More than 300 University of Georgia students have been inspired and trained to launch their own startup businesses, benefiting from UGA’s comprehensive Entrepreneurship Program.
Students like Tommy Naranjo, a third-year management information systems major from Marietta, who partnered with third-year real estate major Preston Tucker to create PuppyFax LLC. Their web-based service, PuppyFax.com, will help match responsible, reputable dog breeders with prospective buyers.
Naranjo and Tucker’s company won UGA’s Spring 2017 Idea Accelerator, an intensive eight-week “business boot camp” held twice a year to help students turn their visions and ideas into actual companies with business plans. They also were part of the inaugural Summer Launch program. The eight student businesses participating in the launch received $5,000 to help develop their companies, with the possibility of earning another $5,000 if their group won the competition.
“It’s a very intense, very good program, with no sugar coating,” Naranjo said. “If you’re not doing the work, you’re not going to be cut out for starting your own business.”
In 2016, the university implemented an experiential learning requirement for students to obtain hands-on opportunities to take their disciplines outside the classroom through undergraduate research, internships, study abroad and service learning. The Entrepreneurship Program is a highly visible example of how that requirement both enhances student learning and gives them real-world work experience before graduation by helping them create full-fledged products and companies.
The program is also a key part of the university’s push to promote entrepreneurship throughout the institution.
“The Entrepreneurship Program is an integral part of the university experience for someone who wants to go out and someday start their own business, whether that’s now or 15 years from now,” said Bob Pinckney, director of entrepreneurial programs. Although Pinckney’s program is based in the Terry College of Business, it attracts budding entrepreneurs from across UGA.
“The Entrepreneurship Program does a great job of targeting people who have ideas and connecting them with resources to make those ideas actually happen,” said Hannah Rull, who participated in the program and is launching her own business with the help of a College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences-based entrepreneurial competition called FABricate.
Rull, who graduated with a degree in agribusiness in May and is now an administrative associate and first-year graduate student in CAES, grew up in Paulding County. She watched her father run his own tackle shop, work construction and sell real estate. His entrepreneurial drive was inspiring, as was the idea of working for himself.
Through FABricate, Rull received some funding to launch her own business, Confluence Marina. That money went toward producing 3-D renderings of the future marina and event venue. Rull hopes that once she acquires more funding, Confluence will be a centralized hub on Lake Guntersville with a floating dock for boats, a tackle store, a restaurant with a farm, and lodging.
Now Rull helps run FABricate to give other students their own opportunity to become entrepreneurs.
“Being a business owner is one of the hardest things you can ever do,” Rull said, “but you control your own destiny.”