Business students at Regent University preparing themselves for the real world got a chance to enter that world as entrepreneurs. A class assignment required them to create their own businesses from the ground-up, and some students are using the assignment as a launchpad for actual businesses after they graduate.
“It’s a culmination of your degree,” said Austin Lewis ’16 (College of Arts & Sciences). “You learn management, communications, marketing, accounting, and then you get to bring it all together, where you actually create a business.”
Lewis presented his business plan for a one-stop-shop for homeowners looking to improve their homes. He joined other seniors in Dr. Joseph Bucci’s senior business capstone class going over the business concept, financial data and other plans. Ideas included video games, apps, home improvement, image consulting, on-site luxury alterations, and farming.
“It provides real-world feedback,” said Lewis. “We’ve been in an academic setting for the last four years, and now we get to see that people think we have good ideas, and people could actually use us in their businesses because we have the insight and knowledge that they’re looking for.”
Feedback came from a panel of local business owners, professors and entrepreneurs. Many of them had to present similar plans before their businesses were up-and-running.
“I think, for every student who presented today, it’s important to take their plan to market in as simple of a way as possible, to just get that response, even with one client or service and start building it from that feedback,” said Chris Lyons, owner of Adele Diamond.
While some of the students graduating in May plan to possibly take their businesses to market, Virginia Shipp ’16 (College of Arts & Sciences) is already bringing in business selling soap made of goat milk from her family’s farm.
“We’re in a couple of stores locally, and we want to expand that to Richmond and other locations,” said Shipp.
“It’s a really high-quality soap. It’s not something we’ve tried to market, but it’s been in demand anyway. Now we’re thinking, if we market it, how much more demand can we create from it?”
She says the business-plan capstone project helped fine-tune her family’s vision and focus for their soap company. They’ve decided to hire marketing consultants and aim to expand from a handful of stores to 50 by the end of the year. Accomplishing this will require data she’s gathered as part of the project.
“We’ve enjoyed making the business plan,” said Shipp. “It’s something that we hadn’t done. We had a rough business model for the farm, and I knew we had to do this eventually, and now here, I have a reason to do a business plan.”
Students say the most rigorous but important part of their business plans was presenting accurate financial data. They used this information to prove to their audience that their businesses could be profitable.