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Excellence and Expertise

‘Entrepreneurship changes people’s lives’

Miami’s Entrepreneurship program is about more than starting a business

The RedHawk Launch Accelerator class
Kirsten Moorefield, co-founder of Cloverleaf, speaks with Miami University students as part of the RedHawk Launch Accelerator.
Excellence and Expertise

‘Entrepreneurship changes people’s lives’

Kirsten Moorefield, co-founder of Cloverleaf, speaks with Miami University students as part of the RedHawk Launch Accelerator.

This is the second part in a three-part series. Read part one.

Jim Friedman best sums up Miami University’s Entrepreneurship program by paraphrasing authors and educators John Spencer and A.J. Juliani. 

“We are not here to prepare our students to do something,” Friedman said. “We are here to help our students prepare themselves to do anything.” 

When Friedman says “anything,” he means it. A member of Miami’s faculty for nearly two decades, Friedman is the White Family Clinical Professor and a part of Miami’s nationally recognized Entrepreneurship program. 

Entrepreneurship isn’t always about starting a business. It’s a lifestyle, a thought process, a mindset. 

“It fits with everything,” Friedman said. 

There are numerous examples. Here are a few:

  • Creativity City gives students the opportunity to design a city as part of World Creativity & Innovation Week.
  • The RedHawk Launch Accelerator in the John W. Altman Institute for Entrepreneurship is a seed stage accelerator for student-led startups with high growth potential.
  • The Center for L.I.F.E. (Leading the Integration of Faith and Entrepreneurship) aims to provide practically relevant, academically rigorous knowledge at the intersection of faith and entrepreneurship.

Those just scratch the surface. While the Entrepreneurship co-major is housed in the Farmer School of Business, its reach across Miami is wide. Nearly 4,200 students took at least one Entrepreneurship course each of the past four years, and at least one student from every undergraduate major took an Entrepreneurship class this past semester.

Creativity City, hosted by Miami University
Creativity City gives Miami University students the opportunity to design a city as part of World Creativity & Innovation Week.

When business students team with other majors on Entrepreneurship projects, the results are often extremely positive, said Bethany Schwan, assistant director of the Altman Institute.

“Whenever we have more diverse teams, all the students benefit,” Schwan said.

Rising senior Adam Kahle added the Entrepreneurship co-major during the second semester of his first year at Miami following his experience in ESP 103: Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurial Thinking.

ESP 103’s experiential learning was like no class Kahle had taken before. He appreciated that it helped build confidence and an entrepreneurial mindset.

“I’d recommend it to anyone,” said Kahle, who also has a Business Analytics major. “It was the best decision I’ve made at Miami.”

Part of the appeal of Entrepreneurship for Kahle is that it teaches universal problem solving. ESP 252 is another example. The course, Entrepreneurial Mindset: Creativity and Organization, features concepts of leadership and creativity as it relates to the organization of entrepreneurial ventures.

“You’re working with a group of people who think completely differently because they come from different majors,” Kahle said. “It can make collaborating that much more special.”

Collaboration was a key point for Kahle during his time working on this year’s Creativity City. Kahle teamed with Jacob Shachter and John DeCrosta as co-organizers of the event.

Creativity City was a rewarding and powerful experience, Kahle said, that taught teamwork and creative problem solving in real time.

“Toward the end, there was a concert with Audio Graffiti, and there was a moment where all of the chaos slowed down,” Kahle said. “It felt like it all came together and everything just clicked.

“Working so heavily on Creativity City has been the best learning opportunity, at least for me.” 

Graduating senior Tatem Lindner started at Miami with a Pre-Med co-major. She’s since added an Economics major and an Entrepreneurship co-major and founded Silux, a designer silicone ring company for women who cannot wear metal rings due to health problems, weight fluctuations, and/or workplace safety issues. 

Lindner was working in a pharmacy when the pharmacist, who was pregnant, had an issue with her ring cutting a glove while counting medication. Inspired by the incident, Lindner designed her first silicone ring for her co-worker, posted about it on TikTok, and generated 70,000 organic followers. 

Lindner is among the spring 2024 cohort of RedHawk Launch Accelerator. The 14-week program is designed to help Miami students who have launched or are launching a business evaluate their product/market fit, refine their business model and go to market strategy, improve their messaging, and deal with the wide range of issues faced by startups. Through the Accelerator, students have access to mentors and subject matter experts, along with the chance to participate in the $100,000 RedHawk Venture Pitch Competition.

“The RedHawk Launch Accelerator has been amazing,” Lindner said. “I came in with an idea and the background, and they’ve been able to connect me with so many people who have been able to give me answers. It’s just been a potential game changer for me. Having that knowledge at your fingertips is what you need in order to make anything happen.”

RedHawk 50 event
The RedHawk50 event recognized the 50 fastest-growing private companies around the world founded or led by former Miami students.

This is the ninth startup cohort for the RedHawk Launch Accelerator. John McIlwraith leads this year’s accelerator, and while he’s a new Entrepreneurship instructor, he’s not new to Miami. McIlwraith has served as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence with the Altman Institute for the past five years.

Classes are held on Mondays at COhatch, a coworking and office space in Kenwood. Matt Davis ’99, founder of COhatch, is a Miami graduate recently celebrated during the RedHawk50, which recognized the 50 fastest-growing private companies around the world founded or led by former Miami students.

“Miami’s entrepreneurship program has incredible  connective tissues with alums and others that provide significant benefits to the students.” said McIlwraith, who co-founded Allos Ventures, a Cincinnati-based venture capital firm.

This year’s RedHawk Launch Accelerator cohort heard from startup founders and experts in the Cincinnati startup ecosystem, including Tarek Kamil, CEO and founder of Cerkl, Kirsten Moorefield, co-founder of Cloverleaf, and Vance VanDrake, venture and patent partner at Frost, Brown Todd.

“The accelerator really helps in getting an idea off the ground and turning it into something more functional,” said graduating senior Emil Barr, part of this year’s cohort with Allure AI, which uses artificial intelligence-powered creative to help brands with e-commerce experiences, social media buzz, and return on ad dollars.

“Being able to learn from some really unique people is where the program shines,” he added.

Barr, an Economics major, also founded Step Up Social, which specializes in digital marketing, toward the end of his first year at Miami.

He credits an Honors College event with getting the ball rolling for Step Up Social. Tim Warren, CEO of Helium SEO, was a featured speaker, and his commentary resonated with Barr.

“That was a Miami connection,” said Barr, who is an investor in Miami’s 1809 Capital fund, a financial return focused investment platform that leverages Miami’s alumni network.

“We were lucky to get the resources and support we did. I’m excited to keep building the network and staying connected.”

What Entrepreneurship students learn goes far beyond starting a business. They learn how to identify and solve problems.

“Miami’s entrepreneurship program classes will benefit students whether they chose to launch or work for a startup or pursue a career at Kroger, Procter and Gamble, a nonprofit, or even a law firm,” McIlwraith said.

“This has been a very rewarding experience for me. I’ve been in the world of venture capital and entrepreneurship for 40 years and really enjoy watching young entrepreneurs identify significant problems and seek to solve them with innovative solutions.”

And it’s not always just students who are benefitting. Friedman had a recent interaction where he received a message from a parent whose daughter is taking an Entrepreneurship course and calls home after every class with that day’s notes.

The parent used a concept from one of his classes during a job interview, Friedman said.

She got the job.

“Entrepreneurship changes people’s lives,” he said.

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you. We challenge you. We have, I believe, a powerful group of faculty members who really care about students and spend a great deal of time with them. I think that’s our best asset.”

Lindner also praised Miami’s faculty, noting that, even if you aren’t in their class anymore, instructors are more than willing to give advice and help make connections.

“Everyone is so supportive,” Lindner said. “You’re all in the same boat. You’re all wanting to make a difference in this world. You wouldn’t be an Entrepreneurship co-major if you didn’t.”