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Trey Sinyard (BBA ’11)
Without a doubt, the Terry Entrepreneurship Program changed my life trajectory. My eyes were opened to what it truly means to relentlessly pursue opportunity without regard to resources. Far from being a definition for entrepreneurship, this principle infiltrated my immediate undergraduate and post-graduate plans and laid the foundation for the dreams which I'm now pursuing. I would never have considered working for a startup company after graduation had I not been exposed to the thrill of the challenge of entrepreneurship at Terry. And while the experience was arguably the hardest project I've ever been a part of, the adventure and excitement embedded in meeting the everyday challenges of wide open opportunity engendered a love for challenge and a desire to solve big problems.
Beyond the career opportunities, Terry Entrepreneurship fundamentally altered my mindset for all ventures, whether directly or indirectly business related. I learned that all my endeavors are about the generation of value and that price is irrelevant. If the market is not buying what I'm selling, I don't have a pricing problem, I have a value problem! Even more so, I learned the dire need for excellence in marketing and sales, two areas that I had demoted in importance during my undergraduate tenure in the business school. In entrepreneurship, I learned to always sell, to convey value succinctly yet powerfully, to pitch an idea that captures imaginations and cash flow. Even in my current field of medicine, these aspects are crucial to any pursuit.
Lastly, Terry Entrepreneurship embedded within me an inescapable desire to innovate. Rarely, if ever, will I work in a perfect system. Consequently, developing a keen perspective for tweaks and modifications is an essential component for any successful career. Most innovations aren't postulated and meditated on for ages, they are noticed when good endeavors are restricted by alterable barriers. It is for this very reason that I regularly sit with my colleagues in medical school and discuss small problems and potential solutions which could alter important variables such as infection rates, outcomes, and safety. And the beauty of the entrepreneurship background is that these ideas don't remain locked in the cognitive realm. No, far from it! We ideate and innovate in order to create. The Terry Entrepreneurship program gifted a skillset to make these ideations reality.
Michelle Kourakin (BBA ’12)
Being an entrepreneur is very in vogue; it is a popular notion that if you start a tech company out of your college dorm room you will make billions. However, I would challenge this mainstream statement and ask what entrepreneurship can offer you?
I started my journey in entrepreneurship at the University of Georgia’s Entrepreneurship Program. I believed that upon my graduation I would’ve created and owned my own business, having gone to class during the day while I built my empire at night. However, as I started to pursue my career as an entrepreneur I began a long and intimate journey with myself in what I like to call ‘MyEnterprise’ business. This is the philosophy that one should run his or her life as a business every day. You are the boss and CEO and your network of connections are different branches of your business. The decisions I make every day propel me towards my end goal of making me the best business possible.
It was during this journey that the Terry Entrepreneurship Program helped me realize that I did not have to start a company out of my dorm room to be an entrepreneur. More specifically, the first exercise Chris Hanks, head of the program, made our class complete helped me define my own journey. Looking back, I realized I could be successful by internally debating the following simple questions, deriving a truthful answer, and doing whatever it took to achieve results.
- Who do you want to be?
- What motivates you?
Aside from helping me realize my own deep desires, the program also gave me the confidence to execute them. After a brief period of time I co-founded an LLC called ugaboard.com (now athensboard.com; visit Twitter #athensboard), worked at a healthcare startup in Arizona and an investment bank in Atlanta. And now as a highly motivated analyst for Goldman Sachs, I’m happy to say that I still wake up every day and invest a great deal of energy into "MyEnterprise". I’m truly thankful that the Terry Entrepreneurship Program helped me pinpoint my dreams while at the same time instilling the skills I needed to achieve them.
Austin Langley (BBA ’13)
I attended a workshop to hear the Managing Director of the MIT Center for Entrepreneurship Bill Aulet speak about “Disciplined Entrepreneurship” and the steps to take in order to build a revolutionary and innovative company. He opened with the question, “Can entrepreneurship be taught?” I was immediately brought back to my entrepreneurship class when Chris Hanks posed the same question to his students. When Professor Hanks first asked the question, I thought he was crazy to think you can hand anyone a book, lecture them, and turn a class of corporate-bound business students into entrepreneurs. When Bill Aulet asked the question over a year later, my response was completely different. Why? Because I had spent a year with Chris Hanks.
I still don’t believe that entrepreneurship can be taught using traditional methods, but I do believe when you have someone like Chris Hanks planning the environment, amazing things can happen. The magic didn’t happen in the classroom. We had afternoon meetings and workshops, business plan competitions for venture capital, lots of pizza, and most importantly – homework. What Chris says in the classroom isn’t what makes the difference, it is how he inspires in everyday students to do their best to make the world a better place. I’ve had many people try to change the way I think, talk, or act throughout my life, but no advice has ever been as practical as his. His blunt attitude and witty, experienced ego makes us laugh, questions our passion, and inspires us to act.
Without Chris, I may have been an ordinary student. With Chris, I am now running a salsa company, making websites, and consulting others about the realities of startup life. I do so with the confidence that I have made it through the UGA Entrepreneurship Program and learned from the best. I used to believe entrepreneurship wasn’t for everybody, now I believe it can be for anybody.
Casey Courter (BBA ’12)
Why take on the responsibility to be the captain of your own ship, knowing that there is a possibility that it could very well sink? Why be your own boss? Why take risks? Why entrepreneurship?
Chris Hanks challenged my train of thought. When I wanted to cop out and say things like, "I don't have any money to start with" or "I'm just not that creative" or "I just don't know where to even start." Chris Hanks would chime in with inspiration, truth, hope, and action.
"It is going to be hard, but it is the hard that makes it worth it.”
This is the type of inspiration that inspired me to not only "try" to succeed, but to overcome obstacles, and truly succeed. The most rewarding thing for me was to look back and see how much I had grown, not only as the owner of a company, but as a person.
So… why be an entrepreneur? I will be the first to tell you. Take on the responsibly! Be the captain of your own ship. Take risks. Sound cliché? It can sound however you believe it sounds, but for me it has been the most difficult, challenging, heart breaking, exhilarating, fulfilling, and rewarding process I have ever experienced. That’s why I, am an entrepreneur. Thanks for the inspiration, Chris.
John Arnold (MBA ’15)
This school year afforded me the privilege of moderating the Accelerator Program. The Accelerator Program provides students with start-ups the opportunity to receive mentoring from experienced entrepreneurs and to advance their ventures as fast as possible. As a moderator, I observed the progress and development of these student ventures through the year, and two primary results stand out from the program.
First, the program provided protection from wasted time and resources. Many students learned that they had failed to recognize legal obstacles or market challenges when they present to the mentors. These oversights are simply due to a lack of experience, but they might have cost the student countless hours and dollars before the obstacles were uncovered by trial and error.
Second, the program propelled students further into the dreams that they had for starting a business. During the second to last session in the fall, one of the students was challenged to, “Just go do it. You’re ready.” On the day of the final meeting I received an email saying that he was on his start-up’s first business trip, getting out there and doing what he dreamed!
As an entrepreneur, I understand the value of being protected from my mistakes and propelled further down the path of launching my venture, and I find that kind of mentoring truly difficult to place a price-tag on. I’m simply thankful to have these types of resources and opportunities at my fingertips.
Lindsey Epperly (BA ’11)
I’ll never forget the experience of walking into my first Terry Entrepreneurship Program meeting. As an English major, I was somewhat intimidated to enter a room full of business students who had already spent years learning the ins and outs of the business world. I’m fortunate enough to come from an entrepreneurial family, but the idea of being graded on my grasp of Macro Economics was enough to scare me away from the major.
I was in my last year at UGA and had to seize the opportunity to further educate myself in pursuing my own dreams of becoming a business owner. Fortunately enough, as intimidating as it might have been to walk into that room, I was immediately greeted by friendly students, encouraging professors, and the support necessary to turn my business into a reality.
For the last two years of my undergrad courses, I had been working on the side as a luxury travel consultant, a position that would force me to flex marketing and entrepreneurial strengths in order to succeed. During weekends, I would attend bridal shows around Georgia to obtain grow my client base. During the school week, I would work one on one with clients in order to plan their dream honeymoons, in between classes, of course!
The longer I stayed in the business, the more my services grew through referrals and the more my expertise extended beyond honeymoons. Before I graduated, I was sending people across the globe and taking business trips to further my career education – visiting the islands of French Polynesia wasn’t a bad way to spend my senior Spring Break!
With a year and a half of working in the travel industry under my belt, I felt I could successfully create and pitch a business plan to launch my own brand. While I work for a host agency, my dream was to market myself and my services separately, to focus on luxury planning and customized itineraries to a discerning clientele.
When the opportunity to participate in UGA’s Next Top Entrepreneur came about, I knew I had to compete, and Vacations by Lindsey was born. I entered with the idea that, even if I didn’t make it past the first round, it would be an invaluable experience to hear feedback on my business plan from peers, professors, and respected venture capitalists.
To my surprise, Vacations by Lindsey continued advancing in the competition until the top five, where I received the highest compliment I could’ve expected: runner up. The honor came when the venture capitalists announced that my plan did not need financial assistance and could very well survive on it’s own. With that encouragement, I refined and launched my brand, which I’ve been running full time since graduating in 2011.
I can honestly say that without the support of the Terry Entrepreneurship Program or the confidence gained from competing in UGA’s Next Top Entrepreneur, my business would not be where it is today.
Christina Smith (MBA ’14)
I’m pursuing my MBA to develop the business acumen necessary to improve the world through business. My experience with the Terry Entrepreneurship Program will be invaluable as I identify opportunities to tackle social and environmental problems. I’ve not only learned how to craft a sound business plan, but I’ve discovered the importance of developing a persuasive pitch. I’ve been coached by Peter Casey, an entrepreneur featured on the TV show the Dragon’s Den (the UK version of Shark Tank), and competed in the finals at the Technological Innovation: Generating Economic Results (TI:GER) competition recently held in Atlanta. I’m confident my innovative thinking and ability to pitch strategic ideas will empower me to turn big ideas into reality throughout my career.
Barrett Brooks (BBA ’10)
Some people say entrepreneurship is something that runs in our blood…that it can’t be taught. Others believe that entrepreneurship is simply a collection of skills applied in a different setting. I would argue that it is both, and the Terry Entrepreneurship Program led by Chris Hanks is well on its way to becoming one of the premier programs for walking the line between the two to encourage young people to launch companies that matter.