Entrepreneurship Summit at Denison Energizes Alumni and Students
Re-Connect. Re-Imagine. Re-Fuel. Those were the goals of more than 190 Denison alumni and student entrepreneurs who joined forces in a new event on campus called “ReMix.” The two-day summit in September was created just for enterprising Denisonians, to connect with each other, find new business opportunities, and spark new growth in their work.
With a huge number of entrepreneurs among the college’s alumni, representing a wide range of fields and interests, the planners realized early on that they would be able to tap into Denison-only resources for the event. As a result, the summit’s mantra was “By Denison, for Denison.”
A variety of workshops and sessions on a range of topics, including “Disruption,” “Life Hacks of an Entrepreneur,” and “Designing Your Business,” were presented by highly accomplished members of Denison’s alumni. These include Terry Jones ’70, founder of Travelocity and co-founder of Kayak; Cynthia Booth ’79, president of COBCO Enterprises; James Clear ’08, creator of The Habits Academy and author of the hot new book, “Atomic Habits;” Heather Stouffer ’96, founder and CEO of Mom Made Foods; and Jack Tankersley ’72, founder and managing director of Meritage Funds.
Alumni and students united by entrepreneurship
In addition to roughly 70 alumni who returned to campus for the event, more than 120 Denison students participated in the summit. During workshops, one-on-one sessions, and casual gatherings for meals, students had the opportunity to meet with CEOs, business leaders, and experienced entrepreneurs. They networked and gained insight from people who have practical knowledge about what it takes to start and grow a successful business.
One senior student noted, “I am an aspiring entrepreneur, and this was literally the best thing I could’ve asked for. I am amazed by Denison and by the strength of the alumni. The networking was incredible — so were the speeches.”
“We very consciously set out to create an environment where people would feel comfortable sharing in a deep and meaningful way,” said Chris Wolfington ’90, most recently founder and CEO of CityCar Services, who helped plan and lead the ReMix Summit.
David Howitt ’90, founder and CEO of the Meriwether Group, and author of the landmark book “Heed Your Call,” opened the summit with an invitation to take part in a “hero’s journey.” By the end of the night, everyone was sharing their Denison journey.
“Within an hour and a half the energy in the room changed so dramatically — we transitioned from a group of strangers making small talk to an engaged community looking for ways to collaborate,” said Wolfington. “This could only be possible on campus, through our common affinity with Denison. People let their guard down and brought their whole story to the table.”
Entrepreneurship connects generations
Denison President Adam Weinberg noted, “Denison unlocks the potential of our students and alumni to be the architect of their lives. One way this happens is by creating entrepreneurial enterprises that allow our students and alumni to follow their passions. It was inspiring to see all the ways our alumni are doing this work. And it was incredible to watch our alumni share their experiences and accumulated wisdom with our students.”
“The relationships that have developed through the summit already have resulted in at least one new business partnership among our alumni and an internship for a student.”
“The relationships that have developed through the summit already have resulted in at least one new business partnership among our alumni and an internship for a student. I can’t wait to see what else develops from this amazing event,” he added.
Julie Tucker ’09, assistant vice president for student development, was instrumental in bringing the ReMix Summit to life. “True to its name, ReMix re-mixed the generations — bringing back alumni from the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, 2000s and even 2018. It also remixed academic majors, industries, geographic locations, and backgrounds, as it brought alumni and students together.”
While ReMix might be new to Denison, the entrepreneurial nature of Denison students and alumni is far from new. “It’s something that’s been part of the culture for decades,” Tucker added. “ReMix was designed to celebrate and build upon a thriving Denison entrepreneurial environment.”
“I am bursting with new energy and ideas for my company,” said one alum who participated. “I have so many new entrepreneur friends who I feel I could reach out to at any time.”
Denison’s culture nurtures entrepreneurs
The Summit grew out of the college’s Red Frame Lab, Denison’s home for design-thinking, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
“In just the first year of the Red Frame Lab, more than 400 students came to sessions about design-thinking, graphic design, and workshops with entrepreneurs,” said Tucker. “We’re able to support students in their goals for the future. In fact, students built 11 prototypes in just the first few months. Denisonians really have entrepreneurship in their DNA.”
“The results from ReMix were hugely validating,” said Wolfington. “The Denison population is very entrepreneurial and we really only scratched the surface. What Denison can accomplish is different from what other colleges with a reputation for entrepreneurship can offer. They don’t have the cultural legacy in terms of engagement and connection like we have with our community.”
President Weinberg further commented, “Entrepreneurship and the liberal arts go hand-in-hand. Entrepreneurs, like liberal arts students, are curious by nature. They are constantly seeking, asking, learning and listening. They are connecting ideas and people in new ways to reach unexpected outcomes. Both The Red Frame Lab and ReMix are a wonderful extension of our commitment to the liberal arts and our hope that our students will be life-long learners and creators who follow their dreams and passions.”
Tucker already is beginning to plan for next year’s event. “The secret sauce was having Denison as the connector — that lent so much to the summit. Now we are looking at how to grow and evolve, as we continue to support the entrepreneurial ecosystem within our student and alumni community.”