Alexandra Dawson, director of the Initiative, says that the entrepreneur-in-residence shows how the National Bank gift puts research and knowledge to practical use. Adelstein participates in on-campus research, guides student projects, conducts lectures and, above all, acts as a mentor to students.
We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Adelstein and learn a bit more about his duties as the JMSB's entrepreneur-in-residence.
How would you describe your role as entrepreneur-in-residence?
It’s an opportunity to meet with students and share my experiences as an entrepreneur with them. I meet with them one-on-one or in groups in the classroom and try to help guide them through the entrepreneurial process. I’m also acting as a judge in some of the entrepreneurship-focused competitions that JMSB runs.
What made you decide to take on this position?
I was motivated by a number of things. First, I find it inspiring to hear students’ ideas and I love being exposed to all of their great energy. And there’s a symbiosis there — they get to hear about my ideas too. And the back-and-forth can be useful for everyone.
Second, it’s also a way to give back. I’m really enjoying the experience. To date, I’ve been a guest lecturer in one of the undergraduate entrepreneurship classes and I was a judge for an EMBA business plan competition.
What are the sorts of issues you see young entrepreneurs grappling with?
There are a variety of things. Trying to refine an idea is really difficult. So is determining if an idea is a good one and figuring out what makes it unique. Evaluating how good an opportunity might be is tricky, and it really helps to have someone to talk to.
I think it’s important to look at the potential for both success and failure of a venture. It’s also important to consider the implications of a failed venture. Entrepreneurs need to think about things like the financial requirements and HR consequences.
I try to help students identify potential issues by sharing my success and failure stories with them.
What’s the single most important piece of advice you have for young entrepreneurs?
Seek out a mentor. There’s just no substitute for experience, and there is no shortage of successful entrepreneurs willing to share their experiences and impart some wisdom. It’s important to have someone to bounce ideas off and to share your hopes and fears with. Surrounding oneself with experienced individuals is very valuable...and not expensive!
Do you think that young entrepreneurs are adequately supported? What can universities do?
There are lots of resources available at universities, and I see Concordia as a leader in this area. There are many professors knowledgeable in entrepreneurship here. In terms of providing students with real experience, there is Co-op, which lets students get a taste for industries that they might want to explore. This initiative is just another example of experiential learning — it combines theory and practice. Concordia is really quite advanced in this regard. District 3 is another great university resource available to students.
Could you tell us about some of the activities you'll be pursuing in the coming months?
I will definitely give more lectures and do more mentoring. In November I will be a judge at JMSB’s Annual Graduate Research Exposition where MSc and PhD students present their original research to the business community. I will also be a resource to the Concordia Small Business Consulting Bureau through which MBA students offer low-cost consulting services to local companies.
According to Dawson, Adelstein brings some elements to the table that students can’t necessarily get from faculty members. “Hearing Greg’s stories and anecdotes really gets students’ curiosities going,” she says. “He makes the notion of being an entrepreneur come to life. Programs like this can help sow the seeds of entrepreneurship, because many students don’t know they want to be entrepreneurs. In the safe environment of a classroom, where you can make mistakes, they feel comfortable asking questions like, ‘is this for me?’”
Learn more about the National Bank Initiative in Entrepreneurship and Family Business