“Lightning speed” best describes the meteoric growth of the Institute for Entrepreneurship at FGCU.
Sandra Kauanui, the institute’s director, reports that after introducing the Interdisciplinary Entrepreneurship degree program in fall 2017, enrollment in both entrepreneurship major and minor programs grew from 173 in the 2016-17 academic year to 515 in the current year. For the record, these numbers translate into 263 businesses launched, $2.44 million raised and a whopping $4.51 million in revenue realized. Pretty impressive.
“Pretty impressive,” however, creates its own set of challenges. In the case of the institute, classroom, incubator, event and office space is the issue. With soaring enrollment, the institute has outgrown its temporary quarters in the off-campus Emergent Technologies Institute.
The Institute for Entrepreneurship’s efforts complement those of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the Regional Economic Research Institute (RERI), both currently housed in the Lutgert College of Business. Unfortunately Lutgert does not have the space to continue to house these programs.
The answer? Construct a new building – a Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation – bringing all three programs together under one roof. On campus. Serving all students. Thanks to an anonymous donor’s $4 million challenge, the answer moves nicely into the “doable” column.
But let’s be clear. The center will be so much more than brick and mortar. The Institute for Entrepreneurship, SBDC and the RERI are, each in its own way, incubators, the engines driving economic and social change in Southwest Florida and beyond.
Bill Rice, interim vice president for University Advancement and executive director of the FGCU Foundation, said, “He (the anonymous donor) has been an investor in the university since before we built even one building. He has an abiding love for the university, and he knows and appreciates that our economy is driven by small business, and that a strong university translates into a strong community.”
The $4-million gift comes with a challenge: FGCU must raise the additional $4 million needed to build the center.
The Small Business Administration calls small business “the cornerstone of our communities. With regards to job creation … [small business] creates two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year,” an extraordinary statistic that speaks to the impact of entrepreneurs on a region’s economic growth.
Kauanui said that the entrepreneurial spirit is the opposite of a “woe-is-me personality,” a mindset completely foreign to an entrepreneur.
Indeed, woe-is-me individuals tend to fixate on the problem, not the solution and wither at the very thought of change. On the other hand, Kauanui said, “Entrepreneurs see a problem as an opportunity, a change as a challenge to create something new and, in the process, fill an economic or social need and launch a business.”
Kauanui is well positioned to lead the entrepreneurial charge. She launched her own accounting/financial business, and operated it for 22 years before selling and joining the ranks of academia.
Recent figures from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor state: “The U.S. now has more than 27 million working- age Americans, or 14 percent of the population, currently starting or running their own business.”
Brian Luizzi (’13, Bioengineering) and his twin brother, Christopher Luizzi (’13, Bioengineering), founders of M3L Solutions, are two among the many students guided by the institute who are combining their knowledge of bioengineering into an innovative entrepreneurial endeavor. Their abbreviated story begins with the brothers teaming up with Dr. Joseph Magnant, a vascular vein specialist, to find a solution to a medical need.
The challenge? Develop a reliable method to help surgeons in the operating room determine if or when to insert a stent into a patient’s vein. The solution? Create a surgical measurement tool to convert anatomical data into quantifiable physiological data, thus assisting in this critical decision making.
The brothers enlisted their father, Philip Luizzi, an electrical engineer with the support of the Institute’s Entrepreneur in Residence, to accomplish the task – the three are now in the process of developing their first product.
Brian was quick to credit his FGCU experience with giving him the knowledge base to confidently translate his bioengineering background into a solid business plan. “The institute incorporated the business side of engineering into the curriculum,” he said. The Institute for Entrepreneurship is also home to the Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program (VFEP), which offers qualifying veterans online and/or on-campus courses in entrepreneurship. With almost one in four active-duty service members and veterans wanting to open and operate their own business, this program is a practical hands-on way to say,
“Thank you for your service.”
James Hardenbrook served eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps and was honorably discharged in 2012. A couple of years ago, he learned of the VFEP program through the Department of Veterans Affairs. One thing led to another, and thanks to the support of the VFEP and FGCU’s Institute for Entrepreneurship, Hardenbrook and his wife, Marie Hardenbrook, now operate an up-and-coming food truck serving Southwest Florida.
Their business is The Frozen Chosen; their product, liquid nitrogen ice cream, which Hardenbrook said is a “smoother, richer ice cream product which they make on demand.”
Hardenbrook gives much credit for his growing success to the financial assistance he has received from individual donors. “It’s hard to be a single individual trying to start up a business,” he said, “but these individuals see capabilities person-to-person, whereas banks tend to focus only on the bottom line.”
“I owe everything to FGCU’s Institute for Entrepreneurship, the state of Florida, and private donors who believed in us. Every day, I’m so appreciative.”
HOW TO GIVE
An anonymous donor has pledged $4 million to build a Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation on campus. This gift comes with a match challenge to raise the additional $4 million to complete the project. For details, contact Bill Rice, interim vice president for University Advancement and executive director of the FGCU Foundation, at [email protected] or call (239) 590-1077.
Long-time entrepreneur helps aspiring ones get their start
Centenarian Frank Daveler appreciates the time and commitment it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. He’s living proof, having launched and sold more than a dozen companies during his long and rewarding career. He understands from first-hand experience how one person can innovate solutions to complex challenges, which is one reason among many that he and his late wife, Ellen – who sat on the board of directors of all his companies – decided to partner with FGCU to support the next generation of innovators.
The Davelers were the first to support FGCU’s now thriving Institute of Entrepreneurship and, since that time, have continued to generously fund scholarships and activities for the program.
Bill Rice, interim vice president for University Advancement, recently spoke with Daveler who, Rice said, offered the following advice to those students aspiring to start their own company: “Pick a product, explore its potential, and learn how to produce it. One of the most important things is who you hire or partner with … You can’t do everything. Hire the must-have skills that you are not strong in.”
Not surprisingly, Frank Daveler’s own journey was a long one. Born in 1918 when Woodrow Wilson was president, he experienced lots of changes in his 100-plus years of living – from the early days of indoor plumbing and the Model T. To highways and byways, and cell telephones, and airplanes. To a man on the moon. To advanced weaponry and the dawning of modern warfare. Indeed, the mid-1900s marked the beginnings of technological advances that continue to impact our lives today.
Daveler contributed his knowledge and expertise to the cause. He first received a scholarship to Drexel University, a top engineering school in the country at the time. He was top of his class for two-plus years, but a change in the university’s programming led him to change direction. Ultimately, he was selected as one of 10 people to be trained in metallurgy, a field of science in which he excelled.
He was 21 when World War II broke out. He received an exemption because of his metallurgy training, and he went to work with a company designing armament for U.S. tanks and battleships because, at the time, they were defenseless against German projectiles.
After the war, the company folded as there was no longer a demand for armaments. It was then that Daveler launched his first company – an engineering group. Over the next 20 years, he started and sold close to a dozen companies. He then went to work for AMETEK as lead engineer and worked on ground-breaking technology in the aerospace industry.
On behalf of the students of FGCU, Rice said simply, “We can’t thank Mr. Daveler enough for his support of our students and his confidence in the university.”
– Karen Booth