Season 2, Episode 6

CES 20 Jennifer Capps, NCSU

One of our honored guests here today, Jennifer Capps, who’s a leader in the entrepreneurship program at NC State to talk about her impressions of CES and where she feels NC State’s ecosystem of entrepreneurship would fall.

About This Episode

You’re listening to Trade Show Live on the Road!, featuring conversations with the people who bring trade shows to life, including attendees, exhibitors, sponsors, and trade show, industry thought leaders. We attend trade shows around the country in a wide variety of industries, from healthcare to consumer products. And everything in between. The podcast is a production of The Trade Show Manager, a trade show consulting firm. And now let’s go on the road with Trade Show Live.

Janet Kennedy (00:28):

Trade Show Live is on the road at CES 2020 we are in Eureka Park, which is where all the startups are and we happen to have a number of startups with us, with a very strong NC State tie. So we brought in one of our honor guests here today, Jennifer Capps, who’s a leader in the entrepreneurship program at NC State to talk about her impressions of CES and where she feels NC State’s ecosystem of entrepreneurship would fall. So Jennifer, welcome to the podcast.

Jennifer Capps (00:59):

Thank you so much for having me here today.

Janet Kennedy (01:01):

Okay, I bet you’re sort of like freaking out at your first experience at CES.

Jennifer Capps (01:05):

I am. This is like the world’s biggest playground for entrepreneurship and innovation. Nerds like myself. This is amazing. How can you just walk down an aisle and not be super inspired? You absolutely can’t. I keep getting distracted.

Speaker 2 (01:19):

If I’m going to meet someone, I had to make myself pull away from some of these booths because the ideas are just phenomenal. You know, this is the ultimate shiny object syndrome issue except in Eureka park or think where it’s like 2000 different businesses ideas, just amazingly overwhelming. Oh absolutely. But outside come coming from NC State and working with our students, they overwhelm me in the exact same way. I get the absolute privilege to work with students from all across the university and one of our intro level classes and these students are very new to this world of innovation and entrepreneurship in many ways, therefore is to go out and study markets and identify pain points that could become entrepreneurial opportunities. And then very quickly they proposed solutions. Well when I come to a place like this and I see so many of the ideas that students have proposed in the last few years, showing up at CES in some way, that is such a powerful tool for me to take back into the classroom to inspire them and all of a sudden this becomes something that’s aspirational for them.

Janet Kennedy (02:27):

Do you feel like students are coming in a little more hardwired to think about themselves as entrepreneurs or owners of businesses?

Jennifer Capps (02:35):

I do. In many ways students are coming in knowing the word entrepreneurship and knowing that it sounds really cool. They’re open to exploring the idea of entrepreneurship. What many of them don’t understand is one, the work that goes into it, you know, in many ways they have sort of the shark tank view or they think, I just have to have a great idea and get up in front of national TV and people will fund me. So we about the steps that it takes and we talk about the fact that it’s okay to fail as long as you do so for the right reasons. We talk about pivots, you know, it’s so interesting that entrepreneurial pivot is a generally accepted principle here. We’ve already talked to dozens of companies represented here who talk about the pivots that they’ve made because of information they received at CES, but as individuals we often don’t give ourselves the same permission to pivot in our career choices.

Jennifer Capps (03:26):

And I think that’s one of the things that I work with our entrepreneurship students on. I think that’s one of the interesting things too about coming even when you’re not 100% ready, but you’re still flexible enough to rethink. An example is NC State grads who founded brilliant soul came last year thinking this is a gaming thing. Now what they, what brilliant soul is for those folks who haven’t listened to Jeff guard’s podcast is basically an insole that has haptic technology in it and sensors that they envisioned using for VR and gaming purposes. Well, they got a ton of feedback from the biggest names in footwear last year and they haven’t pivoted. They have expanded how they’ve developed their product. So now they’re thinking about how does it apply to healthcare? How does it apply to other types of non-gaming functions? They even had a podiatrist who’s a Colonel in the U S army stationed at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina helped them with very specifically redesigning from some of her perspectives in a military environment.

Jennifer Capps (04:34):

So I’m absolutely so proud of them for not thinking, Hey, people didn’t want my product. They recognize that input that the product needed to evolve to grab the market. That was one of the most impressive things to me as well about that company, how open they are to making these adjustments and going where the market’s need them. And I think that’s such a powerful thing that we can show to our NC State students. It’s something that I’d like to get our NC State alumni entrepreneurs involved with because I think they need those reminders as well. I could see NC State entrepreneurs having an entire wall representation at the next CES. That would be an amazing dream of mine.

Janet Kennedy (05:14):

So the program at NC State does involve mentorship, right?

Jennifer Capps (05:18):

Absolutely. In many different ways. NC State entrepreneurship offers a mentoring program where we bring people from the community in to interact very naturally with our students and we let the students and the mentors pair themselves off as they see fit.

Janet Kennedy (05:34):

One of the other things I found interesting at CES is the number of people who have come up who either are from North Carolina and they’re so excited to see the state of North Carolina represented here or they recognize that we are a growing, expanding dynamic technology.

Jennifer Capps (05:52):

Absolutely. The NC State Alumni Association has done such a wonderful of creating an entrepreneurs affinity group within that association, so entrepreneurs can now get together, they can network, they can build relationships, find potential new clients, and let’s not forget, NC State doesn’t just produce entrepreneurs. We produce really great employees of startup companies so they can recruit for their first level employees as well.

Janet Kennedy (06:20):

You know, that’s a really good point because if you have employees with an entrepreneurship mindset, they’re going to be problem solvers. They’re not going to expect you to hand over a fully written job description and it not change. They’re probably going to push back a little bit and challenge the companies that they join to do better, to be better and to innovate.

Jennifer Capps (06:39):

That’s absolutely true and that’s a great point. That is one of the cornerstones of our educational process within NC State entrepreneurship. Instilling that entrepreneurial mindset and then helping students figure out where their best fit in that world is going to be. In some cases, that is going to be a startup. In other cases, it’s going to be employee number five of a startup, and in other cases that’s going to be joining a large corporation, but bringing that entrepreneurial mindset into everything that they do. Now, help me understand how the entrepreneurship program works within the ecosystem of NC State. So I come in as a student and I’m an English major. I’m a theater major. I’m a engineering major. Where does the entrepreneurship program, Paul, NC State entrepreneurship and the NC State entrepreneurship Alliance spans across the entire university.

Jennifer Capps (07:31):

NC State has so many absolutely amazing entrepreneurship programs. The Poole College of Management has many incredible entrepreneurship opportunities. You can get a major in business with a concentration in entrepreneurship. You can get a minor in business management with a concentration in entrepreneurship. They housed the entrepreneurship clinic, which is such an amazing program. But then in our other colleges, the college of engineering has an engineering entrepreneurs program that is absolutely spectacular open to any student on campus. We have a minor in arts entrepreneurship and a rapidly evolving arts entrepreneurship program that is just outstanding. We have a lot of work and social entrepreneurship. The design school has many entrepreneurial opportunities. Our College of Textiles has, I could go on for days and days and days. NC State entrepreneurship exists to support all of those communities in ways that help them grow without taking away the unique flavor that they were built on in the first place.

Jennifer Capps (08:39):

So we house like our entrepreneurs garage in partnership with HD rally where any student on campus can come, they can network, they can meet other entrepreneurs, they can actually build their businesses inside of the garage. You know, they can invite a client in a meeting or an investor in, which is a whole lot nicer than, Hey can you come and meet me at the Starbucks down the road and you know, I might be late cause I’m going to have to take a bus to get there. So we try to give them places that it’s a professional work environment. We have our Albright living and learning village for students who want to live 24 hours a day in a community with other entrepreneurial thinkers. We have general education courses. I mean the list goes on and on and on. So I think one of the biggest things that we do as students are coming into the university, we want to help them find the lay of the land.

Jennifer Capps (09:30):

If they want to learn about entrepreneurship, there’s numerous, all our cart services that they can take advantage of while they’re there. And part of our job is to help them figure out what that looks like. I want to go back to school now. Oh my gosh, I’m, I’m ready to be an entrepreneur again. Well, you know, I’ve been a part of this since 2001 and I have been so [inaudible] about helping NC State build these things because they weren’t there when I was there. And I think, wow, how much fun would this have been? But now I’m honored to get to work with these students and man they keep me on my toes. They are so smart and so creative and I absolutely adore getting up and working with them every single day.

Janet Kennedy (10:11):

All right, now I’m jealous too. So might have to bump you off at CES so I could move into your lower end.

Jennifer Capps (10:17):

Join us anytime you’d like. All right, awesome. So now you’re going to get down to really go into C CS. So what’s on your agenda for the rest of the event to see as much as we possibly can. You know, we’ve been really privileged to walk around this startup area and that’s been cool and can’t wait to go compare it to some of the larger, more established companies. I hear Google’s here, I believe I heard Facebook might be here and there’s Sony. So I’m curious to see where those companies are going and compare it to what our startups are doing. Cause you know in many cases I think our startups will have the edge. All right. I believe that totally. You have been visiting with Jennifer Capps who is member of the senior leadership over at the North Carolina state university entrepreneurship program and we’re of course Trade Show Live on the Road at CES 2020. Thanks for joining me Jennifer.

Jennifer Capps (11:05):

Well thank you so much for having me. This has been a blast.

Matt Kruea (11:09):

Thanks for listening to Trade Show Live on the Road, a production of The Trade Show Manager, a trade show consulting firm. If you need innovative programs to engage attendees, exhibitors and sponsors, custom research or new solutions for your trade show, contact The Trade Show Manager on our website, The Trade Show Manager.com.

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