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College programs offer Tampa Bay area entrepreneurs a head start

Entrepreneurs Hunter Payne, in swing, and Reuben Pressman operate Swings Tampa Bay, an organization that provides handmade swings to the community. Pressman is a graduate of USFSP’s entrepreneurship program.

JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times

Entrepreneurs Hunter Payne, in swing, and Reuben Pressman operate Swings Tampa Bay, an organization that provides handmade swings to the community. Pressman is a graduate of USFSP’s entrepreneurship program.

In 1996 two Stanford University doctorate students started a search engine called BackRub. Later, Larry Page and Sergey Brin renamed it Google. You know the rest. While most college students don't create multimillion dollar startups, college entrepreneurship is a growing trend. And universities and colleges are capitalizing on a new market. Numbers of them now offer a major in entrepreneurship.

Chaz Brueggemann is a licensed real estate agent and also a student in the University of South Florida-Tampa's master's program in Entrepreneurship and Applied Technology. She says that while her company supplies real estate training, her courses aided her as she set up her business.

"The courses give me courage to pursue my dreams," she said. "For example, my marketing class is built around bringing a new product to market. You can read case studies, but nothing beats doing it yourself."

In St. Petersburg, 50 students currently are enrolled as entrepreneurship majors, and many more are taking individual entrepreneurship courses, according to Daniel Jones Scott, associate director of USF-St. Petersburg's 2-year-old entrepreneurship program in the College of Business.

Scott said that course work stresses creative problem-solving and realistic businesses situations. Courses include: Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management, Human Resources Management, Employment Law, and Professional Selling.

He cited Reuben Pressman as a stand out graduate. Pressman was an entrepreneur long before college. "My partner, Hunter Payne, and I had a clothing line while we were in high school," said Pressman. "I found the entrepreneurship major at USFSP and realized that I could go to school and start a business at the same time. Sometimes my classes took a back seat, but I was applying what I was being taught. Being in the entrepreneurship major helped."

While still in college Pressman started a nonprofit called Swings Tampa Bay which lists itself as a community building organization and provides a board anyone can paint and hang as a swing. Swings Tampa Bay is funded by donations. Currently, he and Payne are also running a creative agency that provides software, web development and branding. A third venture, still top secret and titled "Check I'm Here," is in the works.

Pressman said going to school and starting a business isn't for everyone. "It's not easy, it's awesome, but can be the hardest thing you do," he said.

His advice?

• Balance. He says you must find a way to juggle schoolwork, the business and your personal life.

• Use your school's resources and professors for advice, research and testing out your idea.

• Maximize your market. "While you're in school you have a big, accessible market of fellow students and professors," Pressman said. "They have the same problems and challenges you do. What can you offer them and what type of business can you build that will serve this market?"

• Keep expenses low. Pressman said he bootstrapped his ventures by using the college's computers, building a team that was willing to work for equity, and investing a little of his own savings.

Marie Stempinski is president and founder of Strategic Communication in St. Petersburg. She specializes in public relations, marketing, business development and employee motivation. You can reach her at sstratcomm@cs.com or visit www.howtomotivateemployees.org.

College programs offer Tampa Bay area entrepreneurs a head start 09/30/12 [Last modified: Sunday, September 30, 2012 4:30am]
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