Students create businesses in a classroom setting

The businesses have earned and donated more than $150,000 over two years.

When University alumnus Ryan Broshar started a business in the classroom two and a half years ago, he never dreamed he would still be operating it as CEO today.

Broshar was part of the first group of students to take the year-long course, Entrepreneurship in Action, which provides students the chance to start a business of their own.

Broshar’s business, University Guide LLC, provides information for students living in University housing. He created the business with a group of classmates, but after the semester ended he and two others decided to continue it.

The business has come a long way since it left a basement office in the Carlson School of Management, Broshar said, but he owes a lot to the course.

“We came out with a fully functional business,” he said. “That’s a nice surprise we got out of the class.”

John Stavig, course instructor and director of the Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship, said he and others at the center created the course

because he wanted to let students experience the entrepreneurial process firsthand. Stavig said the course is designed to maximize learning first and consider profit margins second.

Students this year created two businesses: White Space Media, which sells advertising space on toilet paper, and 16 Degrees, which sells customizable gloves.

Students spend the first semester of the course brainstorming business ideas and planning. During the second semester, they implement those plans.

Stavig said students receive a loan for capital to start their business, which can be as large as $15,000. He said the loans are backed by alumni and State Farm Insurance.

At the end of the year, students donate their profits to a charity of their choice. If the businesses fail, students are not held financially responsible.

Over the past two years the businesses in the course have made more than $150,000 and chose to give the money back to the University, Stavig said.

Biren Desai, communication studies and entrepreneurship junior, who manages the sales and manufacturing of White Space Media, said the course has allowed him to get management experiences and expand his network.

He said Stavig allows the students to make their own business decisions while still offering guidance.

“He gives us direction,” Desai said. “He gives us advice, moral support and just makes the class fun.”

Patrick Williams, an entrepreneurship and political science senior, said even though the class stresses learning opportunities, there is a friendly competition for profit between the two groups.

Williams, CEO of 16 Degrees, said the class is unique because it allows students to take theory they have learned at the University and put it into practice.

“I think this is the epitome of learning,” Williams said.

Stavig said the course offers a safe environment for students and because it is risk-free he encourages them to take risks.

Students are taking his advice this year. Both businesses have made innovations the course has not seen before, such as importing their products.

Desai said the possibility of failure is discussed when they take risks, but students try to stay positive.

“We try to stay away from talk of failure,” he said. “But it’s always in the back of your head.”

Desai said he is looking forward to the second semester of a course that has already brought him close to his partners and taught him a lot.

“Who knows, this might turn into the next big business,” he said.