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."

(c) WORLD News Service. Used with permission.

Publication date: August 28, 2012