At 7 p.m. last night, Grand Valley State University students’ minds were not on the presidential debate or the Detroit Tigers game only hours away.
Instead, about 175 of them were sitting in Loosemore Auditorium at 401 W. Fulton St. listening intently to wisdom dispensed by a leading name among West Michigan’s business entrepreneurs.
Mike Jandernoa, former CEO and chairman of Perrigo Co., spoke as part of GVSU’s Frederik Meijer Lecture Series.
“We bring in two speakers a year, one local and one national,” said Robyn Toth, an assistant for Frederik Meijer Honors College. “This is the fifth speaker since the series started.”
Jandernoa delivered his presentation, “Passion for Entrepreneurship,” and shared his secrets and story with students. As the founder and director of Grand Angels, founder of Jandernoa Entrepreneurial Mentoring and co-founder of Bridge Street Capital, he used his own experiences to emphasize an entrepreneur’s need for passion and the courage to take risks.
“He is the ideal person to speak to us since he’s been such an extraordinarily effective leader over the years,” said Jeff Chamberlain, director of the Frederik Meijer Honors College. “He’s entrepreneurial in everything he does and a good leader.”
Passion is the key to entrepreneurs, Jandernoa said, meaning one has to be comfortable with failure. One edge of the risk is what failure means to your reputation, he said, but the other edge is being willing to take a financial risk and reap the resulting successes.
Jandernoa told the audience the story of Perrigo, founded in 1887 and now worth $11 billion. That journey, he said, took risk and dedication, especially when the company went through two leveraged buyouts in the 1980s.
“In Texas Hold ‘Em terms, we were all in. There were only seven of us, and not only the individuals (were in), but our spouses,” he said. “You can’t do it all on your own. If my wife wasn’t incredibly supportive, I never could have done this.”
Jandernoa drew lessons from his role creating mentorships with the venture capital firm Grand Angels, saying it is essential for a group of experienced businessmen to be “willing to do due diligence and mentor and advise entrepreneurs.”
He ended on a note of hope, encouraging young minds to use their gifts to make a difference in people’s lives.
“To think that we in West Michigan could make a difference in diabetes is a pretty exciting and powerful idea,” he said, finishing up a discussion about Hopen Life Science Venture, a Grand Rapids-based life sciences venture capital fund that is working with Metabolic Solutions Development Co. of Kalamazoo on drugs for Type 2 diabetes. “You’re doing something for mankind and you’re investing at the same time. Doesn’t that sound fun?”