This fall, the Goddard School of Business and Economics at Weber State University will offer a new minor in entrepreneurship. Open to all students at WSU, the minor in entrepreneurship is meant to give students who aren’t necessarily studying business, but would like to start their own business, the know-how to determine if their ideas are marketable, help them learn how to find funding for their businesses and give them a leg up in today’s economy.
Alex Lawrence, the vice provost for Innovation and Economic Development at WSU, along with Dean Jeff Steagall and others, has been working for several years to create the entrepreneurship minor. According to Lawrence, there is a demand for entrepreneurship education in northern Utah, and creating an entrepreneurship minor was something not only he and WSU faculty are interested in, but also other business school deans from other universities.
Unlike the curricula in some majors, the entrepreneurship minor is very hands-on, according to Lawrence.
“This minor is all about applied learning,” he said. “They will actually starting businesses, selling products, generating revenue . . . This is not ‘read about it, write about it, take a test about it’ kind of course; this is the real deal.”
This approach also carries on into one of the most important factors of the minor, Lawrence said. The entrepreneurship minor is available to anyone and everyone at WSU and is designed specifically for non-business majors. Designed to take only one year to complete, non-business majors can jump into the minor in entrepreneurship after just one prerequisite class. This class is known as a leveling class; it teaches non-business majors some basic business jargon and concepts so they can jump into the first class with ease.
Wendy Fox Kirk, a faculty member in the Goddard School, will be among the professors teaching the courses in the entrepreneurship minor. Kirk said entrepreneurship skills are something anyone can use, even if the idea for the business isn’t the traditional sort.
“If you come from a non-business discipline, you won’t have the skills and knowledge that could start you off best,” Kirk said. “You’re going to make lots of mistakes that could undermine the success of a business, no matter how hard you try.”
One of the biggest problems Kirk said she sees in starting a business is knowing whether the idea is a truly viable one.
“Just because you like an idea and you think it would be a good business, you might fall flat on your face because there’s not real demand for it . . . (the minor in entrepreneurship) provides the basic analytical skills to go out and collect and assess information about demand and make a sensible decision rather than a gut-instinct decision.”
Another unique opportunity built into the minor in entrepreneurship at WSU is an opportunity for funding for the business started during the course from the university. According to Steagall, a generous private donation has provided WSU with the money to provide funds to students who finish the entrepreneurship minor. These funds would be given in the form of cash, with the purpose of further growing the business the student will start as a part of the entrepreneurship minor.
Stegall said that when he first moved to Utah, he was surprised at the number of students and prospective students who were interested in starting their own businesses.
“I was meeting with high school students around campus that spring, and I’d routinely ask them, ‘What do you want to do when you graduate?’ and about 30 percent of them would say they wanted to start their own business,” Steagall said. “In the nation, that number is less than 5 percent.” After a good look at the current Goddard School curricula, “we saw that we weren’t really providing what these students wanted. Since a lot of those students weren’t going to be business students, we decided that we needed some classes that would give students all across the university the skills they needed to start a business.”
For students interested in becoming a part of the entrepreneurship minor, the leveling course will be available for summer semester, and classes in the entrepreneurship minor will begin in the fall of 2013. According to Steagall, the minor is 15 credit hours, 16 including the leveling course.
“We think that students should major in whatever it is that they feel passionate about,” Steagall said. “This is to give them the skills if they want to do something different with it.”