News & Stories

June 9, 2020

Entrepreneurship: Still more innovation

Bookstore to become student enterprise

“Ye Olde Berry Bookstore” just won’t be what it used to be. Not that it ever was old-fashioned in the least. Not for one minute. Soon, however, a campus store will be Berry’s newest student enterprise. And it promises to be something very special.

Located in the Krannert Student Center, the shop (to be named with help from students) will feature the usual Berry-branded apparel and items in addition to serving as a storefront for the other student enterprises, stocking a variety of their products, such as Lavender Mountain Dreams’ soaps and scrubs and Viking Creations’ woven table runners and place mats. Ideas brought to life by individual student entrepreneurs also will be showcased.

The store alumni knew and loved won’t be selling textbooks (students will purchase those online), but it will be making a substantial contribution to a Berry education by providing undergraduates with a significant learning lab for management, leadership and retail practices.

“OUR INTENTION IS TO GIVE STUDENTS A CHANCE TO GAIN FIRSTHAND KNOWLEDGE AND DEVELOP SKILLS WHILE THEY ARE STILL AT BERRY.”

“I’m excited about the new store and the opportunities enterprise and entrepreneurship students will have through it,” said Erika Sprecher, a marketing and management double major with minors in animal science and entrepreneurship and innovation. Sprecher is general manager of the Lavender Mountain Dreams student enterprise and co-owner of two companies, BE 3D and Lamboy Cattle Co. “Giving student entrepreneurs like me the chance to showcase products from their companies is an incredible and unique opportunity.”

Another step forward
Today’s entrepreneurship education at Berry builds on 20 years of groundwork laid by Professor of Management Dr. Paula Englis, longtime champion of the college’s entrepreneuership programs. In 2019, her efforts blended with those of student enterprises, formerly part of the LifeWorks Program. Now, an array of events and academic offerings are joined together under one umbrella, propelling entrepreneurial learning at Berry to the next level.

“Most students across the country are only given these types of opportunities if they are in graduate school or after they complete their degree,” said Dr. Kevin Renshler, director of Berry’s new Center for Student Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development. “Our intention is to give students a chance to gain firsthand knowledge and develop skills while they are still at Berry.”

Renshler has an impressive background in working with students to advance skills in business, creativity and engagement, most recently serving as associate director of MiddCORE and professor of practice at Middlebury College. His hiring and other entrepreneurial advances have been made possible by gifts to Berry’s LifeReady Campaign.

New minors
A minor in entrepreneurship and innovation and one in social entrepreneurship debuted in 2019-20 for students of all majors. The entrepreneurship and innovation minor is designed for students who want to start their own business or lead innovation within an organization, while the social entrepreneurship minor is for students who want to lead change in their communities.

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Left: Jorie Hodapp (Photo by Brant Sanderlin, Right: Erika Sprecher)

Innovative events
In the face of the COVID-19 emergency, one of the most exciting events of the year for student entrepreneurs – the PITCH Competition – was not canceled; it went online like all student learning. Nine students pitched their ideas to a panel of judges as they vied for $27,000 in donor-funded prizes. Senior Jorie Hodapp, business management, won top honors in the services division for her virtual baking classes and was the Judges’ Overall Winner, earning $8,000 total. Sprecher took first place in the goods division winning $5,000 for her business producing custom gifts for campus bookstores.

In addition, the annual Spark Conference, hosted by the Berry Student Enterprises and sponsored by the Rome Floyd Chamber, was held online this spring with nine student presenters and keynote remarks by Rome Smoothie King owner Jarrod “J.J.” Johnson.

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