The prevailing theme for JAX Bridges has been, and will always be, connecting businesses to business. A part of that connection is an educated and prepared entrepreneur. After years of successfully delivering entrepreneurial education at multiple levels it became clear to me that entrepreneurs engage with resource providers for any one (or more) of the following three reasons: business opportunity, capital, or a connection. As a result attracting entrepreneurs to entrepreneurial education sessions and sustaining them can be challenging. Three observations I made during our engagement with some of our Northeast Florida entrepreneurs:
Entrepreneurial explosions are fun. OMG...this was so much fun. The energy we created together in the sessions was awesome. We created an environment that allowed entrepreneurs to assess their communication strategy to other companies, challenge the utility of some traditional business tools, create business models, explore value creation techniques, and provide feedback to peers of similar business size. Every session created innovative ah-ha moments.
Learning styles are critical. In entrepreneurial education we often force ourselves to use established curriculum and templates with the intention of teaching the entrepreneur something new. During our sessions we focused on creating value for the participants by providing authentic experiences for confirmation and tools for future treatments to their operation. Each session we were able to connect with those who are visual learners as well as those who learn by doing. The learning transfer was "super-high".
Ability to teach to the entrepreneurial spirit elevates the value of entrepreneurial education. This was easily our biggest distinction from other programs at the JAX Chamber and in our region for that matter. We taught to the entrepreneurial spirit of the participants rather than the traditional business plan components. Many of our participants were astonished but it was a risk worth taking. We purposefully introduced creative applications geared towards opportunity recognition each session. In building the infrastructure for a sustainable program I wanted to have a learning strategy that supported entrepreneurial thinking. As a result I chose what is called a "Triple Loop Learning Strategy". It enabled us to focus on delivering applications that would assist entrepreneurs in "how they decide what's right" versus telling them whats right about their enterprise, innovation, or venture.
In closing, I am writing this to share with our participants since they were so open and forthcoming during our time together. It was a level of trust between entrepreneur and service provider that we have to increase if we are to grow our local economy. And finally, I was really inspired to create something by this group...stay tuned as we have more cool things to introduce before the end of the year.
Carlton Robinson, #JAXBridges