Matt Mazzei, associate professor of strategic management, was appointed the Brock Family Chair in Entrepreneurship in August 2021. Mazzei's research primarily focuses on corporate entrepreneurship, with secondary interests in new venture characteristics and big data analytics at the macro level. Here he expands on his excitement about assuming the role and the opportunities Samford's entrepreneurship program provides.
What is your vision for Samford's entrepreneurship program?
First off, let me say it is an honor and a privilege to serve as the Brock Family Chair in Entrepreneurship. The faculty members who have previously worked in this role have done an outstanding job in establishing a foundation for entrepreneurship in Brock School of Business. I hope to carry on and build on their legacy through the further promotion and development of various entrepreneurial activities on our campus.
As I proudly assume this new role, I want to spread the word both within and beyond Cooney Hall on the many opportunities for students that have entrepreneurial interests. Students studying in so many areas—business-related or otherwise—could benefit from the conversations and resources around innovation and entrepreneurship. My vision is to broaden the thinking beyond solely focusing on new business startups and have our students embrace an “entrepreneurial mindset.” An entrepreneurial mindset is a way of thinking than enables creativity and problem solving when facing issues and uncertainty. It develops individuals’ ability to connect apparently unrelated patterns using internal frameworks, often shaped by their own experience, knowledge, heuristics, and networks. Accordingly, these individuals develop the ability to think, reason, make decisions, plan, set goals, and confidently take action. If students can embrace this broad view of entrepreneurship, it will open opportunities to be innovative and entrepreneurial in a wide variety of contexts, whether they have aspirations or intentions of opening up their own business or not.
What excites you most about taking on this new faculty role?
Before I was called to a career in higher education, I spent nearly 14 years working in the financial services industry. In various roles and at several different organizations, many of my contributions involved corporate innovation. These experiences have informed my teaching and research interests, and I remain passionate for discussion around innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship. This fuels my desire to continue building awareness and resources for students interested in entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial thinking. I know firsthand the positive impacts it can have on their careers. Further, I enjoy the energy that comes from those interested in change, innovation, and problem solving. Teaching entrepreneurship courses, mentoring students, interacting with those in our Samford Startup incubator program, and networking with the many folks in our community that pour into Samford students is stimulating and enjoyable. Their creativity and passion are infectious. Simply put, I have already found this role to be a lot of fun! I am humbled and grateful for the opportunity to serve in this way each and every day.
How does Samford’s program prepare students for successful entrepreneurial careers?
In embracing the concept of the entrepreneurial mindset, our students will be developing critical and creative thinking skills. Regardless of if these students end up opening their own businesses or not, these skills will be meaningful and impactful for their careers. As they graduate and begin their professional journeys, they will bring unique and advanced problem-solving skills, whether as accountants, financial analysts, marketers, managers, artists, interior designers, computer programmers, or any other career path. We are training them to think differently and be the types of leaders who are accountable and able to get things done. I unequivocally encourage students seeking these skills to consider our entrepreneurship major or minor and inquire about our other entrepreneurship-related programming.
The Samford Startup program is a great resource for any Samford student looking to launch his or her business. What are some of the benefits of the program?
The Samford Startup student incubator program creates a supportive environment for students to launch and/or run their own business. We have physical office space located in Cooney Hall where students can work. They have access to meeting spaces and conference rooms for appointments and consultations. Residents of our incubator program also have access to limited funding to support their business operations. Perhaps most importantly, the Samford Startup program grants them access to a community of like-minded students actively seeking experiential learning opportunities to learn more about business, enterprise, innovation, and problem solving. We meet regularly to discuss business opportunities and markets, share experiences, and problem solve. The students in this program are tireless workers – they bring the work ethic, energy, and curiosity, and we help them develop their ideas into productive experiences.
If Samford Startup residency is full, are there other ways students can benefit from the resources of the program?
Yes! We do have a limited number of affiliate memberships in our Samford Startup program. While they don’t have formal office space in Cooney Hall, these students gain access to the same meeting spaces, discussions, and networking opportunities available to our resident members. We appreciate the opportunity to build a larger community and encourage entrepreneurial thinking with more students. Some student-run businesses already have physical space and may not have the same needs, so we are glad to reach out and serve additional student businesses. They are included and embraced as a core part of the student incubator program.
Outside of using the space to launch their business, what opportunities do students have to connect with professionals?
While we expect organic discussions are occurring weekly within the incubator space, we do coordinate intentional meetings throughout the academic year in which we support students in formalizing many aspects of their business, assist them in the diagnosis of issues, and help them develop strategies to improve operations and grow. Further, we connect with experts across campus, in the local community, and within the expanded Samford network to bring experience, insights, and opportunities for these student entrepreneurs. Discussions might focus on branding, pricing, financial modeling, customer service, leadership, or a variety of other topics in which students wish to concentrate. Our guests enjoy the opportunity to foster entrepreneurship on our campus and offer tremendous insights while mentoring these students. These connections have proven instrumental in the growth and development of these student endeavors and their overall experience with the Samford Startup incubator program.