Entrepreneurship Extravaganza rocks on

Colleen Watson

This week’s Entrepreneurship Extravaganza was the business equivalent of the rock scene’s Lollapalooza or Warped Tour.

Instead of mosh pits and overpriced T-shirts, though, the series of events on Thursday and Friday was designed to help future businesspeople further their dreams of being their own boss.

Students, faculty and community members came to hear Thomas Christopher kick off the event by speaking about “Achieving Entrepreneurial Success in a Retail Environment” at the year’s first lecture in the Solomon Lecture Series.

Christopher, a Kent State alumnus, talked to the packed auditorium in Rockwell Hall about his experiences with numerous notable entrepreneurs: Charles Tandy of Pier 1, Len Reggio of Barnes & Noble and Howard Schultz of Starbucks.

The Entrepreneurship Extravaganza’s second day held more than just a speech or two. As in music festival fashion of stages competing against each other, many panels and roundtables were held at the same time.

Some past and present entrepreneurship lab students gathered to discuss the importance of entrepreneurship before the day hit full-speed.

“People have a lot of needs, and we need creative problem-solvers,” said business administration graduate student Ed Horning. “We need businesses that can fulfill those needs and create a sustainable society.”

The day officially kicked off with the introduction around 11 a.m. Entrepreneurship roundtables and a panel discussing the start-up of a minority-owned business followed.

The roundtable discussions featured a number of area success stories in entrepreneurship and covered a wide array of career fields.

Sean Kennedy, a roundtable featured guest, explained how he went from a partying college student four years ago to the successful business owner of Technology Recover Group.

Before his 15-minute discussion, Kennedy walked around the table and introduced himself to every participant, making sure to use the names printed on the nametags. He emphasized the importance of relationships in business.

“Never be afraid to ask for help,” he said. “Talk to people who’ve been there and done that before.”

Next up was the introduction of the Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour.

At a music festival, the EET team would have been the surprise act that blew away everyone who made it to the stage to see them.

EET team member Rahim Fazal, 24, gave the day’s first keynote speech. Fazal developed a successful dot-com business and sold it for $1.5 million before his high school graduation.

A series of panels and workshops followed Fazal’s speech, along with ample time for networking with other participants, featured speakers and those with displays on the second floor of the Student Center.

In one workshop, Michael Simmons, 24, and Sheena Lindahl, 24, co-founders of Extreme Entrepreneurship Education, discussed their company’s “Dream Action” plan. The workshop was intended to establish recognition and accountability of each participant’s entrepreneurial spirit.

By the end of Simmons and Lindahl’s workshop, participants had an accountability partner to make sure they’d be taking daily steps to reach their dream.

“I want to contribute to the attainment of human potential,” Lindahl said. “I’m fulfilling my potential by helping others reach theirs.”

Dean George Stevens, Ray Dalton, Fazal and Lindahl participated in a panel moderated by Simmons. The panel encouraged many students, showing them it’s never too early to follow a dream, nor should age or background be a deterrent.

“I’ve been so inspired by the people I’ve seen,” said Kent Roosevelt High School student Sara Braden. “It’s really amazing to see people who are young, extremely successful and still coming up with new ideas.

“It makes me want to start my own business,” added Amy Baesemann, also a Kent Roosevelt High School student. “It’s all about motivation.”

Ray Dalton gave the motivational keynote speech, calling on students to take action.

“If you’re passionate and driven toward what you want to succeed, then keep going and check your ego at the door,” he advised.

He ended his speech with five C’s to success: confidence, credibility, communication, community and compliments.

Business administration graduate student Carmelyn Jackson said she found his speech very encouraging and motivating, just what she was looking for.

“I came here for motivation,” she said. “I want to learn how to start my own business, get some direction and have a good time.”

Ryan Dalton, a comedian and Kent State alumnus, closed the event. The crowd erupted in laughter at his jokes about using credit cards to scrape glaciers off cars in the wintertime and games he played with his parents on long trips, “I Spy” and “If You Don’t Shut Up, I’ll Hit You.”

By the end of the day, Julie Messing, director for the Center of Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation, saw an addition to her original objective.

“The enthusiasm of students walking out of the panels and being like ‘Wow!’ was great,” she said. “The objective was awareness, but we’re also excited to ignite that entrepreneurial spirit.”

Contact College of Business Administration reporter Colleen Watson at [email protected].