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Q&A with Entrepreneurship@DU’s newest assistant professor, Neil Pollard

Assistant Professor of entrepreneurship Neil Pollard

Neil Pollard is the newest member of the Entrepreneurship@DU team. Born and raised in Canada, he completed his undergraduate degree in entrepreneurship at Brock University in Ontario and his MBA in international business at Griffith University in Australia. He made his way to Colorado in 2008, where he has taught business and entrepreneurship in multiple settings, including starting the entrepreneurship program at the Community College of Aurora. This spring, he is teaching Idea to First Dollar Sale (EVM 3350) and The Fourth Industrial Revolution (BUS 1440) at DU.

Q: How did you come to teach entrepreneurship?

A: When I was in college, I knew for a fact I was going to be the world’s “next great capitalist”—I was going to start some big, beautiful business and do all these wonderful things. I realized pretty quickly that I could have a greater impact, and affect people in a positive way, if I could share my experiences and support other people in their business endeavors. Instead of starting one company, I would get to help other people start hundreds. It always seems much more exciting and impactful to help others with great ideas who don’t have the business sense or the experience to get themselves going. That’s where my passion for education started. I was a high school teacher for a number of years, and then I taught at a two-year college, and now, a four-year college. It’s been a fairly natural progression, but that’s where it all stems from. My wife and I own two companies at the moment as well, so I’m not letting everyone else have all the fun.

Q: What notable memories do you have from helping others develop their ventures?

A: Every entrepreneur you interact with leaves a little impression behind. I could tell a story about all of them. Certainly, one stands out that I can think of. I had the opportunity to work with an entrepreneur who grew up in a different country and came to the United States. She had tried to start two other businesses earlier in her life, and both of them didn’t work out. She found our entrepreneurship program at the Community College of Aurora. Through building that foundation, she has now started her third business and grown it to the point where I believe she employs 22 other people—she has managed to create a life for herself and her family, while sustaining the livelihoods of more than 20 other folks. It was special to be a small part of someone else experiencing that success.

Q: What makes you and Entrepreneurship@DU a good match?

A: I’ve always seen DU through an incredibly positive light—a big part of that is my wife, who is a DU alumna. My family’s ties to DU go back quite a way, and DU is planted firmly in the business and entrepreneurial landscape along the Colorado Front Range and the rest of the country. That’s what you see from the outside looking in. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to interact with some faculty, Professor [Joshua] Ross and the other people leading the program, it’s clear that Daniels has such a different vision from what entrepreneurial education programs are doing across the country. The programs here at DU are really looking to push students to achieve innovative ideas and apply them in practical ways that make people’s lives better. That is something that stands out and I am excited and honored to be a part of it.

Q: What makes a strong education in entrepreneurship so important right now?

A: Every time we go through a period of economic uncertainty or instability, like now, or what we saw in 2001 or 2008, there is this seismic shift that happens in the marketplace. So, we don’t really know what the next couple of years are going to look like. And within those seismic shifts lie opportunities. I think DU specifically, and the students we have the opportunity to interact with, are going to be well-positioned to see those shifts occur and to develop solutions for the problems we see in the wake of COVID-19. Even if our students don’t end up starting businesses but join existing companies, those firms are hungry for creative, empathetic problem solvers that can develop and execute on ideas. They need entrepreneurs, and Entrepreneurship@DU is setting students up for future success. I think DU is a really exciting place to be as we prepare to accelerate out of the situation we are in now.