Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Millennial interest drives KU entrepreneurship programs

In the last decade, as the Kansas City startup scene flourished, KU built a program to prepare students for careers in entrepreneurship.

Wally Meyer
The KU School of Business created its entrepreneurship program in 2007.  Only six years later, nearly 300 KU students are enrolled in ENTR classes each semester, making entrepreneurship the largest concentration offered at the business school.  Wally Meyer, director of entrepreneurship programs, believes that the millennial generation is geared toward entrepreneurship, partially because of its popular role models.

“Some of this generation’s heroes are Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and LeBron James — who is not only an extraordinary athlete, he’s an extraordinary entrepreneur,” Meyer said.  “And you see these guys and you say, ‘Why not me?’ which is a great attitude.”

Meyer has seen an exponential growth in students’ interest in the past few years.  Because of KU’s proximity to Kansas City, students watched as the startup bug infected the city.  However, Meyer said he believes it takes tenacity to be a great entrepreneur.

“They have to love what they do because this is hard work and they’re surrounded by nay-sayers,” he said.  “They’re surrounded by people who say, ‘You can’t do that.  That’s not going to be successful.’”

Students at KU can get involved in entrepreneurship and learn more about the startup scene through the Entrepreneurship Club, Enactus or entrepreneurship opportunities in Kansas City, like Kansas City Startup Weekend.

Students like Caleb Christianson have taken their education beyond the classroom with Kansas City Startup Weekend.  Christianson, a senior in the entrepreneurship certificate program, got involved last spring with the event, which places entrepreneurs in teams and challenges them to start a company over the course of a weekend.

“It’s very short and very condensed because it’s only over the course of 54 hours,” Christianson said.  “So these teams can go through the whole motions of starting a company and then they don’t get very deep into it because they’re only doing it for a weekend.  But they can go through and see what it takes to market a company.”

 One Million Cups, a Kansas City and Lawrence initiative, is another opportunity that allows entrepreneurs to present their ideas in front of a crowd and receive input.

“The Kauffman Foundation has been putting on these events called the One Million Cups every Wednesday morning where two entrepreneurs get up and talk about their ideas,” said George Bittlingmayer, finance professor.  “This is heavily attended and very popular.  Recently, Lawrence got its own One Million Cups.”

To learn more about entrepreneurship at KU, contact George Bittlingmayer, Wally Meyer or business school student organizations.

by Allison Kite