Life After Graduation: Scrum Master Christina Townsend

Third and final of our recent graduate spotlights is on Economics major and Entrepreneurship minor, Christina Townsend. Currently, Christina runs her own business, Illumination Consulting, and serves as its Chief Creative Officer. She was highly involved at Miami as a mentor and tutor for the Clubhouse kids’ program, a leader of Creativity City for WCIW, and lead TA for ESP 321 for many semesters. She shared with us some of her insights from being a servant leader and creative rockstar in the Entrepreneurship program.

Tell us a little about your role; what do you do day-to-day?

I am the founder of Illumination Consulting, and currently its sole member. I started it last June as I finished my degrees from Miami. The mission of Illumination in its simplest form is to provide branding and marketing assistance to small businesses that have limited resources but a need for large growth. My day-to-day job is constantly evolving, which is part of what keeps it interesting. As the only person in my company, I am fully responsible for and accountable to myself. I manage all client relations, do big picture strategizing, and perform the more tactical daily tasks needed to get my client’s company from point A to point B. Sometimes this means brainstorming sessions of how to bring new leads to the company and convert them, while other times it means building a social media graphic or analyzing a Google Ads test. I usually do not know what exactly my day will look like when I wake up until I check my Trello boards and Slack messages.

What experiences through the ESP program prepared you for the professional world? 

I spent a lot of my time in the entrepreneurship program working with clients. The class that most closely translates to my current work is ESP 321, which is Mark Lacker’s Agile Marketing & Scrum class. I took the course during my second semester junior year, then acted as the TA for it in the three semesters following. In that class, we practiced Agile methodologies to work more effectively as a team, we learned digital marketing tools, we discovered how to be adaptable and scrappy in a setting where we needed high growth with low resources, and we quantified repeatable strategies that a client can put into place immediately. As a TA, I also gained experience in peer leading/coaching and learned on-the-spot how to put out fires as they arose. I was able to work alongside Mark to develop and adjust the course as we went, leading teams to success and ultimately providing great value for the clients. While I’m equally grateful for other courses, such as Friedman’s 351 and 461 creativity courses and Beth Troy’s Advancing Women in Entrepreneurship special topic that also played a role in shaping me into who I am today, my work with Mark prepared me most for where I am at the moment. 

What skills did you gain from ESP that you have continued to use after graduation? 

Agile project management and creative brainstorming are the tools I use the most. These are built into how I work in general, especially with clients. A current example of both includes my close work with a client in the aftermath of COVID-19. The quarantine has forced us into an interesting position where holes in our previous marketing efforts are being revealed and a need for new, innovative ideas is growing. Two of the biggest pieces of my experience in the entrepreneurship program that have become essential are my Agile Marketing and Creative Problem Solving expertise. Both processes are vital to being adaptable in the current environment. As soon as a need for new ways of reaching prospects and turning them into leads was brought to me, I started leading two important efforts. One is a re-emphasis on Scrum Methodologies (Agile Management) for how we structure our workload. The client asked me to run our project boards and daily stand-ups to assure full transparency in our work, as well as daily progress on the most important projects. In addition, I am heading a brainstorming focus group to bring outside, third-party perspectives into our marketing efforts. Everything from the people I am inviting to the questions I’ll ask them to the development and implementation strategies I’ll use afterward stems from my knowledge of and experience with creative problem solving gained from the Institute.

What about the transition to the professional world was surprising or challenging? 

For me, the most challenging part has been holding myself accountable and building my own schedule. I am in a somewhat unique situation, where I did not go get a “normal” 9-5 job. I don’t have a supervisor. I’m not reporting to anyone and no one is reporting to me. I don’t even use an office building, I just work from home. So, even before the current craziness with COVID-19, I was completely responsible for my workdays, trying to balance the post-grad transition to adulthood with new duties to my clients. The amount of work I get done in a day is solely reliant on me. Even if my workload is light on a specific day because I am in-between projects with clients, it is still on me to seek out the work I need to keep my business and life running. The hardest part of running the ship solo for me has been the lack of built-in connection with others. Because this is important to me and not organically part of my job currently, I have to be intentional about creating it for myself.

What advice would you give underclassmen in the Entrepreneurship program? 

Take your work seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously. Both in and out of the Institute, you will have countless opportunities to do work that is exciting and makes an impact. Take it seriously. Don’t blow off classes or projects. Instead, hold yourself to a high standard and be accountable to yourself in doing work that matters to you. We oftentimes as students take a passive approach to our education and simply check off boxes for our assignments, but you will be a better person for the parts of your time at Miami that you approach actively. That being said, it’s easy to get caught up in the stress and overwhelm ourselves. All students, but especially those with an inclination toward fields like entrepreneurship, are at risk of burnout. It’s a very real problem that most of us face at some point in our college careers, including those who pridefully assume they never will. My best advice for avoiding it is while you should take your work seriously, you should also leave room for fun/relaxing/self-care/etc. I am always at my top performance as a student, employee, team member, consultant, and person when I am balancing my drive to work hard with my mental and emotional health needs. If you aren’t able to find enjoyment, laughter, excitement, and fulfillment in your days, you are likely prioritizing your workload over yourself, and I would highly recommend an internal audit of your life to see where there is room for a little more play.

What is a fond memory you have from your time in Entrepreneurship? 

I have so many, it’s hard to choose. I genuinely loved my time in the program and believe it shaped me into a stronger, smarter, all-around better human. One memory that sticks out to me, however, is from last spring when I volunteered at Social Innovation Weekend. Most of the Saturday, I was running around getting supplies for people or manning the help desk to make sure no one needed anything. But when about 8pm or so hit, I decided to walk around to the rooms to check on teams and see what they were working on. One group in particular stood out. They were looking at ways to improve the lives of kids who come from homes affected by opioid addiction, in order to break the cycle and help empower them to brighter futures. As I sat in with two faculty members (Mark Lacker and Todd Stuart) giving feedback on their idea, I came to a realization that I was a thought leader on the subject. For most of my college career, I either volunteered at or led a children’s ministry through my church that worked with underprivileged kids in the Oxford area. We met with them once a week for tutoring and mentoring, oftentimes acting as one of the most stable, consistent pieces of their lives. Multiple of the children I had worked closely with over the years came from bad home lives, including ones where drugs were present, parents were in-and-out of jail, and custody was changing constantly. I shared my experiences with the team and gave input on what types of programs, both academic-related and otherwise, would most benefit children in those circumstances. I was able to tell stories from one of the most important pieces of my life to provide insight into the deeper needs and desires of the kids this team was targeting. When we left the room, Mark and Todd both complimented me on my use of personal experience and expertise on the subject. What stands out most, though, was not me being able to help those students. It was a connection I had never fully made before of truly understanding where the intersection could be between the mission-driven work I’ve always been passionate about and the entrepreneurial education I was pursuing. It has even encouraged me to re-imagine my future and how I can continue to use my entrepreneurship degree moving forward to make a positive impact.

Life After Graduation: Triple Major Amber Hallmann

The second in our series of recent graduate spotlights is 2018 grad, Amber Hallmann. Amber triple majored in Entrepreneurship, Interactive Media Studies, and Marketing and is now a Client Engagement Specialist at Quicksilver Studios in Chicago. She previously worked at The Garage Group as an Associate Innovation and Growth Strategist. During her time in Entrepreneurship at Miami, Amber led Igoodea and WCIW, participated in Startup Weekend many times, interned through the Altman Internship program, and now serves as an advisory board member for WCIW. Today, Amber shares with us some of her favorite experiences in ESP and lessons from the working world.

Tell us a little about your role; what do you do day-to-day?

My role is a hybrid of account management and marketing so my day to day is never the same, but usually involves many different forms of marketing. I am responsible for bringing in new business as well as engaging with current clients and enhancing their experience. Some days I am physically at networking events and in-person meetings while others I work more on the background; writing content, updating our website and social media pages, emailing prospects and sitting in on pitches. A big part of our business is branding so I make our brand and messaging consistent across all our assets and our company. Some of my days are spent ensuring we build out an entire identity by ideating and iterating on who we are, what we do, and why we do it.

What experiences through the Entrepreneurship program prepared you for your role and the professional world? 

Oh gosh, so many! Creating brand identities, business model innovation, facilitating ideation sessions, and having real-world internships are just some of the ESP program experiences which prepared me. Startup Weekend comes to mind as a game changer from an exposure to business models standpoint. The team you work on but also all the types of business you are exposed to allow you to better understand the business and potential ways you can scale. We are scaling at Quicksilver right now and that has been very useful. Igoodea and WCIW prepared me the most from an anything and everything aspect. Thinking outside of the box, leadership, organization management, negotiations, and the list continues. Those two experiences really taught me how to think on my feet, be a team member, and make things happen. Those are the skills you really need in any role. Oh! And internships! The way ESP does internships is unlike any other. I learned how to work in many different situations with different people and on meaningful projects with the support of my professors, which was such an awesome opportunity.

What skills did you gain from ESP that you have continued to use after graduation?

Personal branding comes to mind first. Creating and developing my personal brand was so important and those lessons directly carried over to my new role developing clients’ brands and Quicksilver as a company. In ESP, I not only had the opportunity to create my own personal brand and learn the tools of doing so, but I was also able to run innovation sessions for Igoodea and guests of ESP. These real-world opportunities and experiences (which you should always say yes to) gave me so many soft and hard skills that I still use every day. In client sessions now, I even hear faculty members repeating cues such as “read the room”.

What about the transition to the professional world was surprising or challenging? 

Honestly, I would have felt so much less prepared if it weren’t for the real-world projects and thinking that ESP prepared us for (I’ve actually had friends in other majors say how they wished they took an ESP class so they would have learned some of the things I did). There were not many surprising things but even when there was, I could pick up the phone and at least one of the ESP professors was there to offer advice or guidance on how to handle the situation. Challenging… yes, I mean who isn’t challenged after graduation. It is important that people know it is challenging to start a new job, find your place, move to a big city and so many other transitions, but that you aren’t alone. Everyone has times like this but if you really made an effort during your time in the ESP program, you already know you can call on any student or faculty member in that family for support. The program is real-world for a reason, the lessons you learn and people you meet don’t just disappear after graduation.

What advice would you give underclassmen in the ESP program? 

Do everything. You won’t regret taking the harder class, doing Startup Weekend multiple times, going to office hours, or even just sitting in the conference room and meeting random people. Take advantage of the professors and older students who push you. Cutting corners isn’t going to teach you anything, so go interview the 20 people for class. You will get better at it every time and you will be even more prepared when you need to meet with clients for the first time. Lastly, ask questions, ask to help, ask to do more, ask to sit it in on a conversation, just ask and they will help make it happen. The worst answer you will get is “no” and trust me, most of the time anyone in the ESP hallway will never tell you “no”.

Does any memory stick out to you from your time in Entrepreneurship? 

Oh wow, one fond memory? There are too many, but most of them happened in that hallway. I met my best friends in the conference room. Late nights ideating, working on projects, eating snacks during Startup Weekend, and so many more. We all might be a little weird, but we all work hard and know what it takes and support each other. The memories and friendships I made are still some of my dearest and I wish we were all in that conference room every Wednesday, not spread across the country.

Interviewee: Amber Hallmann. Interviewer: Maryanne Smith.

Life After Graduation: Engineer Extraordinaire Pranshu Kumar

Do you want an honest look into life after graduation? This interview kicks off our series of Alumni Spotlights with recent graduates where they share how Entrepreneurship has impacted their careers and the skills that they use day-to-day as well as their advice for underclassmen.

Our first guest is Pranshu Kumar, a 2019 Miami grad who majored in  Software Engineering and minored in Entrepreneurship. He was instrumental in leading Igoodea, Startup Weekend, and WCIW during his time at Miami. Since graduation, he has been working as a Business Technology Analyst and Strategy Consultant at Deloitte Consulting in Cincinnati and remembers his time at Miami fondly. 

Tell us a little about your role; what do you do day-to-day?

Broadly speaking, I serve as a bridge between the business and technology functions for clients. Some things I’ve done in the past include building technology roadmaps, visualizing data, building cost models, drawing tech-architecture diagrams, and crafting a lot of slide decks – for anything from deliverables to workshops to project proposals. Most recently, I had the opportunity to develop the 1st draft of a tech-integration strategy on my current project, where I am part of a team overseeing the merger of two billion-dollar companies seeking to make healthcare more affordable.

Sure enough, there is also a lot of note-taking – seemingly mundane, but I see it as an opportunity to attend high-profile meetings and have been maintaining a personal document to keep track of what I learn from listening in on these interactions and negotiations.

Additionally, I am on two internal “side projects” as well: For one, I am co-leading the development of a proposal pack – essentially a slide deck with resources and information about our healthcare business – that Deloitte’s leadership can leverage to speed up project sales. For the other, I am supporting the design & development of an interactive tool that will help clients find and screen potential companies to acquire.

What experiences through the ESP program prepared you for your role and for the professional world? 

My journey in Entrepreneurship began with Startup Weekend in my very first semester – I decided to take part on a whim, and the experience changed my life. Not only did I fall in love with the entrepreneurial mindset and process, the weekend gave me a chance to attend Professor Mark Lacker’s startup accelerator class at The Brandery in downtown Cincinnati. Developing business models and continually iterating & validating our solutions while being mentored by founders and investors was a transformative experience (coming from an engineering background, that was new for me and it served as the perfect complement to my budding technical skills). Thanks to connections formed during these experiences, I landed internships at two startups during my first two summers, which provided valuable exposure into business strategy and operations from the C-suite level, something not easy for interns to get at big companies. It was at these internships where I found my passion for bridging the gap between technology and business and decided to pursue strategy consulting.

Additionally, taking the Entrepreneurial Consulting capstone with Dr. Jim Friedman my senior year (I had already accepted Deloitte’s job offer by then) served as a practice round for what lay ahead. Starting with a vague problem statement from a client, breaking down the problem to validate its root cause, consolidating insights from research and interviews, and ideating for multiple solutions before presenting a few. This proved to be the hypothesis-based consulting approach I have come to adopt at Deloitte.

What skills did you gain from ESP that you have continued to use after graduation? 

Thriving in ambiguity has perhaps been the biggest skill I gained from ESP. Not waiting for exact instructions to at least take a first pass at a task has helped me differentiate myself from peers. In fact, dealing with ambiguity was one the first lessons from training at Deloitte: we were going through a simulated client meeting, when the “clients” asked us for a deliverable based on a few files they had sent over email. I remember how taken aback most people were because there wasn’t an explicit ask in those emails for creating something. Drawing from ESP, I had made sense of what the intentionally disparate information was implying and that was acknowledged. Since then, there have been many instances in real client work and internal projects where my proactive solutions not only sped up our response time but also took pressure off my team leaders because they didn’t have to describe my task to me. This made it easy for them to review and suggest updates or refinements based on their experience.

Also, I can’t overstate the importance of being a good listener and empathizing in the consulting world. One can find treasure in the words or body language of a client. I was never naturally good at openly empathizing with others until I went through the entrepreneurship program. Even now, I rely more on observation than on conversation (just given my nature) but I’ve learned to pick up the hidden nuggets of insights in the interviewee’s words, or lack thereof. This was especially useful in my first client project at Deloitte where I conducted over 50 executive interviews and built a tracker to “group and theme” observations, which we analyzed for insights before drawing up our recommendations.

What about the transition to the professional world was surprising or challenging? 

The level of big-picture thinking has been far higher than what I had thought it would be, especially at the start of my career. While ESP was the perfect sandbox to think through all the areas of running a company, it does tend to focus on small-scale aspects (by design). Working with C-level executives of large companies has added an extra dimension to my understanding of the world – how interconnected everything truly is when making strategic business decisions – from the economy & regulatory environment to consumer behavior and technology modernization.

What advice would you give underclassmen in the Entrepreneurship program? 

Experience as many things as you can, especially during your first few semesters. You have nothing to lose. Seek opportunities outside of class, discover your passions, challenge yourself. Focus on what skills you bring to the table and how you portray yourself. In the workplace, those are more important than a grade. Make friends, have fun and you are bound to leave with memories that you will probably cherish throughout your life.

Does anything stick out to you from your time in Entrepreneurship? 

The camaraderie in ESP was so strong that it’s hard to pick a single instance. It’s really the people who made my time in ESP memorable – some of whom are now my best friends. Whether it was snacking in the conference room over random conversations (there used to be a kitchen in there during the good ol’ days), or playing around FSB, or soaking in the energy of Startup Weekend with professors and mentors, my time in Entrepreneurship was the highlight of my Miami experience.

Interviewee: Pranshu Kumar, Interviewer: Maryanne Smith

Top 3 Tips for Running Social Innovation Weekend

Three years ago, Professor Chris Sutter and Professor Michael Conger saw the incredible innovations coming out of Professor Mark Lacker’s Startup Weekend and had a brainchild together. At Startup Weekend, students come with a problem or idea, form a team, and pitch their unique solution at the end of the weekend to investors from the greater Cincinnati area and beyond. Professors Sutter and Conger saw the potential to apply this model to the Social Entrepreneurship program and jumped on the opportunity.

From their idea, Social Innovation Weekend (SIW) was born in 2018. Over the past three years, students from various colleges at Miami have accepted the challenge to innovate some of the world’s most painful problems. These students have come together for a weekend to create solutions for infant mortality in Butler county, the opioid epidemic, and food insecurity. Next year, the SIW organizing team and students at Miami will take on the issue of homelessness.

The magical element of SIW is that participants get the chance to solve problems in their backyard. Butler county faces a diverse range of challenges that are prevalent throughout the US. When digging deeper into issues like infant mortality rates and food insecurity, SIW participants and organizers need look no further than Oxford to find stakeholders. Some Oxford and Butler County residents and even Miami University students have faced the problems SIW has attempted to tackle. Other regional residents have stepped up to care for their neighbors and have established businesses, non-profits, and volunteer organizations targeting social issues in the area. SIW’s goal is to give students passion, connections, and tools to make a change in their communities.  

One senior at Miami led the charge this year to organize Social Innovation Weekend.  Bea Newberry is a senior at Miami University co-majoring in American Studies and Entrepreneurship. This year she spear-headed Social Innovation Weekend along with Professor Conger, Professor Sutter, and her organizing team of students. Bea and her team along with 130 student participants attempted to tackle the problem of food insecurity

Here are Bea’s top three tips for running an innovation weekend:

1. Make it a team effort. The organizing team has to run like a startup behind the scenes to make SIW happen and having a great team makes all the difference. All of the efforts to market the event, get students to sign up, and contact mentors from companies in the area fall on the organizing team, so finding efficient, proactive people is key.

2. Mentors take the experience from good to great. Have a lot of stakeholders from the professional community to support students and guide each team through the innovation process. Make sure you use their time as efficiently as possible and help them and the students benefit each other. Professionals in social fields carry a lot of responsibility in their everyday lives, so it is important to make sure they are getting something out of the experience as well. 

3. Keep your eyes on the goal. At the end of the day, everyone is working to fix the same issue and it is important that each team succeeds. Part of the job of the organizing team is to make sure that students have what they need to make a great solution and are able to stay involved in the community afterward. Connecting students and organizers to professors and community members who have experienced and helped to solve these big issues are critical.

At the end of the day, Social Innovation Weekend serves many purposes but seeks to accomplish one main goal. Chris Sutter, Michael Conger, Bea Newberry, and the SIW organizing team put this together to help students learn about challenges that people in Oxford, Butler County, Cincinnati, and their hometowns face and give them a passion to solve it. This team strives each year to equip students to actively fight for the end of issues such as opioid abuse and homelessness and the professional community has rallied mightily to support this goal. Along the way to this end, students gain experience with the innovation process, learn from experts in the field, make professional connections, and understand their community better. Social Innovation Weekend has developed over the past three years into a powerful experience for everyone involved and will continue to impact Miami and the region beyond in significant ways in the years to come.

Adapted from an interview with Bea Newberry. Written by Maryanne Smith.


Alumni Spotlight: The Digital Ad World with CarsonDoyle Creatives

Charlie Naus (Economics & Entrepreneurship) and Logan Romaine (Strategic Communication & Entrepreneurship) finished their degrees last May before heading out to Denver, Colorado to run their own company. After four years at Miami, they decided not to go the “normal” route out of school, but rather to continue the creative agency they started in college focused on branding, content creation, and digital marketing.

The idea for CarsonDoyle Creatives first came into existence when Charlie and his childhood buddy Thomas Brazier decided to use their creative minds to promote the latter’s rapping career. Charlie acted as Thomas’s manager, developing a brand for his music from album covers to social media campaigns. A couple years later at Miami, Charlie found himself living across from two guys who were working on a company with a great business model but no cohesive brand. Thinking back to his previous success promoting Thomas’s music, he called up his old friend and the next thing he knew, the two were taking on the marketing for the company. They built a brand, created commercials, and launched a $25k Kickstarter. From there, they began building up a clientele and CarsonDoyle was officially born.

Today, the team consists of eight individuals with Charlie acting as the Managing Director (he doesn’t like the title CEO). From the beginning, he knew they’d eventually have to bring on more people, which became one of his biggest hurdles. Finding the right person was much harder than expected. Luckily, this is when he met Logan Romaine, who would come on board as the Strategy Director. “Logan and I found each other…which was huge. We needed another person on the team that understood the vision,” Charlie explains, “Logan connected with Thomas and I quite seamlessly.”

Logan leads strategy creation at CarsonDoyle, which involves “asking a lot of questions, researching competitors and target market consumers, and balancing known-to-work methods with innovative ideas.” He credits many of his entrepreneurship experiences at the John W. Altman Institute with helping prepare him for his post-grad life. From Mark Lacker’s 321 Agile Marketing and Scrum course, where the two learned they work well together and have a knack for developing marketing strategies for clients to Jim Friedman’s creativity courses that shape how they approach research and brainstorming when building ideas. Toward the end of his third year at Miami, Logan chose to join the company “for a multitude of reasons,” but mostly because it gave him the best opportunity to keep learning. Coming from a program that constantly pushed him out of his comfort zone, he knew he wanted a job that could do the same by offering him a chance to “learn by doing, learn fast, and gain experience in many different areas.” Not many entry-level jobs provide this, but the position with CarsonDoyle does.

Similarly, Charlie also professes that every experience in the entrepreneurship program truly influenced him as a professional. He cannot think of a class where he felt he was simply going through the motions. In fact, as a student, he constantly worked with people and on projects that excited him, which has inspired the same for his company. “The entrepreneurship department taught me not to settle for mediocrity and to embrace ambiguity — two things that drive my everyday existence as an agency owner and entrepreneur.” Graduating from the Institute prepared him for a career of working with different brands to solve a diverse set of problems, making it so no two days are the same.

With such a small team and a young company, each day is ambiguous with a vast collection of responsibilities. The two recognize how real the possibility of burning out is because when there is constantly more work to be done, you must build and follow intentional routines for work-life balance. Whether it means reading in the morning, working out in the middle of the day, shutting down the computer by a set time, or planning time with friends, Charlie and Logan know how to rest in a way that makes their work more productive and their lives more well-rounded. They recognize the importance of emotional and mental well-being for every member of the CarsonDoyle team, as it directly affects the business. For this reason, they prioritize individual happiness as a core component of running the company.

In addition, the entrepreneurs have discovered through their time at Miami and beyond the importance of defining success. For them, company success and personal success have become greatly intertwined. Up until this point, Charlie notes his main objective has simply revolved around staying in business. As CarsonDoyle grows, however, both place their success on the clients who join them and the work they accomplish. They call each emerging consumer product company they onboard and each project they complete that causes people to think differently a win. Charlie firmly believes focusing on “continuing to make excellent work will yield any opportunity [they] want in the future.” On a personal level, success comes from the learnings they gain and the daily fulfillment they feel by driving their careers through a company all their own.

For their parting thoughts, the two entrepreneurs wanted to leave those aspiring to follow in their footsteps with a few pieces of advice. Logan warns that “running your own business, especially right out of school, sounds a lot sexier than it is.” Each day brings new decisions to make that they have never faced before. But if you are prepared for the high-pressure do or die stakes, “It is a rewarding path to take in terms of learning, growth, and a sense of fulfillment.” Charlie adds that he would not trade his last six months for anything saying, “If you have a vision, a team, and a product/service you’re excited about, I urge you to pursue it until you have done everything in your power to keep it alive.” 

A huge thank you to Charlie Naus and Logan Romaine for all they have contributed to the Institute first as students and now as professionals.

Contributed by Christina Townsend

Meet Greg Van Kirk – Advisory Board Spotlight

Greg Van Kirk, Founder and CEO at ProjectX, Social Entrepreneur Corps, Community Empowerment Solutions, and Columbia Business School’s Venture for All, is among the members of the Insitute’s 2018-2019 Advisory Board.

Now a highly successful and creative entrepreneur, Greg got his start at the Farmer School of Business, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, Marketing, and Economics.

His many ventures share one mission: to design and implement social innovation responses to long-standing development challenges. In alignment with that mission is his role as the principal designer of the MicroConsignment Model, which establishes profitable income generating opportunities (and the infrastructure and network for a social enterprise) for those living in poverty, especially for women in third-world countries. He has served as a consultant for organizations such as Levi Strauss Foundation, Solutions Journalism Network, USAID, Chemonics, VisionSpring, Soros Foundation, Church World Service, Inter American Development Bank, Water For People and Fundacion Paraguaya in the US, Latin America, and Africa.

Greg contributes time as a Social Entrepreneur in Residence” at Columbia University, NYU, Marquette University, Indiana University, University of San Diego and Arizona State University and has taught social entrepreneurship courses at Columbia University and NYU. He is also an Ashoka Lemelson Fellow and was recognized as Schwab Foundation “Social Entrepreneur of the Year” for 2012 by the World Economic Forum.

The Institute welcomes Greg Van Kirk to the 2018-2019 Advisory Board!



Meet Brian Tome – Advisory Board Spotlight

Brian Tome, Founder and Senior Pastor at Crossroads Church, has become a member of the Institute’s 2018-2019 Advisory Board. Crossroads, a multi-site church based in Cincinnati, is considered the fastest growing church in America with the nation’s fourth-largest congregation. Within his Crossroads congregation, Brian has been able to foster an ever-growing passion for social entrepreneurship.

38,000 members in 16 sites across the country are actively engaged in combating generational poverty in Cincinnati’s urban core through CityLink Center as well as helping to create wealth upstream through OCEAN Programs, a faith-based business accelerator for venture backable businesses, and Unpolished, which helps traditional startups. Crossroads also supports ventures outside the country; supporting Entrepreneurship in South Africa, building homes in India for girls rescued from sex slavery, and feeding and educating children in Nicaragua.

In addition to his work at Crossroads, Brian has also authored three books: Welcome to the Revolution, Free Book, and 5 Marks of a Man.

Brian studied Theology at Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

The Insititute is excited to have Brian on board!

Meet Tim Spence – Advisory Board Spotlight

Tim Spence, Executive Vice President and Head of Consumer Banking, Payments, and Strategy at Fifth Third Bank, and Board Member, Executive Committee member at Cintrifuse, is a current member of the 2018-2019 Institute for Entrepreneurship Advisory Board.

Prior to joining Fifth Third, Tim was a Senior Partner in the Financial Services Practice at Oliver Wyman, a global leader in management consulting with more than 5,000 professionals worldwide where he advised large banks and insurance firms on issues of strategy and performance improvement.

During his time at Fifth Third, Tim oversaw the configuration of Agile teams to work on Fifth Third’s online banking channels and mobile apps in 2017. This initiative resulted in This resulted in a revamped bill pay experience, along with the addition of online branch appointment scheduling and the ability to withdraw cash at ATMs using the bank’s mobile app. It also enabled the launch of Zelle peer-to-peer payments and Momentum.

In 2018, Tim was named American Banker’s 2018 Digital Banker of the Year. He holds a bachelor’s in English Literature and Economics from Colgate University.

Welcome, Tim Spence to the Advisory Board!


Meet Todd Schwarzinger – Advisory Board Spotlight

Yet another distinguished entrepreneur and Miami graduate, Todd Schwarzinger, is a member of the 2018-2019 Advisory Board. Todd currently serves as the Managing Director of Life Sciences and Healthcare at Silicon Valley Bank.

Todd graduated from Miami University with a bachelor’s in Finance from the Farmer School of Business and received his MBA from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University. Before he joined SVB, Todd was an Executive Director at Morgan Stanley in the healthcare and banking division, where he advised a broad range of medical device and biopharmaceutical clients on mergers and acquisitions, initial public offerings, and the equity and debt capital markets. His nine-year career at Morgan Stanley spanned across both New York and London, where he was responsible for life sciences M&A transactions totaling over $5 billion and raised over $3 billion in capital markets transactions spanning North America, Europe, and Asia.

As the current Managing Director at SVB, Todd and his teams focus on capital, banking, and relationship solutions for healthcare clients of all life stages spanning biopharma, medical device, digital health, diagnostics, and life science tools for the Bay Area and Pacific Northwest.

Welcome, Todd Schwarzinger to the Institute for Entrepreneurship Advisory Board!

Meet David Schwab – Advisory Board Spotlight

As Miami University enters into a new semester, we continue to highlight the valuable members of our 2018-2019 Advisory Board. Today, our focus is on David Schwab, Executive Vice President at Octagon Sports & Entertainment Network, Founder of Octagon First Call, and Creator/Host of Beyond High Street Podcast.

David has strong ties to Miami. Twenty years ago, he graduated with a marketing degree from the Farmer School of Business. His love for the University and its alumni extended beyond graduation and was eventually embodied in his podcast, Beyond High Street. Weekly, David interviews highly successful Miami alumni, exploring the common traits that bring people to Oxford and how their education at Miami helped them with their professional successes.

In addition, he is the Executive Vice President of Octagon Sports & Entertainment Network, the world’s largest sponsorship consulting practice and a pioneer in athlete and personality representation and management. In true entrepreneurial fashion, David also went on to found Octagon First Call. This company focuses on celebrity strategy; educating companies, associations, and non-profits on the proper use of celebrity talent and how to get the most value out of a celebrity partnership. Their services include identifying the right talent, securing agreements, tailoring campaigns to fit both the brand and the celebrity, and managing the talent relationship throughout.

The Institute is excited to have David Schwab on board for the 2018-2019 academic year!