Friday, April 05, 2002

Business derring-do tales inspire students

By Jenny Callison
Enquirer contributor

        The lingua franca was entrepreneurship, and many of those speaking it were teenagers at Thursday's “Imagine, Implement, Dream & Do” conference at Miami University.

        About 150 college and secondary students attended the one-day event, soaking up ideas and inspiration from experienced entrepreneurs. Topics ranged from business concept development to securing financing to vaulting over obstacles to success.

[photo] Jeff Stamp, a visiting Markley Professor at Miami University, was one of the speakers at a campus event called “Imagine, Implement, Dream & Do” Thursday.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
| ZOOM |
        Organizers said the conference was for students considering taking the entrepreneurial leap as well as those simply intrigued by the entrepreneurial mind-set.

        The lunch keynote speaker was Jimmy John Liautaud, who started his 150-store Jimmy John's World's Greatest Sandwiches chain in a converted garage near East Illinois University. Mr. Liautaud told how he worked through several stages of panic to develop a business concept that he could replicate and ultimately franchise.

        “The setbacks were actually opportunities to stretch myself and see what I could handle,” the entrepreneur said.

        Creativity consultant Jeff Stamp challenged his audience to “think smarter, think differently.” He urged students not to be constrained by perceptions or stereotypes in evaluating new ideas, but to make sure that a potential product has perceived value.

        “Your concept should be 15 minutes ahead of what's on the market, not light years ahead,” he said. “That minimizes the hurdle of adoption and makes people more willing to try it.”

        Some of the conference's youngest attendees were among its most enthusiastic.

        “I was most impressed with the guerrilla marketing presentation,” said Marcus Baker-Jones, an eighth-grader at Bond Hill Academy. “There was important key stuff, like when to make certain decisions.”

        Marcus and several classmates sacrificed a day of their spring break to accompany their teacher, Ronnie X. Black, to the conference. They met college students and heard adult entrepreneurs recount their stories and give advice. But perhaps more powerful was the exposure to entrepreneurs near their own age.

        “Inspiring!” was Vanessa Bowling's response when Immanuel Lee described his business start-up while a student at Harmony Community School, Price Hill. Mr. Lee, a senior who will begin an entrepreneurship course at Cincinnati Tech in May, has parlayed a simple idea — a concession stand in a delivery van — into a viable business within two years.

        “I learned that you can be your own boss, doing your own business, and can start at any age,” Bond Hill student Christian Woolfolk said.


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