Entrepreneurship Center offers guidance, funding, networking, employment and more

May 1st, 2013 Comments Off on Entrepreneurship Center offers guidance, funding, networking, employment and more

April Shelby, right, stands with fellow senior Sarah Kilpatrick. Shelby recently received funds from the Entrepreneurship Center to purchase a kiln to help her get her own business started.

April Shelby will be graduating next week with her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. However, Shelby is already well on her way to owning her own successful business, thanks to the Entrepreneurship Center.

Shelby, a ceramics student, recently received a $2,300 grant from the Entrepreneurship Center to purchase a kiln. She also recently won a pottery wheel from the 41st MSU Juried Student Art Exhibition and has already made her first sale.

Shelby’s funds came from the Thad Cochran Endowment for Entrepreneurship (TCEE). The endowment’s funds are to be allocated to help students with start-up capital needed to launch a business – usually the biggest barrier to starting a business.

The first step in the month-long application process to receive funding is to meet with Parker Stewart, marketing research associate for the Entrepreneurship Center.

Students then must complete a one-page business plan and put together a 10-minute presentation for the Entrepreneurship Center Advisory Board (ECAB).

“I help them every step of the way,” Stewart said.

ECAB consists of business faculty and entrepreneurs from the community who meet once a month, and Stewart even suggests meeting with the committee just to discuss an idea and get feedback and general thoughts.

“With that many people in a room together,” he said. “They come up with some things you wouldn’t have even thought about.”

The Entrepreneurship Center also offers other resources to help anyone interested in starting their own business and even those interested in working for a new start-up company.

“We’re not limited to the type of student or the type of idea,” said Stewart. “As long they are passionate, are dedicated and want to move forward and make an actual company out of it.”

A seminar series, GE3011 – Engineering Entrepreneurship Seminar, is a one-hour elective open to anyone in the fall and spring. The course meets from 2-3:15 p.m. on Tuesdays and brings in alumni who’ve started their own businesses, patent attorneys and insurance professionals to give an overview of what’s involved in starting a business.

The Entrepreneurship Club (eClub) started with six students just over a year ago and has grown to 40 students with 20 different startup companies. The club is open to any MSU student. Dues are $25 per semester and go toward monthly lunches before the seminar series, trips and access to the newly built Company Laboratory (Co-Lab).

“The eClub takes ‘eMbarkments’ throughout the year to tour startup companies, pick the brain of the owners and get a feel for the people who are living the entrepreneurship adventure,” said Stewart.

The group recently toured Daxko, a software firm for nonprofits in Birmingham. Stewart said the culture was similar to Google. Employees could write on the walls; they rode in on skateboards, and the CEO’s desk was right there when you got off the elevator. Stewart said the eMbarkments are also beneficial for students who want to work for a startup company and get plugged in and network.

The eClub recently received funding and raised $15,000 to build a room, the Co-Lab, located in 209 McCool Hall. The walls in the room are covered with high-quality dry erase paint, and the room is meant to serve as a creative workspace for eClub members.

“It’s meant to be a space for students to be able to sketch a building design, a logo or website layout where they are not limited to your typical whiteboard space,” said Stewart. “It’s massive.”

The Entrepreneurship Center also offers competitions with cash prizes. The center gave away almost $60,000 in prizes at a recent competition, including $15,000 in cash and $10,000 in legal services to the grand prize winner.

For those students who just want a taste of what it’s like to start a business, the center works to plug them into startup companies. They get paid to work for a certain amount of time and get experience.

“It’s cool to be able to see a student interested in entrepreneurship get plugged up with a startup company,” said Stewart. “And when they get done, they want to start their own business.”

Stewart said in his job he mainly serves as a liaison, putting students in touch with people they will need to start a business, such as attorneys, accountants, insurance representatives, people in a particular industry and faculty members. He encourages anyone with an idea or even those who are already making money and don’t know where to go from there to come talk to him.

“I’m not an expert at many things, but I know people who are.”

For more information, email Parker Stewart at jps274@msstate.edu, or call him at 601-810-2453. You can also visit the Entrepreneurship Center located in 210 McCool Hall.

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