In early 2021, Daytona State College received a grant for nearly $100,000 to introduce students in its Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs to an entrepreneurial mindset.
Looking back, the college seems prescient. Its Entrepreneurial Mindset Opportunity (EMO) initiative is intentional about helping students recognize the ways to harness their own life lessons in the pursuit of opportunities to create value for others. In addition, the EMO initiative also gives students the confidence and the strategic tools they need to be successful. Regardless if they’re starting a business or graduating into a work world roiled by labor shortages and the Great Resignation.
“[Our students] have an entrepreneurial mindset, but they don’t have a name for it,” said Dr. Sherryl Weems. Dr. Weems is the Associate Vice President of the Mary Karl College of Workforce and Continuing Education. “It’s just survival. They see a need or an opportunity, and they pivot because it’s a way of life, especially if you’re juggling bills and expenses and trying to feed your family. They learn to adjust out of necessity as any entrepreneur or motivated and focused individual would.”
“Likewise, employers might not call it an entrepreneurial mindset either. Still, they have a new appreciation for its qualities after the “catastrophic” pandemic”, said Facilitator and Student Advisor Teresa Rand, a consultant. She connects the college to the local business community in Daytona Beach.
The multifaceted EMO initiative started with Weems, who learned of ELI’s Ice House model several years ago and patiently waited for the right moment to launch it at Daytona State. The 2021 Entrepreneurship, Education, and Training grant from the Florida Department of Education was the spark she needed.
Weems didn’t want to set up a separate track for entrepreneurship. Instead, faculty infused the content into regular courses in students’ fields of study.
Dee Gay, Chair of the School of Cosmetology and Barbering, serves as the lead faculty for the EMO initiative. She was one of the first Daytona State faculty to attend Ice House facilitator training, and she immediately recognized that “people are hungry for this.”
The results far surpassed their expectations. They thought they would reach 80 students during the first six months. Instead, they reached 400. Additionally, they had to request additional funds to train and certify all the faculty members who wanted to become Ice House certified. Yet, still, there’s a waiting list.
Rand designed a very successful series of marketing campaigns. They are designed to pique students’ interests and integrate the entrepreneurial mindset concepts into the fabric of the campus and the community. As she lined up guest speakers, she prepped them to speak about one of the eight concepts from the book Who Owns the Ice House? Eight Life Lessons from an Unlikely Entrepreneur.
“Each time a speaker came,” Weems said, “students connected the dots that they were talking about the eight concepts.”
And after the speakers, Gay added, “Students would stay in the classroom an hour with questions, wanting more.”
One of those 25 speakers was the Daytona city welder, who is a one-person shop for the city and has his own art business on the side. “He talked about how the shop is ‘his,’ even though it’s owned by the city,” Rand explained.
“It’s his shop, his tools, and work with his name on it. That opened students’ eyes to the possibilities for them to apply an entrepreneurial mindset even if they don’t want to start their own business.” His words captivated the students, Rand said. “It was fun to watch their faces. You could just see them thinking differently.”
A warm welcome awaits
The business community was just as enthusiastic as the students and faculty. The Daytona State team invited many of those who had supplied letters supporting the grant application to join an advisory group that meets three times per year. They were adamant about spreading the entrepreneurial mindset across campus rather than confining it to the Career and Technical Education program.
“Daytona State has always had support from the business community,” Rand said, “but the excitement about this entrepreneurship program was also impacted by COVID. Business owners were losing employees, and they noticed that the ones who stuck with them were the ones who had an entrepreneurial mindset.”
Gay has already heard from her program’s advisory board of local salon and barbershop owners that recent graduates are more prepared than ever—and they’re in demand. “We saw our job placement improve to higher than the state average,” she said.
To Weems, this is all validation that entrepreneurial mindset concepts are universal. “Some employees rise through the ranks because they have this mindset,” she said. “They come up to their managers not just with problems but with the solutions. They take initiative. If something needs to be done, they do it. They see a need and fill it without questioning whether it’s in their job description. They treat the business like it’s their own—and that makes life easier at the top.”
See this case study to read more about Daytona State’s innovative branding and marketing efforts, their lessons learned, and more of their impressive results.