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Your Day 1 Problem

Your Day 1 Problem

Students’ eyes glaze over when they read the syllabus.

How we can engage students and start teaching them entrepreneurship skills from the moment they walk into our classes?

Jay Markiewicz from Virginia Commonwealth University developed a novel way to start your semester that almost guarantees students will WANT to come back!

Step 1: Problem Definition and Customer Discovery

It’s the first day of class. We want to be anti-boring.

We want to put students in the middle of an engaging experience right away.

And even better, we want the engagement to be instructive.

By asking the question below, the moment is instantly relevant because students are experiencing it in real time. Students begin by using Post-it notes to answer this question

What are the challenges and concerns students face on day one of a new course?

Surprised and intrigued by the question, your students write down their answers on Post-It notes you’ve left on their desks before class started.

Then you tell your students to text their friends and ask them the same question. 

Surprised again (this time by being instructed to text during class) your classroom will fill with discussion and energy as students get replies.

Just like that, within the first 5 minutes of your course, your students are practicing the real-world entrepreneurial skill of problem discovery…and loving it.

In small teams of 3-4, students take a moment to meet each other and then collaborate by discussing with each other the challenges/concerns they wrote on their post-it notes. 

In this step, students start identifying problems, and progress into customer discovery, all in the first moments of class!

Step 2: Data Analysis

In this step, teams use their Post-it notes to group similar answers, ranking their top concerns/challenges.

Each team writes their top 2-3 answers on the board to start a list of all of the concerns/challenges students identified.

You can now engage the class in a discussion on the priority “problems” that students have on day one.

Here are some example answers you may see as the top priority”

  • “Getting to know each other. Avoiding day one awkwardness.”
  • “Getting interested in the course. Knowing what I’ll be learning throughout the course.”

In this step, students start analyzing customer discovery data – and you’re not even halfway through your first class!

Step 3: Solution Generation

Now we engage students even deeper, and have a little fun along the way!

They practiced problem definition, customer discovery, and data analysis. The next skill is generating solutions to the problem they just identified.

Ask students to write answers on the Post-it notes to the following question:

If you were me, what solutions would you design for these problems?

Students don’t need to text friends this time. Instead, have them form NEW teams of 3-4 students and go through the same steps as above – meet each other, identify the most common solutions, then debrief with answers grouped on the board or wall.

Step 4: Reflection

The last step of this amazing kickoff experience, included in the lesson plan below, are to have students reflect on the question, “How was this activity instructive to us about entrepreneurship?”

This is where students identify, in their own words, the entrepreneurial process – complete with their own ah-hah moments. It’s a really fun way for students to discover the key principles of entrepreneurship….all on the first day of the class!

Click below to….

Get the Full “What’s Your Day 1 Problem?” Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “What is Your Day 1 Problem?” exercise to walk you and your students through the process step-by-step.


It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers. Please feel free to share it.

All we ask is that you leave us some feedback on it in the comments below so we can improve it!

Want More Exercises Like This?

ExEC is a structured collection of experiential exercises that teach students entrepreneurial skills regardless of their relationship to entrepreneurship.

As an less expensive alternative to a textbook, ExEC provides students lifetime access to a wide range of entrepreneurial tools, and provides instructors:

Preview ExEC Now

We will be sharing more engaging exercises like this one!

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Recordings, Slides & Lessons from USASBE

Recordings, Slides & Lessons from USASBE

Wow, USASBE was amazing this year!

Below you’ll find the slides, lesson plans, and where available, recordings from our presentations.

But first, we wanted to say thank you for such a fantastic conference and share some of our highlights:


Milkshakes at USASBE


Twice a year we host the Teaching Entrepreneurship Summit showcasing the best entrepreneurship exercises we can find, and we couldn’t do it without an outstanding cohort of facilitators.

Teaching Entrepreneurship facilitators at USASBE

Renee Just, Kelly Reardon-Sleicher, and Krystal Geyer (left to right) are some of our best and most devoted facilitators. It was wonderful meeting them in person (and seeing the real-world “backpack” Kelly created for Krystal based on their Backpack Design Challenge experience)!


This award gives special recognition to the people whose outstanding passion for entrepreneurship is reflected in their teaching, writing, research, training, and public service.

Doan Winkel named a Longenecker Fellow at USASBE

Doan is one of only 85 people to be selected as a Longenecker Fellow over the last 36 years and we can’t thank him enough for his contribution to entrepreneurship education.


This year’s exercises were the best we’d ever seen at USASBE.

Federico Mammano, Justin Wilcox, Doan Winkel - 3E Podium 2023

Considering the level of competition among the Entrepreneurship Experiential Exercises (3E), we were ecstatic, and honored, that the Financial Modeling Showdown got recognized!

This continues our streak:


Bowling at USASBE
                  That face says it all 🙂

Overall, we came away from the conference reinvigorated and recommitted to providing the best entrepreneurship education resources we can!

Speaking of which, here are all of our resources from USASBE:


Get Slides, Lesson Plans, and Exercises

Includes resources from all 5 of our sessions:

  1. Marketing MVPs: Testing Demand on Social Media
  2. Making Finance Fun: The Financial Modeling Showdown
  3. Revenue Model Card Game
  4. Backpack Design Challenge: Intro to Design Thinking
  5. What is Your “F” Problem?

Just enter your email in the box above.

What’s Next?

In upcoming posts, we will share lesson plans, quick slides, and a variety of other resources to keep your students engaged!

Subscribe here to get our next classroom resource in your inbox.

Join 15,000+ instructors. Get new exercises via email!

Inspirational Videos: Steve Jobs

Inspirational Videos: Steve Jobs

Has a guest speaker ever said something to your class you had already taught, but your students seemed to believe it more from them?

It’s not because students don’t listen. It’s because when an outsider reinforces something we say, it feels more important.

This is one of the reasons guest speakers are great, but they can be hard to schedule for every lesson. So for any lesson you really want to drive home, you can try using a video as a validating external voice.

Here are some videos of Steve Jobs that you can use in conjunction with lessons on growth mindset, marketing, and pricing:

“If you’re afraid of failing, you won’t get very far.”

This is a fantastic video to reinforce the Failure Resume lesson. This exercise is a favorite among students and helps them develop growth mindset skills, especially when they’re endorsed by someone like Steve Jobs.

Get the Failure Resume

The Crazy Ones

This video, where Steve talks about why the best ads barely talk about the product at all, is a great compliment to the Lottery Ticket Dilemma. This lesson helps students understand the persuasive power of emotions and was the winner of USASBE’s 3E competition.

Get the Lottery Ticket Dilemma

A Pricing Masterclass

This video is an amazing example of Steve’s reality distortion field. Your students can see him convince a crowd that the iPad (a larger but less capable iPhone) was a steal at 250% the price of an iPhone because…it’s more like a laptop than a phone?!

You can use this video in conjunction with the Financial Modeling Showdown to demonstrate that the optimal price of a product isn’t determined by its cost of goods sold, it’s determined by what customers are willing to pay for it.

Get the Financial Modeling Showdown

What’s Next?

In upcoming posts, we will share lesson plans, quick slides, and a variety of other resources to keep your students engaged!

Subscribe here to get our next classroom resource in your inbox.

Join 15,000+ instructors. Get new exercises via email!

Teaching Entrepreneurship Winter Summit

Teaching Entrepreneurship Winter Summit

Teaching Entrepreneurship Winter Summit 2022

The Teaching Entrepreneurship Winter Summit is back with . . .

2 New Workshops!

You and our community of entrepreneurship educators voted for your favorite workshops, and now they’re happening!

Register Here

Learn Best Practices

The Teaching Entrepreneurship Winter Summit provides you with top-performing exercises and lets you experience these exercises like your students will. Plus, they’re…

Free when you join us live!

Both sessions will run from 1:00 – 2:30 pm Eastern on their respective days but if you can’t join us live, recordings are available for purchase.

Tuesday, December 13th

See It Taught Live: Financial Modeling Showdown

Winter Summit 2022: Financial Modeling Showdown

Watch Dr. Doan Winkel teach his students financial modeling live* using a fun, interactive game that you can use with your students too!

*We’ll live stream cameras from the classroom so you’ll literally see how the lesson is taught.

Tuesday, December 20th

Engagement From the First Day

Winter summit: Engagement From Day One

Use this lesson to get your students to think like entrepreneurs from the first day of class. 

In collaboration with Jay Markiewicz from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Register Here

Early Bird Tickets Available

We know budgets are tight right now so we’re offering a new “Live Access Only” ticket to the Teaching Entrepreneurship Winter Summit free of charge.

Plus: Full Access tickets, which include recordings and slides, are $100 off before November 30th.

Winter Summit Benefits

Winter Summit map

At our last summit. . .

600+ educators joined us live!

Register here so you don’t miss the Winter Summit!

Register Here

How to Teach Revenue Models

How to Teach Revenue Models

How do you engage students while teaching a financial subject like revenue models? Try the . . .

Revenue Models Matching Card Game

Step 1: Match the Cards

Students start by matching revenue model definitions cards like…

To familiar companies that use those revenue models:

teaching revenue models

The cards actually teach students the revenue model definitions – no textbook required!

Step 2: Brainstorm

Next, students brainstorm ways they could use 9 different revenue models:

After exploring a wide range of revenue models they could potentially use, they’re ready to…

Step 3: Apply

Finally, students pick the revenue model(s) they think will be most profitable for their company…

…and now they’re ready to add them to their Business Model Canvas (and start validating them).

Try It!

This is a really fun way to teach revenue models that we’ve had a lot of success with.

Get the “Revenue Model Matching Game” Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “Revenue Model Matching Game” exercise to walk you and your students through the process step-by-step.


It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers. Please feel free to share it.

All we ask is that you leave us some feedback on it in the comments below so we can improve it!

Coming Soon…

We will be sharing more engaging exercises like this one!

Subscribe here to get lesson plans delivered in your inbox.

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New Design Thinking: Backpack Design Challenge

New Design Thinking: Backpack Design Challenge

Tell students they are hired as a product designer. Their first job out of school is to design an ideal backpack. To help them do this, introduce the series of worksheets laid out in the Backpack Design Challenge lesson plan.

Step 1: The Most Exciting Purchase or Gift

The first worksheet asks students what is the most exciting thing they bought themselves, or were given as a gift recently.

It is really helpful with this exercise for you to share your perspective. At this step, share with them a concrete example of something that really excited you.

Make sure the thing they think of is something specific, and something they were really looking forward to. For example, a birthday present, or a holiday present, or something they’ve been wanting for months that they finally splurged on.

Design thinking backpack design challenge

Step 2: Feelings About the Purchase or Gift

Students record the feelings that came up as they made the purchase or received the gift. Give students time to reflect on the emotions they felt.

The point of these two steps is to build the foundation for the design thinking exercise to come.

Our goal is for them to learn a set of skills that helps them design products and services that get their customers as excited about the thing the student is creating as the student was about the purchase or gift. 

 Get The Lesson Plan Today!

Step 3: Must-have features

Now we will teach students to design a backpack that people get super excited about.

Ask students to describe their three “must have” features of their backpack.

A new approach to design thinking

Start by describing your three “must haves” and give them a few minutes to write down their three “must haves” that are unique to them.

Step 4: Draw the ideal backpack

The next step is for students to draw their ideal backpack. The point here is not beautiful artwork. The point is to visualize what the backpack with their must-have features looks lke.

Step 6: Ideal backpack reflection

Pair your students up for this step. Each student shares their drawings with their partner.

Each partner will ask lots of questions to dive deep into why their partner wanted certain features and anything else they are curious about.

design thinking reflection

Next, give students a few minutes to reflect on their partner’s backpack design. They describe what they saw and heard, how they felt about what they saw and heard, etc.

Components of the traditional design process

  • What should be built (start with product in mind)
  • How should it work / what should it look like? (functionality)
  • Do people love it?
  • Goal: build the best thing

Alternative approach: design thinking introduction

Explain to your students that what they just experienced is the traditional design process. Continue by sharing that this traditional way is not the best way to get customers excited about their product or service.

Ask them whether their partner offered to pre-order when saw other design. Was their partner so excited that they offered to give them real money? The answer will be no.

design process steps

Explain that in the traditional design process, someone

  • decides a product they should build
  • figures out the functionality of their product – what are the nuts and bolts
  • as a last step, they launch their product and work to figure out whether people love it

For your students to design something that gets people truly excited, they need to understand the design thinking process.

The design thinking process has five steps to create products people get really excited about:

  • Empathize
  • Define
  • Ideate
  • Prototype
  • Test

Talk to your students about the difference between the traditional design process and the design thinking process. In the traditional design approach, they start with thinking about the product they’re going to build.

In the design thinking process, they start with no product in mind. Instead, they start by understanding the customer’s emotional needs. In other words, what motives them on emotional level? This is the empathizing stage

If the goal is to build something people love, empathizing should be the first step in the process not the third step.

Step 7: Design something useful

Now that they are inspired to design something people want, pair students up again. Students interview the partner they previously worked with for 4 minutes each.

It is important here to tell them to forget about the backpack. They are taking a design thinking approach, so they don’t know what the “right” thing to build is. They learn what their partner really loves and why, so they can design something these customers truly want.

design thinking first step

The goal of this interview is to find out what’s the hardest part about being a student, how they felt, when they felt that way, and why it’s a problem.

Step 8: Dig deeper

Students then conduct another 4-minute interview with their partner. The difference is, this time they

  • What feelings arise for their partner when they have the problem they described before
  • Have they done anything to try and solve that problem
  • What didn’t they like about that solution

 Get The Lesson Plan Today!

Steps 9-11: Define the problem

Students next will define the problem their partner mentioned. They will

  • Synthesize data obtained from partner interview
  • Answer 3 questions
    • What goals is their partner trying to achieve?
    • What did they learn about their partner’s motivation
    • What is the partner point of view: [partner name] needs a way to [verb] because [problem to solve]

design thinking: define the problem step

This step outlines for the student a structure for the process of designing a solution that excites their partner.

Step 12: Ideate solutions

We now understand the problem. The goal here is to draw 5 different designs for alternative solutions using the new information they gathered. These designs can be anything. They don’t have to be based in reality – encourage your students to use their imagination.

design thinking new exercise

Step 13: Solicit feedback

In same pairs as before, students share their new solutions with each other and provide feedback. They share with each other what do they like, what don’t they like, and why.

design thinking feedback

Students will then iterate with their partners to come up with a more ideal solution for the problem based on their partner’s feedback.

design thinking iteration

This work will likely have nothing to do with backpacks – it will relate to the biggest problems the students experience. It could be about time management, or the dining hall, or parking, or boring classes.

That’s OK – we are working to get them trying to solve real problems for their partner!

Step 14: Reflect on new design

Students now have a new design based on feedback from their partner. Now we want them to reflect on that new design.

In pairs, they will answer two questions about the design their partner developed to solve their problem:

  • What emotions come up with thinking about partner’s new design, and why?
  • More excited about partner’s original design or new design, and why? 

design thinking reflection

Step 15: Compare approaches

Now you will recap everything with your students as a class. Tell them they went through two approaches to design:

  • Traditional design approach – their first design
  • Design thinking approach – their second design

They now fill out a comparison worksheet for these two approaches. First each student writes down the two different designs their partner create for them. The questions they will answer about these two designs are:

  • Which design are they most excited about?
  • Which design is more feasible?
  • Which design solves their partners’ problem better?
  • Which design would they choose?

design thinking comparison

Ask the class as a whole which design method feels more valuable. Specifically, ask them to put up the numbers of fingers representing the number of Xs they have in the Design Thinking row.

You should see an overwhelming number of students put up at least 3 fingers for the design thinking approach.

Highlight for students that this is why we do design thinking:

It is so much more powerful for creating ideas that are exciting to customers and that they want to pay for because the product actually solves their real problems.

Then, summarize for your students that they just completed the full design thinking process:

  • They empathized – they worked to understand their customer’s problems
  • They defined the problem – they gathered all the information they learned from their customer & now understand the problem that customer experiences
  • They then ideated on solutions for that problem – they developed multiple potential solutions for the problem their customer was experiencing
  • They prototyped products to solve the problem – here they would develop something that a user could actually interact with
  • Last, they tested their prototype – they solicited feedback from their customer to learn what appealed to them and what did not

The design thinking process is iterative. Students went through it once during this exercise. After testing, they can start again by empathizing with their customer based on their new product.

This approach is powerful because it will help your students work on solving problems that real customers actually experience.

After this exercise is a great place to segway into your syllabus and the topics you will cover and experiences students will have. You can connect this experience to the rest of your course by highlighting they will now be able to:

  • Understand a wide range of customer needs
  • Defining the problem
  • Iterating on a solution to that problem
  • Designing prototypes of that solution
  • Testing how customers feel about that solution

Get the “Backpack Design Challenge” Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “Backpack Design Challenge” exercise to walk you and your students through the process step-by-step.


It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers. Please feel free to share it.

All we ask is that you leave us some feedback on it in the comments below so we can improve it!

Coming Soon…

We will be sharing more engaging exercises like this one!

Subscribe here to get lesson plans delivered in your inbox.

Join 15,000+ instructors. Get new exercises via email!


Videos to Improve Student Presentations

Videos to Improve Student Presentations

If students can get their audience to feel something, their chance of “success” rises dramatically.
We’ve all been there. Two students stand on one side of the screen, two students stand on the other. One student talks to the screen while the others fidget nervously until it’s their turn to stumble through what they couldn’t quite memorize.

Student presentations are painful. For them. For us. For judges.

Use the videos below to teach your students to deliver presentations that make their audience feel something.

Option 1: Make The Audience Feel Something About Themselves

Students often jump right into describing or selling the product/service.

This is the classic pitch mistake.

Students need to know their audience – their goals, their values, their struggles. The more they know about their audience, the easier it will be for them to bring the audience’s point of view to theirs. In the video below, Dallas Mavericks owner, and Shark Tank billionaire Mark Cuban shares how he sold Mavericks tickets when they were the worst team in the NBA.

Presentation hack to pitch from your audience's perspective

Mark is not selling the basketball game. He is selling the feeling parents have when they create family memories at the basketball game.

Mark understand that his customers (parents) want to create memories with their children. And more importantly, the kind of memories the parents have with their parents. He convinces customers that a Mavericks game experience creates those lasting memories. Mark makes an emotional appeal to his audience’s nostalgia so they will feel something about themselves and buy his product.

Option 2: Make The Audience Feel Something About You

If your students want people involved, they can open up about themselves and weave their personal story into their presentation. If they are vulnerable, their audience begins to feel something.

This approach is about students finding something that is true about them that may also be true about their audience.

In the Shark Tank pitch below, a founder (Phil Lapuz) gets sharks tearing up tearing up – including Kevin O’Leary, who is the definition of a robotic investor!

Phil is vulnerable and authentic. He uses his own story to remind the sharks about the risks of starting a new company, something that each shark undoubtedly remembers and feels very intensely.

Help your students appeal to their audience’s emotions by:

  • Being vulnerable, and authentic
  • Identifying their audience’s values – what matters to them
  • Specifically link their product/service to those values

The audience is immediately compelled to act because they remember, they feel, and they believe. They empathize with the person pitching and with the product/service. Phil makes the sharks feel something about him so they will invest in his startup.

Option 3: Make The Audience Feel With You

Amy Cuddy’s video below is about imposter’s syndrome, which she felt and which many in the audience undoubtedly felt at one time or another. They feel Amy’s fear and angst. Because they remember, and feel, their fear and angst.

People clap during Amy’s talk, because they are celebrating her and what she is offering another young woman experiencing imposter syndrome. But they are also clapping because they recognize something in themselves.

Amy doesn’t just make her audience feel something about themselves.

She doesn’t just make her audience feel something about her.

She makes her audience feel with her. And in that moment, they will go wherever she wants to take them!

If students default to their normal Powerpoint presentation technique, the audience defaults to processing language. All their effort is spent decoding words into meaning, instead of feeling. Share these videos with your students to help them understand that great presentations make audiences feel something.

What’s Next?

In upcoming posts, we will share lesson plans, quick slides, and a variety of other resources to keep your students engaged!

Subscribe here to get our next classroom resource in your inbox.

Join 15,000+ instructors. Get new exercises via email!

Teaching Entrepreneurship Summit – Summer 2022

Teaching Entrepreneurship Summit – Summer 2022

Register Here

Day 1: May 10th, 1:00 – 2:30 pm Eastern

How to Teach Revenue Models

Learn a new game to introduce students to different types of revenue models and explore how they can leverage them in their own business models.

Register Here

Day 2: May 17th, 1:00 – 2:30 pm Eastern

Design Thinking Re-Imagined: Wallet Design v2

An iteration on the Stanford’s famous Wallet Design exercise with optimizations for undergraduate entrepreneurship classrooms.

Register Here

Day 3: May 24th, 1:00 – 2:30 pm Eastern

See it Taught Live: Teaching Students How to Network

Join a live classroom we’ll teach undergrads at John Carroll University how to use the updated Skills Scavenger Hunt exercise to develop their networking skills!

Using a series of live video feeds you’ll see how this lesson is taught to students, be able to ask questions, and get a copy of the exercise to use in your class.

Register Here

How to Grow a Top 50 Entrepreneurship Program

How to Grow a Top 50 Entrepreneurship Program

When Dennis Barber III joined East Carolina University’s entrepreneurship program 5 years ago, there wasn’t much of a program to speak of:

  • No entrepreneurship major
  • Low class enrollment
  • Little entrepreneurial brand recognition

Fast forward to today and ECU not only has an entrepreneurship major, they’ve:

  • Tripled their entrepreneurship enrollment
  • Won USASBE’s Model Emerging Program
  • Won GCEC’s Emerging Centers award
  • And made Princeton Review’s list of Top 50 Entrepreneurship Schools

Princeton Review Top 50 Entrepreneurship Programs

So how did Dennis and his colleagues – Michael Harris, Director of the Miller School of Entrepreneurship, David Mayo, and Corey Pulido – grow their entrepreneurship program so quickly? And more generally…

How do Top 50 entrepreneurship schools get on, and stay on, that list?

To find out, we interviewed the leaders of several Top 50 programs so we could share their techniques with you.

Who We Interviewed

Top entrepreneurship programsBelow you’ll find a summary of what we learned during our interviews, as well as…

5 concrete steps you can take to grow your entrepreneurship program.

Step #1: Define Your Niche

Most of the successful entrepreneurship programs we interviewed did two things early on to spark their growth:

  1. They intentionally started small and
  2. They specialized in an area of entrepreneurship that leveraged their local community and institutional culture

For instance, Iowa State University leaned into agricultural entrepreneurship, and East Carolina University specialized in the needs of eastern North Carolina. Studying your local ecosystem by identifying the largest industries, companies, and communities will help you define your niche. Additionally, you can look at your local Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, or similar entity, to see how they are marketing your community.

Defining your entrepreneurial niche is important because it will help your program stand out in a sea of other academic programs, not to mention accelerators, incubators and community-based organizations. Narrowing in on a small group of students you can serve extremely well as your program is still growing will increase the success rate of your program, which you can highlight as case studies to create a positive feedback loop that grows your program.

As David Townsend from Virginia Tech University said,

“Let it grow where the soil is fertile.”

So if your local community has a large Latinx population, consider specializing in Latinx entrepreneurship. Or if your entrepreneurship program has a number of instructors who are veterans, consider developing programs that specialize in veterans entrepreneurship.

Over time, you’ll be able to grow and broaden the scope of your program, but when you’re starting out, do like the most successful programs have done and ensure that you can provide a fantastic opportunity for a small set of entrepreneurs in your community. Then, highlight their successes to help fuel your program’s growth.

Note: This is our first article in a series dedicated to growing entrepreneurship programs. We’d love your input on which article we should write next.

If you want more details on this specific step (i.e. how to define your entrepreneurial program’s niche and create programs specific to it) please vote here and we’ll expand the overview above into a full article and checklist.

Step #2: Name Your Champions

The Top 50 programs we talked to overwhelming stressed the importance of identifying people on your growth team to fulfill these three roles:

  1. Administrative Champion: A Dean, Vice-President, Provost, President, etc. who has been at your school for some time and has excellent relationships with faculty, staff, and the ability to get buy-in for creating new programs.
  2. Faculty Champion: Preferably a tenured faculty member who can drive the implementation of your new academic and extracurricular programming.
  3. Data Collector: Someone to aggregate program metrics, testimonials, and success stories.

Note: the same person can fulfill multiple roles, you just need to make sure you’ve got someone owning all three levels of responsibility.

Champions are people who can help you launch your efforts by providing critical feedback, opening doors, and giving their resources. Many of the programs we interviewed mentioned specifically having two campus champions – one a tenured faculty member, and the other an administrator (Dean, Vice-President / Provost, President). With respected champions who can reach across campus, program growth has a clear path for growth. They also recommend giving the faculty champions a meaningful title and a commitment of time and support to help them help your entrepreneurship program.

Another potential benefit to identifying champions is that they sometimes rise into leadership positions at the university (Dean, Vice-President / Provost, President) and can provide ongoing support and visibility for your program from the top down.

Jamey Darnell from Penn State University mentioned that working towards getting ranked as a top entrepreneurship school is a great way to get administration excited, and achieving rankings is a great way to keep them excited.

In addition to stressing how important campus champions were to building their program, the leaders we interviewed all spoke about the importance of a data collector: someone to capture their efforts and successes and report them as part of the Princeton Review rankings process. As with your champions, consider providing this person (ideally a faculty member) with a title and a small monetary stipend to emphasize the importance of the role and ensure they have time to complete it. In addition, make sure other people on campus know who this person is – put out a press release, introduce the data collector at campus meetings and events, etc. This person will interface with faculty, students, and administrators, so letting your campus know who they are and what they’re doing enables them to collect more stories and data.

Finally, as Dr. Susan Fiorito, Dean of the Jim Moran College of Entrepreneurship at Florida State University stressed, all of your faculty, staff, and champions need to feel enabled as leaders of your entrepreneurship program. When everyone feels ownership, everyone delivers.

If you’d like us to write a more detailed article about how to identify and empower your entrepreneurial champions, please click here.

Step #3: Start a Fellows Program

Every program we talked to emphasized the importance of early cross-campus collaboration. Creating these connections will help you accomplish two things:

  1. Get buy-in from a wide range of tenured faculty which helps establish academic legitimacy.
  2. Grow your program by embedding entrepreneurship across the curriculum which introduces it to more students.

To do this, you want to build a cohort of entrepreneurial ambassadors across campus. As Tom Swartwood at Iowa State University recommended, you want to:

“Deputize people around campus.”

Jamey at Penn State University found that having a cross-disciplinary program leads directly to growth because they get to meet students wherever they are: at a law school, at an incubator, etc. For the same reason, Susan Fiorito at Florida State University recommends developing a diversity of courses and programs to reach as far across campus as possible.

The most effective mechanism we heard for building cross-campus collaboration was through an “entrepreneurship Fellows” program. In a Fellows program, you pay non-entrepreneurship faculty a small stipend to bring entrepreneurship into their curriculum. For example, you might pay 4 or 5 faculty in different disciplines a few thousand dollars to each develop a course that focuses on entrepreneurship in their respective discipline.  Judi Eyles at Iowa State attributed much of the entrepreneurship program’s success to spending a little money early on to “turn faculty into ambassadors.”

You guide the Fellows through learning about entrepreneurship in the context of your university (and your niche), and collaboratively develop ideas for how to introduce it into their curriculum. You will also want to include faculty involved with your curriculum approval process in your Fellows program, which will help smooth the course approval process when you get to that stage.

Each year, add more Fellows to your program (both senior faculty and new faculty), in new disciplines, while former Fellows serve as mentors. You can thereby build a rich and diverse community of entrepreneurship champions across campus.

The big payoff from an investment in a Fellows program comes in two forms:

  1. Cultivating entrepreneurship educators across many disciplines creates a rich fabric of entrepreneurial courses, which increases interest in entrepreneurial minors, and majors.
  2. Student entrepreneurs get a diverse range of experiences and perspectives, which increase the quality of their experiences and their outcomes as future entrepreneurs.

If you’d like us to write a detailed guide on how to create a fellows program, please click here.

Step #4: Map Your Ecosystem

Ecosystem maps will help you understand the relationships between the people and assets that contribute to creating amazing student experiences. Building an ecosystem map specifically provides two benefits:

  1. You identify the people who support entrepreneurship (so you can empower them) and those who do not support it yet (so you can interview them to understand their perspective and work to bring them onboard)
  2. During your research, you plant the seeds from which your entrepreneurship program will grow. As you map your ecosystem, you talk to faculty, staff, students, and alumni about your vision and goals for your program. When it is time to make an ask, these stakeholders understand what you’re doing and why.

The leaders we interviewed mentioned the following as critical components to include in your ecosystem map:

  • ​​The faculty and staff who collectively create your student experience.
  • The practices they perform – the services or value they deliver to students.
  • The information they require, use, or share to contribute to their parts of the university.
  • The people, systems, faculty, and staff they interact with to be successful in their roles.
  • The channels through which they communicate – e.g., email, campus newsletter, campus forums.

For a demo on how to start outlining the key players in your ecosystem, check out this great video by Meg Weber from Western Washington University:

Want more details on how to build and leverage an ecosystem map? Click here and we’ll expand this into a full guide.

Step #5: Connect Your FACS

After you’ve identified your niche, champions, Fellows, and ecosystem members, you’re ready to take the final step that separates the Top 50 entrepreneurship programs from the rest…

Connect your constituencies to accelerate growth.

Successful entrepreneurship programs are intentional about connecting their “FACS”:

  • Faculty
  • Alumni
  • Community
  • Students

Each of these groups complements the others, and together, creates the fuel for program growth. For example, you want to make sure you’re actively promoting programs connecting:

  • Faculty to Alumni – Great for finding guest speakers, internships for students, publicizing your programs’ success stories, and soliciting donations.
  • Faculty to Community – Great for getting pitch competition judges, finding inspiration for class projects, highlighting student success stories, and soliciting donations.
  • Students to Alumni – Great for mentorships, jobs, and potential investments.
  • Students to Community – Great for mentorships, jobs, and inspiring class projects.

As Judi Eyles at Iowa State University mentioned, “you need to make it easy for the outside world to connect with your students and faculty by giving them a portal to connect.” Intentionally building relationships with students will help you keep in touch with them as they transition to alums, and enable you to extend relationships with them and their growing network.

Creating relationships with alumni and community members will provide the “reality” your students yearn for as they wonder how to apply what they’re learning in the classroom. Alumni will also create opportunities for students – through job shadowing, internships, seed funding, adjunct instructors, and the list goes on.

In short…

Does your entrepreneurship program offer your alumni and community members multiple opportunities to contribute their time, expertise, and/or money to help your program grow?

If not, you may be able to accelerate your program’s growth by connecting your “FACS.”

If you’d like us to write a detailed guide with specific ideas on how to connect your FACS, please click here.

Bonus Step #6: Focus on Skills

The top 50 entrepreneurship programs we interviewed had one more resounding practice in common:

They prioritized entrepreneurial skill development over “success stories.”

The programs we spoke with acknowledged that entrepreneurial success stories are fantastic to share to grow your community, but they can be few and far between. So instead of focusing exclusively on those, the programs emphasized the value for students of learning entrepreneurial skills, regardless of their perceived career path.

Universally applicable skills like design thinking, financial modeling, and business model validation turn today’s students into returning alumni who are looking to hire similarly skilled and innovative graduates.

If you’d to review the skill-based curriculum that 1 out of every 3 programs on Princeton Review’s Top 50 list use, check out our Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum.

Want More Growth Tips

We’re excited to explore these subjects in more depth so please let us know what topics we should dive into next!

We hope you’re able to try these strategies and that we get to feature your program in the future!

What’s Next?

In upcoming posts, we will share lesson plans, quick slides, and a variety of other resources to keep your students engaged!

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Teaching Entrepreneurship Summit – Winter 2021

Teaching Entrepreneurship Summit – Winter 2021

Register Here

Day 1: Dec 14th, 1 – 2:30 pm Eastern

Marketing MVPs: Testing Demand on Social Media

Social media marketing is an incredibly powerful tool for entrepreneurs (and an in-demand skill set for employers).

Whether it’s to test demand for their MVPs, or learn more about how their personal information is used, this exercise will help your students see just how powerful social media marketing is.

Register Here


Day 2: Dec 16th, 1 – 2:30 pm Eastern

Making Entrepreneurship Relevant to All Students

With the exercise and techniques we discuss in this class, we’ll show you how to engage all students in entrepreneurship, regardless of their desire to become an entrepreneur, so they can develop their entrepreneurial skills.

If you teach an intro or elective entrepreneurship course, this workshop is for you!

Register Here