UNCG senior John Read takes pictures

John Read enrolled at UNCG as a student with a photography hobby. He’ll graduate in December as an entrepreneur with a photography business.

On the campus and in the community, UNCG is emerging as a force in entrepreneurial education, helping people like Read create their own opportunities. The university has close to 30 new or revamped courses across the curriculum with an entrepreneurial focus. From the recently established North Carolina Entrepreneurship Center to the BELL (Building Entrepreneurial Learning for Life) Program, a campus-wide initiative aimed at increasing entrepreneurial ability, the university is helping to cultivate and grow new enterprises.

“The future in this country and in the Triad is in being creative and innovative in a corporate environment or by starting your own business,” says Dr. Dianne H.B. Welsh, the Charles A. Hayes Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship in the Bryan School of Business and Economics.

“Sixty percent of people who start businesses have never taken a business course in their life,” Welsh says. That lack of training helps contribute to the high failure rate among new start-up companies, she adds.

Entrepreneurship is one of the fastest growing subjects in undergraduate education, a trend UNCG has experienced firsthand. Demand among business majors pursuing a concentration in the field is up 86 percent since 2003. And the demand isn’t limited to the Bryan School.

Joe Erba teaches Campus Entrepreneur, a course that guides students from the evaluation of an idea through the market research process ending with a viable business plan. After students complete the class, they can present their work to a university committee for the shot at a license to do business on campus and a $1,000 microloan to get started.

Students leave the class energized, says Erba, a lecturer in the Bryan School. “They come to realize that all their fears of starting the business aren’t well founded. They hear that most people fail, that it’s really hard to get started. What they’re taught is entrepreneurship is a process. You can follow the process step by step, go through the learning process and in the end you have a nice business out of it.”

Read, shown above taking pictures, is one of those students. He started dabbling in photography six years ago, shooting sporting events at his high school. He kept snapping photos after he enrolled at UNCG and had a goal of starting his own company.

He could handle the photography, but needed help with other business aspects. “I didn’t have any idea about marketing,” says Read, a senior majoring in art with a minor in entrepreneurship. “The class was a huge opportunity for me to take a step in that direction.”

Read finished Erba’s class last year and was awarded a UNCG Campus Entrepreneur license. He launched his business, Student Image Photography, last fall and has established a niche on campus. By the time he graduates, he aims to have his start-up loan paid in full.

Photography by Chris English and David Wilson, University Relations