Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ new entrepreneurial conversation series, “5 Questions,” offers students a chance to hear firsthand how entrepreneurs generate new ideas, pursue their vision and passion, and navigate both successes and failures. Sponsored by the Centennial Center, the series invites accomplished leaders in the business, non-profit and public policy sectors to share the lessons they have learned throughout their careers.
The series began Nov. 8 with Erica Paolicelli, managing partner at nearby Three Brothers Wineries and Estates and founder of the new Geneva eatery, H.J. Stead Company. Paolicelli’s conversation with the audience, facilitated by Elizabeth Weingast ’18, explored the challenges of being an entrepreneur, recent failures and successes, the nurturing of ideas, and assessing how entrepreneurship fits into one’s life path.
Ed Bizari, the Colleges’ inaugural Margiloff Family Entrepreneurial Leadership Fellow, says that the series is not designed to offer “a one-size-fits-all recipe for success,” but rather a variety of “perspectives from different people and personalities, so students can understand what others have done and how they can apply those lessons to their own ideas.”
By recruiting local and regional speakers, including guests from the HWS Career Network, Bizari sees the series as “appealing to a broad range of entrepreneurial situations.” The intent is to present speakers “who have worked in for-profit, non-profit and public policy roles, and have been successful in starting endeavors, pursuing policy and making an impact in their communities.”
The advent of the series coincides with the introduction of the Colleges’ Bozzuto Center for Entrepreneurship, the branch of the Entrepreneurial Studies program located at 22 Castle St. in downtown Geneva. The downtown facility, which will open formally in 2018, is a hands-on student incubator space for the practical development of student business and policy ideas. The space will house classes, idea workspaces, community collaboration environments, and supports programs and events like the 5 Questions series and the Centennial Center’s IdeaLab, Innovation Academy and Pitch competition.
The Colleges’ Entrepreneurial Studies minor was founded in 2015 with an emphasis on preparing students to drive economic and social value through the conceptual understanding, practical skills and ethical structure of entrepreneurship. Students explore and hone the analytical and critical thinking skills of a liberal arts education while entrepreneurially pursuing projects and coursework focused on creating non-profit or for-profit enterprises, or leading innovation within existing organizations.
“The HWS liberal arts environment produces a broad and balanced mindset in a student, and the Entrepreneurial Studies minor expands that mindset with a whole new set of skills that otherwise have been relegated to the tech community for the past 15 or 20 years. The combination leads to a highly competitive skillset in today’s economy.” Bizari says.
The program, he says, helps demonstrate that an “entrepreneurial skillset is applicable to any major.”
The 5 Questions series will continue in the spring semester.