Entrepreneurship at the University of Utah

7 Reasons to Study Entrepreneurship in College

Entrepreneurship is booming. Startup companies across the globe are gaining traction, attracting capital and customers. As interest in entrepreneurship grows, so do the academic programs. Whether you’re already running a company, you’re considering a major or minor program or don’t quite yet have a plan, below are seven reasons why taking an entrepreneurship class is a great decision for any major according to students and faculty from the University of Utah’s Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute and Department of Entrepreneurship & Strategy at the David Eccles School of Business.

1. Build Your Network

Going into a startup venture, no matter your role, will be very difficult. The process is time-consuming, exhausting and, oftentimes, not fruitful, especially if you’re going at it alone.

“Professors and faculty are very excited to sit down with you,” said Mica Sloan, executive vice president of Beacon Sleep Solutions. “The value of even a single entrepreneurship class, if I were to just take one, without any of my other resources, I could have emailed my professor and say, ‘Hey, I’m trying to do X, do you know someone that could help?’ and they can put you in touch with a friendly-face in industry who you know will be willing to talk to you and help you out.”

And, even if you’re not looking to be the CEO of your own startup someday, unique connections with accomplished professors and students is never a bad thing.

“For people who don’t want to devote themselves to a career in business, the entrepreneurship certificate gives you a foot in the door that you would never otherwise have,” Sloan said. “It’s opening a new perspective and understanding the function of an industry, and the connections so that you can either pursue your own leads or to carve your own niche in an industry.”

2. You Need to Know What You’re Doing

“Why is it useful to understand the theory behind art, why not just go finger paint?” said Todd Zenger, the chair of the Department of Entrepreneurship & Strategy at the David Eccles School of Business.

Passion for a project means very little if you don’t know how to use it. The professors and faculty that help run and teach programs and courses have tried, failed and succeeded in their fields, and know how to help you get going.

“Believe it or not, we know a lot about entrepreneurship,” said Jay Barney, the Lassonde chair in social entrepreneurship in the Department of Entrepreneurship & Strategy. “In the entrepreneurial finance class here, we first figure out what a cap table is. Students ask, ‘What is a cap table?’ and that’s why we’re in the class. We have to figure out that kind of stuff, because all decisions made at point zero affect the end result. Let’s not figure out that we need a cap table at the end of our first go, let’s do that early on. It would be a waste of time and money to not explain and understand the groundwork.”

3. Practice is Expensive

It’s not only likely, but also important to make mistakes when starting your own company. Growth, progression and, ultimately, success come from learning what works and what doesn’t. However, entrepreneurship classes, even just the introduction courses, can give you a base knowledge of what to expect.

I think that practice is a very expensive way to learn,” Barney said. “The reason that we have classes is because we, as professors, do know some things, and it would be a mistake to not share the information we have about these things and instead say, ‘Just go out there and try.’ Trying is emotionally, financially, socially expensive. That’s why we have classes, to avoid some of those costs.”

“We did a lot of case studies in entrepreneurship classes: a local bakery, Tesla and all of these essentially unicorns in their own way, successful in their own right and worth studying,” said Kepler Sticka-Jones, and computer science and political science student. “There were a lot of things that you can pick up from the successes and failures of each company, and about the way the entrepreneurship works.”

4. They Help You Find Your Passions

“The idea that if you want to be an entrepreneur, you should just be an entrepreneur, is nice, but I don’t think that everyone just knows that they want to be entrepreneur,” Sticka-Jones said. “That’s why those entry-level classes exist, so that people who have even an inkling can get some exposure to the field and try it out, and experiment. That’s the big reason that I took a class. You come out knowing that yeah, entrepreneurship is cool and that you can do a lot with it or maybe it’s not for you. In my case, it helped me launch a startup.”

For some, entrepreneurship is where they thrive. Entrepreneurship classes are full of students and faculty that love their work: “It’s really fun to create new things, to take an idea and build a team around it, raise capital, get a product launched, explore new markets and products,” said Troy D’Ambroiso, executive director of the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute and assistant dean at the David Eccles School of Business. “It’s really been intellectually stimulating and intriguing for me, to work on startup companies.”

5. They’re a Gen-Ed

Some of the entry-level entrepreneurship courses count towards general education requirements at the University of Utah, ranging from applied science to behavioral science credits.

“If you’re interested in Lassonde at all, even if just Silicon Valley and Silicon Slopes looks interesting, take the intro-level courses, especially if you’re an incoming freshman or sophomore,” said Sticka-Jones. ENTP 1010 fulfilled a requirement for me, and they’re fun, exploratory classes.”

6. They Diversify Your Skill Set

Entrepreneurship classes are practical. “I’ve come to class on a Monday and implemented what we learned on Tuesday in my business,” said Makayla Hendricks, an entrepreneurship major and owner of Off the Frame Photography. “It’s a unique thing to have at a university.”

Even if you decide that running your own company or working on a startup isn’t for you, the skills, techniques and connections made in these classes will be beneficial regardless.

“People don’t go just into ‘business,’” D’Ambrosio said. “Whether you’re running a retail store, developing technology or running a university, non-profit or an art gallery, teaching music lessons or you’re an engineer in an aerospace company, you’re using business skills. I was a political science major, and for running political campaigns and government offices, you need business skills.”

7. Unique Resources for U

The entrepreneurial focus at the University of Utah is matched by few universities across the country. Lassonde Studios, a new five-story building dedicated to entrepreneurship, is a unique place for startups, and its collaboration with entrepreneurial academics allows for a successful approach to running and working on startups. At the U, entrepreneurship is student-focused.

“Our programs have more resources for students, for entrepreneurial experiments, for creative ideas, along with mentors and professors that will help you along the way, than any other university in the country,” D’Ambrosio said. “Take advantage of what’s available. This is about you as a student. We try to give students a broader portfolio of experiences, a broader network of people to impact, and a step beyond just the traditional classroom experience, creating those unique, transformative student experience.”

Students can take what they learn in their class, and, just like Hendricks, apply it to their startup using the Make Space at Lassonde Studios, grants and scholarships provided by entrepreneurship competitions, and many other resources available at the University of Utah.

Learn about entrepreneurship academic opportunities at the University of Utah on the website for the Department of Entrepreneurship & Strategy: eccles.utah.edu/entp.


About the Author:

Jacqueline Mumford Jacqueline is a marketing and political science double major and frequent Lassonde contributor. You can find her on LinkedIn.

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