St.Thomas entrepreneurship professors Jay Ebben and Alec Johnson have re-worked a lemon-like entrepreneurship curriculum into lemonade.
The new curriculum provides hands-on experience for 200-level course students with student mentors from the capstone course.
“We felt that we would get students more energized in the major if we had a stronger hands-on experience right away in their education,” Johnson said. “Dr. Ebben and I designed a course that we would have fun taking, and that’s how we approached it.”
Senior Wesley Hoefer said he wished he could have taken the new curriculum as a sophomore.
“It makes you get your hands dirty, which is cool and what entrepreneurship is all about. It gives you those experiences and puts you in the situations that you will see later as an entrepreneur early in your college career,” Hoefer said.
The curriculum’s new component gives student groups the opportunity to take a general concept of a lemonade stand and create a related, innovative idea.
“We consider it a monumental undertaking, but the 200 course has always had case studies and some type of group experimental learning project, but nothing like this,” Johnson said.
Once the students have their idea, they present it to alumni and capstone student mentors for feedback. The capstone class is required to mentor a 200-level entrepreneurship team. The student and mentor groups meet six times periodically throughout the semester.
“The response we got from the capstone students and alumni when we approached them with the idea of being mentors was that all of them loved it and said ‘I wish we could go back and take this class,’” Ebben said.
The students will compete at the end of the semester for the opportunity to interview for four to six summer internships. St. Thomas alumni will judge the projects.
Hoefer said that as a requirement for their project, the 200-level students have to get a website running and have customers pay through it.
“It helps those people, like myself, who are kind of scared of going into the tech world. As an assignment it forces you to learn the basics,” Hoefer said.
Johnson said the newly created link between capstone and beginner students is designed to help build culture, develop experience and create vision about where the student entrepreneur can go from a sophomore to a senior.
“Exciting ideas have been coming out of it already, even with the simple idea of the lemonade stand,” Hoefer said. “It is really sparking a brighter culture for the university and the entrepreneurship program, and that is an essential network for an entrepreneur.”
Freshmen Angie Hasek said she has two student mentors and two other group members to work with on the lemonade stand proposal.
“It’s a little nerve-wracking with time-constraints, it’s hard to make it a quick thing,” Hasek said.
Ebben said it is a good resume builder for students.
“They end up with a skill set that is really valuable and marketable,” Ebben said.
Johnson said it is an experiment, and one that is going well so far. He added that the next evolution of the course will probably be improved.
“We have talked with the alumni about putting together a fund in the future that can invest in some of these businesses and give students the experience of pitching for some money,” Ebben said. “I think we will be able to add some things to this as we move along.”
Ebben said it will help students apply what they learned to their capstone early on because they know what is to come and can foresee problems.
“When these students are seniors in the capstone class, and they get to mentor teams they are going to be really fired up about it,” Ebben said. “They are going to want to lend their expertise to the next group of students.”
Kelsey Broadwell can be reached at email@example.com.