February 22, 2001

Panel Urges Student Business Creation

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Members of the Cornell community engaged in a panel discussion with participants of the Brainstorm Discussion Series on entrepreneurship yesterday evening at the Robert Purcell Community Center (RPCC) Auditorium.

The panel, titled “Work for Yourself: Starting Your Own Business Can Be Fun,” focused on the types of companies students can run and tips on how they can go about starting them.

“We want to give people a vision of the future and show them the realm of possibilities,” said founder of the series Prof. Andrew Bass, neurobiology.

The speakers included Prof. Ramona K.Z. Heck, the J. Thomas Clark fellow of entrepreneurship and personal enterprise; John P. Jaquette, executive director of the entrepreneurship and personal enterprise program; Prof. Malcolm A. Noden, hotel administration and marketing; and Daniel Kathan, general manager of Student Agencies in Collegetown.

Each of the panelists had different experiences and reasons why they started their own businesses.

“I wanted to know what it was like to be an entrepreneur,” Noden said.

Noden spoke mainly of franchises, and their advantages and disadvantages. Among many, he pointed out one main advantage of franchising.

“It is one of the most important segments [of entrepreneurship] and it permits people with limited experience to get in the door,” he said.

Heck discussed the highs and lows of self-employment. She suggested three different introductory business ventures for students: making a product and marketing it to a whole different audience, creating a product using innovative technology and developing a new service.

Jaquette mentioned a business idea competition held in March, sponsored by the Big Red Venture Fund in the Curtis Johnson School of Management. The Fund will award $10,000 to the person who has the best business idea, as assessed by members of the Fund.

Student Agencies, which Kathan manages, is a collection of small businesses which undergraduate students operate.

Kathan explained that students develop a complete strategy and budget and handle management of the business for a year.

“It can be a very good way to come into the business environment,” Kathan said.

Students attending the discussion were inspired to begin working with their ideas.

“[Student Agencies] opens up an opportunity that I never knew about,” said William Balinbin ’04, a hotel school student. “This is what I’m passionate about.”

Bass was satisfied with the discussion.

“I think there was an exciting group, the panelists generated good ideas, and did a great job in getting the students involved in the discussion. … The goal of the organization is to turn it over to the students,” he said.

The discussion was the first meeting of the Brainstorm series this semester. Other events will include a free night working with trainers at Helen Newman gym and cooking with head chefs at RPCC dining hall.

The Brainstorms Discussion Series — initiated five years ago by current co-chair Bass — creates an informal setting to bring together students, faculty, and other members of the Cornell community.

Archived article by Ritu Gupta