DePaul Spotlight on Dr. Terri Lonier

Chicago Family Business Council: First, let us welcome you again to DePaul, and now can you tell us a little bit about your department?

Terri Lonier: Thank you again. The Coleman Entrepreneurship Center is celebrating its 10th year as DePaul’s entrepreneurial hub for students, alumni, faculty and staff. It’s a partner to the university’s acclaimed academic entrepreneurship program, which has been recognized as one of the top 25 programs in the country for nearly 20 years, under the leadership of Professor Harold Welsch. We offer individual consulting, seminars and workshops with entrepreneurial professionals, and programs such as our new venture competition – Launch DePaul – all designed to help DePaul students and alumni launch and grow successful companies. We’re the place where theory meets practice, and entrepreneurial ideas come to life.

CFBC: Tell us why you chose to come to DePaul

TL: I was drawn to DePaul because it is known as a university with strong academics that prepares students to succeed in the working world. There’s a great diversity in our students, both in terms of their backgrounds as well as their career aspirations. I also appreciate DePaul’s Catholic heritage, and of course, the fact that it’s in Chicago – my favorite city in the country.

CFBC: What was your first impression of DePaul?

TL: I think of DePaul as a “best of both worlds” place. It’s a large university with a warm, small-college feel. It has a downtown urban campus as well as a more traditional campus in Lincoln Park. And at our Coleman Entrepreneurship Center, we bring together what students learn in the classroom with real-world business experience.

CFBC: What has been the most rewarding aspect of your work with DePaul, and why?

TL: Every day brings a new opportunity for the faculty and staff at the Center to help students make their entrepreneurial dreams come true. Whether it is one-on-one coaching or our workshops and seminars that bring together students, alumni, and the Chicago entrepreneurial community, it’s very satisfying to see the connections being made and new businesses launched. As an entrepreneur, it’s also rewarding to know that sharing my experience can help shave years off of someone else’s learning curve.

CFBC: What has been your greatest lesson you’ve learned through your work at DePaul?

TL: I’m still relatively new, and I keep discovering the many resources of the university. Because entrepreneurship touches students across the entire DePaul campus, I’m very focused on building bridges across departments, programs, and other centers. Just as every entrepreneur knows, you must leverage your resources of time, energy, and finance to achieve results. In our case, results are measured in the impact we have with our students, the reach we achieve across the DePaul community, and the contribution we can make to the vitality of the broader entrepreneurial ecosystem.

CFBC: How could you serve as a resource for the CFBC members, and how could they serve as a resource for you?

TL: I am very impressed with CFBC and the rich variety of programs and resources you offer. Judy and I have already begun to brainstorm the numerous ways that our organizations can work together. There are many potential synergies, from CFBC members serving as mentors to students or as judges for our venture competitions, to CFBC members tapping into the advising resources of the Coleman Entrepreneurship Center. In addition, co-sponsored programming can serve CFBC members as well as DePaul students and alumni, enabling us both to expand our reach.

CFBC: What would you tell our members who are thinking about working with DePaul?

TL: DePaul students are brimming with creativity and eager to interact with entrepreneurial professionals from all industries. We will soon be launching a more structured advising process that will make it easy for business owners to connect with students. These interactions can range from a single half-hour session to an ongoing mentoring relationship. We’ll be experimenting with what works best for both the entrepreneurs as well as the students, and would very much enjoy having CFBC members involved.

CFBC: What do you do when you aren't working?

TL: That’s like asking a fish what they do when they aren’t swimming! I’m an entrepreneur, so even in my dreams I’m thinking up new ideas that enhance the entrepreneurial spirit. I’m also a certified docent for the Chicago Architecture Foundation, so on weekends you may find me giving architectural tours of the many celebrated skyscrapers in downtown Chicago.

CFBC: What one book would you recommend to our members?

TL: My own small business books are currently out of print, so I’d like to nominate those of two colleagues. I’ve been friends with Seth Godin and Dan Pink for more than a decade, and their work continues to inspire me on a regular basis. They both have new books out – Seth’s The Icarus Deception looks at thriving in an economy that needs more courage and less compliance, while Dan’s To Sell Is Human shares insights on sales, persuasion, empathy, and perspective.

CFBC: What in your early work life had an impact or motivated you?

TL: I became involved with the personal computer industry in its very early years, and feel fortunate to have worked with innovative leaders at companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Cisco, H-P and others. I witnessed the birth of an entire industry, one that continues to reinvent itself as technology progresses. My late parents were also a big influence. My dad, a self-employed owner of a television sales and service company, gave me a love of technology as well as entrepreneurial DNA. My mom always let me know that hard work and persistence pay off, and that integrity and attention to detail are the basis of professionalism. Oh, and my Catholic schooling taught me to love language – and how to diagram sentences.

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