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Teaching Entrepreneur Skills to Nonbusiness Majors

March 11, 2014

Twenty-seven students whose majors range from art to engineering, health science and the natural sciences, are making time in their spring schedules to attend a business course.

John Bradley Jackson, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, created "Starting and Managing a Small Business or Professional Practice" this semester to introduce nonbusiness majors to ways they can apply what they're learning in their majors and, perhaps, start a business.

"The colleges of Health and Human Development and Communications saw a need for this class with so many of their grads opting for self-employment or entrepreneurship rather than traditional jobs," Jackson explained. Jeff Longshaw, lecturer in communications, is helping Jackson with the course. "They reached out to us. Candidly, I have always thought that entrepreneurship was more interdisciplinary than just business, thus, this engagement made sense to me."

"My true passion has always been self-improvement and sport...," said Brian Avila, a graduate student studying kinesiology. "But since the recession, I have gained an interest in business and protecting myself financially. Although my academic focus has been on health and human performance, I signed up for this class to improve myself in a different way. I believe this class will help me in my pursuit during the next phase of my life."

Computer science major Mourad Kordab said he was interested in starting a business, when he learned about the class. "I was instantly intrigued and knew that this was a rare class with a powerful purpose."

Other students already have begun businesses and realized that they need more knowledge to keep the business going. Among them is communications major Richard Edwards, who launched a carpet cleaning company four years ago.

"I want to be able to make a business plan that will help my current business grow into a successful franchise," he explained. "I feel the diversity of the class provides a unique networking aspect that you won't find in other classes."

The upper-division course introduces the fundamentals of starting and managing a professional practice or small business, including planning, raising capital, managing employees, and marketing products and services.

"I am a business major and an entrepreneur, and even though this class does not count toward my degree, I thought that being in a 'business-focused class' with nonbusiness students' would be good for me," said Breanna Sewell, who was working with a label-making company and decided she wanted to be her own boss. The owner of a one-stop print shop will soon celebrate her second anniversary in business.

"I am excited to be working with two students on my business plan that I might not have had the chance to meet otherwise," Sewell said. "I am anxious to develop the relationships I have made and very happy to have a strong mentor like Professor Jackson, as well as Bill Laird, one of the coaches."

Having working professionals come into the classroom to work with students is another big plus. Edwards said it he was surprised at the "well-educated and experienced business professionals willing to donate their time to mentor us through the process. This class has given me the opportunity and skills needed to turn those thoughts into a viable business plan."

"Many of the non-business students harbor fears and misconceptions about the business courses," said Jackson. "The take-away I am hoping for is for the students to come away with the confidence that they can create a new business despite not majoring in business."

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