Thursday, July 18, 2024

Ivy Tech provides practical entrepreneurship education

By Ebony Chappel

Data from 2014 compiled by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) shows for the fourth year in a row, the U.S. has experienced tremendous growth in the area of business ownership with a minimum of 13 percent of U.S. adults starting and running new businesses. Over the past decade, there has been an increase in the number of entrepreneurship focused post-secondary offerings.

According to findings published by the Kaufmann Foundation in their 2013 report titled “Entrepreneurship Education Comes of Age on Campus,” in 1985, there were approximately 250 courses in entrepreneurship being offered at college campuses in the United States. By 2008, that number grew to more than 5,000 at two-year and four-year institutions. In 2013, there were well over 400,000 students following this course of study.

With this increase in interest, comes a growing need for resources. In 2010, Ivy Tech Community College addressed this need by adding a set of course offerings for current and future business owners. Steve Bryant, the executive director of the Gayle and Bill Cook Center for Entrepreneurship in Bloomington, said the program was developed out of a sense of urgency.

“We always had a strong connection with the small business development centers around Indiana. The Bloomington small business office was moved to Terre Haute and left a void. There was a lack of resources for local business owners,” he said. Bryant, who has been the executive director since the program’s inception, drew on his own past experience to help bring the vision to life. “I was part of senior management for a small biotech company in Bloomington. When I came aboard the startup it had no sales. I grew it to a $5 million business,” he said.

Like most institutions of higher learning, Ivy Tech already offered business administration curriculum with all the usual trappings of courses on finance and marketing, but nothing geared toward those wanting to embark on a path of business ownership.

“The vision and the challenge was to create something from scratch that would have an impact on our students and provide them a lot of skills to leave here and start their own enterprise,” said Bryant. “My boss at the time, Chancellor Bob Weichart, had the vision.

He wanted Ivy Tech students to be able to study entrepreneurship while they were enrolled, with the hopes that they would start something on their own upon completion.” In 2010, the team behind the creation of the program started with a white paper and in 2011 the first courses were offered at the Bloomington campus.

In August of 2014, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education (CHE) approved the expansion of it to all 31 Ivy Tech campuses in the state. The addition of online classes three semesters ago helped to triple enrollment. The student pool boasts 60 percent female and 45 percent ethnic minority enrollment.

Currently, the program offers an 18-credit-hour Certificate in Entrepreneurship, designed for students with knowledge in other fields of study acquired either through postsecondary education, through industry or life experience, and a 31-credit hour Technical Certificate, which includes the entrepreneurship courses and adds an accounting, marketing, computer, communication and college success course. Entrepreneurship courses include Entrepreneurial Marketing and Market Research, Venture Growth and Development and Entrepreneurial Tax and Finance.

Business plan development is an integral component of the program and business plan writing software is utilized. The mission is simple: to provide practical solutions and teach students how to apply academia in real world situations. An essential part of what Bryant believes sets Ivy Tech apart from the pack.

“I think we have a lot of very good four year business programs and masters level programs like Indiana University, Ball State, Purdue, Notre Dame and various independent colleges,” he said. “What sets us apart is all of our faculty have owned and operated small businesses in some format so you have a lot of people that have a lot of experience to share and that is really vital to how rich the experience is going to be for the student.”

Another element of the experience is in teaching students how to maximize use of their immediate professional network by reaching out to others who may be able to assist them in their endeavors.

“We have a lot of students who want to start food trucks, so the first thing I tell them to do is to talk to someone who owns a food truck so that they can decide what they really want to do. That business owner can let them know the good, the bad, and the ugly,” said Bryant. “It will give you a good idea about what you really need to know before you step out there and spend your hard-earned money or something borrowed from a bank only to realize it’s not working in a year or two.”

In addition to the certificate program, Bloomington’s campus offers a peer-to-peer learning experience via a CEO roundtable, youth programs, and personalized business consulting available to area business owners. “If at least 10 of those people finish and go on to start a successful business, that’s what we’re after and if we talk 170 people out of a bad idea that was going to cost them lots of money and energy that’s a success story too,” said Bryant. “The statewide impact on a few small businesses, particularly those in rural communities, can help have a major impact on the entire state.”

For more information on Ivy Tech Bloomington’s Gayle & Bill Cook Center for Entrepreneurship visit

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