WSSC Media Relations
Growing up in an entrepreneurial family, Terri McGriff-Waldrop witnessed at an early age the ups and downs a business owner encounters. And, as a business instructor at Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, Ala. for the last 24 years and co-owner of a successful real estate company, Waldrop is always passionate about sharing and relaying the challenges and rewards her students may one day come across as aspiring entrepreneurs.
Now, Waldrop and her colleagues have revamped the Wallace State business program’s entrepreneurial course option, new for the 2013 fall semester curriculum, to incorporate even more of the real world experiences business owners face.
The Wallace State Management and Supervision associate in applied science degree has four options (management, entrepreneurship, financial management and office management) for business major students.
The Entrepreneurship option is designed for students who plan to run their own business one day or to have a goal to create and market their product. The degree encompasses a wide variety of business disciplines and can be used in the business world even if the goal is not individual business ownership. The revamped major gives students an opportunity to learn through case studies, team projects, principles of using the Internet for business enterprise, web design and simulated exercises in computer applications and systems integration.
"The expanded Entrepreneurship option is quite timely and gives promising entrepreneurs an opportunity to incubate their businesses when Wallace State's Incubator program is expanded soon," said Wallace State President Vicki Hawsey.
“We decided last year we wanted to make some significant improvements in our Entrepreneurship program, and we’re really excited about what we now have to offer our students. This is for the individual who is interested in owning or operating their own business, and it’s especially tailored for those interested in small businesses. While the size of the business is important, we are trying to provide the fundamentals of how to run a business, whether you are self-employed, have one employee or 30 employees. We want to help develop those students who are truly innovators and teach the proper concepts of owning your own business,” Waldrop said. “This is designed for that individual who says they want to take all the risks. It’s for those not afraid to fail, but also for those excited about all the rewards available.”
Wallace State business department adjunct professor Brandon White, an entrepreneur himself based out of Oxford, owns an advising center for people seeking business guidance and has worked with the department to update its entrepreneurship course offerings. White’s classes, along with many of the department’s classes, are offered online.
The revamped courses have all been approved by the Alabama Department of Postsecondary Education.
“I appreciate the level of input I was given to update specific courses for this major and I’m excited it was approved,” White said. “I would love for students to come out of the program with a workable business plan, but if they are not ready, at least they will have learned the framework necessary for how to construct a business that has a greater chance of success.”
The Entrepreneurship option takes five semesters to complete and requires a student to complete core classes like English, history, algebra and humanities in addition to the specialized courses for the major. The five entrepreneurial classes in the curriculum are small business management, entrepreneurial marketing, innovation and creativity, entrepreneurial finance and business planning. The entrepreneurial marketing and small business management courses will be available during the fall. Principles of macro and microeconomics, accounting, marketing and management are also required for completion of the major.
“We had entrepreneurship classes in the past, but it just didn’t have this much meat to it. It wasn’t such a specialized concentration,” Waldrop said. “We always have students join us who found themselves out of job or were laid off. They want to go back and do what they know well. They were once in the workplace and now think they can do something better if only they were the boss.”
Waldrop and her colleagues attract more than just business majors in their classes. Each semester it’s becoming more and more common to have their classes mixed with cosmetology, culinary and welding students, among other majors with students whose careers will require some business savvy.
“An individual in a specific trade may have the skills to do a particular job, but just because you are great at cutting hair doesn’t mean you know how to run a business. We love to see those students come in and pick up some of our courses to make them well-rounded in their profession,” Waldrop said.
Waldrop and White both agree that individuals seeking to be entrepreneurs need to be thick skinned and not be scared of the unknown.
“Just because you own a business doesn’t mean you are going to be successful. That’s a big misconception I see in our students. You have to take a lot of risks, but you also get rewards as well if you do things right. Another misconception is that businesses are wealthy and have unlimited resources. As a business owner, you have to wear many hats to make that work. It definitely takes a unique personality to be a successful entrepreneur,” Waldrop said.
White points to statistics compiled by the Small Business Administration (SBA) that consistently says that 50 percent of businesses close within the first five years. However, statistics also show that individuals who take small business/entrepreneurship courses increase their success rate to the high 80 percent range.
“I tell people that they don’t have to have the next great technological innovation in order to be an entrepreneur. At the same time, just opening the doors and putting a sign out doesn’t mean that they are an entrepreneur. Anyone can be an entrepreneur in any type of business. They just have to recognize opportunities and figure out how to do things better than the competition. Unfortunately, most small business owners think that they have to get started yesterday. They take the ‘figure it out as I go’ approach, and that is the reason for the 50 percent failure rate. Those that do some planning, increase their chances of success,” said White. “You can’t be bound by fear because the majority of people fail. A lot of people become successful because they have failed first in a small business. We want to change the mindset or mentality that folks have towards starting their own business, and sometimes they need to know they’ll learn more from failures than they will successes.”
Waldrop believes one of the biggest benefits of any Wallace State business course is that the students are required to conduct practical exercises throughout the curriculum, helping them gauge the level of preparedness necessary for them to succeed upon their business-related goals.
“Our students have to write business plans and know which financial institution they are going to borrow money from. They have to be aware of the available real estate in order to start their business, including how much square footage they need or the details on the lease. The students have to realize the immense responsibility they’ll inherit. They are responsible for their employees at all times and financial and liability issues of that business,” Waldrop said. “We’ve got to make it as hands on and as realistic as possible, so they have a strong foundation to stand upon when they leave us.”
Recent graduates of the Wallace State business department have started successful small business that include a temporary staffing agency and a fireworks industry, which has provided entertainment at Smith Lake Park and other special events.
Priority registration for the fall 2013 semester is underway and continues through mid-August. Classes began August 19.
Those interested in the Entrepreneurship program or any business-related course can contact Waldrop at 256.352.8072, or business department chair Kathy Sides at 256.352.8126.
Wallace State’s Business Department is accredited by the Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs, which is additional to the college’s SACS-COC accreditation. The ACBSP is the premier accrediting association for business schools and programs with a focus on teaching excellence. Accreditation ensures that faculty, programs and courses are relevant and current to best serve the needs of students and the surrounding community, including area employers. ACBSP is recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation.
For more information about Wallace State, visit wallacestate.edu.