ASU Spirit of Enterprise Center
Small businesses are guardedly optimistic about 2010, says Gary Naumann, who heads the ASU Spirit of Enterprise Center at the W. P. Carey School of Business. He senses the mood from what he sees and hears, especially from entrepreneurs who attended the 13th annual Spirit of Enterprise Awards last September.
“You can only look down at your shoes for so long,” he says. “It’s a lot more fun to look up. That’s what I sensed from the crowd of 800-plus at the awards event.”
Under Naumann’s leadership, programs at the Spirit of Enterprise Center are providing assistance to small businesses and real-life experience for students.
“People come up to me on a regular basis and say they’re thinking about starting a business or expanding,” he says.
As examples of the optimism he is starting to see, Naumann mentions two of the small businesses that were honored by the center this year. Caliente Construction is targeting 20 percent growth next year, and Terralever, an Internet-based marketing company, recently expanded to Los Angeles.
“That’s why we picked them — they’re doing good things in a tough market,” he says. “If we were able to find these kinds of small businesses in the last few years, we sure as heck are going to find them for our awards next September.”
Without duplicating other services offered at the School of Business, Naumann says the center’s focus is on opening doors to opportunity. The center assists hundreds of businesses each year, mostly small firms, by providing guidance and connections to key resources.
“The type of businesses we help is across the board,” Naumann says. “We believe entrepreneurship is alive and well, even though this is such a tough time to start a business. Dislocation creates opportunity. We’re definitely in that period where there has been a lot of dislocation the last 12 to 18 months. People look around and wonder what they can do to take charge of their future. That’s a very healthy thing for our economy.”
Naumann, who has been in the entrepreneurial field for 30 years, says the center will continue to honor entrepreneurs who are showing promise, and educate young entrepreneurs of the future. He has lined up three new guest speakers from different walks of life to share their experiences with students.
“We landed a venture capitalist, and they’re hard to find,” Naumann says. “Students hear from guest speakers about what they did right in business and missteps they took and corrected. They learn more from hearing about the mistakes.”
To do well next year, small businesses must be prepared to do a fair amount of what Naumann calls “heavy lifting.”
“They’ll have to do two things at the same time, even though they almost don’t seem to go hand in hand,” he says. “They’ve got to watch their cash flow like a hawk, and at the same time they have to have one eye toward growth of the business. People who are going to succeed are going to be on these two paths.”