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Startup 101

When it comes to teaching entrepreneurship, local colleges mean business

 

REAL WORLD EDUCATION: Hawaii Pacific University's Chuck Steilen wants to further integrate his business school with the business community. HPU is the first Island university to offer a bachelor's degree in entrepreneurial studies.

The new dean at Hawaii Pacific University’s College of Business Administration plans to take advantage of the school’s downtown location to invigorate HPU’s Entrepreneurial Studies program and the business school as a whole. Chuck Steilen, who became dean in July, wants to bring the experiences of Hawaii businesses – their successes and challenges – into the classroom so students can learn firsthand.

“We want to integrate our business school with the business community,” Steilen explains.

Dana Gray, chairman of North Shore-based Oils of Aloha, already calls Steilen’s plan a winning one: A year ago, Gray was so impressed with a presentation by a student in Steilen’s entrepreneurial class that he hired her.

MBA student Maria Langscheid and a colleague developed a plan for Oils of Aloha to export its products to Germany. Although the plan was not implemented, Gray was sold on Langscheid. She is now sales manager at Oils of Aloha, which makes skin care products and oils from macadamia and kukui nuts. For Langscheid, it is a dream come true. Learning about business was fun in the classroom, but nothing compared to the real experience.

“It is so much more complex and different. It’s not just about rules,” she says. Langscheid’s education and work experience allows her the perfect balance between theory and practice.

As with Langscheid, business-minded individuals can supplement their natural business instincts with courses and even degrees in entrepreneurship. Hawaii’s schools include Chaminade University, Hawaii Pacific University and the Shidler College of Business at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Other walk-in resources are offered at the Hawaii Center for Entrepreneurship and the Small Business Administration.

HPU is the first of the three universities to have a bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurial studies. HPU students can earn a bachelor of science in Business Administration with a major (or minor) in entrepreneurial studies just as they might in marketing or accounting.

Steilen envisions strengthening HPU’s focus on entrepreneurship in three ways: First, he aims to beef up the Entrepreneurial Studies program by adding more classes as well as a certificate in entrepreneurial studies; second, he will continue to bring local businesses into the classroom and have students learn through projects with them; and third, he will reach out directly to the business community by offering a two-week management training program at HPU. HPU will charge a fee for the management training course, the details of which have yet to be ironed out, Steilen says.

In September, HPU will open a center for entrepreneurship that will be headed by one of Steilen’s colleagues from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Bee Leng Chua, who has extensive experience advising new companies in Hong Kong and other parts of Asia. The Entrepreneurship Center will function as a resource for businesses in whatever stage of development, from fast-growing juggernauts to brand-new, untested ideas.

DOING GOOD AND DOING WELL

Started in 2002, the Hogan Entrepreneurial Program at Chaminade University emphasizes service as reflected in its motto: “Doing business things that make social sense. Doing social things that make business sense.” The program is funded by a grant from the Hogan Foundation of California. Edward Hogan, the founder of Pleasant Holidays LLC, and his wife, Lynn, chair the foundation. Chaminade juniors, seniors and graduate students from any major may apply to the program. The program lasts for two years for juniors and one year for seniors and graduate students. “The purpose is to take Chaminade’s top students and give them a special edge,” says program director John Webster.

Besides providing students with entrepreneurial tools and entrepreneurial skills, Webster sees the Hogan program as a leadership program with an entrepreneurial overlay. It also stresses mentorship and networking by bringing in speakers weekly from the business community. “The sessions are really rich when [the students] are asking questions,” Webster says. Hogan alumni are welcome to the sessions, adding to contacts for the students.

In addition to course work, Chaminade’s program requires students to do community service. In 2005, students created a brochure for employers on the benefits of hiring homeless workers and helped homeless people write resumes and letters to apply for jobs. In the first year, the project helped five people find jobs, and eight more were placed last year.

One of the businesses developed by a graduate of the Hogan program is Ma’o Organic, a nonprofit 501c3 that is a project of the Waianae Community Redevelopment Corp. Ma’o was founded by Gary Kukui Maunakea-Forth and has the catchy slogan: “No panic … Go organic.” Ma’o aims to develop a living local food system to fight hunger, improve nutrition, strengthen local food security and empower low-income families to move toward self-sufficiency.

GETTING SCHOOLED

Shidler College of Business’ John E. Butler holds the title of the Harold and Sandy Noborikawa Chair of Entrepreneurship. The University of Hawaii at Manoa professor frequently travels internationally to oversee student entrepreneurship competitions and other activities. Butler, a professor of marketing and culture, has always had a passion for entrepreneurship. But back in the 1980s when Butler was on the job market, he was advised to emphasize his background in strategic planning rather than entrepreneurship. Even as recently as five years ago, there weren’t many courses in entrepreneurship at UH, he says.

For several years, UH has been developing an undergraduate major and a graduate certificate in entrepreneurship, and Butler hopes the major will be in place next year. Butler says the process to create a major or program takes a long time because of the tremendous startup costs.

Program or not, a couple of UH graduates have taken what they’ve learned about entrepreneurship and run with it. MBA graduate Monte Littlefield, president and CEO of Pipeline Communications and Technology Inc., is bursting with ideas, from secure wireless to anti-roadside bombing technology. Littlefield’s company is no pipe dream: Pipeline Communications and Technology, an electronics engineering and licensing firm that began in 2004 with $45,000 in startup prize money, expects to gross $1 million in revenue this year.

The programs at UH and other schools have been helpful to “rekindle the entrepreneurial spirit in Hawaii,” Littlefield says.

LEARNING FROM EXPERIENCE: MBA student Maria Langscheid went right from the classroom to the workplace. "It is so much more complex and different," she says of her new work life.

One of the highlights of the UH program is its annual business-plan competition, which this year awarded more than $80,000 in cash prizes. Prior to graduating in December 2001, Littlefield and his team won the competition with a plan for a company called Ecospan Systems. That company wasn’t funded, but in 2004 he and his team won with a plan for Pipeline Communications and Technology.

Littlefield thinks Hawaii’s economy could benefit from more companies like his: Pipeline Communication’s nine employees earn what Littlefield calls living wages, in the range of $70,000 to $80,000 annually. “Multiply that [and revenue of $1 million], by a hundred companies and that’s big,” he says.

Presently, Pipeline Communications and Technology is focusing on three kinds of technology: secure wireless, anti-roadside bombing and electronics cooling. These areas draw on Littlefield’s background as a retired U.S. Army Signal Intelligence officer. His company’s anti-roadside bombing technology, which has caught the attention of the Department of Defense, is an improvement on current equipment that “jams” frequencies of remote controls and other devices used to detonate improvised explosive devices. Pipeline Communica-tions’ technology is unique, jaming such frequencies while allowing so-called friendly communication between official military troops and personnel.

Pipeline Communications’ secure wireless technology uses what Littlefield calls a “wave cloak” – a narrow beam between transmitting nodes that is shielded by blocking signals in other directions. This technology can detect when a signal is intercepted – such as when a computer user “steals” a wireless signal – and bump the interloper off the network. Such technology would be especially helpful to businesses to protect customer information from people illegally “sniffing in” to their systems, Littlefield explained.

The third area of Pipeline Communications’ technology uses micro-cooling channels that help high-powered electronics cool more effectively. The technology was developed by UH mechanical engineering assistant professor Weilin Qu. This cooling method is exciting because current technology doesn’t allow sufficient cooling, making electronics run too hot for further improvements in efficiency, Littlefield says.

In 2007, UH MBA student Renata Matcheva and her team took first place in the UH Business-Plan Competition with their plan for Manoa Transgenics Inc. and won $20,000 in startup money. The competition was judged in part by Littlefield. The win proved to be a pivotal point for Matcheva, whose team had come in second place the previous year with a different plan. Matcheva, who is originally from Bulgaria and attended college in San Diego, had thought she would go into the field of finance.

“The business-plan competition changed my mindset. Now I know I don’t want to do anything with finance,” she says.

Manoa Transgenics draws on the technology that has been used to create glowing mice with a gene from jellyfish. The technology was created by Dr. Stefan Moisyadi, a molecular biologist at UH, and Dr. Joseph Kaminski, an oncologist at the Medical College of Georgia Cancer Center. Using this technology, Manoa Transgenics aims to bring two products to market. The first is so-called plasmids, or DNA molecules, that other companies can use to develop transgenic mice. The second product is custom-made transgenic mice for disease research. Manoa Transgenics’ central idea is that its technology can create transgenic mice more easily and cost-effectively.

“The technology is so efficient that it can cut costs by 50 percent for the customer,” says Matcheva, who graduated in 2007.

Bio-ethicists may have issues with transgenics and gene therapy, but as Matcheva sees it, the technology can help advance research and possibly cure diseases. “That could change lives.”

Butler, the professor, is bullish on the future of entrepreneurship at UH. Unlike interest in e-commerce, which was hot for a while and then subsided, he thinks entrepreneurship is sustainable. Says Butler: “It should be a good developing market for 20 years out.”

HAWAII PACIFIC UNIVERSITY
• HPU offers a Bachelor of Science in business administration with a major or minor in entrepreneurial studies.
• MBA students can take classes in entrepreneurship.
Program objectives:
• Identify and describe different forms of startup ventures.
• Prepare and present a business plan.
• Evaluate different sources of financing for startup ventures.
• Develop strategic management plans.

SHIDLER COLLEGE OF BUSINESS, UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII AT MANOA
• Entrepreneurship is one of the areas of emphasis at the college.
• MBA and undergraduate business students can take courses in entrepreneurship. (An undergraduate entrepreneurship major and MBA certificate are in the works.)
• The college conducts the UH Business-Plan Competition annually. This year, cash prizes of more than $80,000 were awarded.

CHAMINADE UNIVERSITY
• Chaminade undergraduate and graduate students may apply to the Hogan Entrepreneurship Program.
• The certification program is two years for juniors and one year for seniors and graduate students.
• The program’s motto is: “Doing business things that make social sense. Doing social things that make business sense.”
• The program is funded through a grant by the Hogan Foundation of California. Edward Hogan, founder of Pleasant Holidays LLC, and his wife, Lynn, chair the foundation.

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