New director of entrepreneurship

Courtesy Photo /
Kevin McCurren

Courtesy Photo / Kevin McCurren

Marc Maycroft

If you ask J. Kevin McCurren, he would tell you every business – big or small – starts with an idea and a blank piece of paper. And as the Grand Valley State University’s new director of the center for entrepreneurship and innovation at the Seidman College of business, he would know.

McCurren, a seasoned business professional with over 25 years of experience, takes the reins of the entrepreneurial program from Linda Chamberlain. He has been in several fields as an investor, CEO and vice president of various corporations throughout the Midwest. He has over 15 years of experience in start-up companies, a skill he believes will help him in his new position.

“I tell my students that you always have to take a shot,” he said.

A product of the University of Missouri-Columbia, McCurren holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in science and public health. Several of the businesses that McCurren has been involved in are medical or biomedical companies.

McCurren came to Michigan when his wife Cynthia was given the position as dean of the Kirkhof Center’s nursing program at GVSU in 2008. Since then, he has been active in the community, serving on staff for several companies, including on the board for the Great Grand Rapids Bicycling Coalition. His extensive knowledge of building a business from the ground up places him in a position to positively influence the ideas of GVSU students.

In the U.S., more than 600,000 small businesses are opened every year. Of those, more than 500,000 will close according to the U.S. Small Business Association. While many closings can be contributed to the waning economic situation in the country, McCurren suggested that a good idea can overcome the market.

“This is a nontraditional role in teaching,” McCurren said. “The city has taken initiative to say that small business is important to us and we need small businesses to open in our community, whether that be from Grand Valley or elsewhere.”

McCurren said so far, the best thing about his job has been working with the students. He said that there are several very good ideas that students have communicated to him in his short time at GVSU.

The director of entrepreneurship is responsible for overseeing the entrepreneurial program at GVSU. The program helps to develop the ideas and business models for both profit and non-profit ventures. Students are encouraged to develop and maintain business models.

Some of the primary functions of the director position are to teach students how to develop an idea, search for and acquire funding and to turn a profit in business.

With experience in all three, McCurren was involved in the start-up of Regenasight, a biotechnology corporation that was able to acquire $3.5 million in funding and developed an agreement with a Japanese manufacturing corporation.

In the profit industry, Celsus Inc., an allergy, asthma and primary care company, revenue increased from $11 million to $40 million while McCurren served as its vice president. Also, he helped to facilitate a merger with Vivra Inc.

“The best way to describe my position is that I have one foot in the academic and one foot in the community,” McCurren said. “We work together to create an environment to foster ideas.”

McCurren said that the program at GVSU serves more than the for-profit industries. Several models, he said, have been implemented in non-profit organizations across the country, including some that McCurren helped get off the ground. “It’s important to note that GVSU has been very supportive in the community and in developing the next generation of business leaders,” he said.

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