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Written by Shanthal Perera

Entrepreneurship has captured the modern zeitgeist. It’s a concept that has been glamourized by Hollywood movies and television, with the help of gritty and glitzy underdog stories of unicorn ventures.

Most entrepreneurs will tell you this image is a far cry from reality, however, that shouldn’t diminish how important entrepreneurship is in a fast-changing world.

With the rise of new technologies causing major disruptions across industries, the ability of entrepreneurs to recognize opportunity, adapt, and be resilient will be essential to how economies adjust to this new framework.

But entrepreneurship wasn’t always the buzzword it is today, particularly on university campuses. It took years for the field to establish itself as a legitimate curriculum and research area. It’s a narrative that relates closely to the history of entrepreneurship at the Ivey Business School.

Today, Ivey’s Pierre L. Morrissette Institute for Entrepreneurship serves students and entrepreneurs at multiple levels, providing support through ideation to launch, to managing high growth. And through its Business Families Centre, the Institute has continued to support a segment that has played a defining role in Canada’s past and will continue to ensure the economic health of its future.

With the expansion of entrepreneurship to solve social problems around the world, the Institute has embraced practitioners and research in areas of prosocial organizing and social enterprises. In 2017, the Institute had the honour of hosting a rare special issue conference defining the research landscape in the field of social entrepreneurship with many of the top minds in the field.

An Ivey degree is the road to Entrepreneurship. Learn more about our Entrepreneurship Certificate.
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Entrepreneurship’s early beginnings at Ivey

Entrepreneurship’s early beginnings at Ivey

Entrepreneurship’s early beginnings at Ivey

Entrepreneurship’s early beginnings at Ivey

Entrepreneurship’s early beginnings at Ivey

Entrepreneurship’s early beginnings at Ivey

Despite decades of developing entrepreneurs through the Western Business School, and later the Richard Ivey School of Business, entrepreneurship as a phenomenon of interest was first launched in 1995 under the Institute for Entrepreneurship, Innovation & Growth.

During this early term, the Institute was led by Professor David Shaw, and later Professor Ken Hardy, both now Emeritus. The Institute's initial focus was to create case studies unique to entrepreneurship and family business, while teaching the core principles of business plan development. However, there were no dedicated faculty in Entrepreneurship.

In the early 2000s, Stewart Thornhill, a professor of Strategy, was able to entice Eric Morse, who at the time was teaching at the University of Victoria, to visit Ivey and look into the possibility of teaching entrepreneurship as the discipline’s first dedicated faculty member. Morse recalls meeting the late former dean Larry Tapp, who asked him to “create an entrepreneurship institute of note.”

Morse and Stewart proceeded to build curriculum, a faculty group around an academic discipline, and a vision for entrepreneurship at the School. One of the group’s earliest hires was David Simpson, MBA ’88, who was an experienced local entrepreneur. Simpson began teaching courses, such as Leading Family Business, and Entrepreneurial Finance (which remains the most popular entrepreneurship course at Ivey with more than 200 registrants each year). New Venture Creation, and Managing High Growth, along with the New Venture Project, formed the foundation of entrepreneurship education at Ivey.

The New Venture Project is an entrepreneurial, team-based Ivey Field Project where students develop, plan, and pitch a commercial venture.

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“Unfortunately, the School hadn’t caught up to how enthusiastic our faculty and students had become. They gave us little classroom time; they gave us few classrooms. So it was like a secret society for a while. We would meet in the evening and I would organize the teams … and over time the students started to have fun with this, so the School had to respond and react.”

David Simpson, MBA ’88, Entrepreneurship Lecturer and Director of the Business Families Centre

Enter Pierre Morrissette

Enter Pierre Morrissette

Enter Pierre Morrissette

Enter Pierre Morrissette

Enter Pierre Morrissette

Enter Pierre Morrissette

The School's leadership had compiled an illustrious group of entrepreneurs to form the Institute’s Advisory Council in 1998. During Morse’s term, former Advisory Council Chairman David Anyon, MBA ’97, of Vintex Inc. proved instrumental in introducing Morse to Pierre Morrissette, MBA ’72, of Pelmorex Media.

“He was passionate about entrepreneurship from the first time I met him, maybe a little skeptical of what the School could do, but absolutely passionate about what the possibilities were going forward,” said Morse.

In 2006, Morrissette committed $2.5 million to entrepreneurship at Ivey. The funding also allowed the Institute to recruit some of the top academics from both sides of the Atlantic, creating bandwidth to provide more course offerings to students and entrepreneurs. In recognition and appreciation of the gift, the Institute was renamed the Pierre L. Morrissette Institute for Entrepreneurship. In 2010, Morrissette donated an additional $2-million gift and has continued to be a guiding presence of the Ivey Entrepreneurship Advisory Council.

Learn more about Ivey’s Entrepreneurship faculty.
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Creating a legacy

Creating a legacy

Creating a legacy

Creating a legacy

Creating a legacy

Creating a legacy

Throughout the past decade, the Institute has created a proud legacy of what it does best. Since 2005, more than 2,500 students have completed Ivey’s New Venture stream, and more than 500 students have completed the Certificate in Entrepreneurship, a suite of courses designed to provide the vital tools required for creating a startup. Today, Ivey students across every degree program have options in entrepreneurship with more than a dozen courses covering various points of the new venture process.

“From a curriculum standpoint, we take people all the way from idea generation to product in the market, and there are very few places that can do that,” said Morse. Today, MBA students completing the New Venture Project can spend their final semester working on their startup for course credit at the newly established Western Accelerator.

Furthermore, the Institute has grown a number of extracurricular entrepreneurship experiences. This January, the Institute hosted the 20th edition of the IBK Capital – Ivey Business Plan Competition, an event that has gathered entrepreneurs from across Canada, the United States, Thailand, and India. Furthermore, the Institute added an undergraduate competition with the support of Spin Master Limited in 2017.

Other long-standing successes include the QuantumShift™ program, which has produced approximately 600 graduates during its 15-year run.

“They are highly successful Canadian entrepreneurs who are moving the dial, providing employment, adding to the GDP and our quality of life, and they have a piece of their journey here at Ivey,” said Morse.

The program, which is supported by KPMG Enterprise, The Globe and Mail, and TD Bank, has recently been replicated in the U.S. due to its overwhelming success in Canada. The Institute also created a program specifically for family members taking a leadership/management role in their family business, with FamilyShift™. Furthermore, the Business Development Bank of Canada has partnered with the Institute to create and power their executive program to arm high-growth Canadian entrepreneurs with the tools required to take their ventures to the next level.

In the field of research, Ivey Entrepreneurship hosted the Babson College Entrepreneurship Research Conference in 2014, becoming the first Canadian Institution to do so since 1988. Often considered to be the pinnacle of entrepreneurship research, the conference brought together 300 of the world’s top scholars in the field of entrepreneurship. Ivey is also a founding member of the Great Lakes Entrepreneurship Network conference, and has hosted special issue conferences with the Journal of Business Venturing and Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice.

More Than a Decade of Leadership

Growing outside the Ivey classroom

Growing outside the Ivey classroom

Growing outside the Ivey classroom

The popularity of entrepreneurship has also extended opportunities with local high school programs, as well as the Ivey Summer Leadership program for high-achieving high school students.

With the recent establishment of the Western Accelerator, entrepreneurship has shown tremendous growth throughout Western University and its different faculties; and the Institute has played a significant leadership role in providing workshops, courses, and strategic direction.

Watch a video that tells the story of how entrepreneurship at Ivey transformed from a single dedicated faculty member to become a global leader in entrepreneurship education and research.

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“We are excited for what the future holds, and we’re just getting started.”

Eric Morse, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Executive Director of the Pierre L. Morrissette Institute for Entrepreneurship

See the history of Entrepreneurship at Ivey

See the history of Entrepreneurship at Ivey

See the history of Entrepreneurship at Ivey

    • 1995

      Formation of the Institute for Entrepreneurship Innovation & Growth with David Shaw leading it.

    • 1998

      Ken Hardy takes leadership of the Institute.

    • 1999

      Ivey introduces the MBA Business Plan Competition.

    • 2002

      Eric Morse becomes Executive Director of the Institute and Ivey's first full-time faculty member in the field of Entrepreneurship.

      Ivey hosts a conference for a Special Issue in the Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice Journal, entitled "Toward a Theory of Entrepreneurial Cognition: Rethinking the People Side of Entrepreneurship Research."

    • 2003

      Introduction of the New Venture Project.

    • 2004

      IBK Capital Corp. becomes the named sponsor of the MBA Business Plan Competition.

      The Institute partners with KPMG Enterprise to create the QuantumShift™ program for mid-sized entrepreneurs.

    • 2005

      The Institute introduces the Certificate in Entrepreneurship for HBA and MBA students.

    • 2006

      Pierre Morrissette, MBA '72, provides a gift of $2.5 million.

      Institute renamed Pierre Morrissette Institute for Entrepreneurship in honour of Morrissette's gift.

    • 2007

      Ivey hosts a conference for a Special Issue in Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, entitled "The central question in entrepreneurial cognition research 2007".

    • 2008

      Stewart Thornhill becomes Executive Director.

    • 2010

      Pierre Morrissette donates an additional $2 million.

    • 2011

      The Institute's Research Centre helps initiate the Great Lakes Entrepreneurship Network (GLEN) with six U.S. partner schools.

    • 2013

      David Simpson becomes Interim Executive Director.

    • 2014

      The Institute hosts the prestigous Babson College Entrepreneurship Research Conference.

    • 2015

      Eric Morse returns to lead the Institute as Executive Director.

      The Institute introduces the Deloitte Entrepreneurship Bootcamp with Ash Singh, HBA ’04.

    • 2016

      The Institute introduces the Spin Master - Ivey HBA Business Plan Competition for undergraduate students.

      The Institute partners with Western University to launch the first on-campus accelerator.

    • 2017

      The Institute hosts the Journal of Business Venturing Special Issue Symposium on pro-social organizing.

      The Institute powers the Business Development Bank of Canada’s Growth Driver Program.