#1in Startup Activity
#1in Portion of Adults Who Own Businesses
#1in Portion of 23-34 Year-Olds Who Own Businesses
#3in Female Business Owners
#4in Portion of 55-64 Year-Olds Who Own Businesses
#10in Main Street Entrepreneurship
The Knight Foundation has invested more than $25 million in Miami’s innovation ecosystem since 2013.
94 of every 1,000 adults is a business owner – a 9.4% rate of business ownership.
Greater Miami is ranked No. 1 in the North America for startup activity based on the region’s density of startups and new entrepreneurs, according the Kauffman Foundation, which studies entrepreneurship. Miami Business School both taps into that activity and helps grow it through undergraduate and graduate programs, a business plan competition and more. It’s all about synergy and strategic assets, says Michael Wilson, who this year became MBS’s Director of Entrepreneurial Programs in the Department of Management. “We are a cutting-edge research institution. We’re leveraging great scholarship and minds,” Wilson says. Top-notch faculty, institutional support, an involved business community and committed alumni are all part of the equation.
Miami’s connection to Latin America is an important ingredient, too. Students and professionals travel to and from the region through programs and initiatives, providing a cross-hemisphere perspective. Further enhancing that pipeline are local South Florida businesses, many of which were founded by first- or second-generation immigrants who retain ties to countries from Cuba and Haiti to Colombia and Argentina, and who are on tap as mentors and employers. “Miami is a great connector,” Wilson says, noting that alongside the Latin America links, about half of MBS's more than 42,000 alumni live within a 40 mile radius of the school. “The resources are here,” he says, noting that in Miami, economy and culture collide to create innovation opportunities.
Leaving your own culture and your own country’s economy can throw into sharp relief how forward-thinking entrepreneurship works in practice. Joseph Ganitsky, Professor of Professional Practice in Management and Director of the UM Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) which is housed at MBS, has seen that play out for many students.
CIBER’s programs include Innovators for the Americas, which pairs UM undergraduate students with peers from partner universities in Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru. Teams – comprised of two students from UM and one from each partner school – work together on entrepreneurial projects they identify. “They focus on an unmet need in Latin America,” Ganitsky says. One recent example: a UM engineering student proposed a local air carrier, modeled after JetBlue, for an underserved South American region.
Innovators for the Americas’ multinational teams connect virtually and meet in person twice – once in Miami for the launch of the program in January, and once for group presentations in one of the Latin American countries at semester’s end. “What you get is an awesome experience and students doing interesting projects – in a territory they are not comfortable in,” Ganitsky says. It is a highly competitive program, admitting just a dozen or so UM students and an equal number of Latin American counterparts.
Seeking innovation outside their territory seems to help open students’ eyes to new opportunities. Ganitsky says those who grew up totally internet-fluent, and often software-knowledgeable, are now reaching university level and are primed to become innovators. Some, he notes, have already started a business: “The skill set is there.”
That doesn’t mean more experienced people can’t master emerging entrepreneurial skills. Ganitsky also teaches in MBS’s Miami Executive MBA En Español, geared toward Latin American executives with 10 or more years of professional experience. “Preparing students to seek out trends and new opportunities means encouraging a mindset of reinvention, change and emphasizing that the future is going to be different than today,” he says. “It’s about continuous change and adaptation, spotting trends, learning how to work with others, leverage society and resources.”
Entrepreneurship is an overarching kind of discipline, says Susy Alvarez-Diaz, an MBS lecturer in Management and founder and CEO at ADG Omnimedia, a South Florida public relations and communications firm. She teaches classes such as Introduction to Entrepreneurship and Inside the Mind of the Entrepreneurial CEO.
“Entrepreneurship, by design, is interdisciplinary,” Alvarez-Diaz says. “One can consider it the underpinning of all verticals taught in business schools. Whether it's finance, marketing, or accounting, they are all there to, in fact, serve entrepreneurship. All other disciplines – engineering, arts, sports, et cetera – can branch into entrepreneurship.”
Some MBS entrepreneurship students know they want to start their own business, Alvarez-Diaz says. Others come to UM with the eventual goal of securing a job with an established company, but find inspiration to become student entrepreneurs. “Whichever path the student entrepreneur takes, they tend to be very curious problem-solvers and self-starters,” she says. “Many times, they feel frustration with their ventures not moving along as quickly as they want. It's all part of the process of entrepreneurship, and through it, they learn a lot more about themselves than about the business itself.”
The University of Miami Business Plan Competition and the 'Canes Challenge, both hosted by MBS, are designed to encourage entrepreneurship among students throughout the University. Top graduate and undergraduate winning teams net $10,000 each.
The competition sees entries from students in disciplines from music to engineering. Many receive help from The Launch Pad at UM, which provides free resources for students and alumni starting businesses. Since 2008, The Launch Pad has helped nearly 5,000 clients, representing more than 480 companies that have created upwards of 1,500 jobs.
At last April’s 16th edition of the Business Plan Competition, the judges included Robert Rubin (JD ’84), a member of the UM Citizens Board, chair of the MBS Entrepreneurship Advisory Board and an experienced entrepreneur. “I’ve had several businesses in the last 15 years,” he says. “All the businesses filled a void in the marketplace – which is what a successful entrepreneur will find – a business solving an issue or problem that others aren’t solving at all, or as well.”
Rubin’s firm, Skypatrol, which he founded in 2002, uses GPS and satellites to track trucks, boats and other assets. One of his previous businesses manufactured labels such as those found on drugstore vitamin bottles. He started in a related business that wasn’t doing well but pivoted into another business that found success. “I essentially thought of a way to make a good business from a bad business,” he says.
MBS, Rubin says, understands the world of business and what it takes to help shape the next generation of entrepreneurs, who must acquire skills to both run a business and recognize emerging trends. “We are teaching [students] how to recognize if a business idea can result in a good business opportunity,” he explains. MBS faculty, he adds, understand how risky it is to start a new business: “You still have risk after learning how to analyze an opportunity, but we are going to help reduce the risk.”
For the Business Plan Competition, Rubin says, students’ participation in the process is what really brings them value. They aren’t required to start the businesses they present in the competition. “We are hoping that skills learned from their participation will stay with them as they start future businesses after they graduate,” Rubin says. “It is the combination of participating in developing a plan for the competition, along with the passion necessary to create a successful venture, that is critical to winning the competition and for starting a successful business.” If participants learn those skills, he explains, then the competition has done its job – and they will have a head start in creating successful businesses in the future. Rubin, who is teaching an entrepreneurship class at MBS this fall, says the school’s determination to further burnish its entrepreneurial programs couldn’t come at a better time. Advances in many fields will yield business opportunities during the years to come. Those include, he says, artificial intelligence, drone design and operations, genetics and personalized medicine, food science, and cybersecurity. A vast new territory is opening for entrepreneurs, he says: “It’s within their reach.”
Interested in supporting the Business Plan Competition and ’Canes Challenge? Email Amarylis Wallace, Assistant Director, Entrepreneurship Programs, Miami Business School email@example.com