Eastern Michigan University’s Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization, or the CEO club, held the annual Sesi Midwest Regional Entrepreneurship Conference on Friday at the EMU Student Center.
The conference featured two keynote speakers and two breakout sessions where attendees could choose from a pair of lecturers they wanted to hear speak.
Luncheon keynote speaker Steve Futrell, chief executive officer and founder of Technology
Solutions a global telecommunications company, graduated from EMU in 1989 with a degree in business management.
“There is nothing wrong with Ivy League schools,” Futrell said. “It is clear you get a lot of connections from those types of places, but I don’t think it defines the success of any individual.”
Futrell stressed a new kind of entrepreneurship in his presentation that not only focused on profits, but balance in life. He called this idea a life business plan.
According to Futrell, a life business plan has eight equal parts: physical environment, career, money, health, family and friends, personal growth or spirituality, fun and recreation and romance.
He said in order to be a leader, you must be well-balanced, and if you did not have balance in all areas of life, you would never be fulfilled.
“Success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure,” Futrell said.
Jared Jeffries, vice president of EMU’s Nonprofit Leadership Alliance, agreed with Futrell’s life balance approach.
“It’s interesting to hear another perspective on entrepreneurship,” Jeffries said. “Instead of just a profit motive, the model of social entrepreneurship is creating positive community change and promoting social value instead of just fiscal value.”
President of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization Josh Conroy said he was very happy with the turnout at the conference and with the diversity of the attendees. He said participants included high school students, students and faculty from other colleges as well as those from EMU and business professionals.
The conference is funded every year by a gift from the estate of Catherine Sesi. The Sesi family own Sesi Lincoln Mercury Mazda Volvo dealership of Ypsilanti Mich. Her son, Joseph Sesi, is an EMU alumnus and the family maintains strong ties to the university.
The morning session’s keynote speaker was Melanie Bergeron of Two Men and a Truck. Bergeron was named president of Two Men and a Truck in 1994. She became chief operating officer in 2002 and went on to become CEO in 2007. In 2009, she was named chair of the board.
Breakout session speakers included Walter Black Knoblock, founder of Felix Exi, Kathy King, founder and director of the Michigan Dance Project, Jessica French, director of marketing at
Sidetrack Bar and Grill and Amanda Edmonds, the founder and executive director of Growing Hope, an 11-year-old nonprofit organization in Ypsilanti.
Michael Tidwell, dean of EMU’s College of Business said that attaining not only economic success but success in all facets of life is possible if the entrepreneur is willing to work for it.
“Absolutely any person can be successful in whatever organization they work in and in life…the question is whether or not they are willing to put the work in for it,” Tidwell said. “When I taught in years past I would ask my class ‘Who wants to be a millionaire?’ and every hand would shoot up.
When I would ask ‘Who is willing to put in 12-14 hour days to become a millionaire?’ most hands would go down.”
Tidwell says he hopes students take to heart what they learned at the conference.
“More than anything I would hope they take away [from the conference] that success as an entrepreneur is very clearly within their reach,” he said. “If they have a great idea and the will to implement that idea, the desire to take on the risks associated with entrepreneurship then they most certainly can be successful.”
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