Sunday, May 27, 2018
Education

USF St. Petersburg entrepreneur program is already producing winners

ST. PETERSBURG — It's a career choice often overlooked by academia. But a new program here at the University of South Florida is giving young entrepreneurs a real shot at starting their own businesses — sometimes well before they graduate.

Already, 50 students have declared a major in entrepreneurship, an opportunity that opened to students at the St. Petersburg campus just last fall.

USF St. Petersburg is only the second state university to offer the major, said Bill Jackson, director of the school's Sustainable Entrepreneurship & Innovation Alliance. (The other is Florida State University.)

"We're probably one of the most innovative programs in the state, if not the nation,'' he said. "Most higher education does not impart on our students that going out and starting their own business is a viable option.''

Entrepreneurship is risky, said the professor, who helped design the entrepreneurship program. But it's a valuable opportunity not only for the business owner but the community, he said.

"True job growth and economic growth, in general, come from high-growth entrepreneurial firms,'' Jackson said. "Our students are leaving here ready to start a venture now.''

An example: the five members of the school's 18-month-old Entrepreneurship Club who won first prize last month for their online simulation of a computer business. The Collegiate Entrepreneurs' Organization, a university network with more than 240 chapters nationwide, sponsors the annual contest, which required participants to track their company's growth.

Michael Anadiotis, Lazar Anderson, Christopher Carpentier, Brown Charite and Mark Lombardi-Nelson will share $1,000, mentoring from some of the country's top entrepreneurs, and a Rolodex full of contacts when they pick up the award in Chicago in November.

The team's simulation, which featured the mock computer company HEAD Electronics, beat out those of 25 other universities, including Louisiana State University and the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Lombardi-Nelson, a 19-year-old sophomore from Spring Hill, said the competition really inspired him.

"It was exciting knowing if you want to start a business, you can,'' he said.

But wait, there's more

Meanwhile, some students, like sophomore Evan Koteles, have an invention that's on its way to becoming a reality. The Tampa resident placed third at a recent Student Pitch Competition for his Spunnel, a cross between a spoon and a funnel.

"It's the 'no more pour revolution'!'' he told judges.

The 23-year-old entrepreneurial major and lead guitarist for the band 10th Concession came up with the idea while helping his mom make soup. "Mom loves it,'' Koteles said.

With help from an engineer at USF's Gazelle Lab, a virtual-business-accelerator lab on campus that pairs students with community professionals, a prototype of the Spunnel is in the works.

"Most people have ignored what true entrepreneurship is about,'' Jackson said. "Most focus on the nuts and bolts, the functionality.''

USF St. Petersburg's entrepreneurship program offers core courses like accounting and finance. But it also has one of the nation's first classes on scalability — how to grow a company, Jackson said.

There's also the cutting-edge class "Creativity and Innovation in Entrepreneurial Firms," which is devoted to creative problem solving.

"That class changed my life completely,'' said Lombardi-Nelson, who learned to communicate more effectively and hone his "pitch'' — the spiel to get others to support his ideas — in front of real professionals in the community.

The result: "I love business,'' the finance and entrepreneurship major said. "I've gotten addicted to it.''

A jolt of Schwagler

Lombardi-Nelson and others credit their heightened enthusiasm in all things business to Nathan Schwagler, USF's creative-in-residence and visiting instructor of entrepreneurship.

"It's just the passion that he has,'' said Carpentier, who placed third during Startup Weekend Tampa a few weeks ago. "The event is for entrepreneurs, marketers, developers and anyone who wants to build a business. Participants form teams and share ideas with each other. The motto is 'No talk, all action.' "

Carpentier won for his website idea, SchoolCal, an interactive calendar that tells students about events on and around campus.

"A lot of college sites are just lists,'' he said. "Students just don't use them.''

His site also would sell advertising for venues off campus and donate 10 percent of the proceeds to university organizations running the events.

Carpentier, 18, said his confidence to pitch the idea got a boost from Schwagler.

"He really wants to change our lives,'' said the freshman from Orlando.

That's because the world today is a different place for these students, said Schwagler, a former research administrator at USF St. Petersburg.

"No company is going to be around 50 years, 70 years to take care of them,'' he said.

Students have to figure that out, Schwagler said, and it has never been easier to start a business than it is right now.

"With $100 and a credit card, you're up and running,'' he said. "This is the age of entrepreneurship. It really is.''

     
Comments
Sparks fly among Hillsborough School Board members as private messages are leaked

Sparks fly among Hillsborough School Board members as private messages are leaked

TAMPA — Somebody got into Hillsborough County School Board member Melissa Snively’s Facebook account, copied her messages and gave them to a newspaper publisher who is a friend of her rivals on the board.The posts discussed politics and power struggl...
Published: 05/25/18
Eckerd College student who fell before graduation has died

Eckerd College student who fell before graduation has died

ST. PETERSBURG — An Eckerd College student who was critically injured last weekend during an accidental fall on campus shortly before she was to graduate died today, the school announced.Rebecca Ryan "Becca" Lavin-Burgher would have graduated with a ...
Published: 05/24/18
Updated: 05/25/18
A school resource officer allegedly told a gay student she would go to hell. Now he’s going away.

A school resource officer allegedly told a gay student she would go to hell. Now he’s going away.

The stares and whispers started on the first day of school more than two years ago, when Liv Funk and Hailey Smith silently declared their relationship in the halls of North Bend High School by holding hands.They knew coming out would be hard in the ...
Published: 05/24/18
What is a college’s responsibility to parents when a student is suicidal?

What is a college’s responsibility to parents when a student is suicidal?

CLINTON, N.Y. — In the days after her son Graham hanged himself in his dormitory room at Hamilton College, Gina Burton went about settling his affairs in a blur of efficiency, her grief tinged with a nagging sense that something did not add up.She fi...
Published: 05/24/18
Hillsborough teachers hope to get some, but not all of their raise money

Hillsborough teachers hope to get some, but not all of their raise money

TAMPA — Teachers in Hillsborough County came closer on Wednesday to reaching an agreement with the school district that would give them most, but not all of the pay they expected this past year.The deal, if it happens, will end a year-long conflict t...
Published: 05/23/18
Ridgewood High faithful recall ‘Pride of Pasco’ as school forges a new path

Ridgewood High faithful recall ‘Pride of Pasco’ as school forges a new path

NEW PORT RICHEY — The line snaked through the hallways and into the cafeteria, as the Ridgewood High faithful waited for their chance to secure a piece of the school’s 40-year history.They came by the hundreds — current and former students, staff and...
Published: 05/23/18
Words of wisdom from Class of 2018 on how school shootings have transformed them

Words of wisdom from Class of 2018 on how school shootings have transformed them

TAMPA — The pain of the Parkland shootings Feb. 14 was fresh on the minds of Hillsborough County’s graduating seniors when about 300 of them received an assignment. Write a 250-word essay on how decades of school shootings have touched y...
Published: 05/23/18
Company in charge of Hillsborough substitute teachers weighs in on problem cases

Company in charge of Hillsborough substitute teachers weighs in on problem cases

TAMPA — The company hired by the Hillsborough County School District to fill more than 170,000 substitute teaching shifts every year is defending its record, saying it works to get to the bottom of allegations against employees, treat them fairly and...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/25/18
Sheriff: Weeki Wachee High student posted fake school shooting threat

Sheriff: Weeki Wachee High student posted fake school shooting threat

WEEKI WACHEE — A 16-year-old was arrested Tuesday on allegations that she created a fake social media post threatening to shoot students at Weeki Wachee High School, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies said the 16-year-old told...
Published: 05/22/18
Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District and its teachers’ union moved closer to resolving their salary dispute during Monday’s negotiating session — but stopped short of reaching an agreement.The teachers, who have spent this school year work...
Published: 05/21/18
Updated: 05/22/18