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Many years ago, when a new dean at my university referred to the faculty as “content providers,” my colleagues and I rolled our eyes. It was the latest hokey label for an old profession.
There was “sage on the stage” (the distant lecturer on the podium), “guide on the side” (the collaborative, student- centered instructor) and, in the laptop classroom in which the teacher meanders behind the students, the “peer at the rear.”
They are all catchphrases and buzzwords, they served a short- hand purpose. But ponder them, and you could discern far- reaching trends in U.S. education.
Students, too, are redefined. The terms have varied — “learners,” “critical thinkers,” “meaning makers,” “problem solvers.” The hot one now seems to be “entrepreneur” or “student-entrepreneur,” at least at the college level.
Entrepreneurship programs have exploded on U.S. campuses, and administrators love to talk about them. They aren’t just for business students. Kansas State University’s Center for Advancement of Entrepreneurship declares, “The mission of our award-winning center is to promote entrepreneurship among all academic disciplines,” while at Arizona State University, “The Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative provides funding, mentorship and office space to teams of students within all university disciplines.”
Princeton’s Keller Center eLab boasts, “students will work together in a supportive community of fellow entrepreneurs,” and the University of Michigan’s Center for Entrepreneurship pledges to “connect our student entrepreneurs to our extensive mentor network and invite mentors into the classroom.”
It’s not always about money, either, as this Bloomberg Businessweek article observed: “Every spring, the Clinton Global Initiative University meeting brings together some of the world’s most promising student entrepreneurs, who come to the group’s annual meeting with ideas they hope will bring about social change.”
Such programs are now common enough to have their own rankings: Princeton Review and Entrepreneur Magazine compile an annual list of the 25 best undergraduate entrepreneurship units in the country.
The benefits of having more entrepreneurial thinking on campus are obvious, both for individual students, who are running up debt and facing uncertain employment, and for the U.S. economy, which increasingly relies on innovation to maintain its global position. But the expansion of entrepreneurship centers and the redefinition of students are happening so swiftly and eagerly that one wonders where the education ends and the hype begins.
The advantages of the entrepreneurship label are considerable. It’s an improvement over “customers,” a term that popped up in the late 1990s and recast higher education as a service industry. “Customer” sounds too passive for the 21st century, now that digital tools have given teenagers so much capacity to create and distribute their own words, photos, videos and songs.
“Entrepreneur” also reaches well beyond “learners,” which ties students to a set content, the books they read and labs they complete, while “entrepreneur” anticipates each student stepping forward to form and share something wholly new. Student entrepreneurs aren’t just learning — they’re doing.
In the mouths of administrators and on school websites, “student-entrepreneur” is more than a descriptive term. It is an endowment and a marketing strategy with a target audience: the high-school student who is starting the application process.
Colleges compete feverishly for more applicants and higher selectivity in admissions, a crucial component of the U.S. News & World Report ranking. The honorable title “entrepreneur” doesn’t say, “You are an industrious, inventive, smart youth”; it promises, “Here at our campus, you will be an industrious, inventive, smart youth.”
How exciting! For 13-plus years, high-achieving 18-year- olds have been students, shuffled from class to class in a regimented school day, dutifully completing tasks set by teachers, learning pat content on a syllabus. In college, they evolve into entrepreneurs who may freely pursue their own interests, be creative and experimental, and make lots of money, too!
The students’ role model isn’t LeBron James or Albert Einstein or Hillary Clinton. It’s Mark Zuckerberg, the student who turned a floating idea into Facebook Inc., or the guys who founded Instagram Inc., or Sean Parker.
Colleges that have no entrepreneurship message appear to applicants as old-fashioned and unappreciative. If Duke and Emory universities have something and Vanderbilt doesn’t, high- school counselors and the Fiske Guide notice, as do ambitious parents. The message spreads. “How Liberal Arts Colleges Are Failing America” was the headline on an Atlantic article last September on the regrettable absence of entrepreneurship at many schools.
The only casualty in this forward-looking, product- creating, money-making, social-change enterprise is the old idea of liberal education from Cicero to a few traditionalists in the present: the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake. Or, as Cardinal John Henry Newman put it, “liberal knowledge, which stands on its own pretensions, which is independent of sequel, expects no complement, refuses to be informed (as it is called) by any end, or absorbed into any art, in order duly to present itself to our contemplation.”
Entrepreneurship seeks precisely the opposite — ends, added value, a difference in the world. It’s good that colleges devise programs that address worldly matters and embrace a concept that professors like to sneer at.
Yet colleges would do well to incorporate humanistic learning into this curriculum. Maybe an entrepreneur who has read Thucydides or Edith Wharton is more prepared, more savvy and imaginative about new products and solutions than an unlettered competitor.
To contact the writer of this article: Mark Bauerlein at email@example.com.
To contact the editor responsible for this article: Katy Roberts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many people you will meet at trade shows are CEOs/presidents or vice presidents of large corporations. Also, you will meet buyers from every business level. Many of these people would never even take your phone call or return a call from you in the normal course of business. Now, they are standing directly in front of you and you have the opportunity to show them your brand new product. The reason people attend trade shows is to see new products. These shows cost them time and money to attend, and they are in a buying or a business frame of mind. Take advantage of the situation by talking to as many people as you can.
You can identify the trade show where you will want to exhibit in several ways. First, look in trade publications. Many advertise or have articles or ads in the trade publications for upcoming shows. Several trade publications even sponsor shows. Do a web search for trade shows in your industry. The web site http://www.tsnn.com is very good for finding shows in many industries. You may also call some buyers who you are targeting and ask which shows they attend and would recommend. Most buyers will be happy to discuss this with you and may help you with any questions about hotels or other questions you have about a show. Once you identify the shows you would like to exhibit in, contact them and ask for an exhibitor information kit. Read this kit very carefully because you may need to rent a table/chairs/carpet, etc. That can add to the cost of exhibiting. The exhibit manual will have all the facts, prices and pictures of the previous year’s show. Booth space is expensive, often costing between $1,200 and $2,500 for a typical 10 x 10 foot space.
There are several ways to keep trade show costs reasonable. One way to cut the price is to go to trade shows near to where you live. This way, you can eliminate the cost of airfare, hotels, and the shipping of your materials. Orlando, Chicago, New York and Las Vegas are the most common cities for trade shows. However, hundreds of shows, both large and small, are held in every major city in the country. Many shows post their schedules years in advance. You can save a lot of money by waiting months or a year until a certain show comes near your home.
View last year’s exhibitor list and see if you do business with any companies attending or if any companies are located near you. If there are, perhaps you can visit them and ask if you can share space at their table and split the cost of the next trade show. Call and talk to the person in charge of the trade show listed in the exhibitor information kit. Ask this person if they have a first–time exhibitor price or if they know of a company that may want to share the cost of a booth. They may make suggestions to help with cutting costs, such as offering a discount for booking in advance.
Trade show displays are expensive. It is more important to be creative rather than spend a lot of money. A good product and enthusiasm will win out over a huge display every time. In our early days at CLIPEZE, we used life-size cardboard cutouts of movie stars on which to display our products. These cutouts are the kind found in movie rental stores like Blockbustersâ. We bought them online for about $45, and we could pack them in our airline luggage, eliminating shipping fees. We created an identification badge for the cardboard movie star and attached our CLIPEZE badge holder to it. You would be surprised how many people wanted to get their picture taken with “John Wayne” or “Pamela Anderson.” The cardboard cutout was very effective for us. Brainstorm with family and friends and use your imagination to see what you can come up with.
Pay attention to details when you travel to trade shows. Booking a flight in the morning is always a good idea. If you have a delay due to weather or some other unavoidable reason you will have a chance to get a later flight. If you book the last flight of the day, and have a delay, you may not arrive on the day you require. I have seen several exhibitors try to save money by staying at a cheaper hotel only to pay twenty dollars or more each way by cab for transportation to the convention centers while the participation hotels generally have free shuttles. Do your homework to save money.
Since trade shows are an expensive investment, get the most value from them by attending personally. You, as the company owner, need to be at all the trade shows and present all the time. Employees or family/friends certainly can be a great help, but you know your product better than anyone. You need to be available to land that big deal when it presents itself. You would be surprised how many times I have seen employees turn their backs on potential customers to play games or check e-mail on a laptop computer. Meanwhile, major company buyers walk by the booth.
Develop your sales speech so you are ready for business. Recite it over and over again. Soon you will have what is called an Elevator Speech, which is a speech you can make to describe your product and its benefits in the time it takes to ride an elevator with a complete stranger. Create a sample kit. This should include brochures, product information, prices and actual samples if possible. Be sure you always have approximately twelve sample kits when you attend every trade show. Additionally, always have several hundred business cards available to be handed to potential buyers. You should always make sure you have a few press releases with you because reporters from trade publication usually cover the trade show. You will see them walking around taking photos of attendees and exhibitors.
One way to attract sales representatives at a show is to place a small sign on your table that reads “Sales Reps Wanted.” Sales representatives will notice the sign right away but just as important, an attendee may refer you to a sales rep that is not at the show. Talk to everyone. This includes other exhibitors. They can provide a wealth of information including information about other shows. When you register for a trade show, ask if there is a drawing or there are door prizes for the attendees. Participate, and give one of your products for the raffle, unless it is cost prohibitive of course.
Most trade shows have a new product showcase and many times it is free to new exhibitors. This attracts many attendees. Many distribution agreements are formed between exhibitors at shows. If your product can be sold to exhibitor companies, give them the sales pitch but do it at a time when they do not have prospects in their booth. Exhibitors also can identify very important buyers or sales representatives who may be interested in representing your products. Always remember that you never really know who you are talking to and where a conversation can lead when conversing with people at a trade show.
I always talk to the trade show hall staff, including the cleaning staff. Once I gave a sample of our product to an electrician who was hooking up electricity to my booth. Later, the man returned with his union representative and they ordered a custom CLIPEZE badge holder for every member of the local union. I covered the cost of that entire show with just this one sale.
We have exhibited our CLIPEZE products in over 100-trade shows. We once exhibited in 27 shows in a 24-month period.
The shows we exhibited in were both big and small. Some lasted a week in the largest exhibit halls in the country and others just lasted a few hours in the local hotel ballroom across town. We set goals for every show. At some shows, we sell our products on the spot. While in other shows, we concentrate on capturing leads. The feedback we have received at most shows is incredible.
The reactions we received left little doubt that we had a great product. It is a wonderful feeling to be in a booth with people four or five deep with dollar bills in their hands eagerly waiting to make a purchase of your invention. I have learned that little things make a big difference. Look people in the eye when you speak to them. Have an honest belief in your product. Execute a firm handshake. These things can result in success.
Actions, like standing at your booth, make you much more approachable than sitting in a chair. Keep a friendly smile on your face. How you dress can make a difference. In Orlando or Las Vegas, which are vacation capitals, the dress is casual. Shows in Chicago and New York require more formal business attire. One suggestion is to buy a uniform of sorts, such as Dockerâ type pants and a matching shirt with the company logo or product name on it. This is much cheaper and more comfortable than formal wear and gives you an opportunity to show your logo even when you are out of your booth.
Most of the time, it is advisable to use the preferred freight carrier for shipping your display and supplies to the trade show you are attending. Trade show halls and union rules and regulations make it difficult for other freight carriers to ship in and out of the trade show facilities. You usually can set up an account with the preferred carrier by following directions in the exhibitor’s handbook. Find out about recommended ground transportation. You can find ground transportation information in your exhibitor handbook or by calling the hotel where you will be staying. Some hotels offer free shuttle buses to and from the airport. Once in Chicago at a large show with over 500 exhibitors and thousands of attendees, my display booth and all my samples and merchandise got lost during shipping. For that show, I had decided to use a new freight carrier. They were several hundred dollars cheaper than the show’s preferred carrier. You guessed it. When the show opened, there I was standing behind my table without anything other than a few catalogs and the samples I had carried on the plane in my briefcase.
I stood without my product or display and gave my sales speech for three days, I actually made some sales and collected several valuable leads that converted into sales at a later date. My display and inventory arrived on the third and final day just in time for me to ship it back to our office.
Always think success and you will find it. Talk enthusiastically about your product. Listen to what attendees say. Gauge their reactions to your product. You will hear the same questions time and time again. This enables you to create flyers and direct mail pieces that answer their questions. Another reason to listen is that people often give you new ideas on how to improve your product or even for the creation of new products. This interaction between attendees and exhibitors is very valuable. When the doors open and the people all walk onto the trade show floor, you will receive feedback almost immediately.
I would advise you to read as many books about trade show strategy as you can. Trade show marketing is one of the best ways to grow your business. It is a great way to multiply your network. Don’t hesitate to start conversations with attendees as they pass by. Some will avoid you and keep walking. Some will stop and be so surprised at your product that they will buy it on the spot or thank you for stopping them and explaining your product to them. Additionally, try to always have a “Special Show Price” sale. This gives attendees an incentive to buy at the show.
In the beginning, you will not know if your product will sell in the marketplace. There is no way to predict if a product will sell well.
Many people have tried and many people have failed to predict product sales. The US Patent and Trademark Office is filled with thousands of amazing product patents that never sold despite gallant and well-financed efforts. You must TEST, TEST and TEST your product to determine marketability. You do not want to spend a lot of money and time on a product if it will not sell. I recommend a three-to-six month trial period. If you put all your effort into a product for six months and have not at least covered your costs, then perhaps, you should move on to the next idea. On the other hand, if you have covered your cost up to that point, and the product shows great potential based on results and reactions by customers, then you should proceed at full speed and from that point on do not take “no” for an answer. Give it one hundred percent of your effort.
The first step in bringing a new product to market is to sell or even give away some of your products. Ask for feedback. Generally, people will give their opinions freely about products. Your family is a good source for advice, but remember at this stage those closest to you may tell you what you want to hear. You need feedback from customers and potential customers. If you start to hear things like, “I wish I thought of that,” “You’re going to sell a million of these,” and “You’re going to be a millionaire,” you may have a successful product on your hands.
My plan was to wear, give away, and sell as many of my initial order of 200 pins as I could. Then I sat back and waited to see if people would contact me for more. I thought of this as a trial period to determine if I wanted to invest the time and money to start a business based on my new invention. During this time, I began to read as many books as I could about marketing, patents, trademarks, and small business. All of our 200 pins were sold or given away in a short time and my cost was more than covered.
Within 3 weeks, several dozen people who wanted more CLIPEZE Badge Holders contacted me. I then had 500 CLIPEZE pins manufactured. Again, about 2 weeks later, several dozen more people called me wanting more. I cut the trial period short and manufactured 1,000 badge holder pins. By then, I had completed reading many business books and applied for and received my local, state and federal business permits and licenses required for a home business. At this point, I had enough earnings to buy a new computer and put up a web site. Remember, this was 1995 and not many companies were on the web. I found a friend who had made a web site for his church, and he was happy to set up a site for CLIPEZE for free. Today, many sites, such as http://www.godaddy.com/, have templates to make your own web site construction much easier and for very little cost.
For the first year, our web site was just a basic billboard type of site that only had our name, address and phone numbers and a picture or two of the product, but I was on the web! Just being on the web in 1995 was like being a pioneer of a new technology!
Trade shows are wonderful for assessing your product’s ability to sell. Trade shows are expensive, but exhibiting at a show will allow you to directly explain your product and see and hear the reaction to your product. You get instant feedback.
You may want to consider registering on the right side of this page and receive my free e-booklet “48 Great tips for Bringing a New Product to Market from your Home.”
First, you need to find out if someone else already has a patent on the product you are thinking of developing. You do not want to infringe on an existing patent. Go to the US Patent and Trademark Office web site at http://www.uspto.gov. Click on the word Patents and conduct a simple patent search. The directions for a search are found on the home page. A more complete and extensive search may be necessary at a later date to make sure that you are not infringing on some other party’s patent if you decide a patent is needed for your product.
If someone already has a patent on your idea, contact him or her. Perhaps you can market the idea in exchange for a royalty or buy the patent outright from them. There are many great ideas that are patented but never brought to market. Sometimes the patent owner becomes ill or they just like the idea of the patent process but don’t like marketing or sales. Or perhaps they tried and gave up on the idea. There are about as many reasons why a patent never becomes a product, as there are patents.
You need to evaluate your product to see if it is commercially viable to bring to the marketplace.
Draw your idea on paper as best as you can. Talk to your relatives and friends about your idea. Identify the industry(s) or niche that your invention should be marketed to. Start reading publications about that industry.
Go to a local inventor club meeting. Read inventor magazines. The United Inventors Association’s website at http://www.uiausa.org is a great resource with a link to find local inventor clubs. Inventor clubs are made up of people just like you. They are looking to invent a new product or have already done so. Do not confuse inventor clubs with inventor marketing companies. Inventor marketing or development companies are for profit.
More steps to follow in later posts.
From the “Book Bringing a Product to Market From Your Home” With $500. and an Idea You can Make Millions” by Gary R. Bronga, President Clipeze Worldwide, Inc
Persistence and commitment are the keys to success. As everyone knows, most small businesses fail. It is my opinion, based on my experience, that most fail due to lack of effort or lack of persistence.
If you work hard, have an outstanding product, and provide great customer service, your chances of being successful improve substantially. Certainly outside events can adversely influence your start-up business, such as family illnesses, natural disasters, etc. These are things you do not have control over but you can overcome if you follow these simple guidelines. You need to do what you say you are going to do. Later on, if you have employees, you need to make sure they are following your lead, doing what they told the customer they would do. It sounds simple, but you would be surprised how many people will tell you one thing and do another. For example if you say the product is shipping out today, make sure it does.
Early in my business, before most of our customers started ordering regularly, I would have customers call me late in the day and want an order sent overnight because they forgot to order for a special event. Many times, they would call after our freight carrier made their pickup. I would get in my car and drive 35 miles to the carrier’s headquarters even for only a $20 order, despite the fact that that was the last thing I wanted to do after working my day job all day. I received countless calls from grateful customers. But better still, these customers often became large, repeat customers. A commitment needs to be made that your business will not fail due to lack of effort.
Gary R. Bronga is available for speaking to your group or association. Purchasing his book Bringing a Product to Market from Your Home entitles you to a discount for the unlimited consultations with Gary by phone or email program. Contact him for details. http://www.garybronga.com Call toll free 1-800-384-0014 or e-mail him at: email@example.com