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IUPUI Professor Offers New Look at the Makings of Entrepreneurial Success

Bessie House-Soremekun
Bessie House-Soremekun


February 9, 2010

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Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Indiana (IUPUI) Professor Bessie House-Soremekun would love to talk to President Barack Obama and share her insights on how to jumpstart the American economy.

That would provide another platform for translating her scholarly research on African American businesses into action plans for creating and retaining jobs across all ethnic communities.

In his first State of the Union address, Obama said jobs are to be the No. 1 focus of 2010. Acknowledging America’s businesses as the “true engine of job creation,” he called on lawmakers to create the conditions “necessary for businesses to expand and hire more workers.”

“We should start where most new jobs do -- in small businesses . . . companies that begin when an entrepreneur takes a chance on a dream, or a worker decides it's time she became her own boss . . .”
House-Soremekun’s latest book, “Confronting the Odds: African American Entrepreneurship in Cleveland, Ohio,” is a second, expanded look at entrepreneurial success in Cleveland.

The book, published by the Kent State University Press, includes the life histories of African-American businesses – some successful, others not – and uses statistical analysis to identify numerous factors that contribute to success.

“That is really essentially the most important question that the study addresses,” the professor-author-and entrepreneur said, “Why is it that some businesses succeed while others failed? What are the attributes that define success?”

Her research shows, “financial capital is clearly at the top of the list,” as a requirement for entrepreneurial success, says House-Soremekun, who teaches in the School of Liberal Arts.

Second, is the acquisition of business training – a need which the professor has addressed in the form of establishing four non-profit entrepreneurial training centers. She is still president of two of these, the Entrepreneurial Academy of Greater Cleveland and the National Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc.

Networking skills are also critical for business success.

“My research indicates that entrepreneurs who have high levels of social capital are simply more successful,” said House-Soremekun, who teaches in the School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI.

The book’s firsthand accounts from black business owners, “gives the reader a peek into life as an entrepreneur, including the ugliness and the rewards,” writes internationally acclaimed entrepreneur, author and CEO of Success Source, Unlimited, George C. Fraser in his note to House-Soremekun’s book.

“ ‘Confronting the Odds’ is not only a history lesson, but a bold, in-your-face, multilevel system of strategies and tactics African Americans must engage in to begin the process of closing the income and wealth gap between blacks and whites in America,” Fraser says.

While her research is based on interviews and research of African American entrepreneurs and provides in-depth life histories of several across a 1795-2008 time line, the principles in her “user-friendly” book is a treasure trove of principles applicable across American society, according to House-Soremekun.

“These are universal principles. Two plus two is still four,” the professor says. “African American entrepreneurs have had particularly difficult constraints because of racial barriers and other kinds of hostilities they have experienced, so clearly they have had some unique challenges . . . (however) many of the recommendations here are equally germane for other racial and ethnic communities.

Dr. Bessie House-Soremekun is the Public Scholar in African American Studies, Civic Engagement, and Entrepreneurship; professor of political science; professor of Africana studies; and a Faculty Fellow in the Office of Academic Affairs. She is also an inventor and entrepreneur who has established four non-profit businesses and two for profit businesses including B. House Communications, Inc., and Finders-Keepers International, a technology-based company.


-first posted 2-5-2010