(posted on behalf of @Marcos Hashimoto, Managing Director, Turner School of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Bradley University, Peoria, IL)
I am very grateful for the opportunity to share my story here. I hope these words can inspire others to find their mission and purpose.
My first startup: I always proudly tell my students the story my first entrepreneurial endeavor to show them that failure is part of the entrepreneur’s journey. In 1991 I was invited by a very close friend of mine to open a fashion boutique in Sao Paulo, Brazil. It was a side hustle as none of us were ready to quit jobs yet. I was 28, but still very naïve and ignorant about running a business. My ten years of experience in I/T from a large American corporation was not helpful at all to understand the peculiarities of the fashion business. The business did not last more than two years and it seemed then that entrepreneurship was not for me and my entire future career was destined to be in large multinational corporations. Obviously, I was wrong!
My second startup: It took me another ten years to rediscover my entrepreneurial side. In 2001 I was the Regional Director for Latin America Electronic Banking at Citibank N.A., and completing the last semester of my MBA when I learned to write a business plan and I was invited to represent my institution (Fundacao Getulio Vargas - FGV) at the Global Moot Corp, hosted by the University of Texas in Austin. That was my first business plan competition, an experience that showed to me, finally, what entrepreneurship is about, and my mind was blown. In one week, we learned to network, to get the feedback from the judges and work overnight to change the presentation, to understand concepts like revenue model, elevator pitch and venture capital. The reception event, hosted at the Governor’s house (at that time, the Governor of Texas was George W. Bush), gave us an idea of how big that event was, and we honestly felt very overwhelmed. Nevertheless, our business project was really innovative, and we managed to go all the ways to the finals. My project, Chaps.com, was taking the first dot.com wave, with the proposal of selling chapters of books for college students in oppose to buying the entire book when their instructors require only few chapters for their classes. We did not win, Babson College and Bond University got the first two places, but back in Brazil, we were offered $300k as seed capital from a local VC and I quit Citibank to pursue this opportunity. Unfortunately, the Nasdaq bubble boosted and everything got ruined.
My third startup: Nevertheless, I couldn’t imagine myself back to the corporate environment anymore. A few months after the VC deal was over, I was contacted by Sebrae São Paulo (a state organization that helps small business, similar to American SBA). They knew my story, my background and experience and they commissioned me to develop a business plan software. So SpPlan was born, the first free download business plan software in Brazil. With more than 30,000 downloads, this software opened doors for my consulting company. Most of my practical experience came from my consulting services. Initially, for the first five years, my company acted as a cooperative among professors offering business consultancy for entrepreneurs and mid-size business to develop business plans and raise equity funds from the nascent Venture Capital market in Brazil.
My entrance to Academics: At the same time, the more I learned about entrepreneurship, the more I tried to connect those concepts with my corporate life. I read a lot about corporate entrepreneurship, more particularly the intrapreneurship concept and I started to take notes summarizing my learning from all the papers I’ve read. One day, I shared my notes to a publisher, and he immediately demonstrated interest to publish my learning as a book. That way, ‘Espirito Empreendedor nas organizacoes’ (Entrepreneurial Spirit in Organizations) was born in 2005, published by Saraiva Publishers, one of the most relevant academic publishers in Brazil. Today the book is in its 4th edition and became my bestselling book.
My first Entrepreneurship Center: My book opened doors for my scholarly work helping me towards my Ph.D. Degree in 2009. It also helped me to pivot my consulting company to help large organizations to implement innovation and intrapreneurial programs among their employees --my main income source for the following five years, together with my academic roles at FGV (as a co-founder of their Entrepreneurship Center) and Insper (as founder of the Entrepreneurship Center). This was when corporate entrepreneurship became the new buzzword for large organizations and the new innovation paradigm after the 2001 bubble. Insper was a big name among business schools in Brazil and I was blessed to take many opportunities for executive education in Corporate innovation there.
My first entrepreneurship mentors: In 2007, I was in the middle of my doctorate and developing my research skills. One paper was accepted at the ICSB (International Council of Small Business) Annual Conference in Turku, Finland. Not only was this my first academic conference, but I also took the Doctoral Consortium and met Alan Carsrud, Norris Kruger and Malin Brannback, the hosting professors. A full week in an immersion program isolated at the island of Fagerholm, among insane loooong days and a lot of sauna, I learned more about entrepreneurship than my entire previous studies. I still remember, at the first day, when all participants were introducing themselves and I told them that, after 20 years career in large corporations, I wanted to understand why it was so difficult for me to read an article at ET&P, for example. They laughed and told everybody that the academia needs more people like me. That day I knew I was in the right pathway.
My awakening to entrepreneurship education: Also, in 2007, I was invited to be a mentor professor at the Roundtable on Entrepreneurship Education (REE) hosted by the Stanford University Technology Venture Program (STVP). There I met Tina Seelig, the Center Director that showed me that Entrepreneurship education should not be about business plans, like most business schools believed, but instead, should focus on the entrepreneurial attitude and the soft skills. Her quote ‘Never miss an opportunity to be fabulous!’ became my life mantra. The trip also included visits to Ideo, Google and Tesla and I came back to Brazil ready to review all my entrepreneurship teaching concepts and methods. At a certain point I needed to be sure my new techniques and discoveries was really effective and meaningful, despite the approval of the students. In 2011, I participated in all entrepreneurship teaching awards I could. I was finalist at the Academy of Management’s On-Line Technology Resources Award, and the USASBE’s 3E-Learning competition, and I won the Entrepreneurship Education Award of the REE Brazil and the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers Excellence in Pedagogical Innovation Award. That was the first and only year I applied for awards in education. I don’t have anything else to prove.
My first social entrepreneurship projects: After my Ph.D., I joined the Master in Entrepreneurship Program of Faccamp in Brazil. The program I still run there today is a business plan class where my students develop business plans for local small business owners for free. This program has already helped more than a hundred entrepreneurs. My scholar work at Faccamp left the corporate entrepreneurship arena to focus more on survival of nascent businesses, entrepreneurship education, and, more recently, gender studies. In 2010, together with a small group of researchers, we felt the need to organize the entrepreneurship studies field in Brazil and we founded Anegepe (National Association of studies on Small Business and Entrepreneurship) with one peer-review journal (REGEPE – Entrepreneurship and Small Business Journal) where I serve today as adjunct editor and a bi-annual conference (EGEPE – Entrepreneurship and Small Business Studies Meeting). Today, this is the largest academic organization in Brazil for entrepreneurship studies, a sister of ICSB and USASBE.
My last startup: From 2007 to 2011, in partnership with Endeavor Institute and Kauffman Foundation’s Fastrac, I trained more than 150 instructors from 34 universities across the country to implement the program and help them to develop curriculum, competitions, mentorship and bootcamps in their institutions. The more I worked with universities, the more I was convinced that classrooms were a very limited environment to develop real entrepreneurs. In 2014 I founded Polifonia (Portuguese for Poliphony), a school inspired in some of the best entrepreneurship and leadership programs in the North of Europe, like Knowmads, THNK, Team Akademi, and KaosPilot. At Polifonia, we facilitate encounters where students face experiences that helped them on their self-discovery journey as entrepreneurs and leaders, using non-traditional and interdisciplinary activities like theater improvisation, laser-tag competitions, collaborative cooking, fail simulation, and several others.
My job and purpose today: By 2015, I was frustrated with several turns in politics and economics in Brazil and I couldn’t see a future for my kids there anymore. So, in 2016 I took a job offer from University of Indianapolis and moved to Indiana with my entire family. Today I serve as the Managing Director of the Turner School of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Bradley University, in Peoria, IL, I found my purpose. We are a school, not a Center. We report directly to the provost and have full autonomy to reach all the colleges on campus with all types of co-curricular activities. I still teach, but most part of my job is to provide experiences beyond the classroom to sparkle the entrepreneur within each student. I do what all other centers do, pitch competitions, mentoring programs, guest speakers and club advising, but my current passion is our new Living Learning Community, a gifted group of 15 students living together the experience of opening their minds and hearts to an immersive and transformational process from kids to entrepreneurs and innovators, a unique opportunity to practice everything I’ve learned along my own journey as an educator and entrepreneur.