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Going Global on Entrepreneurial Journey with President Stephen Spinelli Jr.

by National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship
June 23rd 2021
have you joined our online community nace e meets, We're excited to have a platform dedicated to our members to network, connect, exchange ideas and support your entrepreneurial initiatives, joined the community at Macy Meats dot Macy dot com. Welcome to Making our way forward a podcast where we share compelling life stories and learn from the experience of everyday entrepreneurs at Macy. We celebrate diversity and invite you to join the conversation as we talked to entrepreneurs and leaders from all walks of life. We hope that by telling their stories, we bring you inspiration, empower you to take action and ignite entrepreneurship in your community. Look on to this episode of making our way forward where we get into the lives and experiences of entrepreneurs across the world.

I'm very happy to have a very special guest with us today that actually has a really interesting connection to our organization, Macy and is an entrepreneur, but it's also an academic, so it's my pleasure to welcome president steve Spinelli to the program. Um he is currently the president of Babson College, but that's only a part of his story. So I want to welcome you. It's a pleasure to be here. Um It feels a bit back to the future, reflecting on Macy and the whole community college entrepreneurship movement and the incredible advances that you've made in the field over 20 or 30 years of really good hard work. It's also a validation of entrepreneurship as a ubiquitous mindset that can lift all people. So it's uh an honor to talk with you. Well, I'm I'm really happy to be here and I mentioned this to you a little bit earlier. I was doing some research um, into you and I came across an article, um, when you were in the philadelphia area and the title of it was, I love my job and I think that is just such a blessing for people that, that can get into that space.

And as I was reading about it and if you don't mind, I'm going to share a little bit about how you responded. When the interviewer asked you about where you grew up because there's an interesting connection also, um, that I have not far from Springfield that I wanted to share with you. So they asked you, um, at that time you were with thomas Jefferson University is the chancellor very steamed position and we're getting ready to step in to an even greater position in that area. So they asked you about you growing up in, your response was, you grew up in the italian american section of Springfield massachusetts called the south end an end where there were immigrants and first generation italian americans. And you talked about what that experience was like and how that shaped you and I'd love to just begin the conversation with maybe some memories that you have and how you think it affected you long term. It's uh, I think it's an interesting american.

I don't know if it's uniquely american. Don't have enough experience around the whole world to be able to say that, but I think it is an interesting american story about immigration and community and aspiration. The uh you know, many people came to the United States to start a life, but what you think about how entrepreneurial you have to be to leave where you were with virtually no money to go to a community that you only really heard about and then go build a life that you think is going to be better. Uh so I think that there is uh, you know, embedded in all of that experience is the foundations of an entrepreneurial mindset and one that requires aspiration as a part of sort of, your, your role in that community. Uh and I think it happens in a lot of communities. Uh mine was an italian american, The jewish community was just north of us in the north end and the Puerto Rican community in the black community, It was incredibly vulcanized when I think about it in today's world and I think we have in a lot of ways grown beyond that, we still got a long way to grow, but but I think that the sense of forming the community and looking at value creation as both individual and corporate, both for me, my family and others.

I think that's a foundational concept that is bigger than um I want to make money or I want to start a business and I think it, it also gives you the motivation to stick with it during very difficult times and everybody has very difficult times, you're not special if you have difficult times, so, you know, you're going to go through that and I think it becomes a foundational concept around how we teach. Um you have a personal responsibility, you have a set of aspirations, you work in an ecosystem, you build a community, there is value creation hopefully. And the more that value creation is both the social and economic, the more lasting it is and probably the larger it is right, and the pathway to higher education and you've, I I read about this, you spent 15 years in the classroom, you know, teaching at babson, one of the top programs in the world and in addition to these other universities, but but remembering where you came from and I was thinking about it on making our way forward, My co host Jeff and I share sometimes personal stories and part of my family is from Chicopee.

Um so very working class irish americans and I didn't even know that, but it's miles from the Macy uh we still hold an administrative office there on the campus of Springfield Technical College and doesn't escape me. Um sort of, your, your roots and when I think about, you know, my parents who were, you know, sort of the first generation to go to college and have that opportunity and how important that was to, to my grandparents and um and I think about today, the work that you're doing, which we're gonna get into, you know, some of the, just the tremendous things that you've learned and created over time. But one of the things when you founded Jiffy Lube in 1979, that's one of my husband's favorite franchises because he likes, you can always know what to expect. It's clean, you know, what to do. And there's an interesting, I'm sure a number of stories with that, but I think in terms of your journey to higher Ed, it's interesting as a young man that you really had that opportunity on the ground floor to create that.

So maybe you could share with some of our listeners around the world, um, how that happened and um, what you learned from it and then maybe some memories that you have around it, Yeah. You know what I was going through it, it almost seems like a random set of events that collide and the variables come together and here's an outcome uh, upon reflection. I either am uh, shaping the story in my mind or, or it is a more intentional process or a more logical process I think than than just serendipity. Um, the whole group in the neighborhood and you're supposed to have aspirations, think about what the future is and you think in a holistic way. Um, and the pathway for a lot of people, especially immigrant families, was education and if you got an education, it was a pathway to at least a job and interestingly, I think in a lot of ethnic communities, uh, the jobs sometimes were made through crafts, through specific skills and so you could have a job and a lot of those jobs found their way into small businesses, landscaping, furniture, upholstery, all kinds of different ventures.

Um, and yeah, that was sort of the root of my jiffy little experience when, you know, I met my, uh, the founder is, is my football coach and he recruited the college football coach. Him, he recruited some of the players to sort of join him in the venture. He was now a successful entrepreneur who then went to coaching, then went back into entrepreneurship and you know, you think of it as stages, but it all gets mixed up into a life and when we started it was a rough go, you know what's a jiffy lube was usually the, you know, I'd say we started feeling to see what's a jiffy lube you didn't like the iconic almost bringing, but back then it was sort of silly people thought it was silly. Um, and and came to the conclusion that either I wasn't good enough or wasn't educated enough to be successful and having a reasonable sized ego, I said it must be education, I must be good enough. So, uh, that, that led me to babson and where I did my M.

B A. Um, and it was the manager of the first real manifestation of this thought and action paradigm that if you think deeply and act decisively you're going to have better outcomes, they're not linear and there's lots of ups and downs and all that. But uh, the underpinning of action is thoughtfulness of looking at the variables at predicting at working hard to to see how they're going to come together and synthesize. And that was, I think a real foundational kind of experience for me. I used to go to perhaps, and on Wednesday nights and on thursday morning I had a whole new plan of what we're gonna do, but when I went to babson thursday nights, usually I would take a course in an area I was having a problem with, In the direct application of knowledge in these frameworks and then I could put it in the context of 50. Look, I felt like I was getting light years ahead and we started to do better and better and better and we built a national organization. And when it all came to an end, uh, when we sold it, uh, I had the economic means to then say, okay, what's next?

And that's what got me into teaching and saying what worked for me. Yeah, that's that's fantastic. And I was looking at a list of your alumni. Um so impressive. One thing I read that you have 42,000 alumni, it might be more than that now, but how we got connected to you were one of your alumni, chip wise miller and his wife Stewart, um, as you know, created this everyday entrepreneur venture fund and it's amazing to me because I think what it does is it really captures the spirit of your life experience in your success, because it's looking at how can you take existing resources and help people without access to capital? You know, sometimes immigrants, women, people of color, you know, people from other communities that, that don't get friends and family money or don't have that opportunity but need a little bit of support. And I know it's funny, I was talking with Chip and he's so proud of his affiliation with babson, but he's thrilled that you're the president and it's funny getting to know them over time and and their legacy of really wanting to um provide this opportunity.

And, and one of the things we had a chance to speak with you a little bit earlier and you were talking a bit about a transformational gift that and you know, the time that you've been there is the president you were able to receive and and really make some great progress with, over the light over the pandemic. Even so I wondered if you might speak a little bit about that leadership village, how did that start? What have you created with it and where do you see it going? Yeah, it's uh, it's been a great ride, you know, coming back to baths and just pre pandemic Understanding that babs has been number one in entrepreneurship and higher education for 26 or 27 or 28 or some very long time uh, and has the largest entrepreneurship faculty, the largest research conference, the most curriculum, the, the most market facing programming. We have uh, M. B. A. Programs, masters in entrepreneurship, all of that. We're thinking, we can do some really great stuff with this and then the pandemic kits, uh, and what we found was uh, we've been the transformational gift into this uh, is we could actually do more because we, we a, we had an entrepreneurial mindset and we said we have a responsibility to deliver education under any condition that we can't stop our mission.

So we really did say if we're teaching entrepreneurship, we better be entrepreneurial in the way we do this and we transformed everything. But part of that, frankly was Arthur blank, who was a graduate of absent theology, is the founder of Home Depot, the owner of the Atlanta Falcons and the Atlanta United and, and and a lot of stuff. He's just an incredible entrepreneur, he's probably as great entrepreneurs. He is, he's probably a better philanthropist. Uh, he's the most uh entrepreneurial philanthropist where he, he believes in co creation and it is not dissimilar to the capital acquisition process of any entrepreneur, you know, if you have a great idea uh and you can communicate that idea and it creates value for the investor and you can communicate that value. Um, there's a lot of capital out there to get and we went to Arthur and said, you know, we, we think that we can do a lot more in entrepreneurship because the world is becoming more connected, social networking, economic network has not led to the level of educational networking.

We think the world needs, the need for units of knowledge is growing and we're still in a bit of our own bubbles here. So we want to get out of the bubble and there's a bunch of things we want to do and one of them is to create an entrepreneurial leadership village, the village which will be a physical site on campus. We're going through the process of evaluating that, design it and it's really fun to do and there's a virtual component, We believe entrepreneurial leaders can impact ecosystems everywhere and to do that, you need a foundation of digital support programs. Can we take all of that stuff we do at babson, can we digitize it so that what we can do in person, we can also do virtually. That's where serendipity really does have to have an impact. You know, we have some vision about what that could be and we started to formulate the plan and arthur gave us a $50 million gift, which is a lot of money. Uh, and we have a lot of support we've raised in addition to that about another $41 million to match the gift.

So we're getting close to $100 million for the project and as we put all that design in place, Covid happens and it accelerated the need for what we're doing. How do you deliver that education first? We start with, how do we deliver that education to the 3200 baps and students that we've made a commitment to. And so we did that transformation. We said, wait a minute, this is an investment, this isn't a vivid, this is, this is a growth in the platform. We can now deliver education to almost anyone almost anywhere in almost any form. We can do curriculum, we could do research, we can do market interface, we can do it across the spectrum of industries and people and ages and growth cycles. Holy cow, we really can be everywhere five years faster than we thought we could be. So, you know, sort of from the ashes comes an incredible uh explosion of the concept when we first thought of the entrepreneurial leadership villages, there is a physical facility on campus that we're going to renovate and they'll be workers maker space and living space and eating space and incubator space, community space, dormitory space so that we get all the components, all the stakeholders and an entrepreneurial process bumping up against each other and giving them a nice place to do that bumpy.

Uh we're, and we thought that will be the first and then we'll experiment that will become virtual. Well, let's flip now, which is a part of the entrepreneur. So we're launching a virtual curriculum as we speak. We've done a bunch of beta tests on launching it, we're connecting into different colleges across the world, We're bringing in different audiences, were doing the kinds of recordings and program and we're doing the kind of research and the village is going to be a three dimensional manifestation of the entrepreneurial process and we want to connect by the way um since I have you here, we want to connect to the community colleges. We believe that the community colleges are embedded in the communities the name fits and, and those communities are important ecosystems that if we can connect to, we can get closer to the small businesses that could scale the companies and investors that want to be part of that scaling that my work 100 years ago at SdCC Springfield Technical Community College was about understanding educational ecosystem and how it attached to the, to the marketplace.

And one of the reasons I got involved with Macy was because I thought it was just so important to support the small businesses and to give them a view of how those small businesses could grow and have a greater impact across a broad spectrum of stakeholders, including those who typically uh didn't have access to capital or access to education or access to the mindset of entrepreneurship. It's amazing when you, when you teach entrepreneurship, you expose someone to it. It's a drug, you know, it's one of those wonderful drugs that people just lights people's lights light up life up. They really feel empowered by the process of creating value, by finding opportunity in solving problems. Yeah, you just, you can't stop doing it and have a fun fact. As you were talking. Um we spoke Ron, who I'm sure you remember back 18 years ago in the founding of Macy, um was one of the founding board members and and spoke about Andy shabbily who we spoke with a couple of years ago when we were writing actually about you and really your impact and Tommy Gaudreau and all of those days earlier, where you thought about, well maybe there should be a program where community colleges can come together and talk about entrepreneurship and and really make it part of the fabric of the institution.

So it's not, doesn't just reside in the business school or engineering program. It's, it's everywhere. It's an arts and history and and every aspect of it. And I really think about, you know, historically, sometimes people don't get to see sort of the fruits of their of their labor, but I think about that and talking with kevin drum and so many people that have known you over the years and have kind of followed you from a distance that maybe your path hasn't intersected, but you know, now you look at Macy, not only as a community of over 350 community colleges, but a growing number of historically black colleges and universities and I know time is running short, but I would love for you to talk maybe just about some of the work that you've done and some of the case studies, because I know equity is really important to you and you were thinking about it decades earlier before we had George Floyd and all these things that have brought it to the national forefront of conversation, but maybe just share a thought or two about that.

My engagement with the HBc is historically black colleges and university was mostly selfish. There's just so much talent. Almost no one is tapping that talented. You're kidding, we could do great things. And so we really got engaged in the process of understanding the mission of the historical uh black college and university and what they needed from a partnership perspective. And what we saw was we got so much more than we gave because there were so many incredible stories and in entrepreneurship, the entrepreneur is central to the, to the story is central to the process of entrepreneurs. That's why we're doing entrepreneurial leadership, to make it more personal, to make it more students centric, make it more leaders center and we would go to the Hbcu s and and say, so, tell us about some of your graduates and what are they doing and fun these amazing stories of african american entrepreneurs in the HbCU s, primarily black men and women who have started businesses in the most difficult of circumstances and found a way to make it happen and they are able to find the opportunity.

I, you know, dig out the resources, build the teams and create organizations that were really the foundation of a lot of communities. Um one of the things that sort of opened up our relationship was to say, well let's tell the black story, let's have a an African american protagonist, I love the story of going to a dean's conference at HBC is for the business schools and I said, you know, we use a pedagogy of case studies in case studies or tell the story, but there's an underpinning of understanding and rigor that says, where does this attached to the entrepreneurial process? What lessons are we learning? How do we put those lessons in the store and make it real for the student but embed that learning so it becomes portable intellectual capital. They can take you through their businesses in the demands and said, how many black entrepreneurs do your team? Uh so you know, I said none, you know, maybe one. So you know, there was a clear and if you're an entrepreneur and I say this all the time as an entrepreneur, you have to say acutely aware of the market.

Well for me that says, oh my God, there's a huge market that's untapped, could you imagine the incredible case studies, we could write and the amount of learning that can occur and the african american entrepreneurs that can be educated, imagine the value they could create, it would, it would be amazing. So we started a case writing series and I can't remember how many cases we, we wrote, but it was dozens, if not a lot more. And then we started bringing the african american professors to babson and having exchanges and we would learn from the hbcu curriculum, they would learn from the babson curriculum and a lot of those schools now have entrepreneurship, at least miners and many of them have entrepreneurship majors and have grown uh in the business schools through that. It was incredibly satisfying in an incredible learning experience. For me really, that concept of almost strategic foresight of seeing the possibility and that's been kind of my experience, just getting to talk to people like you and really some of the leaders of historically black colleges and universities in north Carolina.

Our headquarters is now in the research triangle of north Carolina and we are surrounded by um ST Augustine shawl University Bennett colleges is down the road and what we see is sort of, this emergence and this desire for a lot of these organizations to come together, like you're talking about partnership where we come together and the sum of the parts is greater than the whole and I love it because I love to hear from, from leaders like you that really talk about how disruption um can propel us forward. Um I know one of your faculty that I'm a huge fan of hiding neck has written many books and has a text book out and I had shared with you earlier, I was at a conference in Orlando earlier this week and people were talking about her textbook and what a, what an amazing resource it is and just how much of a difference it makes. And I think um you know, regardless of where the road takes us together, I am so grateful to be connected to you, all of my colleagues at Macy, I know the wise Millers are really excited to meet with you and your team, we're going to be coming together in june and we have some ideas of, of things that we can, we can do together that really, I think will um add even even more to the conversation because as you're acutely aware, I'm sure black owned businesses were disproportionately hurt, you know, through the pandemic, they didn't take advantage of the cares act for a lot of different reasons.

And so we have the opportunity and in concert with some players now in Washington that are concerned about this to really make a difference. So I wanna um yeah, just invite you to maybe share some closing comments. Yeah, I I think the opportunity for the uh to embed the entrepreneurial mindset, entrepreneurial mindset is so much greater today. People see the urgency of action in a profound way as we come out of out of Covid and some of the african american businesses in that have been generated through community colleges and in the african american community suffered because they lack scale and we can we can teach that and the ambition is intense um and the impact on the economy and frankly the impact on the strengthening of the social fabric can be so profound that it would be a shame if we didn't do something with you. So you know babson wants to partner if we have a partner first mentality nee see I think is one of those uh world changing organizations that if we can partner with you, I think that we can do something very special and I want to be your partner, I love that.

Well thank you so much. I I really mean that when I say the conversations we have on this podcast are really designed to inspire people to make their way forward and hearing your story and what you've done. I think about those 42,000 plus alumni that you have and the millions of community college students around the world, so I'm going to be dreaming and imagining what we are going to create together and then we will bring you back and maybe we'll have Heidi come with you and we'll dive deeper into this concept. So I wish you President Spinelli and all of our listeners a wonderful day. Thank you for joining us. Rebecca your great leader. It's a pleasure to be a partner. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you so much for joining us. We hope they're listening to this podcast will help you to explore the many ways we might define entrepreneurship, join us every other Wednesday for more episodes as we celebrate opportunity, learn From one another and grow together.

Subscribe to this podcast, connect with us on social media and learn more about today's speakers at Macy dot com forward slash podcast. We look forward to making our way forward together with you. Have you heard about our latest book impact ed how community college entrepreneurship creates equity and prosperity? This is our roadmap for building back better in 50 states and globally. In each chapter we share the inspiring stories of everyday entrepreneurs and explain how community colleges play a crucial role in their success. Visit us at Macy dot com slash impact add to order your copy now and join us in this work, join us On July 20 in Chattanooga Tennessee for a pre- Conference leadership workshop featuring podcast host and Macy Leaders Jeff and Becky posted in partnership with Entre EDS Master Teacher certification.

This two part workshop is ideal for faculty members administrators, Presidents and leaders in your institution, participate in a president's for entrepreneurship, pledge, signing during the provided lunch. Get more information and save your seat at Macy dot com or the link in this episode's description.

Going Global on Entrepreneurial Journey with President Stephen Spinelli Jr.
Going Global on Entrepreneurial Journey with President Stephen Spinelli Jr.
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