Monday, June 9, 2008

ReServe at Work at the Lawrence N. Field Center for Entrepreneurship at Baruch College

Standing: Lendynette Pacheco, Coordinating Business Advisor; Monica Dean, Director
Seated: Cornelius “Corny” Marx, Stanley Kohlenberg, and William Drewes, ReServists.

Since October 2007, ReServists have been working in the City University of New York system, part of ReServe’s ongoing commitment to supporting the work of our civic institutions.

Five of these ReServists are currently at work at the Lawrence N. Field Center for Entrepreneurship, part of CUNY’s Baruch College, located in midtown Manhattan.

ReServe stopped by to talk with the Field Center staff and our ReServists there about their incredibly fresh ideas on older adults, CUNY’s unique resources, and how the success of a small business can benefit just about everyone.

ReServe (RS) Tell us about the work that's going on at the Field Center, and the particular skills the ReServists are bringing to their work. How is this model of civic engagement helping CUNY?

Monica Dean (MD), Director We are basically the nerve center for entrepreneurship at the college. We serve several college constituencies, including students, faculty, and alumni, as well as budding and existing entrepreneurs. We have research that's conducted out of the Center, we provide counseling as well as workshops for entrepreneurs, and then we have several programming activities that are for students.

I think what's really important about our entrepreneurship Center, what's really key about our success here, is that [southern California real estate developer and Baruch College alumnus] Lawrence Field is intimately involved in the work that we do. We meet with him on a regular basis. He comes to New York several times a year. He’ll chair the board, and he is very supportive of all the work that we do.

As of December of 2007, we received a new gift from him, a $10M gift, which is in addition to a previous gift of $3M. That new gift really puts us in a new playing field in terms of how we can serve our stakeholders, as well as how we're viewed on a nationally and internationally.

As part of our new gift we are required to develop an advisory board, and that's what [ReServist] Corny Marx is helping us to do. So he, in addition to helping us look at what type of people would fit in terms of board members, also has a lot of connections within the New York City community, and that's helped tremendously. So in fact some of his contacts have agreed to become board members. He's been working with [Academic Director] Ed Rogoff and myself developing that aspect. It's a huge effort.

RS I'm hearing from a lot of our organizations that one of the great things that ReServists are bringing is a Rolodex, so to speak, an address book.

Bill Drewes (BD) That's called “intellectual capital.”

RS Intellectual capital. Thank you. So Corny, in bringing this intellectual capital to bear, how is that going for you?

Corny Marx (CM) We've got the board up to [about] ten. And they are mostly entrepreneurial people, which mirrors the Center's mission. And I think that's the great thing about this group of people is that they've all done it. Not all, but virtually all have built themselves within a corporation or within their own business, from zero background.

MD Another major activity has been our marketing efforts. And that's something that Lendy [Lendynette Pacheco, Coordinating Business Advisor] has been working on. And Stan has been working very intimately with us, trying to develop our collateral materials, as well as figuring out how to position ourselves in New York City, an environment where there's a lot of competition from other service providers and other organizations.

That's where the folks here at ReServe are filling in and helping us. They started in March. And, you know, they've all made a very significant impact to our work within a very short period of time. They all have way more experience than any of us do!

RS So Stanley, what kind of things do you see yourself bringing on account of having this experience?

SK Well, you have out there a student class aspiring to become, in a great many ways, business people. And we would like to get them more interested in the entrepreneurship center. This requires all of the same marketing techniques that you use to sell a product, because we are, in fact, a product.

I spent most of my career in marketing. And [informing students and potential students about the resources available at the Field Center] is just another marketing problem in effect.

We’re redoing our brochures. There's a wealth of information sitting in the files here. There are all these success stories that we can use as promotional material. Because in the end that's our product: a person successfully in business, lasting more than the conventional two years before you go under.

For instance yesterday I was with a former client of ours from 2002, who has become very successful, and we're writing up a success story on her so that we can use it in promotion. And I've gone through all the files from 2002 to 2007, getting everybody. I went through the Web and found those still in business. There are 105 that have Web sites. And I'm going to go visit them all. Eventually.

MD As I said before, a core piece of our work is our services to the community, so, that's providing workshops, as well as counseling clients one on one. And we have two groups that we focus on, one of which is minority entrepreneurs, and the other is women entrepreneurs.

BD We’re putting together five different sets of curricula. And it's been quite exciting putting them together!

We also address the immigrant issue, which is very important. In New York City, for example, 80% of new job creation in the last ten years has been in small business.

Within that statistic, the majority of small businesses are being developed by members of a minority group, and low-income communities, and immigrant populations. And the number of big corporations, because of mergers and acquisitions, is getting smaller and smaller. So creating jobs is about small business.

One-third of people living in this country are dependent upon income earned through small businesses. And it's only been in the last decade that the major business schools have actually looked at creating programs for small businesses. The whole MBA establishment has been geared towards rational analysis, working for a major corporation. They really haven't addressed this population the way we do.

ReServist Bill Drewes

BD They're not really looking for a blue-collar student. They're not really looking at teaching people to start a small business, even though the principles of business are the same.

We're doing a lot more here at the Field Center than just helping a small business get started or expand. We're really addressing a major problem that could make or break the strength of our country going forward.

SK The variety of successful cases that we have is enormous and it runs from Subway franchisees to executive recruiters to cafes, a lot of restaurants—some very good ones! And they continue, and grow. We have a bakery on the Lower East Side, a gentleman who came here in 2002, who just wanted to open a little bakery, and now he's got a huge restaurant down there. It's the Clinton Street Bakery.

CM Oh yes! Fabulous!

SK He came here to sell cupcakes and stuff.

BD I had a client, a young black man from the Bronx, who wanted to get into the cleaning trade. But it's very tough for anyone to break into the trade, particularly building cleaners. So he started cleaning toilets in the Bronx. So he did his thing, and we helped him get certified as a minority-owned business, we helped him get a contract from Marriott Hotels.

Now he employs 60 people, and he's making close to 8 million dollars a year. And out of the 60 people that he employs, the majority of them come from low-income communities, are black or hispanic, mothers off of welfare—

CM I wouldn't mind having him on the board! That's a great story.

BD You multiply this times the hundreds and hundreds, and this is a major impact small business entrepreneurs are having. These are the real heroes of our country. Fully one-third of us depend on their success.

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