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Entrepreneurship Program Gains Momentum

October 31, 2012

Isaac Holeman ’09 was a sophomore attending a campus event when he overheard a woman at the next table who sounded interesting. After the event, he “cornered her,” he says, and introduced himself to Dana Plautz ’82, who gave him her business card.

Plautz, a business executive who had worked for various entertainment companies in Hollywood and most recently at Intel, was interested in mentoring current students who are sometimes reticent about networking with alumni.

“But of course Isaac called me—that’s the kind of young man he is,” Plautz says. Holeman wanted to pick her brain about a business plan for a start-up he had been thinking about. They arranged to meet for coffee in the Trail Room.

“My first question was, ‘Dana, is this insane?’” says Holeman, adding that the meeting with Plautz was his first-ever opportunity to sit down with an experienced businessperson to talk about his ideas. “I remember leaving that conversation with a confidence boost.”

Fast-forward about five years. Holeman’s vision has transformed into Medic Mobile, a nonprofit organization that uses mobile technology to enable health-related communications between medical workers and patients, primarily in Africa, but also in Asia and South America. By using Medic Mobile’s suite of tools, users can deploy a basic mobile phone to access patient health records, send appointment reminders, or access medical information or emergency assistance.

Holeman can trace his success story to his encounter with Plautz. Although he prizes the liberal arts education he received at Lewis & Clark (he majored in biochemistry and molecular biology), he missed, as a budding entrepreneur, having a business mentor. The advice Plautz gave him during that meeting and subsequent follow-ups—how to create a business plan, how to sell yourself and your idea—helped shape his thinking about what it means to be a successful entrepreneur making a difference in the world.

Entrepreneurial skills, such as how to make a pitch, aren’t covered in a traditional academic environment. That’s why Holeman and Plautz are both backing an effort to develop an interdisciplinary entrepreneurship center at Lewis & Clark that would give students with an entrepreneurial bent the foundation to pursue such careers. While the plan is still in its early stages, Holeman says that “a free-thinking liberal arts college characterized by wide-ranging study is better suited than any business school” to incubate young entrepreneurs.

“Our best students and most accomplished alumni have always been intellectual leaders and innovators,” says Brian Detweiler-Bedell, an associate professor of psychology who is chairing the center’s steering committee. “Isaac and Dana epitomize the extraordinary students, alumni, and mentoring partnerships that this program will support. If, 10 years from now, the center regularly fosters such partnerships and further challenges and enables students like Isaac and Dana to accomplish great things, the program will be a huge success.”

As the project is in the beginning stages, we would love to hear from you about what you think would be beneficial to incorporate into the program. Please take a brief survey! Alumni - here. Parents - here.


by Romel Hernandez

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