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Entrepreneurism as a Field of Study Formalized training helps entrepreneurs sharpen skills, minimize risk

What does it take to be an entrepreneur? “A passionate determination to win,” says Todd Terry, who trains entrepreneurs at Davenport University.

“A lot of people think you have to be tremendously innovative or creative. What entrepreneurs have to do is overcome their fears; to come to the conclusion that they will take a risk. It comes down to an attitude.”

But Terry, the associate chairman in Davenport’s main college of business, adds that there is no common starting point for entrepreneurs and that success requires solid business practices reflected in the training and course work. Along these lines, the university offers just that to its traditional and non-traditional students.

He explained that the risk of failure is inherent in any business venture, but that successful entrepreneurs learn from their failures. And increasingly, universities, business trade groups and the government have developed programs to minimize risk, helping entrepreneurs with tools and training to test their proposals, fashion plans and navigate the many hurdles facing new business ventures.

The Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM) offers a number of programs designed to help entrepreneurial ventures.

Among them are SBAM Marketplace, which allows entrepreneurs to buy products and services from other SBAM members; member discounts on employee benefits and insurance, HR and compliance services, tools for managing technology, legal advice, accounting and finance products, sales, marketing tools and office supplies. SBAM also provides a wide range of audio and video informational programs that foster entrepreneurial peer learning.

Michigan State University (MSU) has incorporated entrepreneur-based courses and specialties into its academic programs. Its approach integrates innovation, technology transfer, support for startups and partnerships with businesses, communities and entrepreneurs.

Last summer, MSU alumnus Robert Burgess donated $4.5 million to the school’s Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, affiliated with the Eli Broad College of Business. Its mission, as outlined by the university, is research on entrepreneurship, venture capital and private equity. It promotes knowledge-sharing networks with business stakeholders and seeks to stimulate economic development in Michigan. Supporting entrepreneurs also aligns with MSU’s goal of commercializing the intellectual property of its faculty and researchers.

The Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation is one of many MSU programs that promotes innovation. Its academic offerings include an entrepreneurship graduate and undergraduate concentration and specialization as well as the Gerstacker Entrepreneurship Program, which offers students concentrating on science, technology, engineering and mathematics the potential funding for research projects with entrepreneurial potential.

Lansing Community College (LCC) also promotes entrepreneurial initiatives. The college cites entrepreneurship as an important element in the region’s economic development and bundles its programs with broad offerings to small businesses throughout the region.

It offers one-on-one training for emerging entrepreneurs; allowing them to explore various business ideas and options. Academically, it offers for-credit classes, to facilitate exploration of opportunities and challenges for entrepreneurs, as well as courses on the practical aspects of business management.

The college believes that these programs reflect its commitment to regional economic development, with a particular emphasis on aspiring business owners and students, whom LCC President Brent Knight calls “the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.”

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Mickey Hirten

Mickey Hirten

Mickey Hirten is an award winning writer and editor. He has been executive editor of the Lansing State Journal, the Burlington Free Press in Vermont, and was the financial editor and a columnist for the Baltimore Evening Sun. He is the current president of the Michigan Press Association. His wife, Maureen Hirten, is director of the Capital Area District Library.