By Sherrie Negrea
Every three weeks, Dajana Gjoza ’16 calls Anne Loehr ’90, a leadership development consultant in Washington, D.C., and over the next hour, they talk about entrepreneurship and how Gjoza can start her own business.
Three months after their conversations began, Gjoza has already started creating a business plan for her proposed wedding planning company. “It’s just been really great to learn from Anne, because she’s had so much experience in entrepreneurship,” says Gjoza, who plans to meet Loehr when she visits campus this fall to speak in a course called Conversations with Entrepreneurs.
The Connect Entrepreneurial Hotelies Mentor Network is one of several new initiatives launched by the The Leland C. and Mary M. Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship at SHA. This fall, the institute will sponsor a Faculty Fellows Program funded by a grant from the Coleman Foundation, which will enable three professors at Cornell to introduce entrepreneurship training education in their courses.
MORE NETWORKING OPPORTUNITIES, THIS ONE WITH PIZZA
The institute has also begun hosting networking events called Slice of Insight Socials, which bring entrepreneurs from the hospitality industry to join students enrolled at SHA for pizza twice a semester. And last spring, the institute sponsored its first independent study project with a student who created a hotel evaluation scorecard for The Leading Hotels of the World, Ltd.
“Every year we expand the scope of what the institute does,” says Steven Carvell, associate dean for academic affairs at SHA and academic director of the Pillsbury Institute. “It’s not radical. It’s additive. Each year we do more, always on the periphery, but growing the entrepreneurial envelope.”
THE PILLSBURY INSTITUTE’S PURPOSE
The purpose of the institute, which was founded in 2006, is to “foster the entrepreneurial environment here and to fulfill the entrepreneurship dreams of our students,” Carvell said. While all of its programs meet one of those goals, Carvell notes the mentorship program accomplishes both objectives.
“It gives students an idea of what an entrepreneur looks like, how they live, eat, and breathe,” he says. “It also then gives them somebody to help them as they begin to emulate that path.”
Loehr, an Ithaca native whose seven siblings all graduated from Cornell, said she volunteered for the mentorship program, because it gave her an opportunity to give back to the university. Since her company focuses in part on women and leadership, she was also attracted to the program so that she could help young women become entrepreneurs.
“The School of Hotel Administration was not created with entrepreneurship in mind,” Loehr says. “So the fact that they’re doing something about it is fantastic.”
While most of the programs the Pillsbury Institute sponsors are geared toward SHA, the Coleman Entrepreneurship Faculty Fellows Program is open to professors across Cornell who are currently not teaching entrepreneurship in their courses. Three professors who will be named fellows this fall will engage in projects that advance self-employment education during the academic year.
Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration is one of 19 colleges and universities across the country to receive a grant under the program from the Coleman Foundation, a private organization in Illinois that supports entrepreneurship education, among other causes. The foundation awarded a total of $492,000 to the colleges and universities to build self-employment education in departments across campus for the 2014-15 year.
Mona Anita Olsen ’04, assistant academic director of the Pillsbury Institute and visiting assistant professor in management and organizational behavior, will serve as project director for the faculty fellows program. She will work with the professors using OrgSync, a collaborative online platform that has been leveraged at Cornell to build entrepreneurship into their courses.
As the Pillsbury Institute continues to add new programs, Carvell said he expects to see more initiatives proposed by faculty who are passionate about entrepreneurship. “Everywhere, change happens when you let it happen,” he says. “It happens even if you don’t want to let it happen, but it happens more quickly when you let it happen and you want to embrace it.”