Phil Castle, The Business Times
Patrick Wall says he’s learned a lot from his business courses at Colorado Mesa University, but even more from the various entrepreneurial activities in which he’s been involved.
Wall works at the Point, a student-run pub on the CMU campus in Grand Junction. He also participates in the Entrepreneurship Club and recently joined in an elevator pitch competition at a national conference in Florida. In addition, Wall has joined in efforts to start a business he expects to soon start distributing a unique brand of sriracha hot sauce.
“I almost feel the hands-on stuff is more important,” Wall says.
Georgann Jouflas, an entrepreneur turned business professor who serves as advisor to the E-Club, agrees. Instruction teaches theory, while activities help to apply theory and promote curiosity. “That applied stuff is priceless.”
Jouflas should know. She was selected at the College Entrepreneurs Organization conference in Orlando in November as the best chapter advisor in the nation.
Dylana Gross, president of the E-Club at CMU, placed second as best student leader.
The latest honors add to the recognition the CMU E-Club earned last year for staging the best fund-raiser in the nation, an event called Business on the Quad in which businesses showcase their products and services on campus.
A total of about 2,000 students from 200 member universities and colleges participate in the College Entrepreneurs Organization, Jouflas says. Annual conferences of the group bring together students and top entrepreneurs. “It’s really inspirational for the kids,” she says.
Between 10 and 25 students participate in the E-Club at CMU during a given semester, Jouflas says. Club activities also include tours of local manufacturers and other businesses that show students how various products are made and companies are run. “It makes more of their classes relevant.”
A second goal, she says, is to expose the students to creative ideas and the people who bring them to life.
While business students participate in E-Club, so do students studying everything from communications and engineering to music and theater, Jouflas says.
CMU offers an entrepreneurship concentration as part of its bachelor’s of business administration degree program. Students learn about entrepreneurship, small business management and entrpreneurial financing, Jouflas says. In the capstone course, students bring the various concepts together in writing a business plan.
Students also gain practical experience in working on consulting projects for local businesses, she says.
One goal of the entrepreneurial instruction and activities is to prepare students to start and run their own businesses, Jouflas says. But even if students don’t work for themselves, it’s important to develop an entrepreneurial mindset, she says. That means students can apply their knowledge and experiences in solving problems. “That’s the type of mindset we need in employees.”
There’s also an effort at CMU to teach entrepreneurism and promote that entrepreneurial mindset beyond the business department to other departments, Jouflas says. The approach is an important counterpoint to the more traditional process of lecturing students, testing them and expecting them to regurgitate the appropriate information, she says.
The increasing emphasis on testing in schools and colleges has played a part in discouraging more entrepreneurial thinking, Jouflas says.
For his own part, Wall says he’s gained experience and confidence from the activities in which he’s participated.
Wall is among a group of students and an entrepreneur who launched Rocky Mountain Sriracha. The company makes a unique hot sauce, Wall says, that’s made from natural ingredients with no preservatives and put into containers immediately after cooking for a fresh taste.
The company raised nearly $10,000 through a Kickstarter campaign and is now in the process of distributing sauce to the more than 200 backers of the startup.
The operation has moved to Denver, where a commercial kitchen processes the sauce for the company. Wall hopes the company can broaden distribution to restaurants as well as grocery stores.
Rocky Mountain Sriracha already has received an endorsement in becoming the official sriracha of the Red Rocks concert venue near Morrison, Wall says. That offers exposure to more than 1 million concert-goers a year.
Wall pitched Rocky Mountain Sriracha during the conference in Florida and says he’s subsequently talked with one of the judges about investing in the venture.
Wall says he’d like to work full-time for the company after he graduates next spring. He’s interested in becoming an entrepreneur.
For now, Wall says he’s grateful for what he’s learned from his courses as well as the activities in which he’s participated. “It’s definitely a good program with a lot of opportunity.”