April 07, 2011
I had the privilege to teach two classes of students involved with the Entrepreneurship Initiative on the campus of North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C. on Monday and I told them I would blog about the experience.
Here you go guys!
I drove over to Raleigh after working out bright and early with my chief of staff Chris Reavis on Monday morning, then met my press secretary Mac Heffner shortly after that. We made the hour drive to my old stomping grounds just off Hillsborough Street and parked in the Dan Allen Parking Deck. There we were greeted by Trenton Huffines, a student in the EI program, who guided us across campus to the lecture room, where I was spoke to two separate classes – the first with about 100 students and the other with about a dozen in a more advanced class.
Jennifer Capps, the professor, introduced Dr. Tom Miller, who heads up the EI program, and me.
I talked to the students about why they were there and encouraged them to really “think” about what they wanted to do. I explained my background and how I finally reached a point where I needed to do something other than textiles, even though my diploma from N.C. State was in that field.
After spending 10 years in textiles, I finally reached a point where I had an entrepreneurial spirit. It took finding out that I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do to realize that.
My favorite part of speaking to the students was watching them get all bright-eyed and just feeling the energy from the kids in the room. The kids chose the same university I had because they love N.C. State or because they’d heard of the school’s reputation. As I spoke, I looked out and started seeing them think about entrepreneurship and could see the wheels turning in their minds. I’m sure some of them were saying, ‘Hey, I can do this too!’
I started to see some of them jumping around in their seats, some of them were on the edge of their seats, I saw smiles, eyes dancing around and it fired me up. When I see young people get fired up like that it just fires me up even more!
Every time I interact with the kids at N.C. State, I learn more about all the different things the University is doing. Dr. Miller has spearheaded the whole program and the attitude the program has taken on. He’s organized it and I was there the first time that he met with Randy Woodson, our new chancellor, when the two first discussed all the possibilities that the EI program could offer students.
At the time, Chancellor Woodson was 100 percent behind the idea and I loved that! It’s clear that it’s starting to show itself by the all different programs and activities they have coming on of late.
It’s clear that the EI program is starting to show its value with all the different programs they have started implementing.
When I was at N.C. State, I wasn’t into being self-employed at all. I wanted a degree and I wanted to get a job when I was done. I didn’t care about anything like what the EI program offers now. If they had told me it would be easy, then I might have looked into it, but I know that wouldn’t be the case so I never would have jumped on board with something like that as a student.
Now that I have a business and am doing what I am now, I want to do all that I can to let the students know that they can do whatever they put their minds to. I really believe that because I figured out what I wanted professionally and personally in my life. It took me 36 years to figure it out, but I did it and so can they. The biggest difference is I think they will figure out where to make their mark sooner than I did. The EI program will be a big reason why they do that!
What’s going to happen in the future with the EI program, with people like Angela Hollen – an EI student that has already found a niche through her performance fabrics – is that N.C. State is going to have amazing success stories with student that got their start at N.C. State University. Those students are going to give back their time, their money, their energy, their expertise, their mentorship and those are the kids that are going to help bring North Carolina as a state and North Carolina State as a university to even bigger and greater prominence across the country and the world. If you love N.C. State and that doesn’t get you pumped up, then you need to check your pulse.
I’m so fired up about the EI program because the people that become the success stories will be the people with the money that can create business and great opportunities for other people down the road. These people with the finances are going to be the ones that have the ability to give back – in a big way! And they will want to give back because somebody helped them when they were trying to make it.
Those people will remember what EI did for them and they are going to want to give back because they are more suited, qualified and ready to help others, so I’m excited about it from a long-term perspective.
After meeting with the two classes, I spoke individually with students and gave my book to some of them. From there, I went to eat with Dr. Miller, Jennifer Capps and Angela Hollen.
I want to thank them and Chancellor Woodson for giving me the opportunity to visit a campus I love so much. Keep dreaming big in all that you guys do!