For students who’ve thought about starting their own business but don’t know where to begin, a club at the University of Arizona is offering tips and support.
The Retail Entrepreneurship Club, based in the UA's John & Doris Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences, is open to students from all majors. It was designed to bring together young people with an entrepreneurial spirit from all areas of campus.
“I’ve always wanted to run my own business and have been afraid to take that leap, but being with like-minded people in this club has really inspired me,” said Nicole St. Germain, a senior majoring in retailing and consumer sciences and treasurer of the club.
The 16-member club, formed last spring, meets regularly during the semester, often hosting guest speakers from the local business community.
The club currently is hard at work planning its first Think BIG Retail Entrepreneurship Conference, to be held at the UA on April 20.
The conference, open to the public, is geared toward individuals interested in starting their own businesses or who already are in business for themselves.
Guest speakers and panelists at the event will include a variety of local entrepreneurs, among them keynote speaker Kerstin Block, president and co-owner of Tucson-based Buffalo Exchange.
The club hopes to make the conference an annual event.
“We really want people to think big,” said club president Diera Gooden, a senior majoring in retailing and consumer sciences.
Gooden said the conference, as well as the club in general, aims to build confidence and provide networking opportunities for those who hope to one day have their own businesses.
“It offers experience that equips you for the real world,” she said.
The Retail Entrepreneurship Club, or REC, started when Scott Hessell, Lundgren Teaching Fellow and senior retailing and consumer sciences lecturer at the UA, noticed that many of his students expressed an interest in owning their own companies at some point in their careers.
Hessell, who teaches a Retail Entrepreneurship course offered for the first time in the fall, said he thought there should be a club designed for students with that goal in mind.
“Entrepreneurship is more of a way of life than it is a job,” said Hessell, who himself has founded and served as CEO of two companies and has been involved in several start-ups. “When you’re starting up a company, it’s a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week venture, and your whole family is involved.”
Hessell envisioned a club that would give students interested in that kind of lifestyle some exposure and experience outside the classroom. He now serves as the club’s faculty adviser.
“Students should consider joining REC because it is a club like no other,” Gooden said. “It’s full of passionate and motivated individuals who thrive on seeing something built from the ground up. With the founders still here at the UA and open positions on our executive board, it is a prime time to get involved and to leave your fingerprint on the founding stages of a club that plans to be around for years to come.”