Demonstrating an entreprising spirit of its own, Francis Marion University boasts a new Center for Entrepreneurship founded to boost job creation in the Pee Dee Region and nurture the next generation of movers and shakers.
“In every possible way, we’ve endeavored to promote and support activities that are designed to bring new business to the region and also to help our own citizenry start new business, to have new venture creation,” says Richard Chapman, FMU Provost.
He points to the Center for Entrepreneurship, hosted in the School of Business, as the university’s latest initiative to meet those ends.
Under the new center’s umbrella is the Donald E. Kelly Business Institute, which since 1972 has been helping local entrepreneurs with such services as comprehensive business plan consultation and market research, drawing on Francis Marion student teams for the work.
“We will continue to offer those services, but indeed do a lot more than that now,” says Barry O’Brien, dean of the School of Business.
With the new center, students - and especially those at the master’s level – will be encourages to write their own business plans to launch new ventures in the Pee Dee Region, O’ Brien says. One initiative will forge partnerships between graduate-level entrepreneur students and faculty members in the sciences to investigate avenues to commercialize research.
While the Center for Entrepreneurship’s educational mission encompasses undergraduate and graduate offerings, it also reaches beyond the campus to inform and support adults who want to start entrepreneurial ventures and engage high-schoolers in business enterprise.
“We think we can do something to stimulate their interest by running enrollment courses in the public schools, holding entrepreneurship symposia and the like,” Chapman says.
The school of Business has a dead start when it comes to reaching teenagers. Since 2006, it has hosted summer entrepreneurial camps, where students write business based on their own ideas for a potential venture. Thanks to funding from several sources, disadvantaged youth attend the camp free of charge. “It’s just incredible to watch us turn these kids on to the entrepreneurial way of thinking,” O’Brien says.
The Center for Entrepreneurship launches operations in January 2009 wit the arrival on campus of Susan Peters, the center’s first director. It’s a hire that O’Brien calls “a home run.”
For seven years, Peters was the chair of the International Business and Marketing Department at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona.
“I’ve lived around the world, and I didn’t know whether going from big-tow Los Angeles to small-town Florence would work, but I was charmed,” Peters says. “It seems there are a lot of people all pulling in the same direction, and it has increased my enthusiasm.”
-Sharon H. Fitzgerald