Forward with NACCE

Philip E. and Carole R. Ratcliffe Legacy: Servant Leadership for Skilled Trades & Entrepreneurs with CEO Carlene Cassidy

June 04, 2021 National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship Season 2021 Episode 20
Forward with NACCE
Philip E. and Carole R. Ratcliffe Legacy: Servant Leadership for Skilled Trades & Entrepreneurs with CEO Carlene Cassidy
Show Notes Transcript

Meet our special guest Carlene Cassidy, CEO of Ratcliffe Foundation, interviewed by NACCE's Dr. Rebecca Corbin and Jeff Smith about the humble journey and legacy of Philip E. and Carole R. Ratcliffe to support entrepreneurship in the skilled trades, as well as Carlene’s story of life that once set her up on a mission to support and mentor aspiring entrepreneurs. 

The Ratcliffe Foundation announced an available $135,000 in 2021 funding to leverage their commitment to collaborate with community colleges in building entrepreneurial mindset, access to education, training, and business opportunities like internships and apprenticeships in the trades industries. Does your college have a project or entrepreneurial idea that clearly identifies a solution to the challenge of encouraging innovation, capacity, and interest in support of the skilled trades?  Listen to the full episode and pitch us your program/project idea.


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Join us on the second Wednesday of every month at 12PM Eastern to set yourself up to be productive and impactful with NACCE by your side. We'll share about events, ways to get involved and we'll have an open conversation featuring questions you're asking or problems you're facing, crowdsourcing solutions, and answers. 

Rebecca Corbin:

Welcome to making our way forward, a podcast where we share compelling life stories and learn from the experience of everyday entrepreneurs. At Macy, we celebrate diversity and invite you to join the conversation. As we talk to entrepreneurs and leaders from all walks of life. We hope that by telling their stories, we bring you inspiration, empower you to take action, and ignite entrepreneurship in your community.

Jeff Smith:

Welcome to making our way forward. We're here with Carlene Cassidy. And we're gonna have a great conversation. So without further ado, Becky, I want to invite you in and introduce our guest.

Rebecca Corbin:

Thank you, Jeff. And it's it's great to celebrate the continuation of making our way forward. We're in five continents, 150 cities and growing so the message is getting out there. So we are continuing to move forward with the spirit of authenticity. And to that end, it's my pleasure to welcome our longtime friend and supporter and partner, Carlin Cassidy. So welcome to the program. Carlene, do you want to just start out and then tell us a little bit about yourself? I think people listening around the world, want to know who you are, what makes you tick, and then we'll kind of dig into some of the things that we're working on together.

Carlene Cassidy:

All right, sounds great, Becky. Jeff, thank you so much for inviting me to join you today. I'm thrilled to be in the NACCE headquarters office and seeing folks again, my background as an entrepreneur started, really when I was a kid selling chocolate bars out of my locker, and I school, and then I went on to several different startups with my career, ultimately came in contact with the local community college served on their tech advisory board and fell in love with community colleges. That led me to teaching business class in the evenings. And one day I just said to my business partners, I think it's time for me to go to community college full time. So I applied to an Rundle Community College and was a full time Professor with them for 18 years. After my first semester, they asked me to start the entrepreneurial Studies Institute. And I couldn't say your spell entrepreneurial, and I had no idea what an institute was. But they said it's all those things you keep wanting us to do you I wanted space right there on campus for students to start their businesses. I wanted us to have classes where students learned about really starting a small business and 90% of the businesses and enrolled accounting are small businesses. They don't have a marketing department. They don't even have a marketing budget. And so we were able to start classes, you know how to get a business off the ground with no budget or small budget and create a an incubator space before that had a name. And we saw students launch their businesses right there on campus we ultimately created at Green entrepreneurship. And I will do a huge shout out to the AC nation because so much of the work that we did was in collaboration with other colleges across the country. We learned from Springfield Community College and Johnson County Community College and Tim Putnam in Iowa and Tim metallian. In Nebraska, and just across the nation people, we share our curriculum with them, and they shared their curriculum with us. And it really accelerated our growth. And ultimately, we got to the point where, you know, we have businesses out there in the community that are operating. And those folks were my students, I hate to say how old I am, but more than a decade ago,

Rebecca Corbin:

it's great, and just the passion and the love that you have for community colleges. Jeff, our producer and Italian are colleagues. We talked about that every day, how much of a blessing it is to work in this space where we are changing people's lives through education. And one fun fact about you that when I joined AC about now going seven years ago, a couple years after that you took sabbatical and so many of the people that I knew through the naysayer nation said are you on one of Carlene stops. So apparently you took an RV across the country. So maybe share with us a little bit about that. What was that experience like?

Carlene Cassidy:

That was extraordinary. And I did I was actually working on my master's degrees in Information Systems and telecommunications and worked on another graduate certificate in social media and virtual communities. Part of my research was really looking at how small to medium sized businesses were leveraging virtual communities not for marketing purposes, but for communication purposes and growing their businesses. So I had the opportunity to visit a lot of small businesses and community colleges in my travels. So we headed south and I went down and visited some of the colleges in Florida that are doing great work. And then we headed west stopped in Houston spent a couple days there Houston Community College, they're doing amazing Work and they were just getting ready to break ground on an innovation center. So I got to see the plans. And you know, now I need to go back and see the finished building because it's done. And then to Long Beach where I spend some time, both with their SBDC, their small business development group, as well as their community college and weave my way up the West Coast. In the Pacific Northwest, one of the cool I visited makerspaces all over the country, they adapt to their communities. And so when I was up in the Seattle area, every community college, there near Boeing, and so they do all types of really cool additive manufacturing, and they have access to Boeing's will say, last year's equipment, but it's great for students to learn on and the things that they're doing are just amazing. Portland Community College, those students, they had music students making motherboards for whatever it is that they do to connect all their different instruments together. And there was a math student in there doing cool stuff a biology student had just printed ahead of a primate on a 3d printer for a presentation in their biology class. It was just amazing. So many different things across the country. And then we moved back and I got to see Christine pig's Lee, and we saw a little stop in Minnesota. It was great. So yes, many of the AC nation folks have certainly saw Timothy and he was at Long Beach at the time and through it was wonderful. I've learned so much. It was so exciting to see across the country, each region sort of has their own special sauce. But all of them, the common core value is really serving their communities and helping elevate the small business owners and innovators in their communities. And it's just, it's an amazing thing to see. So I was proud, I was privileged, I was grateful to have that opportunity. Wow.

Jeff Smith:

That's the spirit of making our way forward is we wanted to provide a platform for people who were kind of reimagined in their communities, who are thinking about, you know, life after the pandemic, and how we move forward so that what you just communicate to us was amazing. I love that story. So I wanted to ask you, so you went from the community college to Radcliffe Foundation, I would love for you to tell us a little bit about Philippine Carell and what what was their spirit? What is the spirit behind the ragdale? foundation?

Carlene Cassidy:

No, thank you so much for asking that question. Phil and Carol were amazing. You know, I like to say they were ordinary, yet extraordinary. They earned their own money, they worked very, very hard. But they were so respectful to everyone that they interacted with. they genuinely believed in people and the value that they had and their ability to contribute. And it didn't matter what role you play, what skills you had inherent in everyone is the capacity to contribute and make a difference. And so they genuinely believe that and they lived that. And one of my favorite stories about Carol, appreciate that the rag the foundation now has assets in the range of about $100 million. They earned a lot of money along the way. yet. Carol used to make fun of my vehicle because I couldn't fit four sets of golf clubs in the back. And it's why she owned a Honda Pilot. And so she always had her Honda Pilot because it could fit force it to golf clubs and four suitcases. So you could road trip somewhere. But they were special. They really loved the community colleges. And I got to know Phil, first. He a local business owner introduced us and Gosh, this goes back probably 20 years now. And he one of the things that he said at lunch that day, the first time I met him is you know, I love the businesses in this community. But one of the things that they struggle with is business. What are you talking about? Like, I just got an invoice today from this contractor that works for me. And you know, he does great work. I swear to God, I think he just ran low on cash. And his wife said you better start getting some bills out the door. Four months after you did the work for me, he sent me a bill. So what can we do to help solve that? How can we teach them just business basics of good communication, fundamentals of Finance. So that was really where the entrepreneurial Studies Institute and the scholarship program and enrolled in community college was born. And they didn't have the foundation yet. In fact, he made a commitment of $100,000 in scholarships over 10 years. And then he went back and I guess he must have talked to his finance people or his attorneys. And then he called me back and he's like you, we're going to do that through the foundation that we're going to create. So that was the the catalysts for them to create the foundation. And at the time, that was the single largest donation to analog Community College by an individual It was really, you figure that was back in 2003. That was quite a while ago, entrepreneurship was Not on the radar of academic folks. And we had rules at the time that said you could only contribute towards scholarships. So over time, we were able to have those updated and modified to support seed fund competitions, and then to support the formation of an incubator space. And so I'm very grateful that enrolled in community college leadership was very open to the idea of let's explore where this might go. And certainly Phil and his support, and Phil love to come to campus, and he would have these really intimate lunches. So we usually had about 50 students under scholarship in their program. And he would say, pick the ones, the top five, and you decide what top means. It doesn't always have to be grades. And that was very interesting dialogue with him, because to get the scholarship, there was no minimum GPA to keep it you had to maintain a 2.5 GPA. But he believed in second chances. He said, I don't want someone's GPA to hold them back from this program. So let's find a way to get them in. And then once they're in, I'm paying for their education. So they shouldn't be doing three and four jobs on the side, they should be focusing on their academics, their studies and learning about how to run their business successfully. So and he didn't believe they had to be a full time student. And so that was one of the part time scholarships that we had students who were taking two or three classes at a time as well. And he was also one of the funniest people I ever met. So every time I saw him, he tell you two or three jokes before we would even get into business. And he was just he was bow tie guy, white start shirt. He was just one of those genuine, great human beings. And I got to know Carol through his eyes. And I thought there's nobody that could be this great. He loved his wife. She's like, She's so smart, and creative and energetic and on and on and on him. Like, it's nice that he loves his wife, but really is there's there a woman that is that extraordinary. And then I met Carol, and she really was amazing. And she She also worked. She had a whole variety of careers. But she loved to come to campus, particularly after Phil Pash, he got very involved. So Phil would have lunch with students, he'd let him ask any questions. I'll never forget when students say, well, what's the dumbest thing you ever did in business? And he answered, and he said, Well, you know, you don't you don't get your reputation back. And he said, I thought I had a contract. So I spent the money went, bought some new equipment, and then the contract fell through. So I sued some people some money, and I said, I can't pay you right now. But I'll pay you in the future. And we'll work something out along the way. He said, I did business shaking hands. And he said, I had two people sue me. And he said, the people that didn't sue me got paid first. And once he sued me, they got paid to but I was kind of mad that they sued me because I promised that I would pay him back. And then and then. So he told that story. And he the point that he made with the students was wonderful, just saying, You only get one chance to reputation. And so you make sure that you have integrity, you do business with honor. And you don't do business with people who don't have those values. And he said, don't go chasing after what looks like a good deal. Just because your business needs money. If it's too good to be true, you need to go in and find out a few more facts. And so he gave a really, really good advice. He was very accessible to them. And

Rebecca Corbin:

sounds like he mentored them on very much, sir. Interestingly enough, those are some of the conversations we're having. Because mentoring and just knowing you over the years, I know what an impact that you've had on your own students, and you follow them and you celebrate their successes and you walk around town and visit their businesses and, and that's pretty cool. And one of the things Jeff and I were excited about is we were reflecting on moving into Macy's corporate office here in in our studio, where we're recording this. And I was finalizing everything with Katie gales, who's one of the Radcliffe pitch for the trades recipients that we're going to talk to you later today. I was literally sitting in her car when you called me on my cell phone and said, Becky, great news. We've gotten approval from the board to have a pitch competition for the first time with this amazing prize money. And I remember telling Katie, I can't believe it. I can't believe it. I'm so excited. And that started something that has grown into something quite remarkable. So maybe you could share with Jeff and I and our listeners a little bit about that experience. Because I know it's been amazing on our end.

Carlene Cassidy:

Yeah. First of all, I'm so humbled and honored to have the opportunity to move from my role as Professor to community college to my role leading the breakfast foundation. And I do I pinch myself every day and think how fortunate Am I to be in this position. My board is wonderful. They totally get community colleges and universities and supporting the growth of art. Florio ventures, but also supporting skilled trades. And so we tend to support those programs that may otherwise be overlooked. So it's skilled trades. It's, you know, it's sort of the Dirty Jobs oystermen in agriculture, and the arts. And so the the idea of the pitch for the trades, for an AC came about in a dialogue, I don't know, probably a couple years ago, what could we do to help those programs, those community colleges who were trying to put resources together to give people the skills they need to go out and get jobs in the trades. And in talking to so many different schools, they know the demand for those positions is high. I mean, all over the country. People can't fill positions for welders and masons and plumbers, and electricians, and additive manufacturing, and the list goes on and on. So I was very excited when we had the conversation about what's possible, the board was very enthusiastic about supporting it. And then the very first year to see the participants in the pitch for the trades competition was amazing. So many cool things happening across the country that I didn't even know about. And and people are thinking through the whole process from training to jobs. So you know, the the program that is teaching electrical circuitry, and in a prison, but they already have jobs lined up. So when those people get out, the hardest thing for people who are transitioning back into society is to find gainful employment and get back on their feet. Again, the thought that whole thing through, and they were the fan favorite award, there's a fan favorite. Look, I'm getting goosebumps thinking about it, because it was great and, and that's happening all over this nation. And it's really exciting to see. And so for the rock the foundation to be able to support that in a very small way. One of the things that pleases me most about meeting with the first year winners, after a year is how they leveraged that to continue to grow their programs. And so we saw a snowball effect where they maybe got 10 or $15,000, from the AC pitch for the trades competition, they went back to their campus, they announced it to their community, they talked about the things they were doing. Local businesses got excited about it, local individuals got excited about it. And they ended up getting more contributions and being able to serve more students and doing more in their community. And that is awesome. We love when people can leverage those funds to continue to grow. gain momentum, also raises awareness. So people in the community know, this is an opportunity for me whether I need to rescale, or I'm just getting out of high school, this is a place I can go get some skills, go get a job, put a roof over my head, feed my family, whatever their goals happened to me. And that's what it's all about is really empowering people and empowering the vitality and community coming along the way

Jeff Smith:

you tell stories I do. And one of the things I appreciate about you too, is how you talk about work and you connect it to the human story and human dignity. Yeah, very special. And I would want to ask you, what are some of those stories from students, that you have been able to be a part of their lives where you're able to? You talked about reentry, and some of those things, where you've been able to help them kind of make it along the way to regain their dignity, find meaningful work and find purpose on this earth?

Carlene Cassidy:

Yeah, that's such a powerful question. There are so many of those stories. And so I find myself thinking about the many students that I've had the privilege of coming in contact with. And we don't know what's happening in students lives. Until we take that interest. And when we say, you know, you started off this semester, the first two months, you were killing it, your grades were great, your participation was great, something's changed what's happening, and you find out that they've been kicked out and they're living in their car. And you get device to be on the board of the YWCA in our community, and we had two shelters and then they had other means to provide housing, emergency housing. And so as these getting people connected to the resources, they need to then see that student go full circle, complete their degree. And I'm thinking one particular student now Now she works at the monarch Academy, a K through eight school in our community, working doing wonderful work with students and, and you know, it does bring me joy, john Ross, who is one of my former students, and he he said to me, you know, as probably a 19 year old, one day I'm gonna have my own commercial real estate business. I was like, I don't even know what that is. That is right. And so fast forward to today. And all over Maryland, you see raso commercial real estate signs everywhere and he he helped me find the office space for our headquarters office. But literally, His signs are everywhere. And so all of a sudden, you see those and that's a proud moment. Every time I see one of his signs because he completed his degree at the community college, he went to University of Maryland completed his business degree there. He went and learned the industry, from Hogan commercial real estate, which happened to be our governor. Now, he obviously wasn't governor that he was in commercial real estate. So he learned from the best. And then he went out and he hung his own shingle. And he now has a team. I think he's got half a dozen full time employees, and he's doing great work. And then I have JP ship. And JP has told this story publicly. So I'm not saying anything he wouldn't. But he came from very humble background. And he came to the community college, he got the Radcliffe scholarship, he wanted to have his own plumbing business. He went to University of Maryland, completed his business degree there had three offers for what I'll call business jobs. But he knew how much he could make because he was already doing side hustles as an electrician. So he went completed his master electrician license, started his own business, ship and Bailey electric. And he has business partner, they have 30 employees, they're making over $10 million a year. That is amazing. So I see his trucks driving by and I'm like, that's JP and his wife owns a bakery. So they're entrepreneurs. And then I have fields of Heather bakery. And she was one of my first students at the community college actually, She challenged me to teach entrepreneurship as an intro to business class. And she knew she wanted to have this bakery. And so she kept asking me about starting a business and, you know, an intro to business, you have one little section of entrepreneurship, but it's not a whole class about starting a business. And she kept coming to me after class all the time. What about this? And how do I get space? And what about lease agreements? Like, you know, question after question was awesome, because it grabbed me to think about what are the gaps in our curriculum? And how do we fill those gaps? And how do we set up people like Heather for success in the future, and she cashed her bakeries probably celebrated its 10th year in business now in a retail space. And she's navigated through the pandemic, and still doing well and has really cool commercial contracts. And so, yeah, you see people who, particularly it's Community College, so many come from very humble backgrounds. They face a lot of challenges, enrolled in community college, we serve folks who were incarcerated at Jessup. And so we actually have an entrepreneurship program that we teach in the prison, which is, it's interesting because they don't have access to computers. So we had to rethink how we teach. We're so used to access to resources. And we, that's a privilege, right, we forget how much we have access to. And so that was such a great reminder about resources and how we needed to be a little more creative. But then you see them come out of that situation. And if they can start their own business and go on be very successful to amazing, Chris Wilson, he wrote the book, The master plan, and he he left at ACC Well, he left Jessup and he left ACC, he went to University of Baltimore, which is another program that the racket foundation supports, and became an EA fellow there, graduated from there, and has actually a few different businesses. He came back as a guest speaker for us tremendous story. But he also goes back in and meets with people who are currently in the situation he wasn't to help inspire, motivate them and teach them, here's how you can navigate the situation you're in. And it's his master plan, he came up with a master plan that said, I understand why I'm here. I'm going to take responsibility for that. And then I'm going to map a better future.

Rebecca Corbin:

And I saw Jeff jotting that down because that's one of his passion projects. So you will have to be sure to connect him Is that what you're thinking? Okay. This is so amazing. I think what we're gonna have to do is have you come back for another segment and talk about these things. Because I, like Jeff, I just not only marvel at your passion, your enthusiasm, because we all share that. But just them you know, the demonstration that a little bit of investment and believing in people in that coaching and everything you're doing through the skilled trades. And one of the things that we do at neysa in the making our way forward podcast is where readers and writers so we're constantly consuming content, and then we're mixing it up and publishing it and putting it out there. And Jeff and I were talking about this this morning. I was just sharing with him. I'm sure you've used this in some of your classes, a book by Seth Godin. And he speaks about the assets that matters. So I'm going to read this short quote and then I would love it if Jeff maybe you end with a final thought of hope and you do the same carleen he writes the assets that matter. successful organizations have realized that they are no longer in the business of Quint coining slogans, red, running catchy ads, and optimizing their supply chains to cut costs. And freelancers and soloists have discovered that doing a good job for a fair price is no longer sufficient to guarantee success. Good work is easy. To find than ever before, what matters now trust, permission, remark ability, leadership, stories that spread and humanity. And that's what you've shared with us today. So, Jeff, if you want to share a final thought, and then currently, maybe you just have a final thought, and we'll wrap up the show. Yeah,

Jeff Smith:

I just want to say quality. Thank you so much. This the we honor you, we honor the work that you do. I mean, to hear the stories of the lives that you've been able to impact how you've helped people to reclaim dignity, and found work, meaningful work, that's special. And so thank you, I feel like oftentimes, we, you know, we have an opportunity to talk to a lot of different people. And then we also have opportunity to see people who have done work. And so you seem to have found a way to connect the head, the heart and the hands. And so I'm super inspired by that.

Carlene Cassidy:

Thanks, Jeff. Like you put that. For me, I hope, my hope statement is that the people listening to this today realize, number one, you are not alone. There are resources around you. And I look at the AC nation and know that for faculty, staff, and administrators, there are other faculty, staff and administrators across the world that are facing some of the same challenges you are you are not alone. For those of you that are looking for new skills, trying to launch a business, trying to figure out how to keep your venture afloat, you are not alone, there are resources, there are people that care, there are more people that care about you than you even know. So remember, number one, you have incredible value. intrinsic value, to me is one of those assets that may be set didn't mention that we all have. And so sometimes we have our own saboteurs that knock that little, that asset track down and I say shine a light on your assets. Remind yourself each and every day of the value you bring to the world. And remember that and remember that there are people who want to see you succeed, find those people. You will be elevated help elevate the community around you. Good things will happen. That's great. Yeah, yeah. Love it.

Jeff Smith:

Thank you so much for joining us. We hope the listening to this podcast will help you to explore the many ways we might define entrepreneurship. Join us every other Wednesday for more episodes as we celebrate opportunity. learn from one another and grow together. Subscribe to this podcast connect with us on social media and learn more about today's speakers. At Nathan comm Ford slash pica. We look forward to making our way forward together with you.

Rebecca Corbin:

Have you heard about our latest book impact Ed, how Community College entrepreneurship creates equity and prosperity. This is our roadmap for building back better in 50 states and globally. In each chapter, we share the inspiring stories of everyday entrepreneurs and explain how community colleges play a crucial role in their success. Visit [email protected] slash impact add to order your copy now and join us in this work.