A syllabus that calls for entrepreneurial spirit

Successful entrepreneurs must demonstrate a unique combination of abilities. To build a business, one must be passionate, hardworking, well-informed and experienced. Geneseo is working to instill these qualities in students with a new course offering through the School of Business, INTD 388/MGMT 385: Idea2Venture        

Judith Albers, VanArsdale professor of entrepreneurship, is teaching the class that is the first of its kind at Geneseo. Albers’ position was created by an endowment from Charles L. “Bud” VanArsdale, the purpose of which is to spread entrepreneurship in Geneseo and get students involved in entrepreneurial endeavors.

Albers teaches the Idea2Venture class using a hands-on approach, in which students work to create real start-up companies. Albers said she believes that the best way for students to learn about entrepreneurship is to put it into practice.

Paul Morrell, director of the Small Business Development Center, said he believes the class will effectively supplement students’ college experiences. The entrepreneurship class is unique, he said, because it allows students to “explore their creative instinct in cultivating an idea.”

Albers said she gathered business ideas from students, faculty, staff and the community in fall 2013, and the diversity of interests at Geneseo produced a medley of ideas. From the responses, she identified nine suitable business ideas.

Students registered for the course at the end of the fall semester, with only juniors and seniors allowed to sign up. Students who were not part of the business school were required to get the professor’s approval in order to enroll, with 30 students enrolled in total.

Prior to the start of the semester in January, Albers held a two-and-a-half-day workshop for students in preparation for the course, attended by mentors with experience in entrepreneurship. Those present created preliminary commercialization plans for the previously determined business ideas.

Albers said that, since the beginning of the semester, the class has been carefully working through the rough plans from the workshop. The group’s goal is to create a complete investor presentation and business plan by the end of the semester. The students will present these plans to a larger panel that will determine whether the plan should be developed into a business.

Morrell praised the inclusiveness of the class’ agenda.

“The step-by-step approach very clearly articulates the path from an idea to the potential commercialization of a viable business,” he said.      

Albers said she is optimistic about the potential of the class.

“I don't know that all of these businesses will be viable,” she said. “That’s statistically improbable. But some of them will definitely go forward.” She added that, if a business plan shows promise, summer internships could be created to further the project.

“I think [the students] are really digging in,” Albers said. “They’re excited and committed. I’m really pleased with the passion that they’re bringing to building these businesses.”