Entrepreneurial spirit

A new program at State helps equip students with the skills to succeed, whether they’re in business for themselves or not.

Based on the popular image of an entrepreneur, starting your own business seems simple and glamorous — come up with a great idea, close your eyes and wait for everything else to magically fall into place.

While that might work for a small handful of lucky startups, being an entrepreneur — a successful one, at that — actually requires careful planning, intense scrutiny, number-crunching and a million other steps along the way. 

Indiana State hopes to prepare burgeoning entrepreneurs for this reality with a new minor being offered by the Scott College of Business. The 15-credit program is open to students of all majors, including Sycamores who don’t necessarily plan on launching a startup but want a foundation in thinking creatively, business development and other aspects of entrepreneurship.

Professor Aruna Chandra

“Only in the last few years have we seen programs like ‘Shark Tank’ that have given the general public an insight into the potential benefits of entrepreneurship,” said Aruna Chandra, interim chair and professor of management, information systems and business education. “Students are very interested because they see that entrepreneurship is not just about starting your own business or doing a side business to supplement your primary job — thinking entrepreneurially can benefit a person in almost any career.”

It’s not just that students are suddenly very curious about entrepreneurship — there’s also a market need for this particular skillset, Chandra said. For starters, students who hope to excel at established companies will need to know how to think and act like entrepreneurs. 

Even big businesses value and use entrepreneurial processes — just look at how the leaders of Walmart have had to adapt to better compete with Amazon, Chandra pointed out. In addition, some of the most significant business demises of our time, such as the collapse of Sears, may be attributed to a failure to think and act entrepreneurially in the face of a changing environment, she said.

“If you are in a traditional business, large or small, you cannot stay static,” she said. “Businesses are constantly reinventing themselves to respond to competitive threats and changes in the external environment, technology and regulation. The same thing applies at the individual level as well. Nowhere in the world can a person be successful saying, ‘I’m just going to do what my boss tells me to do.’ You have to be thinking on your feet and learning how to respond to opportunities in an entrepreneurial manner.”

Beyond that, startups make significant contributions to the economic dynamism of countries around the world through the creation of new products and processes. In many places, starting a new venture is the only way to make a living, said Chandra, whose research focuses on framework conditions for entrepreneurship in emerging markets.

Now more than ever, entrepreneurs are also vitally important for tackling social issues, environmental challenges and other problems that may not be directly linked to profitability.

“There is a greater awareness and a greater sense of urgency to come up with solutions to some of our most pressing problems,” Chandra said.

Closer to home, entrepreneurs can breathe new life into communities as they deal with complex economic changes and help attract or retain talented young professionals to an area.

“When we look at Indiana and Vigo County in particular, some of the traditional manufacturing industries that are around here are dying out so we’re losing jobs,” said Daniel Pigg, director of Indiana State’s Business Engagement Center. “Entrepreneurship is this hot buzzword right now, but if we can actually provide some assistance for startups, we can create jobs and we can keep our graduates here, as opposed to losing them to other places.”  

What is an entrepreneur?

Someone who thinks outside the box, often creating a new business or service to address a need or to solve a problem. Some entrepreneurs are motivated by profit alone, while others are also motivated by affecting positive change or tackling a social, cultural or environmental problem.

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