Friday, September 24, 2021

Students create their own path through MSU entrepreneurship programs

“Various studies have suggested that 50 percent of students graduating in the next couple of years, at some point in their careers, will be working for themselves," MSU director of undergraduate entrepreneurship Neil Kane said.

MSU entrepreneurship programs aim to provide students with resources needed to excel within their own career goals. And, under a new leader, the program is implementing exciting additions.

Kane was named the new, and first, director of undergraduate entrepreneurship in August 2015. With an extensive background in business and, having taken on a large number of entrepreneurship roles, Kane was chosen because he was the perfect fit for the job.

“(The committee) thought that they would prefer to have somebody who really had that entrepreneurial DNA as opposed to somebody who was a career academic,” Kane said.

Defining himself as an entrepreneur first and foremost, Kane has been trained in sales and business development, held a marketing role at Microsoft and has been involved in start-ups ranging from barbecue sauce to energy storage devices.

Kane has been working on implementing three large additions to the program.

The first addition is a minor in entrepreneurship and innovation available to students of any major. This will connect a student’s academic program to their interest in entrepreneurship.

The second change is to largely increase the availability of information and ease communication regarding the program. Kane said a team has been working to redesign the program’s website, which will hopefully accomplish both of these things.

Lastly, Kane will add an experiential component to a student’s academic experience.

"My feeling is that you can’t really know entrepreneurship, you can’t learn it, unless you do it. It’s not something that you can simply learn by sitting in a lecture hall."

“My feeling is that you can’t really know entrepreneurship, you can’t learn it, unless you do it,” Kane said. “It’s not something that you can simply learn by sitting in a lecture hall.”

This will be done through a new academic option similar to the Honors College option. This new “entrepreneur option” will allow students to create a program for themselves and will give them the opportunity to have their entrepreneurship experience reflected on their transcript.

There are still a few things remaining for the university to do before this option is implemented, but Kane estimates a 99 percent chance it will be available for students in the fall.

MSU currently offers a number of resources available to entrepreneurs.

Two of the primary resources available are The Hive and The Hatch.

The Hive, located in Wilson Hall, is a space used by students to collaborate and brainstorm. This location is primarily for the beginning stages of coming up with business ideas.

When a student is ready to launch a business, they turn to The Hatch. Located on Grand River Avenue, this space provides almost everything a student could need to start a business. This includes 3-D printing, opportunities to collaborate with other students, mentor support, legal services, accounting help, coaching and access to money.

Kane said he considered the current standing of the entrepreneurship program to be a “very winnable sort of circumstance.”

“I just felt that MSU had everything going for it,” Kane said. “But it was a few years behind what several other peer institutions had done. I felt like with good people, and a commitment from the top of university, and the right kind of funding, we could be successful and personally I would feel very fulfilled believing I had a role in helping make that impact.”

When a student is debating whether entrepreneurship is the right path to take, he or she should realize entrepreneurship isn’t limited to start-ups.

One can be entrepreneurial in many positions, including as an employee for a large company, or when in a role such as a university professor or working for the government, Kane said.

“It’s more about really just kind of having your head on straight and having the right attitude and the right commitment and the right amount of self-talk to be sure you’re prepared for the journey you’re going to go on,” Kane said.

Skills also matter. An entrepreneur should have the basic skills of verbal and written communication mastered, Kane said.

If a person isn’t strong in one area, they can always have a business partner who is, Kane said.

Kane said he hopes to implement these planned additions to the program by fall 2016 and continues to make plans to improve the program through a five-year plan.

Supply chain senior Josh York has spent the past three years running the York Project, a company that donates an article of clothing to a homeless American for every hat they sell, using the popular “one for one” model.

Since opening, the York Project has donated more than 10,000 items in 18 different cities.

Though donating articles of clothing is helpful, York said he wants to do more.

In the near future, York said he hopes to hire a few homeless people. He has just received a large enough grant, which should enable him to begin the hiring process this summer.

What York believes sets his company apart from others that are similar is its dedication to supporting local communities while the majority of donations from other companies are sent overseas.

“I’ve always been a believer that it’s more important to help your own people and to take care of your own, in your own community before you take a step outside and try and help others elsewhere,” York said.

Nine people, along with York, are currently on the team. York is hoping to hire a co-founder this summer.

A passion for clothing from the past drove the opening of economics senior Will Taylor’s company Free Will Supply, an online shop that adds a vintage feel to new shirts.

The idea to turn this passion into a career came to Taylor in the fall of 2015, when he was growing unsatisfied with job and internship hunts. After spending his years at MSU, gaining skills he needed to be a strong employee, Taylor refused to settle for a job he didn’t love.

Taylor is currently the only one running Free Will Supply.

Rather than being intimidated by the idea of running a business alone, he embraces it.

“It’s one of the most fun parts. I get to deal with everything from product developments to the production of it to the marketing part. ... Having to fill all those roles has definitely been a learning experience,” Taylor said.

He started this business to inspire others not to settle for a job they don’t love and to not be afraid to take a risk and create the job they want to have.

“I just love the challenge of it because it’s definitely different than having a job and going in each day to perform a task. I love the challenge of having to find out what those tasks are,” Taylor said.

Taylor’s shirts are different than a normal, new T-shirt because the vintage feel makes them lighter and softer.

He makes these shirts in the attic of his East Lansing home.

These shirts can be purchased at freewillsupply.com and he offers free shipping to East Lansing residents.

A technology repair company with a personal twist is what engineering junior Malik Hall has based his business off of.

Teckker is a company that provides customers with anything from technology news, to software or screen repair.

After years of being the go-to person for technology help, from classmates, teachers and his family, Hall decided to pursue it.

Hall said he prides himself on being very personable with customers. Technology can be overwhelming and confusing to many, but he said he believes that having someone friendly helping customers with repairs can make all the difference.

“A lot of people believe that with technology it’s very robotic,” Hall said. “It gives you this weird sense of a relationship with one another, but I believe that I have a really personal way of fixing things and making people feel really comfortable when using my service.”

Hall primarily runs this service out of the MSU Innovation Center, The Hatch.

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