Envision a future in which all incoming community college students study entrepreneurialism, learning to think creatively and bring a culture of innovation to the workforce.
Pikes Peak Community College is working with three national organizations to make that a reality.
Missouri-based Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative and Clifton Taulbert’s Building Community Institute joined forces to create the Ice House Entrepreneurship Program, designed to educate and engage participants in the fundamental aspects of an entrepreneurial mindset.
Inspiration came from the life story of Pulitzer Prize nominee Clifton Taulbert, whose Uncle Cleve — despite severely limited opportunities for African-Americans during legal segregation in Mississippi — rose above adversity as an entrepreneur, owning an ice house in a hot, humid climate.
Together, Gary Schoeniger and Taulbert chronicled Uncle Cleve’s eight life lessons in the book, “Who Owns the Ice House?”
Using such stories, the interactive Ice House program enables participants to learn — via real-world, trial-and-error examples — the first-hand experiences of entrepreneurs who overcame odds to become unlikely success stories.
Not surprisingly, each student in the Ice House program begins by reading the namesake book.
Kauffman had sought a community college partner to roll out the Ice House Entrepreneurship Program to first-year, interdisciplinary students. Now PPCC is working with the Kauffman Foundation and ELI. After completing its pilot program, Pikes Peak will be the first community college in the nation to offer the Ice House curriculum as a general education requirement to interdisciplinary students in a first-year student success course, titled Advanced Academic Achievement, said Bree Langemo, PPCC dean of the division of business, public service and social sciences.
“Our goal is to impact the largest number of students early in their educational journey,” Langemo said.
Locally, Ice House is a collaborative effort among PPCC, the Small Business Development Center and Pikes Peak Workforce Center.
“We are working in close collaboration with [these] community partners, with the goal of having a community- wide impact,” Langemo said.
This semester, PPCC began a 15-week Ice House pilot program, AAA 109, using the full curriculum, taught by Warren Munick, PPCC economics faculty and department chair and Entrepreneurs Club advisor.
“In keeping with the Ice House spirit, ‘Think Big, Start Small, Act Fast,’ we started the Ice House Entrepreneurship Program [in January] for 11 students,” Munick said.
So far, the pilot program has been well-received.
“The students are very excited about it. Several of them have already read the book and passed it along to friends,” Munick said. “That’s what is different about this program. Our students are [unusually] interested and enthusiastic. They watch videos of very successful entrepreneurs who came from very difficult circumstances, and then they come back to class [and discuss it].”
The book and curriculum inspire students to have an “enormously different attitude and mindset” than students without the program, he added.
Larger versions of the pilot program will begin in the summer and fall, after more people in the community receive training.
The college will also pilot an Ice House high school program within a music and multi-graphic design program this spring. In addition, the program will be offered to the broader community, through PPCC’s Extended Learning, Career Shift Program.
“Our goal is to help cultivate a culture of innovation in the Pikes Peak region by educating masses of students in the entrepreneurial mindset, empowering ordinary people to do extraordinary things regardless of their chosen path,” Langemo wrote in an email to the Business Journal.
“The entrepreneurial mindset will produce creative and engaged people in the community providing the lifeblood of the regional innovation system. As a result, the region will attract and retain talented people building economic growth in the community.”
Spring training in the Springs
Last October in Kansas City, 12 people from PPCC, SBDC and the Workforce Center attended a three-day intensive Ice House Entrepreneurship Program Facilitator Training at the Kauffman Foundation.
In April, Schoeniger, co-author of “Who Owns the Ice House?” and founder of Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative, will visit Colorado Springs to train 40 to 60 new facilitators in the program.
When asked why Pikes Peak was chosen as a partner for the general education rollout of Ice House, Schoeniger replied in an email: “We see entrepreneurship as a mindset that can empower ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things, regardless of their chosen path. In today’s world, entrepreneurship embodies the 21st century skills that every student needs.
“Dr. [Lance] Bolton and the leadership at Pikes Peak Community College share this vision and we are delighted to be working with them to develop a national model for entrepreneurship as a general education requirement.”
After attending training in Missouri, Dana Barton, business relations and employment development director at PPWFC, said: “Entrepreneurism is not about starting a business. It’s a mindset — not 12 steps, but how to think differently, act differently, engage differently, asking why … [expressing] how [something] can be done, being creative and solving problems.”
“[These three entities] will come together to track success data, so we can show community-wide impact and measure the same data,” Barton added, discussing the local Ice House initiative.
Langemo, who also attended training, agreed with her perspective.
“We’re really trying to grow the entrepreneurial mindset of the community and not compete with each other but collaborate together to have the biggest impact,” Langemo said.
In April 2012, in Kansas City, the Kauffman Foundation launched 1 Million Cups of Coffee — a grassroots program in various cities or regions such as San Diego, Houston, Reno, St. Louis, Orlando and Springfield, Mo., run by local entrepreneurs.
To launch, an area must have five entrepreneurs who have attended training, can organize a weekly event on Wednesdays from 9 to 10 a.m. when two or so start-up companies present a pitch at a local coffee shop or co-working space, and commit to maintaining the quality of the offering.
A contingency of local leaders visited Denver’s 1 Million Cups branch, which began meeting at Galvanize, a co-working space, last summer.
Leaders in Fort Collins plan to start a branch there this month.
To coincide with the April 15-16 Kauffman training, 1 Million Cups will be launched in El Paso County that week.
“We are the only partner in Southern Colorado,” Langemo said.
“Seventy cities in the U.S. are on a waitlist for 1 Million Cups, and we were bumped to the top due to our strong partnership with Kauffman.”