The Bones of the Building

Written by  Mark Oppenlander

Director of Center for Applied Learning

This past Wednesday was the second class session for this year’s Social Venture Plan Competition.  Dr. Herb Kierulff spoke about the nature of the entrepreneur and why business plans are a good idea.  I think I’ve heard  this lecture often enough that I could probably give it myself now.  I wonder if he feels the same way about my lecture on persuasive presentations?

One of the things that Herb mentioned is that entrepreneurs are people who like to build things, specifically organizations, to solve societal needs, desires and problems.  Having observed students in entrepreneurship classes and business planning competitions for a number of years now, I can see that those “buildings” don’t spring up out of the ground overnight.  Each plan really has to start with a good framework – a skeleton or outline of some sort.  It’s just like a high rise building going up – those big steel girders you see are the bones of the building.

And on Wednesday night, as we moved into group work, and the students began to brainstorm around the basic ideas for their social ventures, you could see them trying to get the framework right.  These are the bones of the projects they will build.  If the basic premise – the skeleton – is wrong, the venture plan will never stand up straight.  The team won’t perform well in the competition.  And they won’t win.

Sitting in with four or five teams as they worked was fun, as always.  The creativity, energy and intelligence of these students are palpable.  I heard thumbnail sketches for a soap business in Malawi, a bakery that would serve gluten- and soy-free products, a promotional products company using youth artisans to craft high-end gifts . . . oh, and something about parking a cruise ship on the Seattle waterfront and converting it to new uses?!?  Some of these ideas may make it through the construction process and wind up in the competition; others may get scrapped to be replaced by better looking or more straightforward ideas.  It doesn’t matter.  The process itself is worthwhile.

And I can tell, even from these bones, that it’s going to be another exciting year filled with fascinating projects for SVPC.


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