MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- Middle Tennessee State University recently celebrated Global Entrepreneurship Week with a series of workshops and speakers designed to tap into the innovative and creative juices in abundant supply throughout the midstate.
Attending the week’s kickoff event, Murfreesboro entrepreneur Tommy O’Brien said he left the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce with a better understanding of what resources are available for aspiring businessmen like him.
And he was impressed.
“These guys are very thorough,” O’Brien said, following a roundtable discussion on the third floor of the chamber’s Medical Center Parkway headquarters. “What it did for me, it just opened my eyes to what this place is about in general, which is helping the small guy or entrepreneur get up and running.”
The Tennessee Small Business Development Center, which has offices within the Chamber of Commerce building, sponsored the panel, which included its own Leroy Cunningham, a business development specialist. The MTSU College of Basic and Applied Sciences co-sponsored the event.
Cunningham said his office is working harder to inform the public about the resources it offers, such as its free training workshops, one-on-one counseling and databases that can help aspiring business owners move their ideas from concept to reality.
“Trust me when I say if an individual really wants to get some assistance in developing your business, that assistance is available,” Cunningham said.
O’Brien said he would be calling Cunningham and asking him how he can help me help others “because we do create jobs.
“Here we have the experts ready to help us get going down that path,” O’Brien said.
Joining Cunningham on the panel were Jim Stefansic with Launch Tennessee; Jack Sisk with Southern Middle Tennessee Entrepreneur Center, and Mary Sedrick with Women’s Business Center at Brightbridge.
They touched on topics ranging from venture capital to patents to exit strategies.
Rachel Wilson, who teaches entrepreneurship at MTSU, said she attended the panel discussion seeking ideas on how to get her students to think differently about the types of businesses they would like to launch.
“We have students who are desiring to start companies, but they are context poor, meaning they don’t really have industry experience because of their youth,” said Wilson, who thanked the panel for sharing their insights.
Patrick Geho, state executive director of Small Business Development Center, said one of the primary purposes of the week’s activities was to reach out to students in non-business disciplines and encourage them to start thinking about entrepreneurship.
To prime the pump, MTSU held its first Student Business Idea Competition during Global Entrepreneurship Week, with cash prizes awarded to the top three winners. Students entered their ideas online, with finalists given an opportunity to pitch their ideas in person to a panel of university judges.
“The whole idea was to engage all of the colleges,” Geho said, adding that 47 ideas were entered. “Of the whole group, we had every college in the university represented.”