Sunday, January 26, 2014

Faley has “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” for UVI Entrepreneurship

UVI Distinguished Professor Dr. Tim Faley, UVI President David Hall and 13D Entrepreneurship Speaker Kiril Sokoloff  speak at round-table discussion

Working diligently at his desk at the University of the Virgin Islands’ St. Thomas Campus, Dr. Tim Faley has a panoramic view of Brewers Bay. The deep blue sea and swaying green tropical flora is much different than what he was used to.

Dr. Faley left the University of the Michigan after 13 years of building the Samuel Zell and Robert Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies into the top ranked entrepreneurship program in the country. He built the University of Michigan’s program after years of study, observation, trial, error and success. Now Dr. Faley is working to create a new entrepreneurship program at UVI.

“At the end of the day, I'm a builder,” he said. “I like to build new things and create things and see the impact of what I've built. I was able to do that for 10 years at the Zell Lurie Institute.” Dr. Faley plans to build a world-class undergraduate entrepreneurship center at UVI that will have a broad impact in the Virgin Islands.

He has already rebuilt UVI’s entrepreneurship minor program and plans to create a certificate program. The possibility of creating an entrepreneurship major is also in the works. UVI has an “Introduction to Entrepreneurship” course and Dr. Faley has revamped two accompanying courses that will cover discovering the business and operationalizing a business. The new courses are specialized, covering entrepreneurial marketing, entrepreneurial finance and growth strategy. He is also working on creating a class that will teach franchising and the legal aspects of new ventures. There are no prerequisites needed for the introductory classes. The School of Business Curriculum Committee has approved the changes to the curriculum and the proposal is waiting to go before the University Curriculum Committee.

Dr. Faley has studied successful serial entrepreneurs for years, observing how they quickly move through hundreds of business ideas that lead to creating successful businesses. “The reason that serial entrepreneurs have so much trouble describing this is that they do it very fast,” he said. “But the first time we put a student through this it is going to take them a while.” Dr. Faley plans to continue to accelerate the program as students advance. “The idea is that we leave students with a skill that they can do the rest of their lives,” he said. “To me, the goal is to create serial entrepreneurs, not coach somebody to the formation of a single business.” Dr. Faley said once students learn the fundamental principles of forming a business they can continue to create successful businesses and tailor the businesses’ needs accordingly. “It is like any sport,” he said. “If you are playing football and it is snowing you might run more and if it’s dry you might pass more, but fundamentally the game is the game.”

UVI’s certificate program will benefit a variety of people in the community, said Dr. Faley. Persons who are aspiring entrepreneurs, investors, business counselors or someone who has a business but wants to get better can take advantage of the certificate program, which can be completed with three courses.

Dr. Faley is pleased that the entrepreneurship courses will be available to students of any major. “Part of what makes entrepreneurship great is that everybody and anybody should get involved with it because at some point in your life it is going to touch you,” he said. This is one of the ideals that attracted him to UVI. “The minor, from the very beginning, was open to everybody,” he said. “UVI was forward thinking enough that they were thinking cross-campus from the beginning and that was great.”

“Not only was it setup to be across-campus, but Dr. Hall was very clear that this was not just an internally facing program, but an externally facing program,” Dr. Faley said. “You need to be thinking about the community and the territory in general.”

“That is music to my ears,” Dr. Faley said, adding that entrepreneurial education depends on an environment rich with mentors who can create an ecosystem for successful business. “It is all about the ecosystem and we need to build that ecosystem,” he said. “The University will be better entrepreneurship-wise, if the community is better entrepreneurship-wise.”

All of Dr. Faley’s time will not be spent at UVI. “There is so much to do in the community,” he said. “All the way from building a pipeline from the high schools, to helping community members start businesses and determining what role the University will play. This is a very entrepreneurial community.”

Dr. Faley’s goal is to create a global model for entrepreneurship in the territory. “There is no global example,” he said. “I would love the territory to be that. Can you imagine people from all over the globe flocking down here to see how we did it? That would be cool. That is my big hairy audacious goal.”

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Entrepreneurship Speaker Series Features UVI’s 13D Founder

13D Founder Kiril Sokoloff 
The University of the Virgin Islands 13D Entrepreneurship Speaker Series has brought many influential and successful business minded professionals to the University. On Dec. 5, investment strategist, entrepreneur and philanthropist Kiril Sokoloff shared his success story and imparted advice on UVI’s St. Thomas Campus. The event was teleconferenced to the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix.

 Sokoloff created the 13D Entrepreneurship student competition and the Kiril Sokoloff Distinguished Professorship in Entrepreneurship in the School of Business. In 2011, Sokoloff pledged to donate $5 million to UVI. He committed to donating $1 million to the University over a five year period.

On Friday, Dec. 5, Sokoloff shared the knowledge of his journey in life and as an entrepreneur. “Adversity is the best teacher,” said Sokoloff to a packed room of UVI students, staffers, and entrepreneurs. “To be an entrepreneur you have to understand adversity.”
UVI President David Hall and 13D Entrepreneurship Speaker Kiril Sokoloff  speak at round-table discussion
He said that his life has been defined by his deafness. Sokoloff currently uses a cochlear implant and is clinically deaf without it. Before he had the implant, he was faced with the choices of giving up or choosing to become stronger. “I pledged that I wasn’t going to give up,” he said. “I was going to fight to the end. I decided that nothing would keep me from living a normal life.” Sokoloff said even though he was deaf he participated in every meeting and every client call.

 “Deafness made me who I am,” he said. “Deafness threw me down below the waterline many times – molded me, toughened me, softened me, shaped my character and the way I look at life. I will never know what kind of person I would have been had I not lost my hearing, but I certainly would not be the person that I am today.”

Sokoloff founded 13D Research, Inc., an independent institutional global research firm, in 1983 with $25 and his office was in his attic. He kept the overhead for his business low with no obligations. Sokoloff said that he learned to push away destructive negative emotions and to hold a laser like positive vision for successful outcomes.

On Friday, he offered a few words of wisdom. He advised entrepreneurs to keep their fixed cost low and make sure that their customers are truly interested in their product. Sokoloff also suggested that entrepreneurs keep an eye on their cash flow, competitors and the market, and to think strategically.

13D Research, Inc. is currently based on St. Croix. Previous speakers in the series have included best-selling author Dr. Dennis Kimbro and business woman and philanthropist Loida Lewis.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Oson, VI Makes One of the Largest EDC Donations – $350K – to UVI

UVI Finance and Accounting students, from left, Laydene Bloice, Jeffine Niles and Laura Bedminister speak with Dale LeFebvre  after a check presentation ceremony.
As a child growing up in Beaumont, Texas, Dale LeFebvre didn’t consider going to college. That all changed after he earned a high PSAT score when he was in the 11th grade, which prompted Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) administrators to invite him to a summer program. The program opened a whole new world for LeFebvre. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering at MIT, a master’s in Business Administration from Harvard Business School and a Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School.  He is now the founder and chairman of Oson VI, LLC, a management, consulting and investment advisory firm, based in St. Thomas V.I. “As a consequence of the PSAT I ended up at MIT,” said LeFebvre. “But for the PSAT test, I’d still probably be in Beaumont.”

On Dec. 3, LeFebvre presented a $250,000 check to the University of the Virgin Islands at a press conference on the St. Thomas Campus to establish the LeFebvre Endowed Student Fellowship Award and the Oson VI, LLC Endowed Fund for Recruitment and Retention. The gift also funds two SAT preparatory programs at UVI. It is the third largest endowed gift received by UVI during the past four years. In a surprise announcement, LeFebvre pledged an additional $100,000 donation to the University – for a total of $350,000.  

Twenty-five thousand dollars of his donation will be used for SAT Preparatory Programs administered by University Bound’s College and Career Readiness Initiative and UVI’s 2014 Community Engagement and Lifelong Learning Center (CELL) SAT Prep Summer Program. University Bound will receive $15,757.47 and UVI CELL’s 2014 SAT program will receive $9,242.53. Virgin Islands high school students will be afforded opportunities to participate in rigorous online SAT Prep Programs that aim to increase SAT test scores and stimulate interest in attending and excelling in post-secondary education. Program instruction will be delivered by credentialed instructors. The funds used by the SAT Programs will cover stipends, program costs and administrative cost.

“I’d like to work to have other EDC Companies match what we’re doing,” said LeFebvre. “This is my home.”  LeFebvre continued, “We stand as a witness to the tremendous growth and potential of the University. We discussed internally and with the University what their needs were and what kind of impact we could have.  We could not be more pleased with the outcome.”

 “Thank you for not just giving to a great university on a tremendous path, but really for what you represent to a lot of young people,” said Gov. deJongh. “Through ambition, tenacity and the willingness to get ahead and still give back to your community, it is all possible.”

“I want to thank you for your investment in the territory by investing in the University because we deeply believe that as UVI moves forward this territory moves forward,” said UVI President Dr. Hall. “Education is the transformative engine of society. Without higher education then we can’t address our economic, political and social issues. The investment that you’re making will touch every aspect of a student’s development and that is what we really need.” Dr. Hall said, “The true difference makers in an institution’s attempt to move from being good to great are individual donors who are willing to say this University is worth my resources because I believe in what they are doing.”

One Hundred thousand dollars of the donation was created with the LeFebvre Endowed Award, which will provide annual scholarship support and transportation stipends for a sophomore and junior accounting student each year they attend UVI. In an effort to promote real-world experience and career preparation, award recipients could qualify for employment opportunities at Oson VI, LLC or another financial services company operating in the territory. As the endowed fund grows, the award will incrementally provide scholarships and stipends for additional students within UVI’s accounting program. 

The other $100,000 created the Oson VI, LLC Endowed Fund for Recruitment and Retention, which will assist the University with its efforts to engage underserved and promising students throughout the territory. The endowment will fund key University programs that have proven successful in recruiting and retaining students such as the University Bound and the UVI Entrepreneur Business Institute. Both endowments were established at the Foundation for the University of the Virgin Islands.

The remaining $25,000 will be placed in a Temporary Reserve Fund at UVI. The account will hold this contribution until it is designated on or by Dec. 30. If the fund has not been allocated to a specific UVI program by the deadline, the funds will be directed to the LeFebvre Endowed Student Fellowship Award. 
 “Today is not just about a check,” said UVI Vice President for Institutional Advancement Dionne Jackson.  “It’s about the spirit and generosity of an individual who is taking time to help others get the education and substantive experiences that they themselves need to succeed. For this it is an honor and a privilege to count Dale as one of our newest partners and stakeholders.”

OSON, VI is a holding company that creates value for customers by building high-performing and inclusive businesses leveraging its own corporate partnerships, relationships with leaders, deep operating experience, and values based culture. The company partners with chief executive officers to grow businesses, improve performance and strengthen balance sheets. OSON is led by a team with over 75 years of aggregate experience in consulting, operations and finance; advises corporations and governments on key strategic and financing decisions and makes investments in select companies. The company invests in and strengthens suppliers of leading companies by enabling management, strengthening business process and systems, and supporting growth.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

UVI Graduate Urges New Students to Succeed

University of the Virgin Islands graduate Kishma N. Allen ‘09 shared a few words of inspiration with new students on Tuesday, Jan. 7, at an orientation welcome sponsored by UVI’s Student Government Association. Allen encouraged students to work hard toward their degree. “It is easier than you think and you can get it done,” said Allen, who graduated magna cum laude with a degree in accounting. She said she started school seven years late, had a child, and was working full-time when she emptied her bank account to start college. Allen encouraged students to set their bench marks high as they are competing for jobs and other opportunities on a global scale.

UVI graduate Kishma Allen signs copies of her book “It's Your Vision, Can YOU Make it Happen?"  Her book has been used in several workshops and mentoring programs across the United States. It features a cover review by UVI President Dr. David Hall, along with comments and reviews by Virgin Islanders who have dedicated themselves to the improvement of the community. The Amazon review describes the books as a “step-by-step, practical guide (that) includes the tools and the inspiration necessary to find the courage and motivation to successfully pursue any dream to discover the manifestation of your desires.”