Entrepreneurs Thrive in Utah Valley

Maren Layton
Daily Universe
August 11 2003

According to a local magazine, entrepreneurs thrive in Utah Valley - and the presence of BYU and Utah Valley State College could have something to do with it.

In the spring 2003 edition of "Utah Valley BusinessQ," the National Commission for Entrepreneurship ranked Provo City as the No. 1 entrepreneurial city among comparable areas for most of the 1990s.

"It might be the quality of the labor force, it has something to do with a still-developing but vibrant local economy," the article stated. "It would not happen without good ideas, hard work and business expertise."

BYU's Marriott School houses the Center for Entrepreneurship. Established in 1989, the center's purpose is to educate, encourage and support students in understanding how to successfully start, operate and advance new business ventures.

"Our focus is student education," said Linda Rich, program director at the Center for Entrepreneurship. "We have mentoring to help students with their ideas, and we offer courses to help them with the basics."

In addition to mentoring and courses, the center operates competitions for student entrepreneurs throughout the year.

One contest is the Business Plan Competition, offering $120,000 in prizes to students who enter original business plans for new companies. Another contest, Student Entrepreneur of the Year, allows students to nominate themselves or other students as business operators already successful with revenues.

The center also offers scholarships to students wishing to start their own business. If accepted, students work eight hours a day on their business during the summer months. When they return to school in the fall, students receive a full-tuition scholarship, so their efforts to earn money in the summer can go toward their business, not just working to come back to school.

"People just get excited because this is real life," Rich said. "It's not a textbook."

The motto for the Center for Entrepreneurship is "Learn, Earn, Return," Rich said.

"We are helping students to get the idea in their head that when they go out and become successful, they'll return and give back too," she said. "So the program perpetuates itself."

The center does not operate on university funds. People from the community donate time and money to operate the center. There are 12 volunteers who come to campus regularly, and 130 entrepreneurs from all over who help, Rich said.

"They come to campus after having a successful business in order to just serve," she said.

The donors like to come back and give their money to the center to help run the programs, scholarships, classes and competitions the center provides, she said.

Donors also enjoy coming to campus to interact with the students, Rich said.

"There's not a better place in the world to start a business than while you're in school," Rich said. "You have all these people who are willing to mentor you for free. If you finish your education and go out to start a new business, you're at the mercy of consulting fees and everything else - it's really a plus for students."

BYU student David Bateman is part of the team that won the Business Plan Competition this year. He is the founder of dearelder.com, a Web site that allows individuals to send letters via e-mail to missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Property Solutions, a business that builds Web-based software to organize operations for the multi-family property management industry.

"Start business when you're in school, and take advantage of the resources," Bateman said. "It will supplement your learning at BYU. Your business will help you in your classes, and your classes will help you in your business. It's just an awesome time."

The Center for Entrepreneurship is not a major, but it is a campus-wide effort, Rich said. Any interested student is welcome to come to the center to receive advisement.

Information can be found at www.learnearnreturn.com or by visiting room 470 of the N. Eldon Tanner Building.

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