2014 Heroes In Education

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by Rita Palmisano

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Jerome Katz, Saint Louis University

During Jerome Katz’s graduate school days, he began to see an issue in the way entrepreneurship was presented in the academic world. “Work on entrepreneurship by academics in the 70s and 80s was focused on the traits and psychology of entrepreneurs,” says Katz. “I thought it was superficial. Usually one set of traits was used to describe an entrepreneur.”

Coming from a family of entrepreneurs and already having started and sold his own consulting firm, Katz found the single description of the entrepreneur to be untrue. He also saw that while business education would be useful to entrepreneurs, it wasn’t translated for them.

From there, Katz took courses on entrepreneurship at Harvard, MIT’s Sloane Business School and University of Michigan. “One day in class at University of Michigan I had a blinding pain in my head,” says Katz. “My brain was giving birth to an intellectual baby. I understood the transition between entrepreneurship research and the practical side that I knew from my family and my own business. At that moment, I could start jumping back and forth between the practical and what was presented by professors.”

Today, as the head of the academic program for Saint Louis University’s John Cook School of Business and Coleman Foundation Professor of Entrepreneurship, Katz has created new entrepreneurship majors in areas from engineering to nursing, making it more accessible and applicable to all. “I teach my own classes but help others put entrepreneurship into their classes too,” he says.

To build the bridge between entrepreneurs and educators, Katz also wrote a textbook, Entrepreneurial Small Business, which he revises every couple years, and is now used globally. Additionally, Katz promotes entrepreneurial growth in the community through the Billiken Angels, which invested in five businesses in 2013. “I hope for the growth of the Billiken Angels and the other angel networks in town, so that small businesses can grow,” he says. “Wealthy St. Louisans need to get involved. Other than that, I will keep promoting the entrepreneurial dream and grow the entrepreneurial community.”

Barrett Baebler, Webster University

During the mid-1980s, while working for a small business, Barrett Baebler saw a common challenge amongst business owners: a lack of key business skills necessary to run and grow their business. “I saw many individuals who had some great ideas and wanted to take the entrepreneurial plunge, however, they did not know where to begin,” he says.

Then, while studying for his Masters in Finance at Webster University, Baebler made the connection between what he saw in the business world and the need for better curriculum to teach entrepreneurship. “This lead me to begin a consulting company and eventually go back to school for my Doctor of Management,” he says. “While my goal for going back to school was not to teach full time, here I am now, teaching entrepreneurship and nonprofit management full time.”

Today as an Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship and Nonprofit Management, Director for the Master of Arts in Nonprofit Leadership, and Chair of the Management Department at Webster University’s George Herbert Walker School of Business and Technology, Baebler has developed academic programs to help students and entrepreneurs turn their dreams into reality.

Unlike other universities in the region, Webster University’s primary focus is on micro or “bread-and-butter” businesses, including those in the arts and social arenas. “We teach entrepreneurship within the majors and interests of our students,” says Baebler. “We had over 44 different majors taking courses in our entrepreneurship program. I ask my students, ‘What’s your dream?’ Then I say, ok, that’s what I will help you with.”

Over the past 12 years, Baebler has seen improved collaboration amongst universities to promote each other’s entrepreneurial activities and community partnerships to train entrepreneurs. He hopes, though, to have the region embrace the other 99% of entrepreneurial activities. “While bio and technology are very important to our region, there are other entrepreneurial ventures occurring locally,” he says. “I also hope to see the St. Louis region become a destination for entrepreneurship and not a region where someone use to live or went to school before relocating.”

Kathie Chambers, St. Louis Community College

Kathie Chambers’ parents, who were raised during the depression, instilled in her the values of working hard and taking care of your family. As the oldest of five kids and the only girl, Chambers had a lot of responsibility, which she took to heart. “Entrepreneurial thinking, critical thinking, problem solving, and finding new or ‘repackaged’ ways to do things seemed to be part of my DNA,” she says.

Today, as a senior project manager with the Workforce Solutions Group at St. Louis Community College, Chambers regularly uses her ability to think critically in order to fulfill needs she sees in the business community. “I have the privilege of working across industries to bring business solutions, consultation and training to companies via our very talented instructors and subject-matter-experts,” she says.

In tune with the mission of St. Louis Community College to expand minds, change lives and create dynamic learning environments, Chambers finds that she and her colleagues have been quick to expand on regional growth opportunities to develop dynamic learning in healthcare pathways, information technology, advanced manufacturing and much more. “We’re deeply immersed in working within our region to help spur the local economy and grow jobs,” she says. “By its very nature, the college is entrepreneurial in that it provides a multitude of educational options, greater flexibility than other institutions of higher education and continually strives to seek new ways to serve St. Louis and beyond.”

One way in which Chambers and the College are furthering entrepreneurship in the community, is as members of STLREE, St. Louis Regional Entrepreneurship Educators; the only national educators group dedicated to entrepreneurship and sharing information and resources. “Members are from educational institutions on both sides of the river, and they are passionate about sharing information and resources to help one another provide opportunities for students and businesses,” she says.

For the future, Chambers looks to continue to provide the highest quality training and consultation to St. Louis area companies, grow business nationally and internationally and encourage entrepreneurs within the business community and among students.

Tim Hayden, Saint Louis University

Born into a family of entrepreneurs on both sides of his family, Tim Hayden always knew he would carry the torch by having a career based in entrepreneurship. While attending Saint Louis University for his undergraduate degree, Hayden began his career in business, leveraging an internship with UPS into a full-time job where he learned the ins-and-outs of the business world firsthand.

When Hayden returned to SLU for his MBA, he was ready to put his business knowledge to practical use, founding his first entrepreneurial endeavor, Vivid Sky, as his thesis. “I have founded several companies including Vivid Sky, which created one of the first mobile applications for sports fans to access instant replays, stats and info-graphics through their mobile devices,” says Hayden “In addition, I helped start two professional soccer teams, Saint Louis Athletica (WPS) and AC St. Louis (NASL), and an elite youth soccer club (St. Louis Scott Gallagher).”

After finding his own entrepreneurial success, Hayden couldn’t help but acknowledge the people who helped him learn about entrepreneurship at SLU and he wanted to give back immediately. “Jerry Katz asked me to come back as an adjunct professor and teach a class with him,” says Hayden. “After that class, I was given the opportunity to teach my own intro to entrepreneurship class. That was 10 years ago.”

Today Hayden teaches others about entrepreneurship as the director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at the John Cook School of Business at SLU, Senior Adjunct Professor in the Entrepreneurship and Sports Business programs. While Hayden continues to be active external to SLU, as a managing partner for The Stadia Group, a digital marketing and social media consulting firm, his mission is to help any entrepreneur that wants to start a business, buy a business or continue running a family business through education, networking and mentoring. “I want the number of entrepreneurs moving to St. Louis to exceed the number of entrepreneurs moving out of St. Louis,” he says. “And I want the first thing people think, when we ask them to name St. Louis businesses, to be the name of our startups (rather than Anheuser-Busch, Monsanto, etc). I want our entrepreneurs on the tip of everyone’s tongue.”

Clifford Holekamp, Washington University

With an interest in entrepreneurship since childhood, Clifford Holekamp began to develop a business while an MBA student at Washington University in 1999. The plan was for a chain of podiatry centers that combined a clinic and a store. “I launched Foot Healers at graduation,” says Holekamp. “Patients preferred our easy to access format and focus on customer service.  We grew quickly, and after opening five locations, the company was purchased by a local private equity group.”

While running Foot Healers, Holekamp stayed in touch with his professors at Washington University’s Olin School of Business, including Bart Hamilton. “I was a regular guest speaker in his entrepreneurship class and was well received by his students,” Clifford says. “After I sold Foot Healers, they asked me to come back and teach the course as an adjunct. That went very well, and before I knew it, I found myself in the full time faculty and soon was running Olin’s entrepreneurship platform.

  In addition to teaching and academic duties, Holekamp is a general partner at Cultivation Capital, an early-stage venture capital firm located in St. Louis. He is also a board member of Arch Grants, an international business plan competition that brings startup ventures to St. Louis from all over the globe, and director of several local ventures including LockerDome, TrakBill and Hatchbuck.

In the past five years, Holekamp has helped students launch over 70 companies and has connected hundreds of students with projects, internships and jobs in the local entrepreneurial community. Holekamp sees the strength of his university’s program fundamentally tied to the strength of the St. Louis entrepreneurship community. For this reason, his goal is for St. Louis to be a top-ten entrepreneurship hub within ten years. “We don’t need to be the next Silicon Valley, nor do I want us to be,” he says. “But what we can do is redefine St. Louis as a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship with decidedly Midwestern style and sensibility. This would provide opportunities for my students, would strengthen the university and would signal a new era for our region.”

Sue Taylor, Southwestern Illinois College

Ten years ago, a former director of the Southwestern Illinois College Foundation who was very keen on getting the college involved in entrepreneurship, prompted Sue Taylor, Program Coordinator for Accounting, Management and Marketing Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degrees, to attend a conference hosted by the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship, her interest was sparked. After attending the conference, Taylor won a grant to host an elevator pitch competition for high school students in partnership with Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. “SWIC and SIUE students were also part of the competition,” she says. “That was quite a shot in the arm.”

Today, the elevator pitch competition has evolved into an annual event for high school students in the community college district. “It is known as the Allsup Elevator Pitch,” says Taylor. “Jim Allsup, of Allsup Inc., provides the $2,500 in prize money: $500 to each of five winners. We are pleased with the way the event has grown the last several years and look forward to hosting it again on March 15 this year.”

In recent years, Taylor has also sharpened the emphasis of SWIC’s degree programs to focus on small business. “Textbooks tend to provide great examples of business concepts, but almost all focus on large, well-known corporations,” she says. “Now, our faculty concentrates wherever possible on bringing in examples related to small businesses. Guest speakers are often small business owners. Finally, we have several courses that use local small businesses as clients for student projects.”

In the future, Taylor would love to see an entrepreneurial center on one of SWIC’s campuses dedicated to supporting start-ups and small businesses already in operation. “It will take a great deal of planning and funding, but I believe it will be well worth the effort,” she says.
Taylor recognizes the role the Metro East is already playing in the region’s budding entrepreneurial community. “Most recently, Patrick McKeehan, director of the SBDC at Southern Illinois University, brought together a variety of organizations to launch their collaboration and to announce a major business plan competition,” she says. “Things are definitely headed in the right direction.”