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Marketing Insights for Entrepreneurs

Part 1: Is a Degree in Entrepreneurship Really Worth It?

This is the first of two posts dealing with entrepreneurship programs. Next week we’ll follow up with profiles of two more entrepreneurs and the programs they chose.

Over the last 10-15 years, many universities have started to offer classes in entrepreneurship, including the option to minor or major in this intriguing and risky field.  A handful of universities have even taken things a little further by establishing dedicated centers and programs to teach students how to run their own businesses from the inception of an idea through its implementation.

We interviewed graduates from some of the country’s best entrepreneurship programs.  We wanted to know why they applied to such a program in the first place and how well their Alma mater prepared them to launch their own business.  Also, because we know that hindsight is 20-20, we asked these alumni to share their regrets; things they wish they had paid more attention to while enrolled in their respective programs.

Here’s what they had to say:

James Simpson, CEO and founder of Gold Fire Studios, a new social gaming development company, attended University of Oklahoma Price College of Business.

1.  Why did you choose to apply to and attend an entrepreneurship program?

I had been developing games since I was very young, but I knew I needed to hone my business skills to take things to the next level.

2.  Why did you choose to attend the entrepreneurship program at University of Oklahoma?

It is well known that University of Oklahoma has one of the top entrepreneurship programs in the country, so it was a no-brainer.

3.  How do you feel your Alma mater prepared you to start your own business?

I gained real-world experience and connections through the university’s entrepreneurship program, something that would not have happened just taking classes anywhere.

4.  Now that you are a real-life entrepreneur (vs. learning about it in class), is there anything you wish you had paid more attention to while you were an undergrad?

Business law seemed like something you would just leave up to lawyers, but it turns out that as a business owner, it is very important to be aware of all the legal issues involved with running a company.

5.  What advice would you give to those considering applying to an entrepreneurship program?

Make sure you are interested in entrepreneurship for the right reasons and make sure you leverage the network involved with your chosen program.

Mila Golovine, founder and President of MasterWord Services, a leading global provider of industry-specific language solutions attended University of Houston (UH), Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship.

1. Why did you choose to apply to and attend an entrepreneurship program?

I grew up in the former Soviet Union and always knew I wanted to live in a country where I could be in control of my own destiny.  I originally applied to the University of Houston to study International Finance.  By senior year, I channeled my efforts into starting my own business.

2.  Why did you choose to attend the entrepreneurship program at the University of Houston?

As an undergrad, I started an English/Russian language translation and interpretation consulting practice. After conducting some market research on the language industry for a school paper, I discovered there was a big opportunity. At the time, UH was launching a new entrepreneurship program and I knew it was the perfect fit for me to take my business to the next level.

3.  How do you feel your Alma mater prepared you to start your own business?

The entrepreneurship program thoroughly prepared me and groomed me to be the businessperson I am today.  The school taught me how to develop a real-life business plan, which I still refer to often. The connections I made were priceless. I remain in touch with Bill Sherill, the Founder and Co-Chair of the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship. I can pick up the phone and call Bill if I need to bounce an idea around.

4.  Now that you are a real-life entrepreneur (vs. learning about it in class), is there anything you wish you had paid more attention to while you were an undergrad?

I wish I had listened to everything we were told not to do. I could have avoided many mistakes, if I had just listened to the people who already learned from experience.  Examples include:

5.  What advice would you give to those considering applying to an entrepreneurship program?

Most businesses fail in the first three years. A top entrepreneurship program gives you the tools and blueprints you need to succeed. If you attend, learn all you can before, during and after classes.  Seeking the same advice later will cost you thousands of dollars per hour in consulting fees.

Stay tuned for part 2, on Thursday, January 24th, which details the stories of two more entrepreneurs.

Did you attend a university entrepreneurship program? What advice do you have for others pursuing this type of education?