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East Texas Baptist University
Entrepreneurial Learning: Schools aim to teach future business owners the skills they need to bring their ideas to market
By Leigh Jones
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (World News Service) -- Jared Stresen-Reuter stood in front of six judges and steeled himself for their skeptical questions. He had just finished a 15-minute presentation detailing his plan for toodol.com, an event promotion website. The panel of successful entrepreneurs and business professors wanted to know whether his idea could become a money-making venture. Stresen-Reuter hoped to convince them he deserved the $10,000 startup funding that would go to the competition winner.
After a short pause, the questions started. How will this work? How will it help our company? Stresen-Reuter slowly started to grin when he realized the questions were in future tense. The judges expected his business proposal to become a reality.
Just a few months later, Stresen-Reuter sat at his desk at United Franchise Group, finalizing plans for a meeting in Boston with the website's design team. His $10,000 seed funding--the competition prize--would cover most of the site's development costs. This month, Stresen-Reuter launched the site at Palm Beach Atlantic University, his alma mater, ahead of a planned nationwide rollout next year.
Stresen-Reuter knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur from the time he first learned what the word meant. He watched episodes of Donald Trump's "The Apprentice" and longed for a similar opportunity to prove himself. He had plenty of ideas but knew nothing about running a business. When he enrolled at Palm Beach Atlantic, he immediately gravitated toward the school's entrepreneurship program.
No classroom environment can give someone the daring, determination and drive it takes to be a successful innovator. But entrepreneurship programs aim to teach students the skills they need to capitalize on their natural talents. Although they can't make someone an entrepreneur, professors who lead programs at several Christian schools say students can learn the management, accounting, finance and marketing skills they need to make their future businesses successful.
The entrepreneurship program at Palm Beach Atlantic, a Christian college in Palm Beach, Fla., is part of its Rinker School of Business. Entrepreneurship classes focus on learning how to operate a small business and finding solutions to common start-up problems. Aside from what they learn in the classroom, successful entrepreneurs must be creative and willing to take risks, said Leslie Turner, the business school's interim dean.
"But we can teach skills around that to help them use those God-given gifts," he said.
Last year, the school partnered with United Franchise Group, an area conglomerate of franchise brands, to create a program that would help students test both their training and their natural ability. Through the JJ's Entrepreneurs competition, students can submit a business plan, get startup funding and work with a team of experienced business leaders to bring their product or service to market.
The program is designed to teach students about real life, something they don't get in the classroom, said JJ Prendamano, who lent his name to the competition. During his time as a franchise owner and mentor to new business owners, Predamano has seen plenty of business owners fail because they didn't have the basic business skills to keep their company afloat.
"If you have an idea, that's wonderful," he said. "But if you're not an entrepreneur you can take that idea and stuff it. Or give it to someone entrepreneurial. An idea is not enough. You have to know how to market it and promote it."
Stresen-Reuter sees failure as a pre-requisite to success. His first business idea--the Relaxation Station--failed before it ever got started. Inspired by the nap pods popular in Asia, Stresen-Reuter dreamed of bringing the concept to America's corporate centers. But the overhead was too high for a college sophomore and finding investors in a culture that prizes work over rest proved difficult. Stresen-Reuter wrote a business plan and made a few pitches to potential investors before setting the idea aside. But his experience with the Relaxation Station helped prepare him to make a more successful pitch with toodol.com.
At Indiana Wesleyan University, students in the entrepreneurship program are expected to start their own businesses as part of their coursework. The experience allows them to encounter the challenges they will face in the real world while they still have a safety net. The campus has three businesses operated by students each semester--a coffee shop, a video store and a hair salon. This fall, students in Shawn M. Carraher's classes will own and operate a RedBox DVD rental station on campus while others manage a small business consulting firm.
Operating small businesses while still in school lets the students figure out whether they really want to be entrepreneurs, Carraher said. The program also allows non-business majors to learn entrepreneurial concepts that could help them in their own disciplines. School administrators even encourage ministry majors to consider how social entrepreneurship could help their future work.
At Baylor University's entrepreneurship program, one of the top-ranked programs in the nation, students follow the natural sequence of the entrepreneurial process. They start with discovering opportunity and move through feasibility studies, funding models, business organization and day-to-day management strategies. The program offers special courses in internal entrepreneurship--thinking like an entrepreneur within an existing corporate structure--and running a family business. The school's entrepreneurship minor draws students from other disciplines interested in learning business start-up skills.
Steven Bradley, an assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship, hopes to teach his students to be alert to changes in the market that might create a business opportunity. The ability to recognize a potential product or service that's worth pursuing ultimately makes someone an entrepreneur, he said: "Many of our students will not immediately start a new venture out of college. Their knowledge set is fairly limited. However, we train them in how to be alert for possible opportunities and how to evaluate and pursue them as they come along."
Students sometimes talk about entrepreneurial superstars like Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates, but Bradley steers them back to ventures they could envision themselves starting. One of the program's graduates, David Grubbs, founded noozhoo.com, a social storefront designed for college clubs and organizations. Grubbs now helps teach a class that requires students to start their own companies. Like Grubbs, Stresen-Reuter, and other high profile entrepreneurs, students and recent graduates are drawn to Internet ventures, something related to their current knowledge set, Bradley said.
Now that he's out of school and piloting his own business, Stresen-Reuter realizes how well-rounded he needs to be to succeed. His days don't just consist of marketing and business-related tasks, but communication, financing, reading and writing as well. Entrepreneurs are required to do a little bit of everything, he said. And while he learned a lot in class, some things are hard to teach in theory.
"The best way to learn it is through trial and error," he said. "But I think it can be learned."
ETBU Students Serve Their New Community During Welcome Week
By Mike Midkiff
ETBU Public Relations
MARSHALL, Texas (East Texas Baptist University) -- New incoming freshmen and transfer students of East Texas Baptist University volunteered their time recently at different locations throughout the Marshall community during Welcome Week activities. The Friday afternoon before the start of classes over 150 students could be found participating in hands-on service projects.
"Our goal at ETBU is not just for our students to get involved in campus life, but also for them to serve throughout the community and our world," said ETBU Director of the Great Commission Center Dr. Melody Maxwell. "As a Christian university, our faith motivates us to share Christ's love with those around us."
While at Mission Marshall, one of the teams restocked the United Churches of Marshall Food Pantry shelves, cleaned around the facility, and distributed information about the Food Pantry's new once-a-month Saturday distribution. The food pantry is located at the intersection of Pinecrest and South Washington Avenue inside the Mission Marshall facility.
"Their help contributed to making Mission Marshall a warm and welcoming place, which offers dignity to those who come in seeking help," said Brooke Holloway, Minister of Youth and Community Mission Minister at Central Baptist Church of Marshall, who supervised the effort by the ETBU students. "The students helped prepare for the ministry that would take place on Saturday, which is the Saturday distribution of food to those in need who may not be able to come during the regular weekday times of distribution."
One small group went to Bel Air Baptist Church. "We cleaned the sanctuary and cleaned out some closets in the main building of the church," said MaKenzie Hunt of Winnie. "The members of the church were so kind to us in return and had refreshments for our group after we finished the project."
The groups also completed such projects as helping sort football equipment at the Boys and Girls Club of the Big Pines, moving desks, and other items at Robert E. Lee Elementary, and playing simple games with children at several Marshall apartment complexes.
ETBU Director of Student Activities Blair Prevost said, "The feedback I have received from the students has been positive. In reading the surveys from the students about Welcome Week activities some said the service project was their favorite part of the week."
Dr. Maxwell added, "Our prayer is that God will use students' ministry to impact the lives of community members and to instill in students a passion for ongoing service." The 100 year old University has an on-going emphasis called "ETBU Cares" which encourages students, faculty, and staff to be involved in service projects in the community.
ETBU student groups served in the following locations: Bel Air Baptist Church, Belaire Manor Apartments, Boys and Girls Club of the Big Pines, First Baptist Church of Marshall, First Baptist Church of Jefferson, Heritage House of Marshall Health and Rehab Center, Housing Authority of Marshall-Poplar Street, Marshall Manor, My Friend's House, Mission Marshall, Reunion Inn Assisted Living, Ryan's Crossing Townhomes, Robert E. Lee Elementary, and Ward Plaza Apartments.
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