By Trevor Allison
Students in the Accelerated Ventures entrepreneurship course at Baylor were given the opportunity to start a real business and make real money. And some are already having success.
That is the process and goal of the class, taught by Dr. Leslie Palich and 2007 Baylor graduate David Grubbs.
Grubbs, an entrepreneur who graduated with a degree in business administration, and Palich, associate director of entrepreneurial studies at Baylor, independently came up with ideas for a class that integrates entrepreneurship with the Internet and social media.
They brought their ideas to Dr. Kendall Artz, director of the entrepreneurial studies program. Artz arranged for Palich and Grubbs to meet, and the Accelerated Ventures class, formerly known as Applied Ventures, was the result.
In the class, 12 students are divided into four groups and given $4,000 to start a business. The students form a company, open a business bank account and find clients.
“Students come up with [the business] and launch and develop it, so at the end they have a true business,” Palich said. He said the money does not need to be repaid, however. If the students’ business is profitable, they are encouraged to repay the money so that other students may have the same experience.
Palich said repayment of the funds will help build a self-sustaining program that can expand to more sections.
Fredericksburg senior Charlie Gasmire’s group started a website called My Wedding Connection that helps vendors find brides-to-be who are planning their weddings instead of waiting for brides to come to them.
“We did research and realized there was a gap in the wedding industry,” Gasmire said. He said they liked the idea because people will always get married and spend money on weddings, regardless of the state of the economy.
San Antonio senior Jordan Rhodes was in a group that formed LMR Consulting, a business-consulting firm. Her business dissolved, but several opportunities became available through her experiences in the class.
“I have two jobs doing everything I learned in that one semester,” Rhodes said. She currently works with Harley-Davidson of Waco and iProspect, an Internet search marketing firm that does search engine optimization for companies like Neiman Marcus, the account on which Rhodes is currently working.
There is one exam and a reflective mid-term and final, but getting good grades isn’t the focus of the course, Palich said. While some of the groups have been very successful, Palich tells the students not to judge their experience in the class based on the outcome of their business.
“What we are trying to do is get students beyond where they are now to where they want to be,” Palich said. “We want to change their habits of resisting to habits of embracing.”
Palich said he has never seen students as motivated as they are in his class. The students are able to work at something that is beneficial to their future and may become a real job. He said the students have a different set of incentives than in most classes.
Gasmire said the course was a great experience and he enjoyed working on a team. While he pictured himself going into the corporate world, the business he started is something he is going to continue after he graduates.
“All of your education culminates in this opportunity to put into action everything you’ve been learning,” Gasmire said, emphasizing that the Accelerated Ventures course incorporates many of the concepts he learned in previous classes.
Gasmire’s group, which has grown to six people, has turned its success with My Wedding Connection into two other companies. He said they have formed a holding company that oversees all three entities.
“This has grown into something much bigger than My Wedding Connection,” Gasmire said. “We have something that we think can make a lot of money.”
Rhodes also said she feels that the class is a success.
“I learned how to start a business online,” Rhodes said. She highlighted the importance of being able use the Internet to sell products.
She said the class redirected her life and she could not say enough great things about it.
Accelerated Ventures is not just for business students. Palich said there are students all over campus with an interest and drive in entrepreneurship, mentioning two film and digital media students who have taken the class.
The class requires preparation. Palich said the instructors hold a meeting with the students who will take the course the next semester.
Accepted students are encouraged to form their groups and find their business idea as soon as possible.
Palich and Grubbs tell the students what will be expected of them in the class and assign them a book to read that teaches them what they need to be successful in the class.
There is an exam on the book the first day of class.
Applications for the Accelerated Ventures class in fall 2012 will be accepted beginning in March. Only 12 students will be accepted, and junior standing is required. See appliedventuresclass.com or contact Palich at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.