UB Course Teaches MBA Students How to be Entrepreneurs

Release Date: November 14, 2000 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Can a business school really teach a subject as intangible as "how to be an entrepreneur?"

University at Buffalo School of Management professor John Hannon thinks so, as do the 31 MBA students enrolled in his new entrepreneurship course, which began this fall.

The students, organized into teams, are working into the night on business plans that could lead to the launch of the e-commerce industry's next "dot-com" start-up or Buffalo's newest small business.

Completion of a viable business plan will account for 60 percent of the students' grades in the three-credit course, and students are required to read and analyze case studies on entrepreneurial successes and failures, as well as attend classes taught by local entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.

"The main goal of the course is to help students get a business off the ground," says Hannon, associate professor of organization and human resources. "It wouldn't surprise me if a third of the class launched a business by the end of the semester, and we might even see a few of the students take a leave of absence from the MBA program in order to launch their business.

"We're encouraging the students to think big."

According to Hannon, courses in entrepreneurship don't fit seamlessly into MBA programs, which traditionally have prepared students for management positions at established companies. Over the past few years, however, entrepreneurship courses and programs have sprouted up at business schools nationwide, influenced by the much-publicized successes of "dot-com" companies, which has piqued entrepreneurial interest among students.

"The response of students here has been overwhelming," Hannon says. "The course seems to have attracted some of the MBA program's more eccentric and creative people -- people who are calculated risk takers."

Students Michael Weisman, Eric Reich, Karen Woodman and Matthew Worden, for instance, have been working late hours on their business plan, diligently communicating their progress to each other via Palm Pilots, cell phones and postings on their company's Web site.

Their team, in essence, already has launched a business, with each student assigned very specific roles: CEO, chief legal officer, director of marketing and information systems, and chief financial officer. Though careful not to divulge too many details about their Internet-based venture, the students are confident that they're potentially onto something very big.

"We're attempting to revolutionize the way companies gather consumer research and consumer preferences," says Reich.

Adds Weisman: "Our idea already has attracted interest from the Buffalo business community; we hope to incorporate our company by early next year and base our operations in Buffalo." Weisman and Reich struck on the initial idea for their business during a nine-hour drive back to Buffalo after a Buffalo Bills football game in Baltimore last year.

Other businesses being planned by UB students include a Buffalo-based gift importer, a software service provider and a manufacturer of a new medical product.

But even if some--or most--of the students' plans don't materialize into actual businesses, the course is giving them a valuable lesson on the nature and practice of entrepreneurship, Hannon says.

Weekly seminars conducted by local entrepreneurs, such as Lori Northup of Toolsource.com, Joe Wolfson of CartelWorldNet, Lyn Dyster of Gencyte and George Chamoun of Chek.com, provide students with a glimpse into "the good, bad and ugly aspects of running a business," he says.

"Students are getting a realistic preview of two universal themes that exist in all business: competition and conflict. Whether they one day own a business or work as an executive at someone else's company, they'll benefit from learning first-hand how to lead teams of people, think creatively and manage a project from start to finish."

Media Contact Information

John Della Contrada
Vice President for University Communications
521 Capen Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260
Tel: 716-645-4094 (mobile: 716-361-3006)
Twitter: @UBNewsSource