UA-27956762-2

Entrepreneurial Fellows Center

Award Category: Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Project Site: Entrepreneurial Fellows Center
Submitted By: University of Pittsburgh
Contact: Melissa Bennett
412.624.5436

Abstract

The Entrepreneurial Fellows Center is a program of the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence, Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, University of Pittsburgh. The mission of the Institute, founded in 1993, is to be the innovative leader of economic renewal and growth serving enterprising people and businesses in the region.

The Entrepreneurial Fellows Center, started in 1999, is designed to provide the founders and presidents of high growth companies with the knowledge and skills needed to meet the business challenges faced on a daily basis. The program assists entrepreneurs manage rapid growth, develop strategic plans for sustained success, network with successful entrepreneurial peers, propel their businesses to the next level and match business founders and leaders with established entrepreneurial mentors. The curriculum was developed by Institute founder and executive director Ann Dugan, also assistant dean in the Katz Graduate School of Business.

Participants in the yearlong program are designated as Fellows. They utilize custom designed programs and materials, mentoring, and opportunities for peer learning and sharing. Each class is limited to 30-35 Fellows and more than 350 individuals have graduated from the program since its inception.

A certificate is awarded by the University of Pittsburgh’s Joseph M. Katz School Graduate of Business to all Fellows successfully completing the program.

Case Study

Problem/Background

The Entrepreneurial Fellows Center is a program of the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence, Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, University of Pittsburgh. The mission of the Institute, founded in 1993, is to be the innovative leader of economic renewal and growth serving enterprising people and businesses in the region.

Now in its 20th year, the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence has helped hundreds of individuals start businesses. While it is hard, yet fulfilling, work, the Institute’s research and experience show that at least 75% of businesses fail within the first five years. These failures include many businesses that are growing but lack the managerial capabilities to sustain growth. Seeking to have a greater impact on the region’s economy by supporting existing, growing businesses, the Institute decided to move beyond providing consulting support to only start-ups and troubled businesses by developing the Entrepreneurial Fellows Center. This robust results-oriented educational program is designed to meet the high growth business challenges that founders and presidents of high growth companies face on a daily basis.

The Entrepreneurial Fellows Center (EFC), started in 1999, is designed to provide the founders and presidents of high growth companies with the knowledge and skills needed to meet the business challenges faced on a daily basis. The program assists entrepreneurs manage rapid growth, develop strategic plans for sustained success, network with successful entrepreneurial peers, propel their businesses to the next level and match business founders and leaders with established entrepreneurial mentors. The curriculum was developed by Institute founder and executive director Ann Dugan, also assistant dean in the Katz Graduate School of Business.

The Fellows program is tailored for entrepreneurs or family business leaders who meet three criteria: have a business that has been in existence for three or more years, employs at least three to four people, and generates revenues of at least $1 million annually.

Solution

As economic and business issues change, so must the approach to teaching current solutions. This principle has guided the Entrepreneurial Fellows Center since its founding. New content is designed and developed annually in order to provide students with the most relevant business and educational experience. At the monthly classes participants obtain the latest subject knowledge, practice solution creation and work on individual implementation plans resulting in high take-home value. Faculty are carefully chosen for each session based upon stringent criteria and proven track records on how to teach entrepreneurs and business leaders while having an entrepreneurial track record of success in their backgrounds. Topics covered in the monthly classes include strategic planning, working from a strategic to an operational plan, finance and accounting, leadership competencies, human resources, strategic marketing and effective sales processes. In addition to regularly scheduled classes, students in the Entrepreneurial Fellows program are custom matched with mentors who are leaders in the business community. The mentors not only guide Fellows through the topics covered in class, but through broader day-to-day challenges. Participants in the yearlong program are designated as Fellows. They utilize custom designed programs and materials, mentoring, and opportunities for peer learning and sharing. Each class is limited to 30-35 Fellows and more than 400 individuals have graduated from the program since its inception. A certificate is awarded by the University of Pittsburgh’s Joseph M. Katz Graduate School Graduate of Business to all Fellows successfully completing the program. The work and success of the Entrepreneurial Fellows program is recognized by leading Pittsburgh businesses, which provide important financial support as program sponsors. Current sponsors are PNC Bank and Meyer, Unkovic and Scott Attorneys at Law.

Results

The Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence’s Entrepreneurial Fellows program has several features which distinguish it as a valuable, unique and relevant educational opportunity. The Institute ensures that a diverse group of individuals and business types are represented when selecting students for each Fellows class. The Institute does not admit representatives from two competing companies into the same class. This guarantees that class discussions will be open and candid, enabling everyone to learn from each other and to get the most from the programs. Each student is custom matched with a mentor at the beginning of the program. The mentors, business leaders from the community, not only guide Fellows through the topics covered in class, but through broader day-to-day challenges. This unique aspect of the mentor program provides Fellows with real-time feedback, long-lasting ties and a strong network with business community leaders. Peer learning is another unique aspect of the Fellows program. Students participate in peer learning activities that promote the interaction between themselves, mentors and program faculty to share ideas and help solve day-to-day business problems, resulting in a network in every sense of the word. Perhaps the most often-cited benefit of the Entrepreneurial Fellows program is that it enables students to step back from the day-to-day operation of their business in order to take a critical and strategic look at the operation as a whole. The program prepares them to address the unique challenges of a rapidly growing business and prepare for continued success and long-term sustainability with a program that fits their busy schedule. The unique opportunities for peer learning and opportunities to work with a specially selected mentor are two other important benefits of the program. Participants also note that the knowledge and interaction gained through the program a give them more confidence as an entrepreneur.

Future Considerations

When it comes to sustainability, the Entrepreneurial Fellows Program’s longevity speaks for itself. Classes of 30-35 Fellows have proven to be an efficient and effective size for learning, peer exchanges and developing relationships. With more than 400 graduates, the program’s reputation for excellence and effectiveness has grown, as has the competition for admittance. Individuals are referred to the program by colleagues, Institute members and advisory board members, business leaders and others. Participants are selected following a rigorous application review. Tuition is $3,500, with some scholarship assistance available. The program’s sustainability is also demonstrated by the number of companies sending multiple individuals, including members of succeeding generations, to participate in the Entrepreneurial Fellows program. The original participants recognize the value of the program and are investing in the future generations who will one day be running the company. The ongoing support of leading Pittsburgh businesses also speaks to the EFC’s recognition as an important source of training for area entrepreneurs. An entrepreneurial fellows program could be replicated by institutions in other geographical areas by developing their own curriculum or licensing it from the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence. The Institute currently licenses the EFC program to ExecuStar in Central Pennsylvania. EFC will continue to provide its unique vision of entrepreneurial education. The curriculum is reviewed and updated each year to ensure its quality and relevance is maintained.


Finalist Presentation

UEDA Awards of Excellence Finalists presented at the Annual Summit in Pittsburgh on October 28, 2013. Summit attendees then voted for the best initiative in each category.

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Contact Us

University Economic Development Association
PO Box 97930
Pittsburgh, PA 15227

216.200.UEDA (8332)
info@universityeda.org