There is ample evidence to suggest that Chris Hanks (BBA 1990) was born to be an entrepreneur. First, as a Terry risk management student who became an entrepreneur by necessity, hawking t-shirts and operating a delivery service for local florists to fund his college education. Then, after a stint in the risk management field, he redefined his idea of success, becoming an entrepreneur by desire. He started a CD store that he sold, followed in rapid-fire succession by ventures in e-commerce, export, and a publishing firm devoted to entrepreneurship in the southeast, all which he still owns today.
Now, with a career that has come full circle and landed him back at UGA, Hanks is well-equipped to succeed long-time management professor Charles Hofer as Terry's new business plan guru and mentor to MBA students.
"We are going to be national champions of the business plan competition and I'm focused on winning for several reasons...for starters, it helps students monetize all the hard work they do in class," says Hanks of the $100,000 grand prize awarded to the annual winner of the Moot Corp. competition. "Two, it's recognition for being the best at entrepreneurship and I want the University of Georgia and Terry to retain that recognition. Terry already has a strong track record and I want to elevate it with the help of my network of entrepreneurs. It will also give students a head start on launching their businesses."
A self-described nerd about entrepreneurship, Hanks' circuitous route from business owner to B-school instructor didn't begin until he was well into a successful corporate career. Working in risk management for Coca Cola Enterprises, Syntex Corp., and Alcon Laboratories impressed others, but he found it personally unfulfilling. Hanks got involved in teaching as a guest speaker at Georgia State. Student and faculty demands for his appearances ultimately led to a full-time position at GSU.
"The unique thing about Chris is that he...knows exactly what an investor wants to see," says Charles Spencer, a former student of Hanks at GSU and a recent winner of the New Venture Competition at Wharton's 34th annual Whitney M. Young, Jr. Memorial Conference. Spencer's company, ThinkLive!Inc, which specializes in manufacturing cutting-edge DJ/Producer hardware and software for the music industry, earned $10,000 as the prize-winning business plan — a plan Hanks helped him create.
"He tells you, 'If you go through these steps, you are going to have something others want to fund.' He brings successful entrepreneurs to class and you get to see living testimonials."
Hanks' battle plan at Terry is to team up with OpenSpan COO, Rob Bearden in a joint project with the college's management and MIS departments to create the Terry Technology Startup Competition. Open to all UGA students, the competition will give contestants the opportunity to learn about developing a technology business idea and converting their idea into a business plan. Student teams will be judged by a panel of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists at the Terry Executive Center in Atlanta. The best idea and top business plan will win $500 and $1500, respectively.
"His passion for entrepreneurship is contagious," says Seth Mason, who owned a Spanish-language newspaper with distribution throughout the southeast prior to enrolling in Terry's MBA program. "He has rekindled the entrepreneurial spirit within me."
"One of the coolest things about being an entrepreneur," says Hanks, "is that you're writing down what your life will look like in one year, five years, and seven years from now."