Wednesday, February 21, 2024

EAP partners with local universities to train students to think, compete like business owners

by BIZ Magazine

Entrepreneurial Accelerator Program (EAP), a division of BRF, is partnering with universities statewide to inspire students to create and run their own businesses in new and enterprising ways. 

University business model competitions, progressive entrepreneurship class programs, and new campus living communities that cater to students who plan to contribute to or own a business — they’re all part of building an entrepreneurship ecosystem in Louisiana, according to Dave Smith EAP Executive Director. 

“When you consider that 97% of businesses in Louisiana are small businesses, empowering our students with the skills, encouragement and resources to be entrepreneurs is critically important to the future of our state,” said Dave Smith, EAP Executive Director.  “We are all working together, with EAP aiding entrepreneurship education in colleges and universities, to train our students to solve issues and think and operate like business owners —whether they go on to work for a company or decide to launch their own.  Either way, our students are gaining the confidence and a network of support to help them start and grow any business here in Louisiana.”

In three years, EAP has grown the university business model competitions—that encourage students to create ideas for a business in any industry— from one to six schools. Following is the final pitch schedule with four of the universities happening this month: 

Northwestern – Inferno Pitch

  • Thursday, November 14 from 1pm – 3pm  at 125 Central Ave., Russell Hall, Room 107, Natchitoches

ULM – Warhawk Business Competition

  • Monday, November 18 from 2–4 pm at ULM Student Union Building, Bayou Drive, Monroe

Grambling – Golden Pitch

  • Tuesday, November 19 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Favrot Student Union Building, Grambling

LSUS – Pilot Pitch

  • Wednesday, November 20 from 1–3 p.m. at 1 University Place, University Center – Student Lounge, Shreveport

Centenary College and Bossier Parish Community College will also hold competitions in Spring 2020; the public is invited to attend these final pitch events. For more information about the business competitions, contact Dave Smith at (318) 716-4171.

In addition to these competitions, a host of other entrepreneurial-focused initiatives are putting college students on the fast track to business success; some have already started businesses while still in school.  

“We foster that entrepreneurial spirit – grit, persistence, dedication — in everything we offer so our students always have that to fall back on,” said Dr. Margaret Kilcoyne, Dean of Northwestern State University’s College of Business and Technology.  “We emphasize critical thinking and teach them that true entrepreneurs always have ‘Plan B’; they can see the problems and find ways to fix them.”

Kilcoyne says every degree program at NSU has experiential learning opportunities; academic advisors continually communicate with students about career opportunities in the state. Community, industry and business partners like EAP help the university to create real life business projects for students, provide mentoring, paid internships and even invest in top student business ideas.

“Students learn they can positively impact the economy here or save a business,” said Kilcoyne.  “That’s powerful.”

In Fall 2020, the Louisiana Tech University’s College of Business, led by Dr. Chris Martin who serves as Dean of the College, will launch the university’s first Living Learning Community where 45 first year students across all majors will live, learn and participate in activities all focused on innovation and entrepreneurship. 

“We’re building this special community to help first-year students who are passionate about pursuing entrepreneurship and ensure they have access to the mechanisms in our state that support Louisiana-based business,” said Martin.  

Tech’s College of Business provides early exposure to entrepreneurship and innovative thinking as a “core theme” in nearly every aspect of academic and co-curricular programming, beginning with first-year students, said Martin. 

Companies in Louisiana and across the country and EAP participate in Tech’s support network and are helping generate start-ups, spinoffs, commercialization of students’ product ideas and economic development in North Louisiana. Tech emphasizes innovation within the workplace and also created its “Top Dog” business model competition in 2003 to encourage students to build innovative products and services that create value in the marketplace. 

A study created by Louisiana State University-Shreveport in partnership with BRF on North Louisiana’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem, also called The Launch Network, is currently underway to determine the factors that influence and increase entrepreneurial activity in North Louisiana.    

According to Dr. Michael Meeks, Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship at LSUS and the study’s Principal Investigator, 2,000 professionals in the region and in similar communities involved with economic and career development, as well experts in the area of entrepreneurial ecosystems, are being interviewed as part of the study.  The study is just one of the many economic development efforts that BRF and EAP are leading to drive economic development in North Louisiana.

“I believe entrepreneurship is the road to prosperity in North Louisiana, keeping students here, and bringing dollars into the state,” said Meeks.  “Universities, chambers of commerce, economic groups, business incubators, EAP, BRF, bankers, attorneys — these resource providers in our entrepreneurial ecosystem help support new ventures, small business creation and growth in our region. 

Meeks continued, “The study will bring an accurate picture of where we are, what we’re doing, and what’s working in areas similar to ours in other parts of the country — and a precise roadmap on where we need to go from here.”

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