Offered for the first time next spring, a new course is exposing undergrad students to an emerging hotbed of entrepreneurship. Students in MGMT 3010 will spend spring break in Cuba—where for the first time in a half century, enterprising citizens are leveraging opportunities to cultivate their own businesses.
“It’s a major moment in history for Cuba,” says Senior Lecturer Steve Spruth, who will teach the class. “Right now, we’re seeing the Cuban government open different categories of businesses that entrepreneurs can enter. They can own cars that offer tours, they can turn their houses into bed and breakfasts, they can turn their living rooms into restaurants—we’re seeing these explosions within certain categories within Cuba.”
Aspiring entrepreneurs can derive valuable lessons from the emerging market in Cuba. According to Spruth, it’s crucial for innovators to scan the globe for new business opportunities as the U.S. market becomes saturated.
“Moving into the future, all the big growth markets are outside the U.S. The best thing an entrepreneur can do is see an emerging place in the world and do an intelligent assessment on how to enter that market. If someone can do that for Cuba, they can do it around the world,” he says.
For several weeks prior to their visit, participants in MGMT 3010 will learn about the Cuban economic and political landscape. They’ll spend a week in Havana exploring businesses ranging from sugar cane producers, to upstarts like restaurants and taxi services, and co-ops.
While in Cuba, they will make a business pitch to a local entrepreneur. And based on their feedback, the students will rewrite their original business plan.
Spruth encourages the students to open themselves up to some new insights about the nature of entrepreneurship throughout the process.
“There is this bias that you can take the things that are good in the U.S. and bring them to Cuba. But it might turn out that Cuba has their own hidden assets,” he says. “You have to start by listening before you offer solutions. We want our students to be good ethnographers—to listen, to learn, to collaborate.”