by:Geoff Ficke

The Most Under-Utilized Resource Entrepreneurs Neglect to Take Advantage of Is Local Universities

Inventors, Entrepreneurs, Artisans and Small Businesses are very often bereft of funds needed to secure professional help that would be beneficial in leveraging their projects to success. Lawyers, Engineers, Graphic Artists, Logistics Specialists, Packaging Designers, Web-site Masters, Marketing Consultants and many other qualified experts are much needed but difficult to afford for those starting a new enterprise. This is understandable but there are other sources for obtaining qualified help.

We refer many under-funded prospective Entrepreneur’s to the nearest major University. Colleges are places of learning, often fully funded by taxpayers. There are many areas of study in each university’s core curriculum. Business schools, Design colleges, art programs, marketing majors, Engineering departments, etc. house a motivated, ambitious horde of students seeking to gain practical experience in their field of study.

College Deans and Professors are often a wonderful source of inspiration when approached by small businesses and inventors seeking guidance. They will often assign a student, or team of students to assist on a project. Not only is this resume building experience invaluable for the undergraduate but it often leads to internships or post-graduate employment for those who successfully complete the assigned project.

Many Universities have become very active in a commercialization process that they call “Technology Transfer”. When a school discovers a new technology, product or science that can be perfected in their facilities, they are being very aggressive in commercializing the process and attempting to create recurring income streams. We are currently involved with several major Universities in this type of product development and the concept is growing rapidly as colleges seek to leverage the invaluable resources that are housed in their intellectual property facilities. Technology Transfer can work for many more inventors.

One of the fastest growing areas of study in Business Schools is Entrepreneurship. I have been a mentor, lecturer and Fellow at several colleges in this program. At some schools the course in Entrepreneurial Studies has become a capstone course, essential to complete before becoming eligible for receipt of a degree. These courses are often available as laboratories for inventors and small businesses wishing to perfect a Business Plan, create a Sales Model, customize a Marketing Strategy or design a Production Quality Prototype.

These courses can be very useful. They are free for those willing to pursue the assets they can offer. Actually, most Professors love to match students with real world projects as opposed to an abstract fantasy project that the student designs on their own.

On any number of occasions my Consumer Product Development and Marketing Consulting firm has mated entrepreneurial projects with students eager to obtain real world experience. We have done this with Gourmet Food (Nutrition Science), Footwear (Fashion Design), Skin Care and Aromatherapy (Marketing and Chemistry), DIY Product (Engineering), Packaging (Graphic Arts) and more.

Obviously, it is preferable to utilize the most qualified, experienced talent available if it can be afforded. Students do not have an extensive body of work that can be tapped to quickly solve problems. However, what they lack in experience, they can make up for in energy and hunger.

The job of a professional consultant or service provider is to save the client time, money and mistakes. If the client has limited monies available pursuit of assistance from a motivated student can provide a reasonable alternative. Many Small Business people often root for the local schools sports teams. It can be much more satisfying to use the college academic departments as part of your own team.

Author's Bio: 

Geoff Ficke has been a serial entrepreneur for almost 50 years. As a small boy, earning his spending money doing odd jobs in the neighborhood, he learned the value of selling himself, offering service and value for money.

After putting himself through the University of Kentucky (B.A. Broadcast Journalism, 1969) and serving in the United States Marine Corp, Mr. Ficke commenced a career in the cosmetic industry. After rising to National Sales Manager for Vidal Sassoon Hair Care at age 28, he then launched a number of ventures, including Rubigo Cosmetics, Parfums Pierre Wulff Paris, Le Bain Couture and Fashion Fragrance.

Geoff Ficke and his consulting firm, Duquesa Marketing, ( has assisted businesses large and small, domestic and international, entrepreneurs, inventors and students in new product development, capital formation, licensing, marketing, sales and business plans and successful implementation of his customized strategies. He is a Senior Fellow at the Page Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Business School, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.