Start-Up Educators Must Do Better

In an era in which the number of new start-ups is declining, entrepreneurship programs are popping up all over the higher education landscape.  The hope of institutions creating such programs is to compete with other institutions, prepare students for the future, and make a positive contribution to society.  The good news is that the academy is meeting a need: small businesses — especially those which survive — create jobs, and there is nothing more dignifying to a human being than a meaningful job.  The bad news is that the academy is still teaching and measuring student performance the old fashioned way.

Teaching.  We have forever been teaching students about things, not how to do things.  We study and report on the world from arms length.  In short, are educational system is content-based as opposed to skill-based, and our perspective of students is deficit-based as opposed to asset-based.

To elaborate, we start with the presumption that students are ignorant of the world and that we can serve them best by helping them master content knowledge.  We believe knowing leads to doing.  In fact, liberal arts colleges are now designing “hybrid” courses to incorporate digital technologies to make that mastering of that knowledge more accessible.

However, we are doing this at a time when the knowledge of the world is at our fingertips and when thriving in our global economy requires the ability to leverage our talents in applying knowledge to create value.  Yet, when it comes to teaching entrepreneurial skills, we are still asking students to memorize the meaning of concepts and processes.  Why?  Because they are easier to grade than skill development.  One process is the business plan.  Here we take learning up a level and grade students on is their ability to write and present internally valid business plans.  Though more difficult to evaluate, this exercise is equally irrelevant.

Grading.  As the saying goes, “you are what you measure.”  For example, if we wish to change the behavior of CEOs, we need to change how we measure their performance.  Likewise, if we wish to change the behavior of our college graduates so that they are better prepared for the future, we need to change how we grade them.

There is no escaping measurement.  We all want to keep score.  The problem is that the more trivial things tend to be the easier things to measure.  For example, we need and want to measure the value of faculty members, so we measure how many times they are published in peer-reviewed journals.  But is that a relevant measure in terms of preparing student for the future?  Only if the students are the lead author because it shows that students can apply existing knowledge to create something of value.

The Essential Drucker. jpg

We must consider Peter Drucker’s famous distinction between efficiency and effectiveness: efficiency is dong thing right; effectiveness is doing the right things (Managing for Business Effectiveness, 1963).  Thus we may be properly measuring the number of times faculty have been published, but what if the number of times faculty have been published is not the right measure?  Likewise, we may be properly measuring our students’ memorization of concept definitions and internally valid business plans, but what if the ability to memorize concepts and writing internally valid business plans are not the right things to measure?

Unfortunately, they are the easier things to measure.  But only externally valid business plans will succeed. In other words, a business plan may look good in terms to how it relates to itself but not be sound in terms of whether it is actually implementable.  For example, the financial projections may add up and be consistent with the rest of the plan but the underlying financial assumptions may be fictional.

The problem is that business plans have little connection to reality when they are based on faulty assumptions, and they will be based on faulty assumptions when we haven’t taught students how to validate those assumptions.  But if we don’t measure students’ performance on testing assumptions we get what we measure: business plans that have little to do with actually launching a business.  So while we reward students who have good writing and oral and visual communication skills, we don’t fully prepare students for the future — how to launch more and successful start-ups and create jobs.

Don’t get me wrong, being able to communicate in writing and face-to-face are valuable skills in the life of an entrepreneur.  But by themselves they have little correlation to launching a business.  Worse, we are rewarding people for telling us what they are going to do, not for doing it, and to pitch something that has little relevance to reality.  So our unintended consequence may be to teach the worst of sales practice.

In contrast, building a business plan is like building a house.  The foundation of a realistic business plan is a validated hypothesis of a problem experienced by real people, followed by the validated knowledge of how that problem is currently being solved.  The next layer in that foundation is validated customer support of the entrepreneur’s proposed solution.  Then a real sale and a validated path from suppliers to market, and based on the sale and path from suppliers to market (on a “minimum viable product” basis), actual revenue and product costs (which will be initially higher then when the solution is “scaled”).  Then, and only then, with a business model discovered, is a business plan warranted.  But instead, we tend to judge the look and sound of business plans without the foundation on which they stand.  That is the wrong way to build a house, it’s bad business, and it’s bad science.

Running Lean

In contrast, Ash Maurya (Running Lean) argues that the first objective of an entrepreneur is finding a business model that works.  His work reflects Steve Blank’s Four Steps to the Epiphany, in which Customer Discovery (Step #1) and Customer Validation (Step #2) and Customer Creation (Step #3) come before Company Creation (Step #4).  Business plan writing is part of Step #4: Company Creation.  It occurs after they’ve found a business model that works.  Unfortunately, most young entrepreneurs don’t know how to do Steps #1-#3.

The Four Steps to the Epiphany

Why, then, do we teach business plan writing in our entrepreneurship courses and sponsor business plan competitions?  Why don’t we instead focus on Steps #1-#3 and focusing on pitching to customers?  Guy Kawasaki says: “Pitch, then plan” (The Art of the Start, 2.0.)   Entrepreneurs need customers first.

Art of the Start 2.0

The bottom line is this: finding a business model that works is the first objective of entrepreneurs.  Teaching students how to create that model is the first objective of preparing students for the future.  A second objective, and one even less spoken about, is helping students discern whether they have the gifts for entrepreneurship.

We can do better if we seek to meet a need in society and the needs of our students.  Teaching students how to create a business model and then through that process helping them discern if they are such model builders will do much to reverse the trend of fewer new business start-ups and decrease the probability of failure.

Guy Kawasaki: The Art of the Start 2.0

Art of the Start 2.0

“For every recommendation, there is an exception, and I could also be wrong. Learning by anecdote is risky, but waiting for scientific proof is too” (p. 2)

“I assume your goal is to change the world — not to study it.  Entrepreneurship is about doing, not learning to do” (p. 2).


How to start a start-up:

  • Answer Simple Questions; e.g., where is the market leader weak?  “Three conditions make a market leader vulnerable: First, when the leader is committed to a way of doing business….Second, when the customers of the leader are dissatisfied….Third, when the market leader is milking a cash cow and stops innovating” (p. 7).
  • Find Your Sweet Spot — where “expertise,” “passion,” and “opportunity” meet (pp. 8, 9).
  • Find Soul Mates
  • Make Meaning
  • Make Mantra
  • Pick a Business Model
  • Weave a MATT (Milestones, Assumptions, Tasks, Tests)
  • Keep Things Clean and Simple
  • Do Something Cringeworthy (pp. 5-22)


“People want more than information.  They are up to their eyeballs in information.  They want faith — faith in you, your product, your success, and in the story you tell.  Faith, not facts, moves mountains” (p. 47).

“Meaningful stories inspire faith in you and your product” (p. 47).

The Art of Leading

“When I was young, I thought that the hard stuff was finance, manufacturing, operations, and accounting….You what I’m going to tell you next: I was 100 percent wrong.  The easy stuff is finance, manufacturing, operations, and accounting.  They are all important but learnable skills.  If you can’t learn them, you can hire someone who has.  The hard stuff is managing, motivating, and leading people” (p. 66).

  • Exude Optimism — “[Employees] must always believe what you believe” (p. 67).
  • Establish a Culture of Execution
  • Take the “Red Pill” — “If you want to succeed, take the red pill and determine how deep the rabbit hole goes” (p. 69).
  • Get a Morpheus — “[Someone who delivers the truth]” (p. 70).
  • Get a Devil’s Advocate — “[Someone who tells you what’s bad even if he doesn’t believe it himself]” (p. 71).
  • Hire Better Than Yourself
  • Make People Better
  • Focus on Strengths
  • Address Your Shortcomings First
  • Don’t Ask Employees to Do What You Wouldn’t Do
  • Celebrate Success
  • Pick the Right Quadrant — “[Competent and Nice] vs [Competent and a Jerk] vs [Incompetent and Nice] vs [Incompetent and a Jerk]” (p. 78).
  • Tell Employees They’re Wanted

 The Art of Pitching

Ten Slides

  • Title
  • Problem and Opportunity — “Describe the pain you are alleviating.  The goal is to get everyone buying into the utility of your product” (p. 142).
  • Value Proposition [Solution] — “Explain how you alleviate pain and the meaning you make” (p. 143).
  • Underlying Magic [Demo]
  • Business Model — “Explain how you make money” (p. 143).
  • Go-To-Market-Plan
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Management Team
  • Financial Projections and Key Metrics — “Do a bottom-up forecast….Making people understand the underlying assumptions of your forecast is as important as the numbers you’ve fabricated” (p. 144).
  • Current Status, Accomplishments to Date, Timeline, and Use of Funds

Master the Fine Points

  • Never. Read. Your. Slides
  • Use a Dark Background
  • Add Your Logo to the Master Page
  • Use Common…Fonts
  • Animate Your Body, Not Your Slides
  • Build Bullets
  • Use Only One Level of Bullets
  • Use Diagrams and Graphs
  • Make Printable Slides (pp. 147, 148).


‘”Instead of imposing new obligations, (Christians) should appear as people who wish to share their joy, who point to the horizon and who invite others to a delicious banquet’ — Pope Francis” (p. 190).


‘”The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good’ — Samuel Johnson” (p. 287).

Click here for more good notes on good books.

What I Learned About Becoming an Influential Leader: Angie Becerra*

Jesus, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. were all leaders who seeded movements.  They used transcending influence; they were in a fundamental state of leadership and made a deep change in the people they influenced.

Jesus, Gandhi, and King were all world changers.  They empowered the people/followers that surrounded them and also transformed themselves and their followers and those that believed in their visions.

Productive Community

Jesus, Gandhi, and King envisioned productive community.  They envisioned communities that grew and flourished.  They looked at their communities, saw the mistreatment of others, and the injustice and power that authority figures took advantage of, and they wanted something more, something different from what they were seeing.  They saw the people, both the mistreated and the ones mistreating others, and cared about them all.  To Jesus, Gandhi, and King everyone around them were humans who deserved being treated with dignity and respect.  They looked beyond their own needs and saw every human being as someone who had worth.

  • Jesus saw everyone He encountered as beautiful and unique and he loved each one of them. He went to seek and save the lost: the ones no one saw worth in, the ones people mistreated because they were too bad, too sinful, too dirty.  He ate with the sinners.  He hung out with the tax collectors and prostitutes and the lepers.  He became like the people He came to save and serve. He looked beyond His own needs, and unlike the teachers and the prophets, put down his crown/ his position to change the hearts and lives of the people He loved.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. looked at everyone has equals; he didn’t see black and white, or people of color and white people.  He saw the injustice of racism and the mistreatment and yet he didn’t fight it with violence.  He like Jesus, loved everyone even the ones who were doing the mistreatment and injustice.
  • Gandhi also didn’t fight back with force/ or intimidation.


All three world- changers made a difference through engaging with those they wanted to see a change for.  They influenced through words and actions.  They were role models through their actions exhibiting justice, courage, compassion, and love.  They asked questions to themselves about who they are, what they believed and asked questions to their followers and those against them, they planted seeds through thoughts.

They changed the world and seeded movements not by force but by “appealing to the heart and soul of humanity”.  They disturbed the systems of the communities they were living in.  They spoke to those in authority.  For example, Jesus questioned the teachers and prophets, King and Gandhi made speeches and protests that were not always for the governments they were in or the beliefs of those in charge.  They were purpose-centered.


Jesus, Gandhi, and King looked within themselves and embraced their hypocritical selves. They embraced what is right, the values that they knew were right, and compared them to what their realities were.  They looked at the world and saw what it was and did things to change themselves and became the people they wanted to be and also helped change the world and people around them to people who they knew they could become.  They knew what they believed and followed and lived life that lined up with their beliefs and values. They were internally-directed.


Jesus, Gandhi, and King cared more for the people they served than themselves.  All three world-changers suffered prosecution and different punishments for wanting to change things for the people they cared for.  They made the needs of justice, fairness, and equality of the people they served their own needs.  They embodied their visions they had for all people, and looked out for the common good of others.  They were others-focused.


Jesus, Gandhi and King kept going, even when things were uncertain or hard.  Jesus was prosecuted, he was laughed at mocked and hung on the cross.  He could have stopped, He even asked His Father to not let Him go through with dying, but Jesus did anyway. King was put in prison, hosed and beaten but that did not stop him, the uncertainties of not knowing the outcomes of what they were doing did not stop them because they wanted to become the change they wanted to see in the world.  They did not conform, they transcended their fears of what could have happened or the what-ifs.  They were externally-open.

Jesus, Gandhi, and King left an influence and changed the world through the fundamental stage of leadership.  The changes they made were long lasting because people believed in what they were doing.  They made a deep change in the lives of the people/followers they encountered.

Personal Application

In addition to the readings, there were many things that I took from this class and the interviews that happened during class that I can see myself applying to my own life.  In particular there is one thing that was said that really left an impact.  One of the things said during one of the interviews was, “Empower others to do what they do best.”

I took the [Gallup] Strengthsfinder assessment and one of my strengths was developer.  I want to help develop people and empower them to do great things and do what they are good at.  One of my biggest passions is at-risk children/teens; especially at risk-youth who come from broken homes/ and or foster systems.  When I look at a teen who is considered at risk, I look at someone and see something different than what society sees in them.  I don’t see them as trouble makers, people who won’t go to college or won’t get out of high school.  Rather, I see someone with potential and talents and gifts that only they possess.

I want to work with children and teens who do not see their own potential because I used to be one of those teens.  I got expelled from high school, wasn’t expected to add up to anything, and wasn’t even expected to get to or graduate college.   And now I will be walking in May and graduating in December this year.  For me being a leader that can change the lives of teens one day is one of my visions I have for my life.

As Sam Tzou said, “Every individual has a responsibility to positively influence those who are around us.”  I know as a soon to be college graduate that I have the responsibility and compassion for people to be able to one day change the lives of students/teens/children.

Jesus, Gandhi, and King were all world-changers and leaders who influenced the lives of the people they surrounded.  They looked beyond themselves and look at the needs as others as more important.  They saw dignity, and worth in every individual they encountered.  I one day want to be that kind of leader.  I want to look at others who might feel mistreated, unworthy, unloved, and unimportant in society and help them become the people I know they can become.  I want to change the way people look at at-risk children and youth and one day want to be a world-changer that influences others in a positive way.

*Angie Becerra wrote this paper for LDRS 291.  The framework Angie describes comes from Robert Quinn’s Change the World.


Entrepreneurship is hard.  Change is hard.  But both are necessary for progress.  We’ve made some progress.

We have a long way to go but there are a number of milestones we have crossed.  One is complementary co-curricular status (see Pivot).  Another relates to Momentum.

It’s important to stop at milestones and thank those who helped you get there.  Gratitude is good for the spirit and the spirit of community.


CFL is a lean startup.  We are looking for an [education] model that works.  From time to tim we “fire our plan.”  Even though it was becoming popular, we fired our academic minor.

March is the month in which Hope students register for Fall 2015 Courses.  Beginning next semester, Hope students will no longer be able to declare a Leadership Minor but will have more and better opportunities to develop as leaders and discern their gifts and calling.  This is because we no long wish to position CFL as an academic program, but as a resource for all students regardless of academic program, major or minor.

Our WHY? remains the same: to help students discern their gifts and calling, prepare for work, and transition from college with the courage and confidence of understanding who they are and what they can do.  We believe our success depends on whether our alums holistically flourish.

Our HOW? also remains the same: we invest in students.  One principle we wish our students to understand and apply and remember and practice — and thus one we seek to model — is that leadership and management involve Listening, Understanding, Building relationships, and Employing each others’ gifts.  To do so means to MOVE SLOW.  Thus we uniquely combine action learning with coaching and mentoring.

  • Action Learning involves critical thinking around understanding challenges
  • Coaching helps us discern and discover our strengths
  • Mentoring helps us prioritize and apply our values

It is the specifics of our WHAT? that have changed.  To co-create work experiences that matter we invest in students in three ways:

But within each way we have made significant modifications.

Scott and Sam T

CFL Integrated Learning

  • LDRS 201: Introduction to Leadership is now Introduction to Inspirational Leadership.  Tim Schoonveld, our new Associate Director, changes lives.  He does this as instructor of this course.  But more so, he does this by meeting with students outside of class.  Next fall Tim will be joined in this work by Doug Ruch.  As part of this course, two students, Kendall Dice and Logan Meeker, are helping us create an Inspiration Grant that will help us inspire more student to stretch themselves in the discovery and use of their gifts to do good things.  We hope to use the pattern embedded in the Great Commission Grant, which has been put on hold until we develop the Inspiration Grant framework and implementation strategy.  Hope Does is an example of what a small group of LDRS 201 students can do.  Joe Graham teaches LDRS 201 in Belt Cottage for the Emmaus Scholars Program.  We are equally excited about the work Joe does and the way he helps CFL integrate into an existing Hope program.
  • LDRS 231: Entrepreneurship is now Leading the Start-Up Process.  Entrepreneurship is a start-up process.  But more broadly, introducing any change means understanding the customer and consumer, influencer, decider, etc. and the source of the underlying pain or problem, and being willing to continue to modify the solution and business model until we find the ones that work. Recent alums Scott Brandonisio, Russell Fyfe, and Sam Tzou of Ring Cam have helped me tremendously in making this course more relevant, as has Seth Getz.  Alum Jordan Rose, while a student, wrote a very popular paper on what he learned.
  • LDRS 291: Leadership and Service I is now Becoming an Influential Leader.  One thing we all struggle with is how to influence others.  But our influence is not solely a matter of technique — even though we think and are told it is.  Much more deeply, it is a matter changing ourselves.  Doug Ruch will also join me in teaching this course.
  • LDRS 391: Leadership and Service II is now LDRS 292: The Trusted Adviser.  Another thing we all struggle with in the advising professions (accounting, consulting, law, medicine, nursing, sales, teaching) is giving advice.  The foundation of advising is trust.  Laurie Bos and Brenda VanderMeulen are now teaching this course.

Steve's pictures

CFL Consulting

  • We now have 15 active clients and 35 actively-engaged students (part-time employees).
  • Jim Cnossen and Virgil Gulker are leading an orientation program for new project leaders.
  • Tim Haines and I continue to beta-test and experiment with CFL’s new Digital Marketing Managed Internship Program (DMMIP).
  • We launched Consulting AcademE to develop our student consultants even more.
  • We created a LinkedIn site to help promote our students.
  • We are becoming known as strategy consultants specializing in early stage companies, ideas, and organizations.

Consulting AcademE #1 Jan 20 2015

CFL Incubator

IMG_2815 copy


We have to get the word out — to enhance our word-of-mouth communication among students and community members.  What we do at CFL is different.

Think of when personal computers, microwave oven, or even cars were knew.  As Henry Ford supposedly said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”  What he gave them was a better traveling experience.

We don’t want to offer our student a faster or more convenient version of the academic program; rather, we want to offer them something that complements it, that helps them discern their gifts and calling, prepares them for work, and transitions them out of college with courage and confidence.  We want to add value to the college transition experience.

Unfortunately, people don’t know what they don’t know.  Many alumni tell us they wish Hope had what we offer when they were students.  But students don’t have the benefit of hindsight — to look back on their college experience — at least not yet!   Personally, as an undergrad I was an English major and without CFL-like experiences it took me until I was 30 to know what I should have known about myself at 22.  So we have to get the word out.  We need your help.

We are dependent on you not only for talking to others, but also for CFL itself.  The good news is that we are becoming known as a resource to our students and to the community which they serve and as change agents in higher education.

This is reflected in slow growing popularity of our CFL Instagram account and our CFL Blog, which has also reached important milestones:

  • Over 25,000 Pageviews (since September 2013)
  • Over 77 Pageviews per day
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Total
2013 1,098 943 992 486 3,519
2014 1,304 1,119 979 938 921 660 913 1,192 1,684 2,925 1,850 1,540 16,025
2015 1,851 2,790 888 5,529

Average per Day

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Overall
2013 50 30 33 16 31
2014 42 40 32 31 30 22 29 38 56 94 62 50 44
2015 60 100 68 77


All Time Most Popular Posts


Thank You!

Having reached those milestones and accomplished those pivots, I have many people to thank for helping us get here.   When I start thinking about who to thank, it soon becomes apparent that the list is very long.  My apologies if I’ve overlooked your name.

A heartfelt thanks to:

  • Margo Aposteleris, Marc Boersma, Zach Diener, Stuart Fraser, Matt Gira, Jessica Granger, Sophie Guetzko, Steve Holm, Cara Johnson, Ryan Johnson, Raechel Kamphuis, Jonathon Maat, Amy Morrow, Kelsie Nyenhuis, Evelyn Ritter, Macall Smith, Liping Wang, Matt Wright and all the other HEI Awardees and LDRS 231 students before them who helped us build our model for developing entrepreneurs and a good reputation.
  • Margo Aposteleris, Tim Bloemendaal, Christin Bothe, Kate Brudos, Ryan Campbell, Chelsea Chamberlain, Chalalai Chomchan, Zach Diener, Emily Forster, Alex Frederickson, Sophie Guetzko, Erik Groothuis, Laurel Hall, Ryan Havey, Israel Hipolito, JaLisa Hoekstra, Maddie Huegli, Alex Huss, Anysie Ishimwe, Ryan Johnson, Shanissa Johnson, Ivy Keen, Seth Layman, Jonathon Maat, Brennan Mange, Charles McCalla, Ellie McLaren, Rochelle Miller, Amy Napier, Kelsie Nyenhuis, Stefanie Olesh, Michael Savage, Ben Schipper, Stacy Sienkiewicz, Elizabeth Siepker, Bridget Stenger, Brandon Tarallo, Holly Thompson, Taylor Trapani, Adam VanderPloeg, Ryan VanderPloeg, Matt VanDixhorn, Olivia Volkmann, Tyson Walton and Consultants and LDRS 391/292 students before them who helped us build our model for developing advisers and a good reputation.
  • Robyn Allison, Doug Bazuin, Doug Breuker, Keith Buys, Scott Daigger, Kurt Dykema, Jennifer Fellinger, Matt Gira, Jessica Granger, Michael Gulker, Carl Heideman, Doug Huesdash, Stacy Jackson, Paul Kuiper, Jeremy Latchaw, Lisa Mathews, Brent Mulder, Lance Pellow, Ed Rietman, Mick Schorle, Jim Sullivan, Grace Theisen, Mark Tucker, Sam Tzou, Tim VandeBunte, Ross Vande Wege, Kevin Virta, Scott Waller and our clients past and future who understand our dual role — the value of what our students and practitioners can offer and our leadership development process.
  • Tracy Bolo, Peter Baumgarden, Laurie Bos, Becca Currey, Jim Cnossen, Mark deRoo, Russell Fyfe, Marcus Fila, Virgil Gulker, Tim Haines, Paul Jones, Sarah Kolean, Jeremy Latchaw, Ben Lichtenwalner, Kon Marcus, Gary Nielsen, Rob Pocock, Doug Ruch, Tim Schoonveld, Jon Soderstrom, Kathy Stanek, Sam Tzou, Mike Valz, Brenda VanderMeulen, Steve Wells, our project leaders, subject matter experts, and practitioner leaders who lead by asking great questions!
  • Margo Aposteleris, Laurie Bos, Veronica Bosgraaf, Scott Brandonisio, Cam Brieden, Tony Castillo, Jim Cnossen, Henry Cherry, Matt Gira, Sophie Guetzko, Jessica Granger, Chip George, Tim Haines, Jeanette Hoyer, Chris Jackson, Raechel Kamphuis, Denise Kingdom Grier, Andy McCoy, Phil Miller, Jeff Pett, Matt Rutter, Sam Tzou, Steve Wells, Ken Van Der Wende, Christina Tassoni VanTil, Dirk VerMeulen and all the people who visited my classes and Consulting AcademE this year and in years past, not to mention all those who have visited Brenda’s, Laurie’s, Tim’s, and Virgil’s classes, who inspire our students.
  • Sarah Kolean
  • Tom Pratt, whose encouragement I need.
  • Barb Mackey, who responds to my email updates.
  • HASP for inviting us (CFL Incubator) to present to their members.
  • Jodi Beckman, Tracy Bolo, Marty Boysen, Scott Brandonisio, Jessica Daly, Kathy DeVries, Dave Engel, Sheri Geddes, Seth Getz, Doug Iverson, Chris Jackson, Abbey Johnston, John Johnston, Chad Kleinheksel, Kathy MacLean, Tracey Nally, Brian Pageau, Nick Reister, Jim Schoettle, David Stavenger, Dave Tapley, Ken Van Der Wende, Jodi Vanderwel, Mike Valz, Steve Wells, Mari Wielopolski, Rick Wielpolski and the many pitch judges who have helpfully advised our entrepreneurial students over the years.
  • Rachel Bishop, Cheryl Cnossen, Hilary DeBoer, Kristi Dunn, Leah Dykstra, Karen Goodwin, Choonghee Han, Dennis Hendrix, Diane Jones, Paul Jones, Glenn Lowe, Paul Olesh, Nancy Miller, Pete Palazzolo, Abby Reeg, Tim Schoonveld, Bill Swets, Dave Tapley, Brenda VanderMeulen, Rick Zweering, and the many mentors who have walked with our students over the years.
  • Jennifer Fellinger, Shandra Martinez, Greg Olgers, Lynne Powe, Tom Renner, Sarah Skirpin, Brian VanOchten, and the many others who have helped get our stories and blog posts into the media.
  • My Economics and Business colleagues (Peter Boumgarden, Sarah Estelle, Marcus Fila, Sheri Geddes, Doug Iverson, Stacy Jackson, Marty LaBarge, John Lunn, Sarah McCoy, Steve McMullen, David Phillips, Brian Porter, Tom Smith, Todd Steen, Doreen Tank, Vicki TenHakken, Melyn VandenBerg) for encouraging us (CFL staff) to move into their VanZoeren Hall neighborhood and partner with them!
  • Janice Aslanian (ENGL 214), Carol DeJong (Registrar), Vanessa Greene (Director Multicultural Education), Mark Husbands (Director of Emmaus Scholars), Andy McCoy (Director of Center for Ministry Studies),  Bill Pannapacker (Director of Mellon Scholars Program and tireless supporter of the Digital Humanities), Alison and Aaron Schantz (Voorhees Hall) and many other faculty who have assisted our students, encouraged us, and sent students our way.
  • Our friends in Admissions, Campus Ministries, Career Development Center, and Student Life who have assisted our students, encouraged us, and referred students to us.
  • Our friends in CIT, Development, Physical Plant, and the Registrar’s Office for providing us the resources we need.
  • Jim Boelkins, Jim Bultman, Stacy Jackson, John Knapp, Nancy Miller, Rich Ray, Todd Steen, and Scott VanderStoep, administrators past and present who gave us the room to run.
  • Our donors.
  • To those who pay the tuition bills.
  • Jill, my wife, for understanding.
  • To everyone who reads this fledgling blog.  It matters!


To God be the glory!

It’s time to get started.

Run with us.

Join the Movement.

Students, Get More Experiences — Experiences That Matter!

Rom 174 Spring 2015 Idea PitchAt age 22, more than 30 years ago, I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a nearly completed Minor in Business from a fine Christian liberal arts college.  I would not trade that education for another.  However, when I started looking for a post-college job, I didn’t know who I was and what I could do.  It took my until I was 30 years old to begin to find out.  It shouldn’t have taken so long but while in college I didn’t engage in the type of applied learning experiences that would help me learn about myself and the professional work world.  In short, experiences that matter where not available and if they had been I still would have needed a push from my peers or professors to engage in them for I would not have sought them out.

Post-graduation I faced this dilemma:

“How do I get relevant experience — experience that will help me understand my gifts and calling, and give me courage and confidence to know what I’m looking for and get a great internship or meaningful full-time job?”

When my son graduated from the same institution 22 years later with a Bachelor of Arts in History and a Minor in Sociology.  Post-graduation he faced the same dilemma.

We weren’t alone then and many students graduating from the Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences, and Applied and Natural Sciences face the same dilemma today.  Fortunately, Hope students have many curricular and co-curricular opportunities to get experiences — experiences that matter.   These experiences emphasize:

  • Calling
  • Career-Orientation
  • Centeredness (on the student’s holistic development)
  • Coaching
  • Collaborative, Community-Based, Cross-Cultural, Cross-Disciplinary, Cross-Generational Learning
  • Critical Thinking

And now Hope students have even more great experiences to choose from.

The mission of the Center for Faithful Leadership is to help students (1) discern their gifts and calling, (2) prepare for work, and (3) transition from college.  The tension of the above “Catch 22″ and the belief that we are all gifted with unique skills and passions and opportunities waiting to be discovered and developed for the glory of God has motivated that purpose.  Thus over time we have created and improved four experiential stand-alone courses and two related flagship programs.

The four stand-alone courses are:

  • LDRS 201: Introduction to Inspirational Leadership — 2 credit hours.  This course helps students become more self-aware in the context of servant leadership and in viewing leadership in terms of their gifts and calling.  Students are challenged to think about leadership that is counter-cultural and from a Christian perspective with the hopes that they will use it to inspire, influence and impact their world.  Here is how one student team was inspired after taking LDRS 201: the Hope Does story.  This course is required for Emmaus Scholars students and also serves as an elective in the MIN minor.
  • LDRS 231: Leading the Start-Up Process — 4 credit hours.  This course takes helps students be creative and put into practice their imagination.  They develop their own for-profit or non-profit business ideas using the “Four Steps to the Epiphany” process:  Customer Discover, Customer Validation, Customer Creation, and Company Creation.  This course also serves as “boot camp” and is the prerequisite for the HEI Award in the CFL Incubator.  This course also serves as an elective in the MGMT major.
  • LDRS 291: Becoming an Influential Leader — 2 credit hours.  This course helps students reflect on and understand four perspectives on influence and put into practice both transactional and transformational strategies for change.  As in LDRS 201, Students are challenged to think about leadership that is counter-cultural and from a Christian perspective with the hopes that they will use it to inspire, influence and impact their world. This course, along with LDRS 292, also serves as an elective in the MGMT major and in the MIN minor.
  • LDRS 292: The Trusted Adviser — 2 credit hours.  This course examines how to build trusting relationships in order to better lead and serve. It is designed for those students who intend to work in the advisory professions (e.g., accounting, consulting, engineering, financial services, law, public relations, etc.) and gives students the opportunity to positively influence clients and team members. This course also serves as a “boot camp” and prerequisite for CFL Consulting.

CFL’s two flagship programs are:

  • CFL Consulting We recruit students from all disciplines to help organizations test and develop their ideas.  Selected students work as employees in small groups with coaches and mentors and subject matter experts for real organizations.  In the process of applying what they have learned in their majors and in the liberal arts to understand problems and create recommendations for both non-profit and for-profit organizations, they learn more about who they are and what they can do.

To prepare students from any major should enroll in:

LDRS 291: Becoming an Influential Leader (recommended)

LDRS 292: The Trusted Adviser (required)

Here’s a fun student recruiting video

  • CFL Incubator  We recruit students from all disciplines who wish to test and develop their own ideas.  Selected students work as employees surrounded with coaching and mentoring to develop their own organizations.  In the process of applying what they have learned in their majors and in the liberal arts to understand problems and test solutions they learn more about who they are and what they can do.

To prepare students from any major should enroll in:

LDRS 201: Introduction to Inspirational Leadership (recommended)

LDRS 231: Leading the Start-Up Process (required)

March 9 2015 40-degreesWe currently support 15 students with our HEI Award and over 30 students as CFL Consultants.

Click here to read some Student Stories.

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There are students like me who need a push.  Please give them one to get more experiences —  Experiences That Matter!   They will thank you for it.  And I thank you now!

To learn more about the CFL, click here.

To learn more about important CFL milestones recently reached, click here.

Questions?  Email

Spring 2015 Idea Pitch and Learn Awardees

Congratulations to our awardees!

Thank you to our judges!

Idea Pitch and Learn March 2015 Fiona Steve

Awardees: Steve Holmes, Fiona Ye

Judges: Russell Fyfe, Chris Jackson, Abbey Johnston, Rick Wielopolski

Idea Pitch and Learn March 2015 Lina Ellie Zane Ryan

Awardees: Ellie Brady, Zane Griffin, Ryan Johnson, Lina Lash

Judges: Dave Engel, Chad Kleinheksel, Brian Pageau, David Tapley

Idea Pitch and Learn March 2015 Lauren and Graham

Awardees: Lauren Krug, Graham VanderHeide

Judges: Seth Getz, Sophie Guetzko, John Johnston, Sam Tzou

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Awardees: Kelsie Nyhuis, Matt Wright

Judges: Jessica Daly, Matt Gira, Jim Schoettle, Mari Wielopolski

To learn more about the CFL Incubator Pitch and Learn Competition, click here.

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To learn more about CFL Incubator, click here.