Staff Spotlight: Laura Johnson

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I’m here with Laura Johnson, the Director of Entrepreneurship Degree Programs. Laura joined us just last semester in September. So let’s see how she’s doing.

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I’m here with Laura Johnson, the Director of Entrepreneurship Degree Programs. Laura joined us just last semester in September. So let’s see how she’s doing.

CEI: Hi Laura, Thanks for taking time to chat with me.

LAURA: Sure! Glad to do it.

CEI: So tell us your path to this directorship.

LAURA: I came to UF for undergrad, and after quite a few degree changes I graduated with a degree in event management.  After an internship in non-prifit event management, I realized that I liked the entrepreneurial aspects of it –the ambiguity, the creativity, the value creation, but that was about it. From there I went to work for the Chamber of Commerce in Gainesville in a sales position, which was great experience.  Everyone should have a sales job at some point.  My next job was at RTI Biologics in event management; I got to attend lots of trade shows and work with some great people.  RTI is a spin-off of UF, by the way.  About 5 years ago I did the MSE program when it was offered on the weekend. I loved it and got so much out it. It completely changed the way my brain works. I said to my husband about the person in my position now, “I would love to do that job!” So when it opened up, I applied, and now here I am! I like that we have the start-up feel in CEI even though we are part of a massive university.

CEI: What are some of differences in the program from when you completed it, to today and to where it’s going?

LAURA: I can’t really judge the traditional program, because I did the professional weekend program. …Now it’s been more tailored to start-up mentality, not just a business degree. So we have courses centered on entrepreneurship, like guerrilla marketing. Our experiential learning element has grown exponentially. The opportunities students have now on campus and in the start-up community is drastically different, there is a great scene for our students to take advantage of. The addition of Dr. Morris to the CEI is taking the center leaps and bounds beyond how awesome it already was into a world-class center.

CEI: What do you look for in students who participate in entrepreneurship programs?

LAURA: When students come into the office, from every different background, they all have a passionate streak in common. While they might not have a business in mind, they know they want something different than a traditional degree program.  We teach an entrepreneurial mindset and help students channel that energy. Anyone can be the right fit, we want people who work well in groups and can bring new ideas to the table. So if a team has a marketing major, a fine arts major, and a finance major, they could put together an incredible plan. It seems like most of the people interested in the program have entrepreneurs as parents or family members. That’s not a requirement but an interesting observation.

CEI: Do you think because of early exposure to the entrepreneurial mindset, it is hard for students to go into corporate?

LAURA: Yeah, I think when students see their parents go to work and they are the bosses or they run a company, you see the path as something different. You can define it yourself; you don’t need to fight your way up a ladder to get to the top.

CEI: Why are you drawn to entrepreneurship?

LAURA: I think I’m drawn to entrepreneurship because I naturally think differently. I like to solve problems and look at things from different angles. I like seeing the final product and figuring out how to work backwards to get there. That’s what entrepreneurship is all about – having a big goal and working towards that. Also, I think I have an authority problem. I have had jobs where I’ve had managers that I think I could do a better job than them and it made me crazy that I didn’t have the experience that corporate culture requires to move ahead.

CEI: So let’s say you were marooned on a deserted island and could only bring three things with you to survive. What would you bring?

LAURA:  A knife, a big one! I want a really big hat. That can also be used to collect water. It’s a really big hat. And some really sturdy twine to make nets. But how do I start a fire?  I rescind my hat answer and choose a Zippo lighter. Because yes it can start a fire, but it’s shiny so I can signal a plane. I’ll just make a hat out of palm fronds.

CEI: That’s a very entrepreneurial answer. You used resource leveraging, bootstrapping clearly, and opportunity assessment. Are these the kinds of things you all teach about in the entrepreneurship programs?

LAURA: Absolutely! So not only could you learn to start a business, but also how to survive on a deserted island! I’m telling you, it teaches you how to think differently.

CEI: That’s great, thanks so much for your time. How can someone contact you to learn about CEI programs?

LAURA: Email me at Laura.Johnson@warrington.ufl.edu to set up a time to tour the CEI and see if any of our programs are right for you. If you’re not in Gainesville we can Skype at UF_CEI.

CEI:  Thanks so much!

LAURA: Thanks, Jeff.

On Consumer Value Surplus

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I was reading local entrepreneur Collin Austin’s blog this week wherein he discusses his new position at Gulejo Coffee. Gulejo by the way is founded by our Masters Degree in Entrepreneurship alumni.

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Collin is coming on board as the C$O. Read his blog for more explanation, but just know he has a knack for original titles.  Something he did really caught my attention for it’s “out-of-the-boxness” (if I can use that phrase that way). It’s about the consumer value surplus. I would wager, and I’m not a betting man, that Collin didn’t think of the theory regarding consumer value surplus when he and Gulejo created this new strategy. But they nailed it.

Impact_icon_blurConsumer value surplus is the increased value one product has over another as perceived by customer. It is created entirely by the seller by portraying perceived utility greater than the cost of production. #duh Here’s how Gulejo did it.

Gulejo, like most coffee sellers, sold coffee by the pound (16 oz.)and half-pound (8 oz). Collin bumped that up a bit. Now the Gulejo pound is 17 oz. and the half-pound is 9 oz. Price doesn’t change for the customer, that’s value add number 1. Cost to Gulejo should be minuscule, that’s value add 2. In a vacuum that’s all fine and dandy. But this is the real world and competition exists. As a consumer evaluates and compares bags of coffee, Gulejo will stand out. The consumer will perceive greater value for their dollar simply because of the extra ounce. Collin isn’t the first person to use this tactic.

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One of the main”American” breweries is now doing something with “tall-boys” bumping up the 24 oz can to 25 oz. However, I would argue this is rather ineffective. Tall-boys are a secondary revenue driver, they aren’t competitive enough for this to matter. It’s not the big money maker that competes for shelf space. That’s the 6-packs, the 12-ounce bottles or cans most commonly purchased. If I came out with a 13 ounce can, now I would be adding value in a competitive segment. That extra ounce wold now sway customers to my brand.

The same will happen with Gulejo coffee because they have added an ounce in the segment that plays by the pound and half pound. It creates a disruption where the incumbents are bound to the tyranny of the served market.

Good luck Collin, we’ll be watching to see what happens.

Veterans Entrepreneurship Program

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The Veterans Entrepreneurship Program (VEP) is designed for veterans who are interested in starting a business or who have an existing business. The program consists of three phases that provides practical training in venture creation and growth, and is accompanied by a support structure for participants as they pursue their ventures.

Dr. Michael Morris and the College's entrepreneurship faculty are launching a program to help disabled veterans in business.

Dr. Michael Morris and the College’s entrepreneurship faculty are launching a program to help disabled veterans in business.

“This rigorous, hands-on program is for veterans with a true passion to start something,” explains Professor Michael Morris, VEP founder. “It is about helping to empower those who have paid the price for our freedom to create their own futures, and to create ventures and jobs, hopefully for other vets.”

The program’s three phases are:

Phase I – Concept Development and Self Study (March 24 to April 26): Through online discussions moderated by the College’s entrepreneurship faculty, participants work on developing business concepts. Delegates with existing businesses work on understanding and shaping relevant business issues.

Phase II – Bootcamp (May 3-10): Delegates arrive in Gainesville for an intense eight day workshop on the University of Florida campus with faculty, guest entrepreneurs and business experts. This hands-on learning experience exposes participants to the “nuts and bolts” of business ownership.

Phase III – Mentoring and Venture Development (May 19 to January 2015): Delegates receive mentorship for eight months from entrepreneurs and business experts. Participants can rely on these successful business professionals to help provide solutions to existing problems.

To qualify for the program, veterans must meet three requirements:

1. Separated from active duty service (or currently in the administrative process of separating) with an honorable discharge.

2. Identified as disabled by the Veteran’s Administration or Department of Defense based on a “service connected” disability or “service distinguished” based on exemplary military conduct.

3. Demonstrates an intense interest in entrepreneurship and small business ownership/management.

Instruction, materials, travel expenses, lodging and meals for the Phase II Bootcamp will be provided at no cost to each delegate. The costs of the VEP are underwritten by sponsors and private donors, with operations and program development provided by CEI.

The deadline for applications is Feb. 20. For more information, contact Dr. Michael Morris, VEP Program Director, at vep@warrington.ufl.edu or 352-273-0329 or visithttp://warrington.ufl.edu/centers/cei/vep/.

 

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Repost from https://news.warrington.ufl.edu/2014/02/cei-launches-innovative-program-to-help-business-minded-disabled-veterans/

Big Idea Competition, Reflections of Day 3

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BeDifferentThe focus of tonight’s lab session was on the business model. Not the business plan, not the business concept, but something kind of in between.

As a refresher, the business plan is the full detailed document split up across about a dozen sections that is your “best guess” of how you will run every aspect of your business.  It’s pretty detailed. The business concept is not your tangible product or service, but the value you create. A lighting company’s product is lights and chandeliers, but their business concept is selling ambiance, mood, effecting the environment. You should be able to state your business concept in 6 words. And the first two are “We sell”.

So what is a business model? A business model asks 6 questions:

  • How do you create value?
  • Who do you create value for?
  • What is your internal advantage?
  • What is your external differentiation?
  • How will you make money?
  • What is your growth plan?

Let’s break those down, starting with “How do you create value?”

How do you create value? 

This might sound straightforward; you sell things. But the question doesn’t ask how do dollars get in your bank account, the questions is about creating value. Within your product/service mix you will find you have breadth and depth across your product lines.

The breadth refers to the kinds of products you have. So lets say you operate a simple dive shop and you have the following products:

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Each of these is a revenue driver, and independently contributes to the value you create.  The next concept is depth of your product mix, these are your unique offerings within the product lines. They can high-end or low-end variations, service contracts, rentals, etc… the more creative you get with the depth, the more opportunity you have to create value. Let’s put that into our breadth model and see how it looks.

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But what if you only have one product because you are a start-up based on a new gizmo? Add depth to that one product. Do so through a warranty or service contract, tech support, additional supplies or accessories to compliment it. Again, the more creative you can be, the more value you can create.

Who do you create value for?

The more you understand your customer and the buying cycle, then the better you can sell to them. Create a picture of the kinds of market segments you will be selling to, and you will knock this out of the park. Draw your ideal customer, take a picture of one, and get in their head. What steps to they take from becoming aware of your product, become interested, desiring the product, and lastly purchasing that product. Are your sales based on quick transactions or does your customer need a relationship with you or your sales force?

What is your internal advantage?

What are the capabilities your business has that are unique to you? If you had one extra dollar to spend on your company, where would you spend it? What makes you excellent? This is about you and your people. If everyone in your industry had the same resources, what internal capabilities are your strongest?

What is your external differentiation?

Differentiation compliments your internal advantage – externally. If your internal advantage is people skills, this might translate externally as a fantastic customer service department. If the internal advantage is marketing, then we should expect to see a pretty sophisticated marketing section.

How will the firm make money?

The basic question here is about volume and margins. The example in the lab was on college bars. A college bar can sell 25-cent beers all night by packing the bar to capacity and selling as many beers as they can as fast as they can. Whereas if you were to go to swanky hotel lounge, the same beer might be going for $7, and they expect you to order maybe one or two an hour. The key difference here is in high volume/ low margins vs. low volume/high margins. What are yours?

What is your growth plan?

Where is the company in 5 years? Are you expanding, selling, IPO? Sometimes this is called a speculation plan, because it is your hopes and dreams of your company’s future.

Good luck! To keep up with us live-tweeting the labs follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ufcei.

Big Idea Business Plan Competition, Day two

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entrepreneurshipThe second day of lab for the Big Idea Competition was full of excitement! Everyone walked in the room, and the air was electric. Dr. Morris opened the floor for questions before we began and a theme was clearly apparent. Each question was dancing around information; specifically what information is revealed when? And frankly, this is something you will see in every business class, pitch competition, and networking event. Entrepreneurs all have a little bit of self-infatuation. You need to have some to believe in yourself. And they believe that their idea for a business is the greatest one ever and it is going to change the world. And they are scared that you will steal it.

First of all, no one is going to like your idea as much as you do. While you may have the next world-changing gizmo, it really isn’t worth it to me to run with your idea and pass it off as my own. Ideas are easy; execution is hard. You should be confident that you can and will work harder on your idea than anyone else. You can’t measure passion, and you can’t beat it either.

Furthermore, this is a business plan lab. We are here to workshop sections of our plans. If you don’t bring in anything to workshop, you won’t be getting any better.  So participants are encouraged to share early and often.

Next we were asked, “What is the hardest part of the business plan to write?”

Nearly everyone said financials. That’s wrong. The answer is actually the Market Analysis. We want to see how well you know your customer. We know you know your product, that’s easy, but how well do you know the customers, their buying cycle, the suppliers, the distributors, and your competitors? The clearer you can convey that, and then much of the plan will fall into place. Now you might be wondering, where do I find such wonderful information? First, go out there and talk to people. Talk to customers and competitors and don’t be shy.

For information on the industry go to the library, librarians will love to help you do research. Seriously, it’s their job; you’ll make them happy to help you.  Also check out NAICS. This is the detailed data that will blow your socks off with information about business patterns and define your industry.

Lastly we discussed what a business concept is.  We used a dessert bar as an example. You may think they sell tiramisu, éclairs, and cakes. And while that is an accurate description of their products, it doesn’t capture their concept. A dessert bar sells indulgence. They sell you a chance to spoil yourself with rich flavors and delightful tastes that you know are bad for you.

I have a friend who has an event lighting company. He thought he was selling lights. I told him he was wrong. He sells ambience, he sells the mood, he sells the environment.  When you structure your business concept around the value you bring customer, the products will sell themselves.

Do you have a business concept? Need help figuring it out? We are here as a resource. Contact us directly or leave a note in the comments.