Greg Skloot literally wrote the book on operating a successful student group. As president of the Northeastern University Entrepreneurs Club, he grew participation from a dozen to more than one hundred students per week. Many young entrepreneurs find themselves spending more and more time off campus as their businesses grow (myself included). There are significant costs to this fracture between student and entrepreneurial life. It prevents the success stories from easily giving back and makes it hard for new entrepreneurs to join the broader community. Greg built a community nearly from scratch and I wanted to find out what had driven his success at Northeastern.
Most of the programs at Northeastern look pretty similar to any other school. They have startup competitions, offer web development education, and host speaker events. The overarching difference is in the way the club is structured. It’s easy to find your officers. They’re your founders—the dedicated people who will treat the organization as their brainchild. But past those first few leaders, it’s immensely difficult to put together a team of a dozen people who can work as a cohesive unit and are committed to the cause.
Greg and the rest of the Northeastern Entrepreneurs envisioned the club as a startup. One member heads up each of the major initiatives. They even have an entirely separate committee dedicated to crafting the club’s marketing strategy. This structure has enabled the club to sustain itself and grow. Underclassmen get their feet wet heading up a project and are well prepared for leadership positions. Members are rewarded for initiative more than anything else.
This leadership experience isn’t just another résumé line item. Greg, until recently, was the COO of influencers@, a Boston marketing agency aimed at the 18-24 audience. He was doing everything from payroll to hiring to IT. That’s the unglamorous reality of startups. You have to be willing and able to do everything if you want to succeed. That’s especially true of a student group where there’s substantial churn and everyone’s massively overworked. Northeastern offers a model everyone should carefully examined. A club can truly operate as a startup—defining metrics, building partnerships, creating a brand, and executing on goals. One of the most significant challenges in increasing the profile of entrepreneurship on college campuses is offering motivated students an introduction to the community. The right answer isn’t to send students off campus in search of an ecosystem that supports their passions.