2010 Harbaugh Entrepreneurship Forum

Discussion forum

I attended the Harbaugh Entrepreneurship Forum looking for story ideas for the magazine. I wasn’t sure what to expect as graduate students and faculty crowded into a meeting room in the Forest Resources Building to listen to a panel of entrepreneurs talk about the challenges of commercializing new ideas.

Scott Brickman

Scott Brickman

Panelists included Scott Brickman, CEO of the Brickman Group; Daniel Eichenlaub, president of Eichenlaub, Inc.; Earl Harbaugh, founder and president of four companies and sponsor of the forum; and Dr. Rick Grazzini, executive director of Garden Genetics.  For 90 minutes they shared their stories, offered advice on business startup issues, and answered questions from faculty and students.

Rick Grazzini

Dr. Rick Grazzini

In turn, the panelists shared how they became entrepreneurs and how they dealt with the unique challenges of their own particular fields. If I were to choose one word that summarized the collective experience it would be “passion.” 

Dan Eichenlaub

Dan Eichenlaub

Each description reflected the intensity of their commitment to making their businesses work. They described how the growth and development of their entrepreneurial dreams consumed much of their lives.

Earl Harbaugh panel

Earl Harbaugh

Discussion was brisk, with pointed questions of topics as diverse as how to balance family life with business pursuits to the challenge of commercializing public research. The forum was an important first step in growing a culture of entrepreneurship in the college.

Leadership class

Later that morning, Scott Brickman, who would be delivering the keynote address later in the day, addressed an entrepreneurial leadership class taught by Mark Gagnon of the School of Forest Resources. As with the earlier panel discussion, the students were sharp and asked tough questions. Brickman responded to concerns about the current economic situation, immigration, and his company’s strategies for employee growth and compensation.

Panel discussion

The panel met with faculty and students again in the afternoon to talk further about entrepreneurial challenges. Speakers shared ideas on how to persist in a business when things get really tough and what personal qualities might be necessary to assume the kinds of risk inherent in these types of ventures.

keynote address by Brickman

The public part of the forum ended with Brickman’s delivery of the keynote address to a packed auditorium in the Agricultural Sciences and Industries Building. But, this is just the beginning of the college’s commitment to expanding understanding of entrepreneurship and helping faculty and students commercialize research and ideas to build a stronger economic base in agriculture. Thanks to Earl Harbaugh’s generous support of this effort, the college will move forward in this area. Giving students a basic foundation of skills and exposing them to entrepreneurial ideas and experiences is one part of the program. Bringing successful people in to talk will help build the beginnings of a network of support for the next generation of entrepreneurs.

The next forum will take place this fall.

Steve Williams