Yet another college debuts an entrepreneur specialty, furthers national trend

business-entrepreneur-collegeA new program at Western Technical College will teach aspiring business owners how to plan for, nurture and manage a start-up–a trend that’s taking colleges across the U.S. by storm.

Western officials announced plans this month for a two-course Entrepreneurship Certificate, and the first class is scheduled to begin fall semester. Classes are open to students of all disciplines who are interested in attaining the know-how and entrepreneurial mindset they might need to succeed in the risky world of small business ownership, said Josh Gamer, associate dean of Western’s business division.

“You can succeed if you put the effort forth and plan accordingly,” Gamer said.

About half of new businesses fail within the first five years, and only one in three survive 10 years or longer, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Western officials want to help students and local entrepreneurs beat the national trend, giving them the tools needed to pursue their own ideas for a business. The classes will also teach students what they don’t know, said Shannon Corcoran, instructor for the certificate program.

“It really helps them to understand what skill they might be missing,” Corcoran said.

(Next page: The critical skills taught)

Western has already had more than 1,000 graduates begin businesses, including local companies such as Rudy’s Drive-In, Weiser Brothers General Contractor Inc. and Walzcraft, Gamer said.

The certificate will give current Western students a training opportunity that wasn’t available to their predecessors. Two classes, administered in the fall and spring, are open to anyone interested in learning the art of entrepreneurship, including non-traditional students who don’t want a degree.

“That same population has an interest in starting a business and running a business,” Gamer said.

The program is a nice fit for the technical college because it offers a number of skills-based degrees that can easily be applied to a new business venture, such as landscaping, graphic design and marketing, Gamer said.

Corcoran created the curriculum for the certificate program, and will teach both classes: “Entrepreneurship 1-Exploration and Mindset” and “Entrepreneurship 2-Business Canvass.”

The Dakota, Minn., resident founded an e-commerce business in her home more than three years ago and now sells her crochet patterns to consumers across the globe. Corcoran has a Master’s of Business Administration degree from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, but she knows many entrepreneurs do not have a business background.

The first class will teach students about the logistics of running a business, including how to network, market a product, handle human resource concerns and jump through legal hoops.

“Because that’s what you need to be an entrepreneur,” Corcoran said. “It’s the basics to get you started.”

The second class will be taught in the spring, and will give students a chance to make a business canvas — basically an abbreviated version of a business plan, Corcoran said. Students will research their idea and prepare documents they might need to receive financial backing from investors and banks.

“It takes a risk-taking mindset to be an entrepreneur,” Gamer said. “At the same time, it’s not a blind risk.”

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