Changemaker Day Offers Students Entrepreneurial Advice from Expert Panel

Four experts joined Crummer Alumni Hall of Fame member and Board of Trustees member David Lord for a conversation on social entrepreneurship and innovation.

For Changemaker Day 2019, Rollins Board of Trustees member David Lord ’69 ’71MBA ’16H moderated a conversation with four different Central Florida experts offering students advice on social entrepreneurship and innovation.

Changemaker Day, a full day of events hosted by the Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship Hub, organized the event to give students a chance to hear from the best minds in social innovation and entrepreneurship. The Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Hub is a creative space on campus where we provide tools/resources to support addressing local and global social issues. This is done through hands-on learning and purposeful dialogue based on human-centered design thinking methodology.

Lord discussed what makes a successful social entrepreneur, what goes into dealing with risks involved, and what skills are necessary to lead an innovative, community-focused company in today’s day and age.

Joining him was Ben Hoyer, director of Downtown CREDO, Orlando’s non-profit coffee shop, Ethan Curtis, President/CEO of GoodTix, Keith Whittingham, Crummer’s Associate Professor of Management and Science, and Jamie Van Leeuwen, Founder & CEO of the Global Livingston Institute.

Sustainability panel and changemaker panel

Ben Hoyer is the Director of Downtown CREDO which has a partnership with the Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College. Downtown CREDO challenges people to consider that quality of life is more tied to who we are becoming than what we have or what we’ve accomplished. Ben is convinced if we become people of meaning, impact, and community, then we will enjoy our lives more no matter our level of influence. Ben also serves as a Board Member for Rally, Central Florida’s social enterprise accelerator that helps entrepreneurs create positive social change and build self-sustainable ventures.

Ethan Curtis is the President/CEO of GoodTix. GoodTix allows excess ticket inventory to be donated and auctioned off online at a discount rate to benefit charities. It helps price people into events without discounting brand and while also driving impact for the community.

Jamie Van Leeuwn founded the Global Livingston Institute in 2009 to encourage students and community leaders to think bigger and differently about international development. Jamie has been traveling to East Africa for more than a decade, developing innovative partnerships with the public, private and nonprofit sectors in Uganda. Jamie also previously served as a Senior Advisor for Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.

Keith Whittingham, a professor at the Crummer Graduate School of Business, also leads consulting projects on Global Sustainability and Social Entrepreneurship. Dr. Whittingham regularly travels with students to Costa Rica as part of his Global Sustainability course.

The following are highlights from that conversation:

David Lord: Risk and fear is a big part of entrepreneurship; how do you deal with risk?

Ethan Curtis: I’m still learning to deal with risk. It takes a certain amount of fearlessness; nothing worth doing comes easy, and nothing that’s never been done before comes easy. I think my mechanism for dealing with risk is to hunt down as many smart people as possible and see what they say and what they can help me with. Mentorship has been my strongest element in moving this forward, with Rally being a huge part in that.

Ben Hoyer: The biggest thing is to have a degree of optimism to be an entrepreneur. I’m not saying that if you lean toward pessimism you won’t be able to start anything, but you need to put on your optimistic hat in order to run down potential things that will fail. If you don’t start down a road because you think it will fail, you won’t start anything. The answer is to go down a road and risk potential failure.

Keith Whittingham: I’ve looked at entrepreneurship as embracing fear, instead of minimizing risk. What entrepreneurs do is start something, one of the key characteristics is initiative, is to say OK I see this issue, it has impacted me, and I’m passionate about it, but I have to do something about it. There is a curiosity element that is very, very important.

David Lord: What are some of the important skills of an entrepreneur and tips?

Jamie Van Leeuwn: The Governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper, was my boss for 15 years. We were in the middle of the worst fire season we’ve ever had, and I was waiting for him on the steps of the capital, so I could brief him. There was a group of kids doing a tour on the capital, and I’m thinking please move, I need to talk to the Governor, but he still stopped and talked to the kids. He said I have two pieces of advice for you: he said work hard and be nice. We all know how to work hard, texting, tweeting, and communicating 24/7, but we tend to forget about the second part. The finest leaders I’ve had the privilege of working for are the ones who work hard but are also nice.

Ben Hoyer: A good starting point and where we start at Rally is by doing the Social Project Lean Canvas, which is a great place to get your idea on paper. Once you get your idea on paper, this will prompt you to ask all the appropriate starter questions like, why am I in it? What impact will it make? What is the unique value proposition? It will challenge you to ask all of the right questions. If you are able to ask those questions, then the next step is to find a mentor who knows more than you. That’s the way to start if I was starting now.

Keith Whittingham: It’s one thing to learn about something, read about it in a book and have faculty that have the wisdom of having experiences, but it’s a completely different thing to get on the ground and actually do something yourself. There’s a tremendous amount of value in that. You may find this thing is what you’re most passionate about, and you’re inspired to float through the challenges you may face.

You may also find this is something you may never want to do again, and that is such a valuable experience. If you are considering internships, I would wholeheartedly suggest that: get the feeling of what is like to actually do something.