DALLAS — If the college campus is where one goes to learn the sophisticated skills of the marketplace, why not make the campus itself the proving ground for those skills?
That logic is one reason a new business species, the student entrepreneur, is flourishing on American campuses today.
The higher costs of education and difficulties in securing student loans also are forcing more students to fend for themselves.
Students Seem Different
Inc. magazine says that although a student-run business is not a new concept, "the current crop of student entrepreneurs seems somehow different."
Unlike his or her predecessor, whose primary goal was getting a degree, the magazine said, today's student entrepreneur considers that "college is the real world--a place with markets to be tapped, risks to be taken . . . so why wait for a diploma? Why not start here and now?"
As a 21-year-old student at the USC School of Business in 1983, Dean Bornstein launched a calendar business, "Young Stars of Hollywood." So successful was the venture, according to Entrepreneur magazine, that Bornstein is getting ready to launch five calendars this year.
"No question that this is a major phenomenon," said Verne C. Harnish, whose job is to make sure these students continue to do what they are doing. "We need to encourage this because such things as student loans and cheaper education may become a thing of the past."
Harnish is national director of the Assn. of Collegiate Entrepreneurs at Wichita State University.
He was in Dallas to coordinate the annual ACE conference, co-sponsored by Southern Methodist University and the Dallas Chamber of Commerce.
It features Harold Geneen, former chief executive of ITT Corp., as keynote speaker. Participants range from a 17-year-old with her own chocolate-manufacturing operation to an investment banker whose earlier firm developed and installed the fiber optics for Epcot Center and Disney-Tokyo.
Harnish said ACE grew out of a class, "Your Future in Business," being taught at Wichita State. After two annual meetings in Boston, he said, it was realized that there was substantial information to be shared among the entrepreneur groups and that ACE would become the vehicle for it.
Harnish said the typical problems facing a student entrepreneur are capital requirements, business contacts, lack of experience, credibility and how to continue the business after leaving college. It is in these areas that ACE provides the most help to the entrepreneur, he said.
"We know that right now there are quite a few young entrepreneurs who have products or services that can be launched with little capital. Our job is to tell that entrepreneur how and what it is to take that concept to the marketplace.
"The plus points for the student entrepreneur are that he or she has very little to lose, the risk factor is small and the advantage of being able to make a mistake at a very young age and still be able to start all over again.
Companies Stress Experience
"Besides, as the job market gets tougher, a student who can't get a job ought to go out and create his or her own job.
"We also are seeing a situation where larger corporations not only insist on advanced degrees but also experience. How do you get that experience when you don't have a job?
"It is the fear of the unknown and the urge to look for opportunities better than working for someone else that is helping these students to pursue their own dream."