Teaching entrepreneurship: Learning outside the box

Lee Heisman wants millennials to learn craft of ‘next big thing’

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ROSWELL, Ga. – There is no greater gathering of business people and entrepreneurs in Roswell than when the Roswell Rotary Club convenes its weekly luncheon. So it was an avid audience of Rotarians who listened last Thursday to Lee Heisman, who runs Savant, a full-service technology company.

He is passionate about entrepreneurship and spoke about entrepreneurism as a subject that should be taught in business school. Speaking to these Rotarians about entrepreneurship is akin to preaching to the choir.

Yet in the Information Age where companies grow up quickly and then die because they can’t adapt (remember Blockbuster?), there is a need for business people to have the skills to adapt, morph or go off in another direction altogether.

“What’s so cool about a lot of liberal arts majors out there in the world with no actionable skills,” Heisman said. “Why not teach real skills such as sales and entrepreneurship?” he asked.

That is just what Heisman is doing at Kennesaw State University. There are a lot of great ideas out there, and technology is the fertile ground to make them happen, he said.

“But there are skills people need to acquire to be successful. But once they have them, there is no telling what they can do,” he said.

Heisman grew his company in a new direction when he realized there was a growing need for an IT provider that understood both technology and how that technology should be used on a daily basis to accelerate a business’s growth and productivity.

“What I teach is a mindset,” he said.

It’s not about building one company and making it work, said Heisman. In this day and age it is about building a series of ventures as markets and technologies shift and change.

That is the heart of entrepreneurship, sniffing out the nuances of a market and finding a niche to exploit – and then find another, and another, he said.

“What we want to do is to turn young entrepreneurs’ dreams into businesses,” he said.

Jacque Digieso, cofounder of The Cottage School, is a disciple of Heisman’s ideas. Students at The Cottage School don’t fit in the cookie-cutter world of public education. Yet shown another way to learn, with a different set of skillsets, they can thrive.

Digieso met Heisman through the work his company, Savant, did at her school. A past president of Roswell Rotary, she recruited him to be a guest speaker.

“When I heard him talk about entrepreneurism being taught in the classroom, I fell in love with idea,” Digieso said. “It is so timely.”

“Today, colleges teach you to go to work for somebody else. The tools you master in his entrepreneur courses teach you how become a business,” Digieso said. “And those skills are also great as an employee, because you are always thinking outside the box.”


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