Forward with NACCE

From Europe to the US: Entrepreneurship Across Borders. With Winifred A. Soribe & Timothy Barnes

September 08, 2021 Winifred A. Soribe & Timothy Barnes Season 2021 Episode 35
Forward with NACCE
From Europe to the US: Entrepreneurship Across Borders. With Winifred A. Soribe & Timothy Barnes
Show Notes Transcript

 We invite you to explore the global state of entrepreneurship with host Dr. Rebecca Corbin and UK studio guests Winifred Soribe and National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs (NACUE) Chairman Timothy Barnes. Learn how both organizations promote entrepreneurship education and foster entrepreneurial thinking and action in their respective communities. Join us TOMORROW, September 9, for The Changing Landscape of Entrepreneurship Across Borders: A Global Roundtable Event featuring Dr. Corbin as she represents the United States alongside a variety of international speakers. 

NACCE Meets 

Have you joined our online community NACCE Meets? We are excited to have a platform dedicated to our members to network, connect, exchange ideas and support your entrepreneurial initiatives. Join the community at naccemeets.nacce.com

Dr. 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 NACCE, 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. Welcome to Making Our Way Forward podcast, where we tell the stories of everyday entrepreneurs and leaders from around the world. Today, we're thrilled to be joined by two passionate experienced researchers and leaders coming all the way from the UK. So, it's an exciting day for us today we have Winifred Soribe and Timothy Barnes. And so I am going to kick us off and begin with you, Winifred, you and I became connected on LinkedIn. So, shout out to that platform, because I've made a lot of professional connections through that. So, why don't you begin and tell us a little bit about who you are, where you come from, and what you're passionate about?

Winifred. A. Soribe:

Hey, I'll just start by telling you a bit about myself. Like you've said, I grew up in Abuja, which is the capital city of Nigeria, and started my first business at the age of nine, surprisingly, which was, you know, my final year in elementary school. And it was all about making storybooks using plain A4 sheets to make them. And to make them more attractive, we would stick candy to the cover page, and then sell it on to our fellow students. There were four of us, with me being the President. And at the end of the month, what we'll do is we'll split the income evenly amongst ourselves. We didn't have any significant costs, and that's because my Dad, you know, happily supplied me with all the A4 paper I needed, all the stationery, gel pens, and things like that. And so mostly what we had to do was just get the candies ourselves. And as I progressed on to high school, which was an all girls Catholic boarding school, I restarted my trading business in 10th grade, until, you know, 12th grade, which was when I finished high school. And so by the time I got into university, I was a guru, sort of a guru in the art of buying and selling So, and part of what contributed to my skill in this area was that my parents were business orientated people. So I very much grew up in an entrepreneurial setting. My Dad had a huge farming business, and my Mom had a fashion boutique. And after my undergrad, I decided to further my academic pursuits. You know, having come from an academic family, certain, you know, with my Dad obtaining a PhD in Agricultural Engineering, back in the 80s, from the Ohio State University, and my two older sisters becoming medical doctors in the state of Arizona, there in the US, you know, academia came very natural to me. And since then I have moved around disciplines I've been from econometrics, to accounting and then to finance where I am now. And over the past two decades, I can say that I never, I never really left the entrepreneur or setting. I am now only wearing a different lens, you know, now I use my PhD research in contributing to the field, you know, by assessing how finance can be more accessible to entrepreneurs, and, hopefully, informing policy policymaking to that. That's really a bit of intro about myself.

Dr. Rebecca Corbin:

That is beautiful. Nine years old, I can see you doing that. And it sparked some memories of my own. I'm actually a native buckeye from Ohio. So I have those those roots. It's fun to hear about your Dad and lots to unpack there. But it reminds me of the research of, you know, entrepreneurial skills, and you seem to be just situated perfectly for that. So, let's go to Tim Barnes now. So, Tim, we had a wonderful conversation several weeks ago, and we talked about lots and lots of things, but we didn't dig into more about you. So, why don't you share with our global audience people in 330 plus US cities and countries and continents all around the world? Who is Tim Barnes? What what makes you tick?

Timothy Barnes:

Oh, wow. So, all I'm slightly have the wind taken out of my sails because I normally start this, this conversation or these kind of questions, with my own story where I say I started my first business at 14. And people go that was young, but Winifred beat me by five years before we got anywhere with it, so there's there's a, you know, normally that's my opening line. I went through my education after that sort of formative experience, in which I really learned mostly that I don't understand retail as a sector of the economy. Into one, where having left university, I went to work for a large management consultancy firm that in the in the in the.com years of the late 90s, like many big companies decided they needed to get into the startup world. And instead of a program of activity to do that, now, I always knew that I wanted to go and work as either an entrepreneur, myself or with entrepreneurs, I've always seen the entrepreneurial experience as the most creative thing you can really do in business. If you, you know, are kicking around an idea and you managed to turn that into a new business and six months, 18 months, two years down the line, you've created jobs, you've solved a problem for people that they didn't have a solution for before because after all, that's why they're buying your product or your service. It felt, it felt like a an immediate, positive, creative, impactful way to go about things. And I joined the management consultancy firm, pretty much as a way of doing an MBA, but getting paid for it. So I got the training, I got all of the different industry experience, I got a fantastic network from the top tier firm that I was at. And then I went to work for a VC, venture capital investment company, and we built what was at the time, Europe's largest private investment firm, with about 250 investments across five countries across Europe, that like many things in the.com years, then went spectacularly bang. And I then went off to start a company of my own, helping universities to spin out high technology companies. And ever since of the following 20 something years, I've worked in a strange overlap. I don't know, Becky, I think in diagrams, which can be a bit difficult in the podcast. But if you imagine, if you imagine three or four circles, there's an overlap area between working in startups working in universities in academia, working in big corporates, working in policy and government areas, where what you're trying to do all the time is help people to find the resources and the ecosystem, they need to start the best business they can with the best chance of success. So I've basically done that for 20 years, but I worked all of those people in different circles have the Venn diagram. So I was the I built the world's largest university entrepreneurship program, place called UCL, University College London, I have worked as a VC, I've worked for big corporates, I've worked with small startups, I set up about eight accelerators and co-working spaces. I teach entrepreneurship and just about starting new, I taught at UCL and Cambridge and other universities. And but he's pretty much always doing the same thing. I just love helping people to start businesses. And going from that bit where somebody scribbled down the idea on the back of an envelope, and it's turned into something, it's a bit like being a grandparent, right, I get to do all the fun bits of advising them and giving them presence and give him advice without actually having to do the bits where you know, you have to worry about learning how to change nappies and so on. And I get to do it for lots of different companies. And that that's that's the great rewarding experience for me.

Dr. Rebecca Corbin:

Yeah, what a great story and a background. I have too, I'm one who thinks in pictures, much more so than words. So, that really resonated with me, interestingly enough, the the circles, the overlapping circles that you were mentioning, that is really how I see the association that I lead. NACCE, the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship, which also includes universities because, we now have a what we call an Everyday Entrepreneur Venture Fund. So, they're not necessarily that the high tech ventures but what they are, are sort of mainstream businesses and and we've been leaning into policy work, you know, trying to assist the new administration in DC in every way, shape, or form that we can and believe as both of you do that higher education, whether it's universities or colleges really have this pivotal opportunity to drive economic recovery and inclusion, and equity, and all of those things, because that's really what we're designed to do. So I suspect that the three of us have in common that we jump out of bed every day and like, literally can't stop doing the work that we do. And that's how I feel. And then it's funny, I went on vacation recently, and I was telling people, it takes me a long time, several days to unwind, because I'm just thinking about, like, all these things that we could do and opportunities, which is cool. But I want to ask you both another question, we believe, at this organization on this podcast, Making Our Way Forward, that that mentoring and people who serve as examples in your lives, just make all the difference. Sometimes it's enough to get you started on a path of something that you love, as we all do, or can steer you in a direction of something that you never really thought about before. So, I'm going to ask you both to share with us a mentor, or somebody who's really made that difference in your life, something that you haven't mentioned so far that you'd like to share it, Winifred, will go back to you first, and then, Tim, will go to you.

Winifred. A. Soribe:

Okay, someone that has really inspired me is my Dad, I totally look up to him, I'm really a Daddy's girl. And if I go back and tell some of the stories, you know, like I've said earlier, I came from an academic-oriented family and my Dad, you know, play the write a really strong role in helping me find an appropriate career path. And one of the stories I'd like to share here, as I remember, when I was in high school, and you know, when I progressed up until 10th grade, and as per the educational system back in Nigeria, you'd have to choose, do you want to go to science? Do you want to go into social sciences? Or do you want to go into the arts and, you know, you know, coming from an a very, very science-based family, you know, I naturally tilt up to the sciences. But I found out that I struggled in physics and chemistry, and it wasn't my strong point. And at the end of the second terminal, 11th, grade, my, my Dad took a good look at my report card and said, You know, when he Fred, I think you're better in Literature, Economics, so maybe you might do better in the social sciences. And so, you know, the next term I moved over, and I'm really glad I made that switch very early on, in my career and in my academic pursuits, because when I, when I moved over to the social sciences, I did really well there. And when I fast forward, you know, a decade and more later on today, I'm happy, I'm really happy with where I am, I'm happy that I made that switch, because if not, I, you know, I might have floated through the sciences or might not have done as well. And, you know, for me, I would always appreciate my Dad for that, for that advice. I also have my PhD supervisors who have been very supportive and have given me the opportunity to excel. So yes, those are the people I think that have really, you know, played a very strong role in my career path today.

Dr. Rebecca Corbin:

Beautiful, Tim, how about you?

Timothy Barnes:

Well, I've never had, actually, what we are mentoring the way that we perhaps now discuss them, I've never had somebody where I sat down and said, "Can we have that kind of relationship?" I provided that for other people. But when I was in the early stages of my career, it wasn't it wasn't a way that we discussed things. But I had a really lucky experience. The year after I graduated, first graduated, I had a role at the university that I'd been attending, which, which meant that I got a lot of face-to-face time with the with the the individual who ran the university. In the US, sort of President, is not the way to refer to them here. But it would be that kind of equivalent. And his name was Sederick Roberts, and I in the year that I was able to see a lot of him and see how he worked up close. I have never ever learned more from anybody both good and bad about how to run companies organizations. He was an extraordinary personality - very direct, got a lot of things done huge amounts of energy. And he taught me a lot about where where the line should be with your principles in business and the things that matter and don't; where how, you know, he was incredibly self deprecating. And, and he he didn't make life easy for the people around them. He expected huge amounts of himself and everybody else who was there. And here's the individual that I still a quarter of a century on, think about and react to and use anecdotes from, when I'm trying to, to communicate things now with the people that I might be working with a mentoring. And that, actually, is the second part of my answer to your question, Becky, I know, I still don't have a mentor, and I indeed mentor other people. But my work do I learn a lot about from my students in formal settings, and just the young people that that I've worked with? I'm on the chairman of a charity that we have in UK, which we confusingly called NACUE, not quite the same thing as yours. But NACUE, National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs, very much a student-led group, and the former CEO of that nominated me for an award that I received from the Queen about five, six years ago, in around entrepreneurship and enterprise promotion. And so so I found the relationship with many of the younger people that I work with, how they interpret things, how they're working, and seeing the world how those technologies useful, every bit as instructive, informative, inspiring as anything I ever got from a senior figures as a mentor, you know, with stuff coming down, it's really as you know, paying it forward, paying it back, paying it up, down, left, right, whichever way round. And, and it isn't always that great mentioned, relationships take the sort of the archetype, you know, the, the the haggard, experienced figure and the young protege that the things work much more 360. And I don't think we always spend enough time thinking about that.

Dr. Rebecca Corbin:

I love what you said about being open. Because I think some of the people I've learned the most from I bring up my grandfather a lot, because he wasn't a formally educated person, you know, he was in the, the military in the Navy, and, you know, had to drop out of school to help support the family. But I've never known anyone in my life, who's known more about botany and how to grow things. And, and that, and I think approaching that, in a spirit of wandering, and wondering, I saw something on social media recently, and it just resonated with me is, you know, putting yourself out there into the world. And while we all have accumulated lots of degrees, to me, I just am continually stunned to see I didn't know about that, you know, I didn't know about that. And, and I think that's the way that you keep yourself on, really, I think, engaged in the universe and being a global citizen. So, Tim, you had mentioned a little bit about NACUE - the organization that you and Winifred are a part of. And I was really intrigued. That was one of the things I didn't know about until she reached out to me via LinkedIn. And I was really excited to learn about that organization and what you do with students. So maybe I'll go back to Winifred, and maybe both of you could reflect on on that organization, and why is it so important to you? And what kind of an impact does it make in the economy and in people's lives over in the UK?

Winifred. A. Soribe:

Okay, I'll just briefly mention that, you know, with regards to NACUE, it's one of the charities that I partner with. And, you know, so our Tim is the chair of Trustees there. And when I talked about this round table, and how we can, you know, think about collaborating across borders, and trying to see, you know, what are the best practices in the US in Europe, in other parts of the world? And how can we really create some best practices. And when I thought about that, I was recommended to you by a contact of mine, Tim Strega, on LinkedIn, and I decided to reach out and I, you know, said, this is something we can do, you know, NACUE and NACCE, you can do something, and hopefully, we can create an environment where people, especially startups. Because what you tend to see is, most people within the university setting, they go through the university setting, they might come across entrepreneurship, especially if they're business management students in the UK, they might come across the entrepreneurship module only once. And so whatever they're able to get from that might be what they would use, you know, to eventually start-up their business. And so the thing is, as we create, you know, entrepreneurial education, best practices, we think about how can we create, you know, knowledge, stocks of knowledge that students can use to be able to start businesses and hopefully grow them? Or how can we help those that are trying to start-up even if they've not had any formal education? But trying to start up generally, how do we, you know, create something a system that can help them gain the necessary knowledge that they would need to succeed in the real world. So, that's really why I, you know, came up with this roundtable to see what, you know, we can bring together and create something for people to use.

Dr. Rebecca Corbin:

Yeah, I love that best practices, and what do we learn from one another as as global citizens and lifelong learners as well as teachers and instructors? So, Tim, I'm going to toss it over to you, what do you have to say?

Timothy Barnes:

Well, I'll just give a bit of NACUE context. So NACUE was started 11, New 12 years ago, by a group of university students, who'd found each other across, well, mostly in initially in two universities, but it spread to a small group of about a dozen. And who, who were looking for peer support in in exploring the entrepreneurial landscape. Universities at the time, we were doing a pretty good job early and emerging, in some cases, but of the traditional academic type courses around entrepreneurship, but weren't really doing as much, or at least many of them weren't, for the kind of extra curricular and outside of academic study type types of activities. And, and where they were, it tended to be, again, just to kind of cut down version of a slightly broadcast, this is how you do it, say right business plan, and wasn't really felt to be sufficient to kind of ground up. And so the students got together. And they pulled together, what was initially started as a kind of one off event that they wanted to put together to share experiences and what they were doing. And over the next couple of years, NECUE developed as a legal entity, as a registered charity in the UK, raising money, not huge amounts. But in order, but still with the idea that it was student, organized around students, and supporting the entrepreneurship societies, students, societies that were that were cropping up in universities across the country, and what we call FE colleges - further education colleges, which is not they're not quite analogous to the US term. But but but you know, the massive education institutions that were out there, particularly for people post 17. And that's pretty much what's at the heart of it still, today, we run a program of activities, we have a student-led board who meet currently online, obviously, every few months and tell us about things that they think they would find useful. We use it to share best practice between what different student groups are doing around the country, we host an annual student entrepreneurship conference, and which is unimaginatively, called the student enterprise conference, takes place every spring does what it says on the tin, with with, with several 100 students from across the country. And of course, that means from across the world, because this is these are students who are at UK universities, mostly. And we have a very high proportion of students in the UK, in UK universities are from overseas. So, it tends to have a very international flavor, we run a national competition for pitching and venture ideas. That takes place with big corporate support each year as well. And a whole load of smaller scale ongoing activities and training. But it's there really as a framework to help students connect with each other, and for them to tell us what they're looking for. And for us to try and find solutions to that from some of the old folks like me who have gray beards or from the corporates that may be able to support us with checks, but also from, you know, from each other. And that's that that element of student peer learning is at the heart of what we do.

Dr. Rebecca Corbin:

That's, that is wonderful and really impactful. It's a bit different than NACCE, the organization connected to this podcast, because we work more with faculty and with presidents and we try to equip them and educate them, so that they can do a better job serving students. I think what you all have have spent a lot of time investing in and supporting is something that provides tremendous value to students. So, we had a conversation last week we were in Chattanooga, with a number of different presidents from a lot of US states, and they were talking about really looking at the student as the customer and looking at it from you know, a servant leader or service perspective of how can we help them to succeed. How can we, you know, honor their journeys, but but you know, present them with other opportunities to wander and wonder and do a lot of the things that we're talking about here? And you all are doing that I'm so excited about that roundtable. I can't wait. Because anytime I have conversations with people like you, the time literally flies, and I wish that we had more. That is we're coming up against the end of this episode, I would love it, if each of you could maybe close us out with something that you are hopeful about, you know, in the world, the pandemic is not over. Certainly, in the US, we got some news yesterday about the scary part of this, this variant, and some kind of information about how to protect ourselves from it. But we always lean into hope and opportunity, which is the work that we do with students and each other. So, Winifred, why don't you just share maybe just a brief couple couple words about what you're hopeful with, and then, Tim, you can close this out.

Winifred. A. Soribe:

What I'm most hopeful about is the fact that the pandemic has shown us that entrepreneurial skills and entrepreneurship is the way forward, you know, as we strive to create a more equitable society. And so when we look at it from different perspectives, you know, - environmentalism, innovation, diversity and inclusion, - Entrepreneurship, does provide, you know, everyone, regardless of your race, or gender, with the opportunity to, you know, create innovative products or services, and, hopefully, protect the environment and improve economic welfare. So, I'm really hopeful about the fact that as we make some progress out of the pandemic, we will, we would have created a better ecosystem for entrepreneurship to try. And especially as we move into the digital age.

Dr. Rebecca Corbin:

Perfect, Tim.

Timothy Barnes:

Um, I don't want to ignore the homework question, Becky, but but I think if we've got an audience of entrepreneurs out there, they don't need to be convinced that, that the world is full of opportunity. If you've, if you've got an entrepreneurial mindset, you're going to be, you're going to be optimistic, because after all, if entrepreneurs aren't optimistic, then then they'd never start anything, because you start looking up the hill going, here's a whole load of things that don't exist that I need to, that I need to bring into being and I need to convince a whole load of people to do this thing with me when they don't even believe it's a problem. And I need to do that with no resources, because I haven't raised those yet. So and, and 99 times out of 100, people are going to fail. So so you know, they they're naturally optimistic. My message would actually be your right to be optimistic, because there's a great deal to be optimistic about. What gives us a great as entrepreneurs a great deal of, of opportunity is change, is disruption, is the idea of the shaking up of established players and industries. And what we've seen over the last 18 months is every industry from you know, retail to transportation, entertainment, you know, drug discovery, has been rocked to its core across across the western world. And in that there are simply 1000s, countless myriad millions of opportunities of problems, that wonderful word for entrepreneurs problems, everybody else, it's a negative thing. But for entrepreneurs, there are problems that need solving that need new products and new services. You know, you you've never probably looked out in any generation for, you know, probably the best part of 60-70 years at so many of the landscape with so many problems that need solving so much space, an opportunity for disruption. What a fantastic time to be an entrepreneur, and everybody who tells you, you're irrationally optimistic. Well, yeah, you are a bit irrationally optimistic, but you have a great deal to still be optimistic about.

Dr. Rebecca Corbin:

That is so well said. Here, in the United States, the current White House has a program they call Build Back Better and I like it because it's easy to remember.

Timothy Barnes:

But we've stolen, we've stolen that, and we use that here.

Dr. Rebecca Corbin:

That's good. Well, I appreciate both of you so much. I can't wait to re engage with you in September. I'd like to invite you, if you ever come over to the US, we would love to host you here in Raleigh. There's a lot of really exciting entrepreneurial things that we can gain. So, maybe we can figure out a way once it's safe to do so to spend some time in person, and I just wish all of our listeners around the globe, a wonderful day and think about the little nuggets that you've learned and how you might make your way forward with an entrepreneurial mindset.

Timothy Barnes:

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 nacce.com/podcast. We look forward to making our way forward together with you.

Dr. 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 us at nacce.com/impacted, order your copy now, and join us in this work.