NC State Entrepreneurship Clinic: a pipeline of talent through engagement

A pipeline of talent. Community outreach. Research-driven. Cutting-edge. These are among the key words in remarks made by officials to nearly 250 entrepreneurs and students, alumni, faculty and staff from North Carolina State University at the launch event for the NC State Entrepreneurship Clinic at HQ Raleigh on February 6, 2015.

The Clinic is a research-driven pilot outreach project of The Entrepreneurship Collaborative, an initiative of the NC State Poole College of Management. It brings NC State students in Poole College’s undergraduate and Jenkins MBA entrepreneurship courses together with entrepreneurs and new start-ups in a clinical setting, supporting the exchange of knowledge and providing practical learning experience for the students.

This kind of engagement “is a core part of our being at NC State; it’s what we do,” said Warwick Arden, NC State University provost. By bringing students and “budding entrepreneurs” together, the Clinic contributes to both economic development and student learning by enabling both students and the entrepreneurs “to learn from each other," he said.

“This college is really on the cutting edge and we are very proud of them,” Arden said. 

Building a pipeline of talent, businesses

Jason Widen, co-founder and executive director of HQ Raleigh, said the Clinic, which occupies a space on the second floor of the shared workspace facility, fits with HQ Raleigh’s role, which is to build a pipeline of companies. “We can’t do that without the support of universities like NC State and other organizations,” he said.

“We are privileged that Poole College is supporting us,” he said, adding that HQ Raleigh’s 105 member companies “will benefit from the talent pipeline” that the Clinic provides. “It’s one more piece of the puzzle to help make this region one of the top entrepreneurial regions in the nation.”

Lewis Sheats, entrepreneurship senior lecturer in Poole College’s Department of Management, Innovation and Entrepreneurship and director of the Entrepreneurship Clinic, has been teaching the college’s undergraduate entrepreneurship courses for more than a decade and said he has seen the value that applied learning provides, both for the students and the company partners. 

Enhanced learning

“Bringing our students into the downtown community will further enhance this learning experience,” he said in an interview prior to the event. “Engaging students in experiential learning and embedding them in the entrepreneurial community provides students the needed resources for their success in entrepreneurship. The Clinic provides them a physical place to hone their critical thinking skills.”

Ira Weiss, Stephen P. Zelnak Jr. Chair and dean of the Poole College of Management said the opening of the Clinic in downtown Raleigh has been a goal of the college for some time.

“It has been a dream of the Poole College – and a personal one for me – to take our entrepreneurship students beyond the classroom, into the real world where entrepreneurship happens on a day-to-day basis,” Weiss said in an interview at the event.

“I’m thrilled to be here tonight for the opening of the clinic. This is where the action will be for the future for our entrepreneurship students and where the entrepreneurial action is going to be for the Poole College of Management.”  

Weiss also thanked Lonnie Poole, whose naming gift to the college in 2010 is providing support for the Entrepreneurship Clinic. Also providing support for the Clinic is the NC State Foundation and the Kenan Institute for Engineering, Technology and Science at NC State. Republic Wireless and Lenovo also provided prizes awarded to two of the attendees via a social media engagement.

Sheats also thanked the nearly 60 entrepreneurship alumni who attended the launch event, some traveling long distances. Their presence, he said, “validates that what we are doing is working.”

30-plus companies already engaged

Among those visitors were entrepreneurs who are already tapping the Clinic’s resources. A dozen companies are currently working with nearly 60 students in Poole College’s Managing the Growth Venture courses – one taught for entrepreneurship concentration students in the college’s bachelor of science in business administration program and one for those in the college’s Jenkins MBA program.

In addition, 20 companies are working with 17 clinical students that have been assigned to them for the semester. The clinical students have committed to working with startups for nine hours each week for this semester. (Read the students' perspective on entrepreneurship and the Clinic.)

“This actually is a sampling of the startups working with students at the Clinic,” Sheats said. “We onboard different companies every week through face-to-face consultation meetings.”

The startups are as varied as an online furniture consignment company and a rapid response personality assessment company that aids in human resource issues. Student engagement varies as well, from conducting market analysis to advising the startups on development strategies.

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