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April 9, 2004
Student entrepreneurs take experience to new levels
By Marisa Long

Many students enter Ohio University's College of Business with dreams of one day owning and operating their own businesses. They take different classes, read books and ask faculty for advice. But while most students prepare for the real world through theory in the classroom, some College of Business students are taking matters into their own hands - by actually starting their own businesses.

Last spring, members of the Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity and the Association of Collegiate Entrepreneurs (ACE) joined forces to develop a class that would allow students to create and run their own business. Alpha Kappa Psi had been looking for ways to start a business for the past few years, but nothing had materialized. When senior Matt Kittle took over as the organization's president, he brought the issue up again, partnered with ACE and was able to secure $5,000 through the College of Business Executive Advisory Board.

"We wanted to get real experience," says Kittle. "We were looking into any way possible to start our own business at a low cost."

It was decided to develop a yearlong class that students could take, which would allow them to conceive, develop and market an original product. Two business professors, William Lamb and Scott Wright, were asked to teach the class. The Ohio University Venture Creation Course (OUVCC) was born. In order to take the class, interested students had to submit applications and be interviewed. A total of 16 students were admitted into the class, worth eight credits overall.

"The key word for the class is 'experience,'" says Wright. "Normally, when we talk about business in the classroom, it seems distant. This class gives students the opportunity to take ownership and truly understand how it all works."

In the fall, OUVCC students met once a week and brainstormed many possible product choices. They narrowed down the list to four ideas, broke into groups and thoroughly researched the products. Ultimately, the students chose to sell computer memory sticks, which plug in to a USB drive and are used instead of floppy disks. The memory sticks hold 16 to 128 MB of storage and come in different colors. Some of the devices even carry the Ohio University logo.

"We chose the memory sticks because we thought they had the best sales potential," says Kittle, who is also chief executive officer of OUVCC.

While the OUVCC class didn't meet during winter quarter, the students continued working on the product plan and began selling the memory sticks. They developed a Web site, www.ihatemyfloppy.com, where the memory sticks can be purchased. The sticks range from $14.99 to $44.99. The products will continue to be sold during spring quarter and the students hope to make a profit from their endeavor.

The students plan to donate some of the proceeds to Passion Works, an Athens organization dedicated to helping individuals with developmental disabilities through creating art. Any additional profits will be used toward next year's class.

Senior Laura Paff, who is president of ACE and the vice president of marketing for OUVCC, says that the experience has been extremely beneficial.

"The work I have done for this has helped me learn more about business and working with people," says Paff. "I have already had the opportunity to become aware of some of the problems I will face in the real world."

Starting a business while still in college is not limited to OUVCC students. One ACE member in particular has taken "real world experience" to a new level.

Senior Brandon Buckley knew that he would start his own business while he was still in college. Recently, the Athens native purchased the Pizza Inn on 233 W. Union St., which he plans on turning into a Hungry Howie's, a pizza chain based in Michigan.

"I wanted to open his own business because I wanted to help support the local economy by keeping money in Athens," says Buckley.

Buckley researched various companies, but chose Hungry Howie's because of its quality food, low prices and convenience, which he thought would appeal to students.

"The best part about owning my own business watching it grow from the very beginning," he says. "I am my own boss, and I can run it how I want to. I am also able to give back to my community."

ACE members plan to help Buckley promote his new business, which is slated to open sometime this summer

Marisa Long is a writer for University Communications and Marketing

 

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