Education Case Study : Entrepreneurship at The Art Institute of Portland


The following case study details my experience restructuring the Entrepreneurship course to better educate the modern freelancer and creative startup founder.



What was my role? Instructor & Course Designer

How did I structure this course? My first exposure to the startup scene was at an event called Portland Startup Weekend. I attented this event with the intent of finding new freelance clients by pitching a wild idea for frozen treats people could share with their dogs. Much to my surprise, I attracted a team of 10 people and won best customer validation and best product execution. I learned important lessons during that experience about gaining customer validation, creating a minimum viable product, and developing a sustainable business model. I took my inspiration from the event and reconfigured it into an 11-week college course for design and marketing students at The Art Institute of Portland.

What are the goals & outcomes of this course? This class teaches students how to identify opportunities, then find problem/solution fit, design a minimum viable product, put together a pitch deck, and write a compelling business model. I’ve been told by numerous students, that this course is one of the most inspiring and beneficial they took while pursuing their degree. Several students have completed the class and moved on to persue their business plans, some of which are still in operation today! 

Who did I collaborate with? Norton Young, Design Department Director

Who were the stakeholders affected by my work? Students, Instructors & Administrators at The Art Institute of Portland

CRAFTING COURSEWORK

This class was designed to engage students and empower them to think critically. All classes begin with a student-led discussion of current events in business, giving them the ability to debate the grey areas surrounding corporate success, ethics, and marketing. During the first 5-weeks of the course, students work in teams to create a minimum viable product and then pitch that concept to their classmates. The second part of the course is comprised of each student writing their own comprehensive business plan for any idea they can prove passes a feasiblity test. 



IDENTIFYING RESOURCES

I aim to give students access to resources that fuel their research and lead to deeper learnings. Students are introduced to news outlets, publications, books, website, and podcasts that will spark their curiousity and entrepreneurial spirit. Instead of assigning frequent readings, I often mix it up with video and podcast based assignments which appeal to different learning styles. 



FINDING PROBLEM/SOLUTION FIT

I frequently remind my students that it is hard to solve a customer’s problem if it is based on an assumption. All projects require students to find customer validation for their business concept, leading them to create online surveys and conduct in-person interviews. We work through he process of how to write non-leading questions and conduct proper market rearching. I guide students to ensure they are identifying the proper solution and generating a true minimum viable product. 



WRITING A BUSINESS PLAN

Even I find writing a business plan duanting, but successful completion of this course requires every student to complete this task. Starting the plan begins with using a One-Page Businesss Model Canvas to identify the key components needed to successful execute a minimum viable product. We then spend 6-weeks developing the business plan to include a full breakeven budget and marketing strategy. 



PITCHING THE IDEA

I feel presentation the art of pitching a business is very important for my students to learn. Everyone is required to present their work in front of peers and guests from the Portland business community. This experience gives students the opportunity to speak about their process in conceptualizing the minimum viable product, gaining customer validation and finding a functional business model. Pitches are followed by a short question and answer session, which gives an opportunity to give feedback and clarify any missing information.

 
I’m a natural teacher who before taking over my own classroom took roles in peer mentorship and tutoring. My free time is often spent reading, listening, and viewing information from a wide variety of sources.

Mark