October 24, 2016 Rotogram: 14

MSU Develops Student Entrepreneurs

October 17 — The success of Mississippi State University’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation has attracted widespread interest from other universities, businesses, and industries, according Jeffrey Rupp, E-Center director of outreach.

“Our goal is to attract student entrepreneurs with innovative ideas to help them start and grow successful companies,” Rupp explained.

He challenged Rotarians to guess how many startup companies had evolved from the E-Center since the program officially started in 2009, promising a prize to the member with the closest guess. Member guesses ranged from a few dozen to a few hundred, but John Forde’s guess of 117 came the closest to the 126 businesses started by the E-Center’s student entrepreneurs.

John’s prize was a new sleeve to protect fishing rods from damage during storage or transport.

It’s the brainchild of a student entrepreneur from Fisheries and Wildlife that is now being used as a promotional tool by Toyota.

Rupp said the E-Center was started by Gerald Nelson in the College of Business and housed in McCool Hall. But it’s not just for business majors. A significant number of student entrepreneurs are in engineering, more than half come from other campus majors.

The E-Center is a team effort pairing students and faculty with a variety of backgrounds who can help with market analysis and provide data needed for making smart decisions.

When the E-Center was expanded and enlarged, students themselves designed the facility to meet their needs. Most of the renovation costs were covered by support from businesses, industries, and individuals excited about the center’s potential impact on economic development.

More than 200 students are currently enrolled in the unique program. To be selected, the interested student is interviewed. “If the idea does not earn dollars and cents, it’s a hobby not a business,” according to Rupp.

Director of the E-Center is Eric Hill, “a serial entrepreneur who really should be speaking today but is away on another commitment,” Rupp said. Several Rotarians among the faculty working directly with student entrepreneurs are Marc McGee, Mimmo Parisi, and Mike Mazzola. Martin Jue is one of eight members from major business and industry serving on the Center’s advisory board.

“We try to pair students who have entrepreneurial interest with local start-up companies during one semester. Our goal is to provide strategic guidance, build financial and other resources to support businesses and develop partnerships with industry leaders.” An executive in residence office provides student entrepreneurs one-on-one conferences with business leaders.

Rupp listed a number of successful startups. Glo, plastic ice cubes that add brilliant colored light to beverages, was developed by a chemistry student and has already sold thousands. Caesar’s Palace is negotiating to put its logo on Glo.

Another unique start-up product is warm, water-resistant socks (Yak Sox) made from Yak wool ideal for hunters and outdoorsmen. An E-team helped an out-of-state business develop a marketing strategy for Mossy Oak Salsa, now available on the shelves of more than 1,000 Wal Mart stores.

A good example of the center’s motto of learning, service, and research is its aid to a Louisville craftsman whose business had been destroyed in the tornado. They developed a strategic plan for him to re-enter the market with a unique high-quality table and he now has a factory in Aberdeen with nine employees.

Rupp said the center will also help local businesses solve problems. “We have an agreement with the Partnership to do a market analysis.

A team of three or four students will conduct a marketing study at no cost to Partnership members. The center has established a branch office in the Partnership building on Main Street to enable interested parties to avoid campus traffic problems. Future plans may include establishing a business incubator in the new City Hall.

Rupp responded to a number of questions. He works directly with student entrepreneurs. His goal is for them to finish their degree before entering the business world. Two-thirds of the MBA students are now in distance learning programs from all walks of life.

For the Record—October 17

Invocation and Pledge: William Ashley

Attendance: 58.0%

Present — 83 (36 exempt)

Absent — 99 (25 exempt, 12 honorary)

Guests: Visiting Rotarian was Jimmy McCluskey. Member guest was Carol Walker of Keith Remy. Guests of the club were Zachary, David and Dayna Poindexter, Donna Rupp, Elisa Malzanni, RYE student, Alex Onken, Starkville Daily News, and Josh Starr, Starkville Dispatch.

Supplying the Semiconductor World

Eric Bowman is the site manager for the Mississippi unit of II-VI Advanced Materials located in the Cochran Research Park. Marc McGee will introduce him.

Next Week: District 6820 Governor

Amanda Fontaine, 2016-17 Rotary District 6820 governor, makes the DG’s annual club visit. Briar Jones will introduce her.

Meeting Notes

  • President Briar called for all committee reports to be turned in by Oct. 24.
  • Grant Arinder introduced Zachary Poindexter, Starkville Academy junior, the RYE Student of the Week.
  • Members were encouraged to sign up for Between the Lions reading. See Christina Lucas to volunteer.

Between the Lions


Reading Schedule

10/25, 9:00, First Presbyterian — READER NEEDED
10/27, 9:15, Emerson — Eddie Keith
10/28, 10:00, First Baptist CLC — READER NEEDED


Editor’s note: Special thanks to Keith Remy for handling Rotogram duties and to Zach Rowland for covering AV needs last week.

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