Moving into the state’s largest business district is part of Clemson’s plan to get down(town) to business
By Darlene Fuhst
Clemson at the Falls
When John-David McKee ’07 was working on his master’s degree in marketing at Clemson, the germ of an idea began to sprout. Computer-aided matching has certainly been a success in the online dating arena; could colleges use a similar tool to recruit, involve and retain students? As he developed his master’s thesis, the idea grew. And by the time he completed his degree in 2009, McKee had founded Umatch™, a Greenville-based business offering an innovative technology that combines data management, analytics and social software into a risk management tool for higher education.
Along with 40 other entrepreneurs, McKee applied for NextStart, a two-month pilot incubation program sponsored by Clemson’s Renaissance Center and Spiro Institute, SC Launch, the Greater Greenville Chamber of Commerce and NEXT, a resource collaborative of technology professionals and entrepreneurs in the Upstate.
McKee was one of four chosen to receive up to $10,000 in startup capital, as well as office space and mentoring assistance from Clemson’s Spiro Institute.
A vision realized
It’s the kind of story that Claude Lilly likes to hear. When Lilly took the helm of Clemson’s College of Business and Behavioral Science in 2007, one of his visions was to create a viable presence in downtown Greenville to foster easy collaboration and partnerships between the college and the business community. Two years ago, the college relocated several programs and centers in the former Bowater building overlooking the Reedy River in the heart of downtown.
Clemson at the Falls, as the building is now known, offers one convenient location for the community to partake in world-class educational opportunities, co-designed leadership and sales training for established businesses, small business development services and an ongoing array of exciting events designed to encourage the spirit of entrepreneurship and spur economic growth in the Upstate and beyond.
“When we created this campus,” says Lilly, “our mission was simple: to bring business education, professional development, leadership training, entrepreneurial thinking and small business assistance to the place where business is, to where the professionals are — to make higher business education accessible in an effort to spur economic development and support our local economy.”
Entrepreneurship, social responsibility and community service
Nearly 300 students are enrolled in Clemson’s MBA program in Greenville. The downtown location allows the college to partner with industry leaders and provide students with hands-on experiences including internships.
In June 2012, Clemson is launching a brand-new MBA in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which will allow students to begin with just an idea and graduate in one year with an MBA degree and a registered business. Instead of searching for a job, these graduates will go to work at their own companies. Along withfoundational business knowledge, the program also provides an impressive 3:1 mentor-to-student network and the opportunity for students to pitch their ideas to “angel investors” for seed capital to launch their businesses.
Clemson’s MBA program encourages a spirit of social responsibility and community service. Students have initiated and supported several outreach programs including the creation of a computer lab in Triune Mercy Center designed to aid the homeless in gaining basic computer skills necessary to find employment. The students were recognized with a Service Award from the TeamMBA advisory committee of the Graduate Management Admission Council for this effort. Students have also organized and participated in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, a trash sweep of the Reedy River and initiatives to help people earn their GED. All incoming MBA candidates must swear to uphold the MBA oath, to “conduct business within an ethical framework and strive to create sustainable, global prosperity.”
Spurring innovation and competitiveness
The Arthur M. Spiro Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership, charged with supporting educational, research and outreach programs that promote entrepreneurial activity, has been instrumental in bringing many innovative programs to Greenville. Most recently, its leaders co-hosted Ecoplosion, a one-day summit designed to engage students and businesses in spurring entrepreneurship and real estate development. S.C. Governor Nikki Haley was the keynote speaker at the event, which drew a sold-out crowd of 300.
Last fall, the Spiro Institute hosted the second annual LaunchPad competition, a business plan contest in which participants present a five-minute, six-slide PowerPoint of their new business concepts in an effort to win startup funding. LaunchPad attracted more than a hundred applicants and awarded more than $20,000 in prize money that first year.
Every First Friday of the month when classes are in session, the Spiro Institute hosts a free speaker series that is open to the public. Notable past speakers include Wayne Culbertson, executive human relations director of Michelin North America, and Dave Ridley, vice president of marketing for Southwest Airlines.
The staff and consultants of the S.C. Small Business Development Center, a service of the federal Small Business Administration supported by the University, are ready to help entrepreneurs as well as others who are in the market for free private consulting, educational seminars and links to resources that support the growth of small businesses.
Also located in Greenville, the Professional Advancement and Continuing Education (PACE) center designs, develops and manages Clemson’s continuing, professional and executive education programs. Through partnerships with faculty, experienced industry consultants, and business and community leaders, these programs offer custom and open enrollment programs designed to improve businesses’ capabilities, performance and competitiveness.
Fast forward two years since graduation. John-David McKee is president of Umatch, and has charted an aggressive course of expansion, working with several statewide university systems to implement his company’s risk management technology.
“Clemson offered me incredible resources,” says McKee. “I not only received a great education that prepared me for the wide range of challenges you face as an entrepreneur, I also got the support that allowed me to take a risk and get my business off the ground.”
Clemson programs located in Greenville
MBA programs: Including full- and part-time MBA programs, as well as one-year MBA in Entrepreneurship and Innovation
Other graduate business programs: The master’s programs in marketing and management, and starting this fall, the accounting programs
S.C. Small Business Development Center: Provides one-on-one consultations, seminars and workshops on everything from tax rules to marketing tools
Professional Advancement and Continuing Education (PACE): Continuing, professional and executive education programs
Arthur M. Spiro Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership: Supports educational, research and outreach programs that promote entrepreneurial activity