In 2015, the Miller School of Entrepreneurship was established thanks to a $5 million gift from ECU College of Business (COB) alumnus Fielding Miller and his wife, Kim Grice Miller. The school’s goal is to serve as a regional hub that prepares students to take an entrepreneurial mindset and skill set into their communities.
Students with the Miller School of Entrepreneurship pitch their ideas to Raleigh-entrepreneurs, including COB Alumnus and the school’s namesake, Fielding Miller. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)
Three years later, Miller School students hit the road and pitched their ideas to the school’s regional advisory councils, which include COB alumni and entrepreneurs. The council visits have included Wilmington, Greenville and Raleigh.
On April 6, students with the Miller School visited CAPTRUST Financial Advisors, the Raleigh-based independent investment research andfee-based investment advisory firm. This visit marked the first time that Miller, co-founder, chairman andCEO of CAPTRUST, was able to see Miller School students in action, which included a five-minute presentation and 30-minute Q&A session with three student teams.
When asked how it felt to see these presentations, Miller said, “I was thrilled with the visit – the student presentations were compelling and showed a lot of creativity, andthe turnout of the experienced entrepreneurs in the Raleigh area was heartwarming to see.”
The Raleigh-area entrepreneurs that Miller mentioned included members of the Miller School’s Triangle Advisory Council. Van Isley, the Triangle Advisory Council’s president, also attended the event. He recently gave $2 million to the COB that will be used to provide a space for business, engineering, technology and art students to collaborate on product innovation and entrepreneurship. The Miller School student presentations marked his first time Isley saw the student entrepreneurs in action. Of the presentations, he said the students’ energy, enthusiasm and passion was exciting and invigorating to witness.
“Several years ago I participated in one of the first shark tank presentations, which was part of a final exam for one of the senior business classes,” said Isley. “It was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done, andit made me want to get more involved. It really speaks to the quality of students the College of Business is producing.”
The Raleigh-area entrepreneurs were not the only ones in the meeting that were impressed. The participating student teams were also impressed with what they saw and heard.
CAPTRUST’s offices sit on top of the 17-story, CAPTRUST Tower in Raleigh and provide a view of Raleigh’s growing skyline. They heard from Miller, who talked about his entrepreneurial journey and his top lessons learned over the years. And, these students heard pointed, direct feedback from the entrepreneurs in the room.
Senior Chris Allen
Chris Allen is a pre-med computer-science major who is taking advantage of the entrepreneurial and small business management classes provided by the Miller School. He pitched a health carerelated blockchain idea during his visit.
“I never had an experience that was that invigorating, and that allowed me to learn so quickly and connect with so many people that could influence my future,” said Allen.
Brady Hillhouse of the Charlotte area is a freshman that is pursuing a double major in finance and entrepreneurship. He is already an entrepreneur who owns a foreign exchange education company.
He viewed the experience as a working lunch to receive mentorship and guidance from entrepreneurs from multiple industries. According to Hillhouse, his projected career path is very similar to Miller’s. He wants to become a stockbroker and open his own financial advisory firm, andHillhouse says what he heard at the event was valuable.
“That was justincredible feedback and mentorship on the next steps to take in life and his company,” said Hillhouse. “It’s feedback I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else even if I paid for it.”
According to Dr. Mike Harris, director of the Miller School, the April event, as well as the previousevents, were designed to help establish mentoring relationships.
“The Miller School is very fortunate to have four advisory councils with active statewide members who are willing to help nurture the next generation of entrepreneurs,” said Harris.
“I was astounded by the quantity and quality of successful entrepreneurs who were willing to give of their time, energy and experience,” said Isley.
After the event, Miller was not only pleased with what he witnessed but is excited for the future.
“I want to participate in as many as I can,” said Miller. “It is fascinating to see the students in action, and I came away more enthusiastic than ever about the potential of the program. So far, it (the Miller School) has exceeded my expectations.”
According to Harris, the Miller School will plan a similar event in Charlotte during a Fall 2018 meeting of its Piedmont Regional Advisory Council.
Van Isley, CEO and founder of Professional Builders Supply, speaks with Miller School students during their recent visit to Raleigh’s CAPTRUST.
-by Michael Rudd, University Communications