JWU center spurring next generation of entrepreneurs
‘You [need] the ability to bounce back from failure...’
NEW FRONTIERS: John F. Robitaille, executive in residence at the Larry Friedman International Center for Entrepreneurship, says that both the state and the country could benefit from a rekindled spirit of entrepreneurship.
By Michael Souza PBN Staff Writer
John F. Robitaille was a small-business owner before running for governor in 2010, and served as the senior adviser of communications for former Rhode Island Gov. Donald L. Carcieri. He has been an entrepreneur, starting three businesses in his career. As the Executive in Residence at the Larry Friedman International Center for Entrepreneurship at Johnson & Wales University, he sees college-level entrepreneurship as a means to provide students more options after graduation.
He believes the state could do more to encourage people to start their own business and is a strong advocate for the small-business community.
PBN: How long has the university had an entrepreneurial program and how has it changed?
ROBITAILLE: We’ve had a center for entrepreneurship here for more than 20 years, and the course offerings have been around for a while.
Here at the Larry Friedman International Center for Entrepreneurship, we’re going to take what the students have learned in the classroom and transform their ideas into viable commercial enterprises. As important, we also work to help transform students into successful entrepreneurs. We call that the transformation model. Students are taught financing, marketing, research and advertising and are put to the test.
Any student that attends this university who has an entrepreneurial spirit, whether they want to open up a cupcake store or something in the technology field, are welcomed to seek advice at the center.
PBN: What makes someone an entrepreneur?
ROBITAILLE: One of the things that we believe and must impress upon the students is that we encourage entrepreneurship; we don’t want to make it sound like it’s easy. Not everyone who tries it is going to be successful. You have to have the ability to bounce back from failure and learn from that. We put a lot of focus on the individual development of the student to prepare them. They must understand themselves, believe in themselves and realize that they’ll make mistakes. They will need resilience, determination and focus to keep moving forward. You have to have the business acumen to know when not to get in over your head.