Posted by Kara Kennedy on 2010-05-17

Samford University’s Brock School of Business Entrepreneurship Program launched a new initiative this year to fund student “micro-businesses,” small ventures that they can run while they are in school.  In February, student teams were given up to $500 each from the Brock School of Business.  If students chose to, they could match the funds, giving them up to $1,000 in start-up capital.

"Funding student micro-businesses is another important component of our efforts, here at the Brock School, to build a world-class entrepreneurship program,” said Beck Taylor, Dean of the Brock School of Business. “Students have a small, but authentic experience which enables them to realize what’s involved in starting a business. We are grateful to Advisory Board member, Malcolm Miller, for supporting this important initiative.”
Entrepreneurship teams started businesses ranging from jewelry making to professional photography, which earned them on average, $82 in profit for every $100 in loans. The top performing business turned a $388 profit.  All profits are awarded to members of the top three performing teams, who could use the proceeds for educational expenses or invest them in their business.

The top team headed by Kyle Woodall and known as konnect, designed and managed advertising for Facebook pages for several for-profit and nonprofit organizations, including the Homewood Chamber of Commerce.  The second place team, Meagan Caroline Photography a freelance photography and graphic design business, also placed third in the recent Regions New Venture Challenge, hosted by the Brock School of Business, winning an additional $2,500.  The third place team, Jeff Ogren’s Auto Detailing, provides mobile car washing and detailing services to clients around Birmingham.

Reflecting on his micro-business success, konnect founder, Kyle Woodall, noted that “This program pushed me to get creative and find a way to make some money, and that's just what I did. This experience not only reinforced things I've been taught in the classroom, like being cautious about cash flows, it taught me things only experience can.

Meagan Daniel, founder of Meagan Caroline Photography, said, “The micro business project allowed for a hands-on approach that helped us better understand the business operations of starting and owning a business. As an entrepreneur, we learned it is critical to do something you enjoy because you are the sole decider in how much time you dedicate to making your business successful. The greatest reward was being given the opportunity to actually start a business that I will continue to run now that the class is over.” 

The Brock School distributed loans in the Concepts in Entrepreneurship and Small Business course.  Students typically take the course during their junior year.  Each team was required to pay back the loans along with any profits generated as well as file financial statements every two weeks to show net profit or loss. 

“This is an exciting opportunity for our students,” said Franz Lohrke, who holds the Brock Family Chair in Entrepreneurship. “It provides them with the chance to hone the critical entrepreneurship skills they need to run a business, like competitor analysis, networking and cash flow management.  We also provided them funding at levels where they will have to learn to leverage financial and human resources to succeed as well as enabled them to move beyond “lemonade stand” type ventures.  The program sparked their creativity, an important part of being a successful entrepreneur.”

Several top entrepreneurship programs around the U.S. have recently started micro-business funding initiatives.  Loan amounts at different schools can vary from as little as $5 up to $5,000 and can run from a few days to six months in length, depending on the goals for the project.

“Our goal is to provide students with enough funding to launch and continue a business, if they think it is viable after the 10-week project ends.  Given that almost half the students plan to continue running their businesses shows that we are accomplishing our goal,” said Chad Carson, who teaches the Concepts class as well as an elective course in family business management. “This course also serves an important developmental bridge between our Freshman Entrepreneurship Experience (BUSA 100), where students write preliminary business plans, and our advanced entrepreneurship classes. Students have taken their foundational business classes by this point, making this an ideal time to have them start micro-businesses so they can apply what they have learned so far.”

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The Wall Street Journal ranks Samford 1st nationally for student engagement and U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 66th in the nation for best undergraduate teaching and 104th nationally for best value. Samford enrolls 5,683 students from 47 states and 19 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference, and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.