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June 22, 2014

Entry-level entrepreneurs in Southern Indiana

High schoolers attend business academy

NEW ALBANY — The idea was already put together, they just had to figure out how to sell it.

For the second year in a row, 25 students from the region attended Purdue University New Albany College of Technology’s Entrepreneurship Academy at IU Southeast last week.

Jay White, dean of the School of Business at IU Southeast, said the week-long camp for students isn’t exactly a breeze, either.

“We call this an academy, but I call it a boot camp, really,” White said. “But these kids are really self-motivated, they’re taking a week of their summer to do this.”

Paul Moses, director of the academy, said the students were divided into five equal groups. They were each given a product concept based on a real idea formulated in one of the Purdue Research Parks across the state.

Students stay in one of the residence halls at IU Southeast for the week. After a day of rigorous instruction, they get a break but can work through the night on their projects.

With the technology figured out for them, Moses said they just had to put together a business plan in a few days and market it to a group of judges. Each student had a chance to win $500 in scholarship money to IUS or Purdue.

“What it really shows these students is a school that’s very technology and engineering at Purdue and the research park, and a very good business school at IU Southeast,” Moses said. “It really fuses them together. It’s not just about the technology or just about the business, you have to bring them together.”

Moses said the academy is based on courses offered to professionals in Purdue’s Foundry program. Juliana Casavan, academy coordinator, said the Foundry has courses that meet once a week for six weeks. She said the academy crams in a lot of the same information in a much shorter timeframe.

“They just absorb the information so well, it just makes my job easier,” Casavan said. “What they’re going to do a whole lot of work and figure out what their plan is going to be.”

Kunal Bhanushali, an incoming senior at New Albany High School, said he wanted to go through the camp to expand on his ability to serve in different roles within a group.

He said while he’s more interested in the technology side of everything, but it’s fun to learn how a product comes into the commercial world.

“I thought this would help with my leadership skills,” Bhanushali said. “I’m not always going to lead a project, so I have to learn how to follow, too.”

Jake Steele, an incoming senior at Silver Creek High School, said he’s been thinking of ideas for his own business since he was in the third grade.

After watching a real entrepreneur pitch an idea to investors, he said it’s given him some perspective on which of his own ideas are worth the follow-through.

“It shows people how sometimes, ideas that they think are really good actually aren’t,” Steele said. “Then again, it shows how their ideas, that they think aren’t very good, are really great. This sort of helps clarify which is which.”

White said the academy gives the students an idea of what entrepreneurs go through, but if they take the steps themselves, they might be more prepared when they take the leap.

“They need to know that making a business isn’t just about hard work for a couple of weeks,” White said. “They’ll bust their humps for a couple of years before they see their dream turn into something real.”

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