Sections Supplements

Bay Path Expands Entrepreneurial Lecture Series into a ’Summit’’

Brenda Wishart

Brenda Wishart says Bay Path·s expanded Entrepereneurship and Innovative Thinking program will broaden the school’s audience.

Brenda Wishart says the E-mail responses started coming in only a few hours after the invitations to Bay Path College’s Innovative Thinking & Entrepreneurship Summit went out.

She soon became intrigued not only with the quantity of RSVPs, but the diversity as well.

“We started hearing from students and professors here, as well as from several area organizations,” said Wishart, director of the Entrepreneurship Program at Bay Path. “But we also heard back from a number of area small business owners, and this was something new.”

And it was also one of the primary motivations behind Bay Path’s initiative to
expand its Innovative Thinking and Entrepreneurship lecture series, launched
two years ago, into what organizers are now calling a “summit.”

The free, evening program, set for Nov. 14, will feature a number of speakers and panel discussions designed to help those thinking about starting a business to take the first step — and those already doing business to take the next step, said Wishart.

The summit is just one of many entrepreneurship- related ventures that will be funded by a $143,000, three-year Coleman Foundation grant received this past summer.Other programs to be supported by the grant include everything from a cooperative education initiative to a summer program in entrepreneurship for area high school girls.

Wishart said the Nov. 14 summit will be a combination information exchange, networking opportunity, and business resource program, and it was conceived as part of a broad effort on the part of Bay Path administrators to broaden the school’s focus on entrepreneurship and innovation.

Wishart borrowed from both of those words to create a term — entrevation — that she uses to describe a course she teaches within Bay Path’s business program each spring. But that same characterization can be applied to the summit, she said, which was created, much like the class, to help inspire potential entrepreneurs — but also to assist those who have already chosen that
path, individuals who started with an idea and a rough idea of where they wanted to go with it.

People like Nadja Piatka.
The summit’s keynote speaker, Piatka was an unemployed, single mother who took a passion and talent for baking — and a $100 investment — and founded a venture called Three Blondes and Brownie. That venture grew and eventually took the name Najda Foods Inc., a multi-million venture that supplies what are known as ‘healthy muffins’ to McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada and ‘healthy brownies’ to Subway restaurants throughout Canada and 27 U.S. states.

“Her story offers some inspiration and some important lessons for everyone,” said Wishart.

BusinessWest looks this issue at the Bay Path summit, and also at the school’s wider efforts to foster entrepreneurial thinking in the Valley.

Peaking Their Interest

The titles given to the various breakout sessions scheduled at the summit speak to the event’s mission: Accessing Capital to Finance New and Growth Ventures;Integrating Branding and a Customer-centric Sales Culture; Launch — There’s Help at Every Step of the Way; and Attracting and Retaining Stellar Employees.

The sessions address the many challenges facing small business owners today, said Wishart, including the need to seek help when it’s appropriate and knowing where to go to get it.

Providing a forum where such questions can be asked and answered was one of the many goals set by Bay Path administrators as they set about the task of expanding their focus on entrepreneurship and innovative thinking and community involvement in that realm.

The college created its entrepreneurship program in 2001 to provide broad, experiential learning opportunities for students aspiring to become entrepreneurs and innovators.

Early components of the program included curriculum, in the form of three courses related to entrepreneurship; Innovations in Business, Entrepreneurship, and Wishart’s Entrevation, and also an Innovator’s Roundtable, comprised of area CEOs and business owners. They provide advice and expertise regarding the skills required of students interested in starting their own business or in entering the job market.

In 2003, with the help of an elevator grant from the Coleman Foundation, the
school launched its lecture series with an address from now former MassMutual
Chairman and CEO Robert O’Connell. The program continued last year with an inspiration address from New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and will continue on Nov. 15 with an address from Yankee Candle President and CEO Craig Rydin.

The lecture series attracted a number of students and faculty at Bay Path, said
Wishart, as well as area economic development leaders, business executives, and representatives of area business-development agencies ranging from local chambers of commerce to the Mass. Small Business Development Center Network.

The school wanted to broaden the audience to include area small business owners, and conceived a program around their many needs and challenges. The end product is the inaugural summit, she said, adding that college plans to continue the event for at least the next three years.

Other programs to be funded by the Coleman Foundation grant include:

• A cooperative education program, in which students will be placed in area small businesses, where they will gain hands-on experience in an environment that will allow them to fully explore what is required to be an entrepreneur;

• Expanded business partnerships beyond the summit, including an expansion
of the Innivators’ Roundtable;

• Student development and networking, a program that would provide additional opportunities outside the classroom for students to develop their interest in business ownership; and

• A summer program in entrepreneurship for high school girls that would act as a bridge between area youth entrepreneurship programs and the initiatives at Bay Path.

Summit attendees will have the opportunity to attend two of four scheduled breakout sessions, said Wishart, adding that each offers information and insight that people can take back to their businesses the next morning.

‘Accessing Capital to Finance New and Growth Ventures’ addresses one of the most challenging — and intimidating — aspects of putting an idea or business in motion, said Wishart. The session will provide navigational
advice from Maria Goncalves, senior vice president of TD Banknorth; Richard
Steele, managing member of Longmeadow Capital, a venture capital firm; Marjorie Feldman, owner and president of Al’s Beverage Company, a soft drink concentrate distributor; and Daniel Roulier, founder and president of Roulier Associates, a real estate development company.

Lori Klimach, senior vice president of the Wholesale Division at Yankee Candle, will lead the discussion titled ‘Integrating Branding and a Customer-centric Sales Culture.’ The program will focus on the critical mission of establishing a brand identity at both an organization and a product/service level.

Donna Mullen Good, CEO of the Center for Women & Enterprise (CWE) will lead the session titled ‘There’s Help at Every Step of the Way.’ Her non-profit company has helped more than 10,000 entrepreneurs (of both genders) start and grow their businesses, and provides education, training, technical assistance, legal advice, and access to debt and equity capital at each stage of business development.

Team-building will be the focus of discussion at the fourth of the break-out sessions, ‘Attracting and Retaining Stellar Employees.’ It will feature Marc Criscitelli, vice president of Employee Benefits for the insurance agency Field, Eddy & Bulkley, John Mayhbury, owner and president of Maybury Material
Handling, and Dave Rattner, owner and president of Dave’s Soda and Pet Food City.

Together, they will address subjects to include motivational tips, special incentives, and competitive benefits that are cost-effective and rewarding to employees and employers alike.

View from the Top

Wishart is expecting at least 200 attendees for the summit, and perhaps as many as 350 — she was still amassing RSVPs at press time.

While she doesn’t know the final tally, she does know the event will further the
school’s mission to expand its entrepreneurship and innovative thinking programs, and thus help create and grow more of the small businesses that drive the local economy.

To register for the summit, or for more information, call (413) 565-1229, or visitwww.baypath.eduand select ‘entrepreneurship summit.’