New Generation Blazes Trail from Classroom to Entrepreneurship
Editor's Note: The following is the first section of "Creative Spark," an article that appears in the latest edition of UT Dallas Magazine. The piece was written by Thomas Korosec, a writer for Bloomberg News and contributor to The Dallas Morning News, D CEO and D Magazine.
Nicole Mossman MS'15 is founder of EverThread, a custom fabric design company.
Ask Nicole Mossman MS’15 to describe her startup business in a few words and it’s quickly evident she has her “elevator pitch” down cold.
“EverThread is a custom printing solution for the interior design market,” the recent innovation and entrepreneurship graduate said. “In the past, a designer would source fabrics by looking from showroom to showroom, website to website. At EverThread, customers are able to source it in minutes as opposed to hours and days.”
Mossman is in a hip, warehouse-space office in Dallas’ West End, where she is getting help from a business accelerator that is providing capital, support and mentoring post-graduation. She recounts how the University’s Naveen Jindal School of Management helped lead her to an idea for a new business.
The former home décor and apparel product developer worked through a process both creative and analytical that led her to “pivot” from one idea to another, eventually arriving at her “aha“ moment. While considering a project, she landed on the idea of developing a website that gives both designers and consumers the tools to customize and produce their own textiles and home décor products.
Through coursework, grants, business idea competitions with cash prizes, and extracurricular programs, UT Dallas is working in new ways to strike an entrepreneurial spark in students across academic disciplines. It’s tapping the resourcefulness of its students — and the University’s deep tradition of innovation and invention — while helping entrepreneurs like Mossman create businesses that are taking hold and passing the demanding tests of the commercial world.
From the introductory course for undergrads through the graduate track for launching businesses, techniques designed to “light that spark” have been adopted, said Madison Pedigo, director of the innovation and entrepreneurship academic program at the Jindal School.
“Students are pushed to get those creative juices going,” Pedigo said. “It’s not easy finding a good business idea. Some students arrive with an idea that is pretty good; some really struggle. We teach them how to think creatively to come up with an idea, and how to assess if the idea is commercially viable. We talk about identifying market need and finding gaps in the market extending beyond current products. We also teach creativity and problem-solving. We show them how to effectively brainstorm.”
In that same practical vein, students are asked to develop an elevator pitch, a concise and interesting description of the business idea that can be told to a potential investor in the span of an elevator ride that lasts, at most, a minute.
Some courses also incorporate the format of the popular TV show Shark Tank in which aspiring businesspeople make pitches to a group of investors who either choose to buy in or offer criticism as to why they decline to invest. “It gets a lot of enthusiasm going, a lot of passion and excitement,” said Pedigo of the exercise, which mirrors how presentations are in fact made to angel investors who seek to back early stage companies.
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