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The Same SAD Story

December 3, 2014

Cultural Entrepreneurship program sparks business ideas

A concourse-connected campus has its consequences. “I actually went to the doctor because I started sleeping so much," says senior Alicia Hayes. "There was a period of time when I slept 12 hours, then another 12 hours, and then I slept 18 hours."

Alicia's doctor told her that she might have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and that she should get a happy light, a lamp that dishes out natural spectrum daylight. She did, and it helped.


Isabella Murphy can commiserate. She remembers her roommate's tough love, dished out after coming home to Isabella's palpable malaise one too many times. Isabella listened to her roommate's advice and started going to the gym and finishing her workout with a cool down run outside. It worked.

Alicia and Isabella's shared experience is common in northern communities with long winters and super-short spurts of sunlight. Now the Cultural Entrepreneurship classmates are in the feasibility assessment stage of a business that illuminates a cure for the condition. “The Prickly Pear is a seasonal café that helps to combat SAD, and it does so in a way that makes people healthier and happier,” explains Alicia. Adds Bella, “It's based on how to get off campus, because that’s the hardest thing I faced when I was a freshman – I never left. I got super depressed.”

They describe the Prickly Pear as a membership-based coffee shop sans coffee. In java's place, customers would find tea and instead of baked goods, fresh fruits and veggies would be served. It's a diet designed to help with the blues. Center stage would be the happy lights, dishing out feel-good rays while patrons enjoy Wi-Fi and comfy couches.

Fortunately, SAD isn't usually a year-round condition, so the Prickly Pear would be a seasonal business. The partners have already started initial conversations with Duluth's Greater Downtown Council about pop-up store possibilities.

Beyond fulfilling a need, Alicia and Isabella's plan for the Prickly Pear is also the perfect culmination of UMD's Cultural Entrepreneurship curriculum.

Arts + Business

Launched in 2013, the Cultural Entrepreneurship program includes courses from all five collegiate units. Broken down, it’s comprised of 1/3 business, 1/3 foreign language, and 1/3 cultural competency. At its essence, it combines the traditional lessons of business schools with the creative thinking that is most often cultivated in the arts. It's the only program of its kind in the country.

Alicia was one of the first in line for the program. She read about it on UMD's website right after it was approved by the Board of Regents, wrote her application essay, and jumped in with both feet. “I fell in love with the major and everything it had to offer. It’s so versatile and new, I couldn’t say no.” A Cultural Entrepreneurship/Organizational Management double major, Isabella says she appreciates the opportunity to develop ideas that are creative and unique, and beneficial for businesses.

Aparna Katre, assistant professor of Cultural Entrepreneurship, explains that this is exactly what happens in the program. "There is a clear pathway for students to explore idea generation, search for a feasible business model through to prototype, and developing a business plan. It is our sincere attempt to motivate students to become entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs in the cultural economy."

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