Poole College entrepreneurship students share key take-aways from national conference

Submitted by Anna Rzewnicki on Friday Nov 14, 2014.

Kyle Sheats and Jon Spinney, both officers of NC State’s chapter of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization (CEO), were participants, moderators and award winners at the organization’s national conference held in Orlando, Florida, this fall.

Sheats and Spinney, both Poole College seniors majoring in business administration with concentrations in entrepreneurship (Spinney also has a minor in economics), responded to an email interview with Poole College communications regarding their activities at the conference and key take-aways from the experience. Both had applied to serve as moderators to maximize their involvement at the conference, and were selected and assigned to their sessions based on availability. Their role as moderators was to introduce the speakers and facilitate the Q/A for their assigned session. [Story update: Spinney, who graduated in December 2014, is one of two founders of Malartu Funds, an equity crowdfunding site.]

Q. | Tell us about your role as moderator

KS | Introduced and moderated discussion by luncheon keynote speakers Ali Carr, with Ali Specialties, and Chuck Papageorgiou, with Ideasphere Partners, LLC. Sheats said their presentation focused on “the struggles, the successes, and what to expect as a young entrepreneur with a long road ahead. A great quote to take away from Ali Carr's portion of the event: 'Being an entrepreneur is being uncomfortable everyday and rising from it.'"

JS | Introduced panelists and moderated the “Making a Living in Arts Entrepreneurship" panel. The panel consisted of four entrepreneurs from varying artistic backgrounds: A professional drummer, professional trombonist, writer/artist, and lifestyle clothing manufacturer. The focus was on monetizing and growing a business built on a skill or activity that one would participate in regardless of pay. That is no simple feat, and Philip Brown (professional trombonist/Bach expert) summed up the concept nicely by discussing how he "would play $40 gigs, only because (he) would be playing trombone anyway." However, this led the market to initially value his playing at $40 a night, which made the transition to a professional player very difficult.

Q. What are some key take-aways from the conference?

KS | Key take-aways

  • You can sit idly by or you can take action and make a difference.
  • What you get out of a conference is all about the energy you put in.
  • Never give up. You will fail. You will fail a lot, but succeeding makes it all worth it.
  • Focus on your main goals. Don't spread yourself too thin.
  • Be great at something, not average at a lot of things.

JS | Key take-aways

  • Entrepreneurship involves a lot of "best foot forward" confidence in large, unfamiliar crowds. This conference is a perfect place to practice this skill.
  • Keeping the product or service in mind is paramount for success in a startup. It can be easy to be bogged down by many distractions, but many successful entrepreneurs seemed to say as long as you focus on your product and the problem it solves, you will be more likely to succeed.
  • Networking and team building are crucial aspects to launching a company. With support of an entrepreneurial community, you can acquire feedback, market validation, and introductions to key team members.

Q. Any tips for students planning to attend a conference?

JS | Tips for getting the most out of a conference

  • Rest up! These conferences are long and very involved. You will be "on point" for close to four days. Make sure to find some time to rest to make sure you are capitalizing on the times you are "on.”
  • Bring cards. I met several people who did not have cards and many more who did. Guess who I connected with upon my return? Those whose cards I had acquired. Another tip, write something you discussed with an individual on their card; it will help jog your memory as to who is who when you return.
  • Have fun! Many people seemed overwhelmed or even stressed out by the conference. This is a place full of people like you. You would be surprised at how many people you will meet (and enjoy meeting) by having a positive attitude about the experience.

KS | A few additional tips

  • Be prepared and realize how great of an opportunity this conference is. Not only do you get to develop yourself as an entrepreneur through the many breakout sessions, but you also get to expand your network by meeting hundreds of like-minded individuals all at once.
  • When you're at a conference like this you need to be as involved as possible. Every chance we had we were starting a new conversation with someone we hadn't met, asking advice from the great selection of speakers, and we even filmed a quick drone video for the CEO National organization to further promote them as well as our own chapter.

Q. Looking ahead: What are you going to do next, personally and as chapter officers?

KS | Moving forward, I will be applying strategies that I developed at the CEO National conference to better lead our own chapter. We are discussing developing a mentorship program within our chapter, TeeSpring fundraisers, and a chapter business based on conversations we had with leadership across the country. Also, we will be using the momentum gained from going to this conference to launch CEO at NC State's very own Kickstarter. I am also developing an application called Run with Me that matches runners based on various filters, with the ultimate goal of incenivizing exercise. 

JS | Moving forward, I will be dedicating my time and efforts to my startup, Malartu Funds. My partner and I are currently in development to bring North Carolina's first equity based crowdfunding site to market. I will be graduating this December and committing myself full time to Malartu Funds. However, I will most certainly be open to staying involved with the club as I have learned a great deal during my membership and officer experience.

Lewis Sheats, Poole College lecturer in entrepreneurship and director of The Entrepreneurship Clinic, also was had several roles at the conference. He moderated one of the chapter award sessions, and was the judge for two other chapter awards and a judge in the elevator pitch competition. He also attended sessions that focused on entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship educaiton. 


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