In the News: 'Entrepreneurial Mindset In Demand'

Shelly Gardner is an assistant professor of business administration at Augustana. She is also the instructor for the University's Entrepreneurial Mindset Academy.

Read the Sioux Falls Business Journal feature on the entrepreneurial mindset, featuring interviews with Augustana's Shelly Gardner, assistant professor of business administration, and Dr. Pam Homan, executive director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. 

Entrepreneurial Mindset in Demand

By Megan Raposa, Argus Leader Media/Sioux Falls Business Journal

Brewing kombucha started as a hobby for Lily Baltazar.

She became hooked on the fermented tea when she realized the probiotics in the drink improved digestion and made her feel better.

She taught herself how to make kombucha, and it wasn’t long after she made the first batch in her spare bedroom last December that she became the “Kombucha Queen” in her job at The Co-op Natural Foods.

The co-op began selling Baltazar’s kombucha on tap this summer, and her first few batches sold out within 48 hours.

“It’s really pleasing to see the reactions,” Baltazar said. “It’s satisfying to see people enjoy it.”

Now, Baltazar is making larger batches to meet the demand. She’s also spending more of her time at work doing what she enjoys: brewing.

Businesses increasingly are seeking employees like Baltazar who can think like entrepreneurs and find new, innovative ways to do their jobs and solve problems.

And higher education is responding, with several universities in the Sioux Falls area adding programs designed to help students become more entrepreneurial regardless of whether they ultimately start their own business.

Thinking Like an Entrepreneur

“Entrepreneurship” today isn’t used just to describe people who create their own product or business, said Shelly Gardner, business professor at Augustana University and instructor of the college’s Entrepreneurial Mindset Academy, a six-week program for professionals designed to help participants discover problem-solving opportunities and think like entrepreneurs.

“It’s how you look at the world,” Gardner said.

People can use entrepreneurial strategies within any organization, from small businesses such as The Natural Foods Co-op to large corporations and everywhere in between.

Students preparing to enter the workforce today also have increasing options for entrepreneurship courses as colleges and universities recognize the industry demand for that way of thinking and seeing the world.

Businesses “are not hiring students for their experience,” said Ryan VanZee, an entrepreneurship professor at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell. “They’re hiring them for their energy and ideas.”

Gardner teaches her students to start by thinking about a potential business problem and to look to others to help define it.

She shared an example she tells students about a man who wanted to start a business as a “rental chef” where he could fill in for restaurants if their chef was sick or unavailable. He began by asking restaurants what they thought of the idea, Gardner said, and many told him they have multiple chefs and no need for that service.

Finally, he came across a restaurant owner who told him that while most restaurants have multiple chefs, catering businesses often only have one. The man now runs a successful business as a fill-in chef for caterers.

“You really learn how to look at problems differently by turning them on their side."

Shelly Gardner
Assistant professor of business administration
Instructor, Augustana Entrepreneurial Mindset Academy

Entrepreneurs not only identify problems but also find out-of-the-box ways to solve them. They also often need to know how to execute those solutions.

And while there’s no telling what consumer problems might look like when the next generation of college students enters the workforce, universities are starting to teach students the skills they need to look ahead.

“Entrepreneurship today is giving them permission to think about the could be’s that float through their minds,” said Pam Homan, director of Augustana’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Augustana, along with other colleges that teach entrepreneurship, relies on partnerships with local businesses to give students real-world experience.

In the past year, the school piloted an mentor program to match students with alumni in their desired fields. Now, that program is looking to increase the number of entrepreneur mentors to encourage students to see the value of that style of thinking.

Read the full story.