The Academy kicked off its new “Spotlight on the Entrepreneur” Lecture Series on January 24, 2006 with an appearance by local success story Jimmy John Liautaud, founder of Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches.
Held at the Knight Auditorium of the Spurlock Museum in front of a capacity crowd, the first Spotlight Lecture was emceed by WDWS personality Stevie Jay Khachaturian, who posed a series of questions to Jimmy John in what was a relaxed and often humorous exchange.
Nearly two hundred University of Illinois students and other guests were treated to Jimmy John’s views on entrepreneurship. When asked what motivated him as a beginning businessman, Jimmy John said candidly, “I had failed at everything else I had tried!” He also advised the audience that persistence was the most important characteristic for any entrepreneur.
The Spotlight Lecture Series is a new initiative of the Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership intended to highlight the entrepreneurial accomplishments of entrepreneurs with an Illinois connection. As such, the Series will offer opportunities for the Academy to collaborate with development and alumni relations offices across the Urbana-Champaign campus.
“The Academy is eager to increase the public’s awareness that this region has very successful entrepreneurs, and that some of this country’s most visible entrepreneurs have graduated from every college at the University of Illinois,” said Academy Executive Director Tony Mendes. “Although entrepreneurs frequently speak on campus in classes or as part of college-specific events, we wanted to create a University-wide lecture series that was focused uniquely on entrepreneurship.”
Mendes said that the decision to use local radio DJ Stevie Jay was also intended to bring a wider audience to the event, and to model the format of the event after the popular “Inside the Actor’s Studio” television show offered on Bravo.
“There are so many inaccurate assumptions about entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship,” Mendes explained. “We like to think of this Lecture Series as a sort of ‘Inside the Entrepreneurs’ Mind,’ to give the uninitiated a more accurate view of how many different ways one can be entrepreneurial, what drives an entrepreneur, and what it takes to be successful.”
The Spotlight Series will be offered intermittently, and the Academy’s goal is to have at least one per academic year. “We are actively in discussions with colleges around campus to identify some of their most successful alumni entrepreneurs, and to invite them to visit the campus and be a Spotlight lecturer,” Mendes said.
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