This past Tuesday, November 8th and Thursday, November 10th, the University of Cincinnati Library Square was alive with the hustle and bustle of students setting up shop and selling a unique collection of wares.
What may have seemed however, like an impromptu bazaar of neon signs, STEM lab kits, and inflatable sofas, was in fact the “Pop-Up Shop” event, a culmination of projects months in the making all conducted through a class that focuses on training young entrepreneurs by giving them an in-depth experience unlike any other course at this university.
These young entrepreneurs were all students of Professor Ronald Meyers’ Business Startup Experience (ENTR 3071) course, a class offered through the College of Business that provides scholars firsthand involvement in the world of entrepreneurship by having them develop a simple product or service and manage a cross-functional team to deliver it to the public.
For more than three years, this class has dedicated itself to creating an experiential entrepreneurial experience for UC students.
“Experiential learning has always been a major focus at UC,” says Tom Dalziel, executive director of the UC Center for Entrepreneurship & Commercialization (CEC). “As someone who works at the CEC, Ronald knows that, and it is great to see him build classes around giving students the opportunity to learn these very important professional skills at this stage in their careers.”
What truly differentiates this course from similar offerings, is the depth of the experience it offers.
At the start of the course, each student proposed and voted on products around which they would form their project experience for the semester. Of those products, nine were chosen and the students who proposed them would find themselves as the CEOs of their own private startups.
This started an academic experience simulating the realities of startup creation and management. The CEO students would have to build their own teams, interviewing potential members for their skills, using leadership principles to manage their progress and firing individuals whose performance did not live up to the standards of their companies.
Students found themselves involved in multiple levels of product development and sales, collecting the resources for their ideas, developing marketing plans, reporting their inventory and managing other costs of production.
“It’s a lot more pressure than I was expecting, but not in a negative way,” said Jacob Wells, a fourth year electrical engineering student enrolled in the course. “This forces you to go out into the real world and get real experience, which is great because that is what builds your resume, and that is what employers care about.”
Wells’s experience matches the expectations of the course’s professor, Ronald Meyers, who argues that this challenge is exactly what these students need to reach their full potential.
“I think that the students have had some reality checks along the way, and that is where true learning takes place,” says the professor on the course experience. “In a lecture, you cannot really simulate the experience of having to make a Plan B when something does not go as you planned like you can when you are actually out doing the work yourself, and I think that experience is what really teaches students when all is said and done.”
Though this semester’s course is coming to an end, Professor Meyers is expected to teach the Business Startup Experience when it is offered again in the Spring Semester.