Faculty Spotlight – Sharon Simmons, Ph.D.

Simmons_Sharon_BSM_IMG_0005Entrepreneurship has been a part of Sharon Simmons life for as long as she can remember.

Simmons, who joined the Henry W. Bloch School of Management as an assistant professor of Global Entrepreneurship in August 2015, was born and raised in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Her parents owned and operated a restaurant for 35 years, and Simmons played a key role in the business.

“From the time I was in middle school, I helped out with inventory, balanced the books and basically did my part to keep everything running smoothly,” Simmons said.

Simmons received her J.D. and Masters in Accounting from the University of Virginia, a combination that allowed her to work as a professional services consultant for firms in a variety of industries. In her 10 years with Deloitte and PwC, Simmons had clients in the areas of real estate, manufacturing and retail, among others.

“When analyzing my client’s needs, I tried to determine how I could add value,” Simmons said. “I liked thinking outside the box to determine ways we could work together to make their business better.”

Though she spent years working in the for-profit sector, Simmons was always intrigued by the idea of working in academia, and received her Ph.D. in Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises from Syracuse University in 2012.

“Choosing to get my Ph.D. in entrepreneurship was a natural fit for me,” she explained. “I felt that, in practice, the soft skills of entrepreneurship are what really help me be successful. Even when I was employed by someone else, I wanted to design my own career – that’s exactly what entrepreneurship is.”

Simmons spent three years teaching entrepreneurship at William Patterson University in New Jersey before making the move to Kansas City.

When she saw a chance to join the faculty at the Bloch School, she jumped at the opportunity.

“I came to Bloch because of the reputation of the entrepreneurship program,” Simmons explained. “I was familiar with many of the faculty and the work with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, plus I was excited for the chance to work at a research-based institution.”

In addition to her teaching responsibilities, research has been a focus of Simmons’ since joining the Bloch team. Derived from her dissertation, much of Simmons’s current work concentrates on how different regulations and cultural attitudes affect entrepreneurs.

“In the United States, the philosophy is that failure is good; everyone fails and most are able to learn from the experience,” she said. “But if failure is so positive, why do so many entrepreneurs find it difficult to start over?”

She further hones in on experienced entrepreneurs, a part of the population she feels is frequently neglected in research.

“Many programs and research agendas are focused on first entry startups,” Simmons explained. “While it’s widely recognized that many entrepreneurs don’t succeed, there is less emphasis on what policies and programs are needed to help failed business owners begin again.”

As she furthers her own research, Simmons hopes to have an impact on students looking to grow their professional resumes as well.

“We have a great team of Ph.D. students, and I like serving as a mentor as they work on their research.”

Her connections with students don’t end at the Ph.D. level, though.

“Since joining Bloch, I’ve worked with undergraduate and graduate students with big ideas for ventures,” Simmons said. “I’m lucky to have experience in both the professional and academic world of entrepreneurship, so I do my best to wear both hats when advising students, hopefully giving them the tools they need to succeed.”

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