By Lynne Munoz, M. Ed.
Everett Community College student Tyeson Penella was nervous. The biggest loan he'd ever requested was an advance in his allowance.
This time, he was asking a panel of business experts to loan his team of EvCC students money to start their own T-shirt business.
The panel–made up of two bank executives, the director of the Northwest Women's Business Center, as well as representatives from EvCC's School of Business Design–gave loans to three team– students who worked for three quarters to create and run their own businesses. All teams repaid their loans and together donated more than $2000 back to the program to help more students start businesses next year.
“Experience really is the best teacher,” Tyeson said. “It was really tough, but working with real money to make our business possible motivated us to work hard to make it successful.”
That kind of experience is the core of Everett Community College's School of Business Design. Created in 2006, the school offers a 90-credit Associate's Degree in Entrepreneurship and the 15-credit Certificate in Entrepreneurship. The first group of 20 students graduated in June 2008.
The program combines traditional business courses, which are the core of EvCC's successful business administration program, and innovative entrepreneur courses to create unique opportunities for students and the community to experience entrepreneurial business education.
The goal of the School of Business Design at EvCC is to redefine traditional business education, going beyond business planning by focusing on hands-on business experiences and innovation. Students have the opportunity to start, run and liquidate a business, and use their skills on marketing, design and consulting projects for women and minority-run businesses in Snohomish County.
Some entrepreneurial programs continue to teach business problem-solving in a very linear, how-to, one-size-fits-all fashion, leaving little room for imagination, innovation and creativity. The School of Business Design teaches entrepreneurs to continually innovate their products, services and business practices to stay competitive.
The classroom experiences continue to extend the learning environment into real businesses and emphasize hands-on learning, creativity and teamwork. During the past academic year, SBD students have worked with over 20 local businesses to develop marketing plans, business plans, and multiple design projects for local businesses. The quality of student work has been extremely high, and they have presented to business advisory boards and local city councils for the City of Marysville and the City of Snohomish.
The SBD program of study has developed a successful learning model that breaks down artificial barriers between learning about business and applying learning to business functions. With entrepreneurship education grounded in applied practice that is linked to foundational business theory, graduates develop the relevant skills that employers demand and that support entrepreneurial success. Graduates benefit from the nearly seamless transition from the classroom to advancing in their chosen technical field or to starting their own ventures. The link between education and practical application with results will help insure their future success.
We have been excited by the way students have exceeded our expectations for the first two years of the program. The SBD has worked with several local business and community organizations to provide hands-on support for the business projects. Students in the SBD program have been involved in student project teams and participated with local business owners and city projects. Listed below are highlights from their work:
Business students worked with more than a dozen community businesses, including the nearby cities of Snohomish and Marysville. This winter, students will work with the City of Snohomish's Economic Development Director on a citywide business-marketing plan. Several business owners provided hands-on practicum and internships for students.
In a partnership with the City of Marysville, student teams created and presented design concepts for the city's new 100,000-square-foot city hall and campus. Students and faculty worked directly with the mayor and his staff during the quarter and presented culminating projects in person with the city of Marysville. The student work was featured in local newspapers and at a Marysville City Council meeting.
School of Business Design students created four businesses and ran them for two quarters. Each team was able to repay their initial cash loan of $1,200-1,500 and return a profit after all expenses were paid. Future teams will donate their profits back to the School of Business Design to perpetuate the funds for future teams.
School of Business Design students and staff hosted the fourth annual BizArt conference in February 2009, which is an artist led business conference for entrepreneurs in our region. Over 100 participants and presenters attended the successful event, and plans are underway for next year.
We expect at least 20 new students will enter the program during Fall 2009 and complete the coursework to earn an Associate's degree in Entrepreneurship. Finally, we expect internal and external evaluations will show significant progress meeting our objectives and developing a culture of innovation and change through entrepreneurship within the college and the communities it serves.