New program, lab for entrepreneurs

Joanne Bello

This fall, students, small business owners and emerging entrepreneurs can get help with their current businesses or get help starting a business of their own from the Kent State University’s College of Business Administration and Graduate School of Management’s proposed Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Innovations.

“Some people can thrive on owning a business and some people can’t stomach it,” said Richard Kolbe, chair of marketing at the Kent State College of Business. “We want to expose students to it so they can learn firsthand whether entrepreneurship is for them.”

The goals of the new entrepreneurial program are to give students the opportunity to work with an entrepreneur-in-residence and people who own small businesses to gain first-hand knowledge about how to start up and operate their own businesses, Kolbe said.

Lee McMannis will be the first entrepreneur-in-residence for the program.

“There are a lot of people who want to start a small business of their own, but don’t know where to get help,” Kolbe said. “We want to be one of those places.”

The program will also help people who want to work for larger companies that are run with a more entrepreneurial mind set rather than start a business of their own, said Julie Messing, instructor and coordinator of entrepreneurship for the College of Business.

Messing also said when the center becomes official, it will focus on three main components: an entrepreneurial lab, faculty involvement and educational opportunities.

“Most students won’t open a business straight out of college,” Messing said. “But we want to show them that it is possible and give them the tools to do so.”

Students in any major on campus will benefit from the entrepreneurial program, Kolbe said. The program will be open to undergraduate and graduate students.

The proposed center will also be available to students from any regional campus.

“We invited science students to merge with business students to get each other’s world views,” Kolbe said. “Scientists who want to get patents for their inventions can work with someone, say a marketing student, to get their product out there.”

When the center itself, not the program, is officially opened, the College of Business is hoping to house the facility on its third floor.

Messing also hopes to have an entrepreneurial learning community available to students.

The students in the learning community would have workshops, speaker series, an entrepreneurial boot camp and a student organization available to them, she said.

Students will also get the opportunity to work at the entrepreneurial lab, Messing said. The faculty is hoping to shape the students, so when they get into upper-level classes they will be able to work seriously with the business owners to mold their own business plans.

“Students won’t have to work at places like the Olive Garden,” Messing said. “They can work at the lab and get real experience along with maybe an internship.”

This fall there will be one undergraduate class and one graduate class available to students, she said.

Messing also said starting Fall 2006, the program will start a curriculum that has two to four undergraduate courses and three to six graduate courses in entrepreneurship. It will also offer an undergraduate minor in entrepreneurship.

Contact College of Business reporter Joanne Bello at [email protected].