During the 3-Week semester at Hiram College, students focus on one class for three weeks, after taking a full course load for the first part of the semester. Hiram College News will profile some of the unique opportunities students have to stretch their brains and imaginations during the Fall 2013 3-Week session.
There isn’t a way to predict the everyday challenges and hurdles that come with entrepreneurship. But students in Dave Kukurza’s Integrative Entrepreneurship 3-Week course are getting a pretty good idea of what it’s like. They’ve spent the past few weeks working side-by-side with entrepreneurs in various stages of getting their business or product off the ground.
Kukurza, academic program director for the entrepreneurship minor, teaches this course each 3-Week semester at LaunchHouse, a business development firm in Shaker Heights. Only about a third of the class consists of actual classroom instruction; students spend the rest of the time paired with one of the development firm’s start-ups, and throughout the three weeks, they do real research, consulting and presentations for the company.
The result is a win-win for both parties, and for the students, the experience often leads to an internship offer.
“The students win because they’re working with something first hand as if it’s their company,” Kukurza said. “They’re exposed to personalities, circumstances, people, events – things that aren’t talked about in a text book. At the same time, the companies win, because they get a fresh set of young eyes.”
LaunchHouse provides office space and resources to more than 100 entrepreneurs in the area. Kukurza’s students spend two days a week during the 3-Week at LaunchHouse, giving presentations and working alongside their designated company. They are expected to put in additional hours throughout the week.
Juniors Evan Bender and Scott Betts, both entrepreneurship minors, have been working with a software start-up called CompassMD, a company with an innovative approach to cutting down medical costs and bills.
The two young men have very different career goals: Bender, a political science major, intends to pursue corporate law, and Betts, a biology major, plans to go to veterinary school. But both have taken away valuable skills and understandings from working so closely with a company.
“I’ve learned that an understanding of what you’ve learned so far will only somewhat prepare you,” Bender said. “You never know what’s going to happen each day.”
They said they’ve had the opportunity to make real contributions to CompassMD during their short time working with the company. They’ve helped the business owner, Anthony Stedillie, tweak and enhance his sales plan by doing Internet research, looking at case studies and census information and talking to doctors.
“You’re working for these guys, and they actually listen to your ideas,” Betts said. “It’s completely different than being in a classroom.”
Aside from the experience they are gaining working side-by-side with entrepreneurs, Kukurza said another benefit of the class is the amount of presentation work required. Each Thursday, students give a presentation on their work and findings to the class, their entrepreneur partner and others on the staff at LaunchHouse.
“If you’re going to be an entrepreneur, you’re standing there pretty naked in front of the world,” he said. “You must learn to sell yourself and your product.”
And even if they don’t decide to pursue the entrepreneur route, they’re learning skills that will make them marketable in any job.
“They have the underpinnings of business all through the curriculum,” Kukurza said. “When they’re done, they’re very marketable in many situations.”
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