Much more than you might think!
Last week I was in Sarasota Florida at The Institute for the Ages’ Seventh Annual Conference on Positive Aging to launch eProvStudio, a new program I’ve created with colleagues at Babson College – the #1 Entrepreneurship College in the US.
eProvStudio is designed to help individuals aged 50+ explore the world of entrepreneuring. It combines Babson’s methodology of Entrepreneurial Thought & Action® with the art of improvisation to harness the individual and collective experience of older adults, thereby boosting prosperity for all ages.
eProvStudio puts the skills and mindset of entrepreneuring into the hands of seniors to help them ignite and build ideas. In a truly experiential environment, players explore the mindset of an entrepreneur and practice the methodology of acting, learning and building on ideas. They draw upon who they are, what they know, who they know, and what resources they have at hand.
The Sarasota workshop, filled to capacity by creative and energetic seniors 50+, was a huge success, but the workshop represents just one aspect of this pioneering new approach to entrepreneurship. We had several opportunities to engage seniors outside the workshop and the results were life changing.
Just one example involves my Babson colleague and eProvStudio co-creator, Cheryl Kiser, who was walking with a crutch as she was still recovering from some horrific knee surgery. It was your typical boring aluminum crutch, and I kept saying we really need to do something to spiff that up. It reminded me of a remarkable 89 year-old senior, affectionately nicknamed Kickstarter Granny, who being bored with her old black canes began decorating them with flowers. Her grandson urged her to create some for others and helped her launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise $3000 to start her new business, “Happy Canes,” which sold online through Etsy.com.
After the workshop, our Babson team drove off in search of a little retail therapy. We found a fun beach store, where I spotted an adorable fluffy pink flamingo. Turning to Cheryl I said, “This is the perfect decoration for your crutch.” She said, “If only I had a piece of string to attach it, and that’s when the “life-changing moment” occurred….
The store manager had been observing us and with no prompting whatsoever said, “I think I have some twine in the back to hang the flamingo onto your crutch.”
She found the twine and handed it to Cheryl who was about to loop it around the flamingo’s neck and hang it from the crutch’s crosspiece.
The manger gently said, “No,” and began playing with possibilities. After a few minutes she had looped the twine under the bird’s wings and tied it to the crutch in such a way as to make the bodacious – some might say a wee bit bawdy – flamingo swing gracefully back and forth with every step.
As we were thanking the manager, she said, “I thank you. This was joyful and made me feel great.” She asked us what we were doing in Sarasota, and when we told her about eProvStudio, she said, “Oh, I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur but never had the courage or resources to do it.”
We explained how she was already thinking entrepreneurially in the ways she had thought and acted to address a customer challenge. She had used who she was, what she knew, and the resources she had at hand to create new value for the customer and one of her products. We said, “You already have what it takes to think and act as an entrepreneur.” She is a real-life example of a 50+ year old woman who absolutely can be an entrepreneur but doesn’t realize it.
She was delighted, we were delighted with the encounter, and anyone who sees our fluffy pink flamingo – especially now that it is back in snow country – swinging from Cheryl’s crutch is delighted. We could not have had a better beginning for eProvStudio, which aims to “Launch, Lift, Learn and Leverage” all manner of entrepreneurial thinking!