The following is the diary of CSUF Entrepreneurship student Cesar Anchante at the 2011 Emerging Minority Business Leaders Summer Institute. Cesar’s team placed second this year at the Emerging Minority Business Leaders 2011 Summer Institute winning a cash prize of $3,000. Each team had been given a specific technology or patent and been charged with the task of finding an innovative use for it, creating a business plan, and giving a presentation to investors.
In addition to daily classes and workshops, the teams were given approximately two weeks to complete the work. Cesar’s team was assigned infrared de-bonding technology, used for separating materials bonded by several adhesives. They applied this technology to the aircraft industry, specifically, retiring old aircraft. For their presentation, they purchased Styrofoam airplanes to demonstrate how the product could be used to deconstruct planes at the end of their life cycle.
The Emerging Minority Business Leaders 2011 Summer Institute Diary
This is a day by day description of the activities, lectures, and meetings that I completed during the EMBL 2011 Summer Institute in West Liberty University, West Virginia. The program ran from June 11 to June 24, 2011.
Saturday, June 11, 2011
With all my bags prepared, I left for West Virginia. My flight left from Los Angeles International Airport at 6:00 am and it had one stop at Washington Dulles Airport before landing on Pittsburgh International Airport. At the airport, I was to take one of the complimentary shuttle buses that EMBL provided. It was the first year that EMBL was arranging shuttle transportation from the Pittsburgh Airport to and from West Liberty University at no cost to the students. Because of flight arrival times, the shuttles left for West Liberty University at 2:00pm, 6:30pm, and 10:00pm. Two weeks prior, EMBL staff had emailed the students to ask for their itineraries. This way, the transportation would be useful for as many students as possible. They also recommended arranging other modes of transportation for those who were not able to take advantage of these shuttles.
At 6:30pm, I recognized the EMBL bus because of its sign. It said “WEST LIBERTY EMBL.” The group boarding this bus was rather small; there were about ten to fifteen of us. The day was bright and the weather was pleasant at this time of day. On the way to West Liberty University, I met only part of the group. They had come from several parts of the US. Some came from New York, others from Massachusetts, Washington DC, Florida, etc. These students were also from different ethnic backgrounds and academic levels—-freshman, seniors, and graduate students. The scenery on the way to the university was filled with green hills, trees, and deer. It was quite amazing scenery.
Upon arrival, we checked in at Beta Hall, which were the University dormitory space where we stayed. During check-in, they provided us with the program schedule and our room keys. For those driving, they provided parking passes.
Because this was the only free day, we spent the rest of the night getting to know the group better. Certainly, I could feel the energy and enthusiasm in the halls. Each of us seemed ready to build a positive experience at WLU. From the get go, we became a new family.
That evening, we walked around WLU to get to know where the library, the student union, the bookstore, the cafeteria, and the gym were. These were university resources that were operating specifically for EMBL students. For instance, all lecture and group meetings took place in the library. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were served at the cafeteria. And the final award ceremony was held at the Student Union.
EMBL provided me with valuable networking resources. I was exposed to students from different backgrounds, different academic levels, and different age groups. As the demographics of attendees suggests, there were 60 attendees from 18 states and 33 institutions. Particularly, I was looking forward to meeting other graduate students due to my personal interests and ambitions to pursue a graduate degree.
Sunday, June 12, 2011
The most important event of this day was the introductory meeting at the University’s Student Union. This occurred during lunch time. Everyone was required to attend and as the students arrived, they were assigned a table. Each table was designated for each team. Thus, this was the point at which I was introduced to the members of my team as well as our team facilitator.
The EMBL staff had selected the groups with specific criteria in mind. Each team was comprised of students of different ethnic backgrounds, numerous majors, and various academic levels. For instance, my group consisted of students with degrees in science, psychology, and business. Many group members were fluent in other languages and some had come from foreign countries. The diversity of each team was meant to represent a business work environment in which we were to manage our differences. As our group facilitator mentioned, the diversity in our group could be both a blessing and a curse. In fact, diversity in a group-setting could lead to dissonant views and result in unproductive efforts. On the other hand, it could lead to easily obtainable results that one individual could not otherwise achieve.
Our group facilitator spoke to us about her experience with the EMBL program. She was an attendee of the 2006 EMBL Summer Institute and her group received second place for the presentation competition. In a sense, we had the advantage of having her as a coach because she had the experience to project our efforts in the right course.
At this introductory meeting, the participants also met the EMBL Program Management. Tyrone Taylor, the Program Manager, made a brief welcome to all of us. He also presented other members of the EMBL staff: Carrie White—Principal Investigator, Kristy Kosky—Assistant Principal Investigator, Paula Pollock—EMBL Assistant, and Tony Simon—Summer Institute Assistant. In addition, he asked each of the facilitators to speak to the group. It was fascinating to hear about their personal passions and ambitions.
After lunch, each group was given a set of technologies/patents. In essence, the purpose of the program was to present an innovative use of a specific technology/patent. Different patents were given by EMBL facilitators to every group. Also, each group was required to develop an innovative use and fit it into a business plan. These patents were technology-based. For instance, our patent was an Infrared Debonding Unit able to separate different materials bonded by several adhesives. My group’s innovative approach was to apply this technology to the aircraft industry. It would enable a quick and safe dismantling process of end-of-life airplanes.
Monday, June 13, 2011
The program provided us with a meal package that included breakfast, lunch, and dinner. All meals were provided at the University cafeteria. Therefore, I began my day with breakfast at 7:15 am. At 8:30 am, the group met in the second floor of the library for the opening session overview.
At the opening session, the lead instructor, D. Faye Lyons-Gary, touched on the expectations of the course. She mentioned that upon completion of the class—Strategies for Technology, Management & Commercialization—each student would be granted academic credit to their home institution. She also mentioned that the course would present graduate level expectations. Thus, each student was expected to read the material before each lecture. Also, the class covered about seven chapters per week.
At the end of the opening session, there were student introductions. Because the group was divided in tables of six, we played a game in which we had to remember a large amount of information. Each of us was expected to introduce ourselves as well as the names, institutions, and hobbies of the people sitting at our tables. It was a fun activity because it stressed a positive association between the group and the lectures.
The EMBL program made efficient use of technology. Most of the course was done online and each student was given a laptop. Every laptop contained the necessary tools to complete the course work. These tools included the e-textbook, the pre-installed Business Plan Pro software, and the Microsoft Office software. Laptop distribution began at 1:00 pm. In addition, WLU IT department installed wireless internet access in the dorms and there were computer labs across campus. The University Library was open from 6:30 pm to 10:00 pm every day.
Starting at 2:00 pm, there were two afternoon lectures: “Entrepreneurship and Innovation” by Tyrone Taylor, and “Identity Management” by Jim Haizlett.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
The intensity of the program was stressed on the second day of the program. In addition to our course work, each team was required to work on their business plans. Also, we had a quiz the following day covering the first five chapters of the course. Furthermore, elevator pitches were due by Friday—on the fourth day—while the first draft of our business plan was expected to be complete and turned in by Monday of the following week. By Thursday of the second week, we were to give our power point presentations to the panel.
Every day at 1:00 pm, the group would break out into teams for one hour. That day, our facilitator asked us to do further research on our patent and to create an innovative use for it by 6:30 pm. At this time, our team met at the library to discuss our individual ideas and propositions. Each of us spent a few hours to do research on our own. Personally, I discovered that adhesives were used in the assembly of aircraft. There were already companies specializing in this industry. Therefore, I shared the idea of using Infrared technology to help ease the dismantling process of end-of-life aircraft. The group had positive comments about it and we decided to select it as the core idea of our business plan. We also further brainstormed on the possible services and products, and assigned parts of the business plan to each member. At the end of our first meeting, we planned on researching the feasibility of our ideas and to create a possible business name and logo.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
As usual, class began at 8:30 am. Professor Faye covered the rest of the chapters that would be part of our first quiz later that afternoon. She also made a review session to cover key concepts found in the quiz. At 2:00 pm, there was an Accounting Seminar given by Mike Blackwell, WLU Professor of Accounting and Interim Chair, Department of Financial Systems. His presentation defined fundamental concepts of accounting. He touched on the basic financial statements of a business plan as well as the financing sought recommendations for small businesses. In addition, he provided office hours to all the teams. We used his help for our financial plan later that week.
After dinner, our team met to refine our business plan ideas. We also selected our business name, Take A Part Technologies, LLC, and brainstormed on our possible logo designs. Because some of our team members had not developed a business plan before, our facilitator asked for a sample business plan to ensure that everyone got familiar with the outline. She also assigned business plan parts to each member of the team.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
The day began with an IP/Marketing Tech Assessment by Dusty Gwinn from West Virginia University Research Corporation. He covered fundamental marketing concepts concentrating mostly on logo designs. He presented examples of unsuccessful logos and gave advice on how to improve them. He also emphasized the importance of matching our business logo with our business’ unique value proposition. In addition, he mentioned that each team was going to be working with a graphic designer who will provide a logo, a brochure, and business cards for us.
We met our team graphic designer at 4:30 pm. We shared our business concept and our tentative business logo. He was to work on possible logos for our business. Later that evening, we met our graphic designer to refine the design of our logo.
Friday, June 17, 2011
The first lecture of the day was given by Maurice Swinton, Technology Consultant. He introduced to us to the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program. Both programs were created by the Small Business Innovation Development Act of 1982 to encourage technological innovation by small businesses. SBIR is a program for small businesses looking to engage in federal Research and Development with potential for commercialization. Moreover, STTR helps bring about collaboration between a small business and a US research institution for Research and Development purposes. Mr. Swinton also touched on topics such as the SBIR/STTR budgets, participating agencies, eligibility checkpoints, award guidelines, and other useful facts.
After lunch time, elevator pitches were performed in class. Each team was given a different context to present their pitch. For instance, our elevator pitch was to be given to the CEO of a Technology Corporation. The scenario given was a “restaurant.” Our team member was expected to approach this person in the appropriate way, present the pitch, and exchange business cards. The context of the pitch was made to represent a real life situation in which there was the possibility of time constraints and other distractions. After every team presented their pitches, D. Faye gave an overview with recommendations.
Saturday and Sunday, June 18-19, 2011
The first weekend was dedicated solely to the development of the business plan. Our team met in the library at least twice a day in order to consolidate our ideas. Our ideas grew to a more complex and refined level. I reminded the team the importance of quality and quantity in a business plan. I mentioned that the qualitative aspect of the business plan should match its quantitative aspect. I reminded the group why this would give more credibility to our business plan and our final presentation. Also, because adhesives are also used in other industries, I mentioned they would be a good fit to our product. These included the automobile, electronics, furniture, and marine industries.
Monday, June 20, 2011
The lecture began with an overview of the chapters covered thus far. The mid-term test was scheduled for 10:00 am that day and it covered twelve chapters. Students needed to pass the midterm in order to pass the class and receive the stipend upon completion.
At this point in the program, participants began to experience the intensity of the course load. Most of us were exhausted by overwork. Certainly, we did not have to think about our jobs or other classes. Because we solely concentrated our energy in the program, we managed to dedicate extra time to develop our business plans. Many of the groups stayed up to 4:00 am working on details of their work.
Later that afternoon, Dr. Charles Wessner gave a presentation on Global Strategies for Competitiveness. He began by stressing on China’s agenda for innovation. It emphasized on the commitment that China and other Asian countries currently have for innovation. He contrasted this information with America’s duty of investing on federal Research and Development as well as commercialization, manufacturing, and trade. His presentation touched on trends of other major global innovators such as Germany. Then, it addressed the initiatives that the current US administration intends to implement.
The first business plan draft was turned in by 7:00 pm to our team facilitator. Primarily, our business plan lacked consistency in design and it had grammatical discrepancies. We were asked to read through the plan together as a team and fix the inconsistencies with respect to margins, page numbers, and financial errors.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
The last class lecture took place at 8:30 am. Professor Faye opened up the floor for a final Business Plan Question & Answer session. She spoke of common mistakes that had occurred in previous EMBL presentations and business plans. For instance, she advised us not to address any questions we were not familiar with during our presentations. Instead, she recommended saying “I will be glad to answer your question as soon as I have done further research on the topic.” In addition, we learned that our presentations were not going to be judged based on our business plans, but purely on the presentation content. We also learned about the prizes of the presentation competition. In addition to the $1,500 stipend provided to all attendees, the first place team would be given $5,000, the second place team would be given $3,000, and the third place would be given $1,500.
After learning about the expectations for our business plan and presentation, my team made further efforts to ensure the success of the team. For example, in several occasions, we asked other team facilitators to judge our elevator pitch. This would ensure that our business concept was concise and understandable to a typical investor. Also, we incorporated bilingualism into our business motto. We asked for feedback on our business name and logo to several of the participants. Our team rehearsed our presentation several times and performed it for different people during library hours to obtain constructive criticism.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
The final draft of the business plan was due at 8:30am. Our team gave their 100% for the development of the plan to the extent that we made fourteen drafts of the business plan before we turned in the final copy. After all, we were happy with our involvement on our business concept, and we were confident we would give a winning presentation on Friday.
After completing the course work, we returned our laptops to EMBL staff at 9:00 am. At this point, each team was advised to finish their power point slides and rehearse their presentations before practice runs the next morning.
Thursday and Friday, June 23-24, 2011
For our presentation, we decided to include a live performance of how our technology worked. This was a useful portion of our presentation due to the sophisticated nature of our technology/patent. My team purchased a 4 ft storyfoam airplane with detachable parts. This would allow us to show how our apparatus would debond the components of the plane through Infrared light. We also used a lamp to cover the unit as it performed the debonding process. Because infrared debonding makes use of heat, we also needed thermometers. For this purpose, we used our iPods and attached them to the lamp to simulate temperature control. For further information on our technology/patent, visit the U.S. Department of Energy website through this link:
Our team was the sixth group that presented. Because of the competitive nature of the presentations, teams were allowed to watch other presentations only if they came afterwards. My team and others stayed to watch the rest of the competition.
My team’s presentation was considered impressive by many of the team facilitators. We followed the recommendations made by our team facilitator. We performed the visual demonstration effectively and demonstrated competence in our innovation. Our presentation stressed on the profit maximization of our technology as well as its potential for growth. At the end, we gave each of the panelists a cover letter for financing sought, our business cards, and toy airplane gifts.
The Graduation Ceremony began at 5:00pm after the presentation competition. It was held at the Student Union and it began with a formal dinner. After dinner, there were three formal speeches given by Brian Joseph, WLU Board of Governors, Dusty Gwinn, West Virginia University Research Corporation, and Richard Miller, National Association of Seed and Venture Funds.
Following the panelists speeches, Tony Simon, Summer Institute Assistant, called attendees on stage to accept their awards in alphabetical order. This was followed by the presentation competition prize announcements. Take A Part Technologies, LLC was awarded Second Place for Business Launch Plan with a prize of $3,000 divided among the six members of our group and a 2011 EMBL Summer Institute trophy for each of our team members.
EMBL 2011 was a great experience for our team and the rest of the EMBL group. It was beneficial for the students because they were exposed to key resources that would help them attain success in entrepreneurship and technology management. I give special thanks to everyone who helped to make this experience a great success and an important milestone in my academic endeavors.
P. S. Also, please note that the CSUF Entrepreneurship student Ms. Meshia Moss also attended the boot camp. CSUF was well represented!