NEU 3: Letter from the Executive Director

Letter from the Director

After five months serving as the Executive Director at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) at Grand Valley State University, I can write this introduction with a sense of direction that I did not have in the previous issue. It is appropriate that this issue focuses on talent as a component of the entrepreneur ecosystem. We have no higher calling at CEI than to create entrepreneurial talent.

For the purpose of this introduction, talent is defined in two ways:
1. The individuals and groups that innovate the ideas that become new enterprises
2. The managers and business people that help take the ideas from thought to reality

Our research programs, engineering projects and experimental models are designed to foster creativity, innovation and new ideas. However, we see the need for improvement in the area of developing and retaining managers and CEOs who can take ideas from concept to reality.  West Michigan must create a talent base of managers capable of tackling today’s and tomorrow’s big challenges.

We have the privilege to work with outstanding entrepreneurial talent at Grand Valley and throughout the community. We have students launching their first enterprise, and students with significant traction now seeking funding. We work with multiple programs throughout West Michigan that focus on developing entrepreneurial management talent such as the Momentum, Grand Angels and many more. However, our reach is limited in our current format. For every student entrepreneur or new business we encounter, we have five more companies and ideas that need managers with experience in entrepreneurship.

Under our current format, our ability to work with students and companies is limited by the type and number of contacts we have with students. To break this limitation we must seek new ways to provide entrepreneurial education and experiences. As I address in my article, Is It the Horse or the Jockey, there is a great need to develop the entrepreneurial talent capable of taking an idea from concept to reality. We need to connect with more students and we need to find ways to introduce the entrepreneurial process in a more integrated way.

This issue shares stories of great entrepreneurs throughout West Michigan, which illustrate that entrepreneurship is not limited to the for-profit business model. This issue shares stories of a nurse entrepreneur, a successful not-for profit cancer care service, an extraordinary entrepreneur who didn’t let his handicap stop him, and a variety of other ventures in different stages in the entrepreneurial cycle.  Their diverse experiences support our position that entrepreneurship is not just subject or discipline of study, but also a practice, a way of thinking. It is a process in which the entrepreneur must balance the need to articulate a broad strategic vision with the need to execute the day-to-day activities that translate their vision into reality.  Entrepreneurs are do-ers—takers of action.

As practitioners of entrepreneurship, we at CEI are taking action, executing on our vision of a dynamic West Michigan entrepreneurial community.

J. Kevin McCurren

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