Turning Ideas into Action: Sam Millson's Mission to Save Local Businesses
Students in the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering had a unique chance to explore their enterprising potential through the inaugural ISyE Entrepreneurial Competition, established by ISyE alumnus Sam Millson.
As the Founder of The Millson Group, a consulting and investing firm specializing in assisting small to medium-sized businesses in achieving growth and efficiency, Millson is motivated to community expansion and business enhancement. Beyond mere profit margins, his mission is to aid entrepreneurs in overcoming challenges and enhancing their operations for sustainable success.
Seeking New Routes
When Milson was a student, he thoroughly enjoyed his time at Georgia Tech, as he was an active member of the Cross Country and Track and Field teams. As he embraced the challenges of both athletics, Millson's passion for innovation continued to grow. In his final semester, he and his team secured victory in the ISyE Spring Senior Design project, collaborating with Textron's manufacturing. Despite his academic and athletic accomplishments, his desire to create new opportunities to explore entrepreneurship had begun to take root.
"While it was a challenging four years, the experience was ultimately rewarding, equipping us with comprehensive knowledge of Industrial Engineering and its associated practices," Millson recalled. “But I noticed a lack of support for ISyE-specific entrepreneurs, and it became an important way for me to give back to the community.”
Navigating the Consulting World
After graduation, Millson joined Smith and Nephew Medical Device Company, a medical device firm located in Memphis, TN. Over approximately two years, he held various roles, culminating in his position as Manager for Global Operations Data Analytics. However, despite the valuable experience gained, he sensed an unfulfilled aspect within himself.
"The pandemic highlighted to me that smaller companies often struggle with significant gaps that I believe I could help bridge. Witnessing local restaurants gradually close during the pandemic in Memphis, where I reside, prompted me to start my own company to make a substantial difference," Millson explained.
Becoming the Third Generation of Millson Entrepreneurs
In September 2020, he took the leap and founded The Millson Group, where he operates today.
Nonetheless, his journey was not without challenges. The transition was initially disorienting. "I moved from a role where I was constantly inundated with tasks to a position where I was in charge. I distinctly remember my first day sitting at my computer, realizing that my workload was relatively light. It was a steep learning curve, but I set a personal goal to reach out to at least two potential clients every week," he said.
“I'm the third generation of Millson entrepreneurs, and we don’t get really creative with our naming conventions either. My grandfather ran Millson Enterprises, an art store. My father used Millson James, combining his name and his mother's maiden name, for his consulting practice in HR.”
Millson conceived the competition in October 2022, and with help from the community, they got it up and running in nearly 2-3 months. The goal is to kindle student’s enthusiasm for applying their academic knowledge and innate curiosity to the realm of entrepreneurship using industrial engineering principles.
Students worked collaboratively to develop comprehensive business plans with the potential to attract future investments.
The competition was comprised of two core components: entrepreneurial workshops and final presentations. Throughout the workshops, Millson adeptly guided teams in creating robust business models, formulating strategic budgets, and devising effective differentiation strategies. The overarching goal was to equip teams with the requisite skills and knowledge to realize viable and executable business plans.
"The biggest challenge students faced during the competition was letting go of the belief that their status as college students limited their ability to create meaningful ventures," Millson shared. "Those who excelled demonstrated their capacity to leverage their industry knowledge, however limited, to solve real-world problems. This is the lesson I hope to teach future generations."
The winning team, consisting of Chris Kontomaris, Sydney Mudd, and Jada Wilson, received a collective prize of $7,500 for their project, ADU-IQ. This innovative project aims to revolutionize the home-building industry by providing builders with a streamlined solution to assess customers' eligibility, by simplifying the screening process and eliminating upfront costs.
"What sets this competition apart is its long-term focus, involving multiple workshops throughout the semester. This allows like-minded entrepreneurial industrial engineering students to connect. Coupled with the emphasis on IE principles and direct interaction with Millson, the experience is empowering for real-world opportunities," noted Chris Kontomaris.
Georgia Tech encourages the entrepreneurial spirit in students, as it is an essential part of a nation’s ability to succeed in an ever-changing and increasingly competitive global marketplace. To cultivate the entrepreneurial spirit, Georgia Tech provides spaces and opportunities for students to learn, innovate, and create. Millson's journey exemplifies the fusion of passion, community support, and commitment to local businesses. His positive impact on Memphis and its entrepreneurs resonates, leaving a lasting legacy. As The Millson Group continues its trajectory, Millson's commitment to empowering others ensures his influence will endure for generations.
To amplify the competition's impact, Millson is seeking new judges for the next competition in Spring 2024. Prominent entrepreneurs and alumni interested in participating are encouraged to express their interest via email at email@example.com.