Students at the University of Southern Mississippi were issued quite a challenge while
attending an Introduction to Entrepreneurship class. It was a challenge which gave them
plenty of hands on experience in the world of business during the semester. They were
asked by their professor to start a business, with just ten dollars in capital. They rose to
the challenge with a startup in art.
Find a Market Need
Professor SherRhonda Gibbs gave her students an assignment which is known as ‘The
Venture Challenge’. According to the University of Southern Mississippi’s own ‘Student
Printz’, the students were told that they had to launch a business using no more than
ten bucks. While that may seem like “Mission Impossible,” Gibbs explained that her goal
was for her students to understand how important it is to find a real “market need’ or
issue before they start a business. She also wanted them to realize that not every “good
idea” could be forged into a lucrative startup. In order to complete the challenge,
students had to show a profit of two thousand dollars.
Two of the class members, Chelsea Wahl and Emily Matthews were senior biochemistry
majors. They had decided to take Introduction to Entrepreneurship so that they could
have some background in entrepreneurial skills. They both had plans to start a business
of their own one day and felt that the class would help plant the seeds which they
could sow later. Wahl has dreams of opening her own office to practice optometry, and
Matthews wants to launch a business in manufacturing and research. Wahl explained
to ‘Student Printz’ she had no idea about the logistics of beginning her own business
with her biochemistry background.
I Wanted to Use My Abilities to Create
The two girls decided to start a watercolor painting business which would be local. They
called their startup “Serene Arts,” and worked together to make it viable. Matthews,
using watercolors, created a painting of many figures which were popular to the
Southern Mississippi area. She then made prints of the painting, and sold them for
prices ranging from ten to forty dollars, depending on what type of matting and framing
was used. Matthews explained to ‘Student Printz’, “Art was my life all throughout school
growing up. Watercolor was always my favorite, so I wanted to use my abilities to create
a perfect representation of Southern to sell to people as a way of remembering the
university or as a great gift for fans.”
As Matthews completed the artwork for their business, Wahl pretty much handles the
rest. She said that the initial cost was about four dollars for the supplies which they used
to start Serene Arts. The girls then pre-sold their work in order to use that cash to fund
the prints. Once this was in place, they used their initial profits to go right back into the
business, buying materials, printing and anything else they needed.
Don’t Take “No” for an Answer
Like any other business, Serene Art has come up against a few issues which they
had to battle to overcome. They could not sell some of their paintings at football
games because they had not gained permission to use the team logo, and Brett
Favre’s number. But Wahl was persistent, and eventually got permission to use the
quarterback’s number. They are still waiting to find out if they will be able to use the
Eagle head logo from Southern Miss. When speaking of the experience, Wahl stated, “It
really teaches you to not take ‘no’ for an answer. We even tried to turn the business
into a non-profit due to the controversy by donating the funds to a new campus
organization called the Golden Eagle Student Consulting Group.”
Professor Gibbs is compassionate about the struggle which Wahl and Matthews had
to face in order to get their business off the ground, but feels it is a terrific learning
experience for the girls. “I certainly applaud their integrity and ethical decision-making
in seeking to get Brett Favre’s and the university’s permission first before they sold
the prints,” she said. “Most first time business owners never consider adhering to the
intellectual property rights of others.”
“Real World” Experience
As the United States pushes its government to support entrepreneurship in order to
help create jobs, Wahl and Matthews are faced with similar obstacles on a smaller scale.
The two are concerned that there was not a process to help students at Southern Miss
when they are faced with these types of situations. Both girls feel that if the University
were more supportive of student’s efforts in entrepreneurship, that they could be far
©2011 entrepreneurweek.com, all rights reserved.
Angela Kaye Mason is an online researcher, writer, and contributor at entrepreneurweek.com blog network. She may be reached at email@example.com. Follow Angela on Twitter. Find her on Facebook .
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