different channels was to take the same piece of content and make small changes to fit it into the target channel. However, as it is, every piece of content has to be created for a particular channel, from the start.
The content-creation process is changing drastically, and social marketers will need to adapt to these changes. They will need to constantly look back at past content and see what has worked before, including the social data and target audience information.
“Each platform provides unique opportunities for you to tell the story of your brand,” Scorum CEO Vladislav Artemyev said. “To succeed in each, social marketers have to clearly define the type of content to create for their audience in each of the channels. They have to know the key pillars of each platform; what content matches the target audience, and which types to do away with; and the audience engagement levels on each platform.”
While 2017 gave us lots of Kendall Jenner Pepsi ads, it also gave us Heineken’s Worlds Apart ads. So, nothing is predetermined. Some marketers will still rise above the challenges and use the trends to their advantage. But the time to act is now.
During this holiday season, we all too often get wrapped up in the excitement and end of the year sprint to finish our fiscal year with some impressive increases. But what about those who got you to where you are? Your clients, your employees, your vendors, your postal worker, delivery person and anyone else who helped to make your organization successful and as efficient as possible…do you thank them?
Many people send holiday greeting cards or small gifts of thanks, depending on the size and type of business you have. A small thank you can go a long way to making a big difference for your future development. What a gift!
Don’t judge a business card by its cover? Ah, yes, I’m afraid so. Business cards, the silent piece of advertisement is scrutinized more than you think. It’s not just the design element potential clients are intrigued or impressed by. They want to learn the meat and potatoes, or the nuts and bolts about what your business has to offer.
Potential clients want to know,
Who you are
Where you are located
What exactly do you do
How can they contact you
How much will your products or service affect their wallet
How long will it take to reach customer satisfaction
Are you trustworthy and what does the BBB have to report about your business
What type of experience do you have supporting your business
Customers are savvier about their spending habits than they have ever been. Also, consumers have trust issue concerns with how they conduct business and the reputation of who they give their dollars to, especially when they have been burned by a business before. There really is more behind the business card than meets the eye.
Have you ever noticed that some individuals in leadership roles tend to ignore or stifle the voices of subordinates who want to share their ideas with the rest of the team? A good leader will not be nervous, feel threatened or intimidated by such team members. Instead, they will listen to what they have to say and encourage them to contribute ideas, foster their achievements and help to spark innovation within the company.
Good leadership encourages healthy brainstorming, by creating tactical moves, conducting research, implementing testing and constantly exploring to bring those collective ideas to the table and making magic happen.
Typically fun and work can sometimes be perceived as an oxymoron, instead of a therapeutic medium. Having fun at work does not insinuate we are goofing off or are nonproductive. Keeping the workplace environment rooted in an enjoyable culture can lead to renewed energy, increased contributions of imagination, creativity, innovation, and healthier attitudes within our workforce.
Enjoy what you do, no matter how menial of a task you may think it is. Your work is important to the overall picture. Look at your contributions as being valuable, because they are.
It’s okay to be goofy at times. You don’t have to be so wound up and serious all the time, in order to take your work seriously. It really ain’t that deep, as you make it out to be.
Add an element of tranquility, a little Zen to calm your spiritual juices when needed.
Put a funny, lighthearted cartoon up or some cheery quotes in your range of sight, whether in your cubicle or office space. Don’t let it be one that mocks, humiliates or insults others because it is motivated by undercurrents of “isms.” Keep your humor clean.
People need not dread coming to work because of a hostile work environment. Turn the tides and add some fun elements to help you and your team remain efficient, happy, healthy and productive.