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From Where, Initial Funding for Fab Lab ICC Part 1

Jim Correll, director Fab Lab ICC at Independence Community College, Independence Kansas 

We routinely receive requests from other communities to come to Fab Lab ICC for tours. Generally, such communities have heard about Fab Lab ICC or other fab labs and maker spaces and ask to come and see what we have. We recently hosted such a group from Okmulgee Oklahoma. The group leader there had attended my presentation at the National Main Street conference in Kansas City last March. 

The groups touring have many questions, but the first nearly always is "How did you get the funding to get started?" I've been asked this many times, recently by a person that helps communities with entrepreneurial economic development. So, as they say on television "This is my story…." 

The story of the origin and initial funding of Fab Lab ICC is a story of unlikely networking and unplanned collisions of people and experiences. Some would use the term "coincidence" but I don't believe in coincidence. 

The collisions started with my revelation about entrepreneurial education in October of 2011 when I met Gary Schoeniger and Clifton Taulbert at a conference in Portland Oregon. Gary is founder of the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative, developers of the Ice House Entrepreneurship program. Clifton Taulbert is an internationally recognized speaker and Pulitzer nominated author. In a totally unplanned collision, Gary met Clifton in his home town of Tulsa Oklahoma while Gary was in town to video-interview a different successful entrepreneur. With a half-day remaining until his scheduled flight to return home, he asked a couple of people if they knew any other good entrepreneurs to interview. Someone came up with Clifton's name and when Gary called him, Clifton graciously agreed to a short-notice interview. 

In the interview, Clifton revealed that he learned everything he knew about entrepreneurship back in the late 1950's on the Mississippi Delta in a still segregated south. At this time, all African-American men and teenage boys went to the cotton fields every day to labor. All, that is, except Clifton's Uncle Cleve. Uncle Cleve owned the only ice house in the small town of Glen Allan Mississippi. Cleve had little start-up money and certainly no formal business education, yet he managed his own business. When Clifton was 13 years old, Cleve asked him to go to work for him in the ice business. Clifton went on to help bring the Stairmaster to market and later owned substantial interest in one of the Tulsa banks. All while becoming an international speaker and author. 

After the interview with Gary Schoeniger, the two spent several months getting to know each other and eventually co-authored a book called "Who Owns the Ice House?" The book is organized around eight life's lessons from an unlikely entrepreneur. The Ice House Entrepreneurship program was developed around the lessons in the book using video interviews from dozens of entrepreneurs telling their stories. Turns out, all the entrepreneurs in the video series, and the local entrepreneurs who come to our classes as guests, talk about the eight lessons in one way or another. 

When I found out about Ice House, I knew it was the revelation I'd been searching for as far as a means to inspire and educate people about entrepreneurship and small business ownership. Although I've always considered myself quite entrepreneurial, exposure to Ice House and the related way of thinking about problem-solving led me down a path that has resulted in the development of Fab Lab ICC and related initial funding. We'll cover that in the next column. 

Jim Correll is the director of Fab Lab ICC at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on the campus of Independence Community College. He can be reached at (620) 252-5349, by email at jcorrell@indycc.edu or Twitter @jimcorrellks.  


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