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Entrepreneurial Students Collaborate with Madison County Schools on Guardian Safety Project

Students collaborate with county officials

School of Business students are engaging in an interdisciplinary high-impact learning project, resulting in a fascinating outcome. 

Ms. Maggie Abney is an experienced banker, and Ms. Laura Barthel is a seasoned entrepreneur. Throughout the semester, Abney’s Entrepreneurial Finance (FIN 310) collaborates with Barthel’s Entrepreneurship (CCT 270).

Entrepreneurial Finance teaches entrepreneurship from the financial perspective. Students learn how in-depth ratio analyses are applied to a start-up business and how to use a feasibility analyses to determine business viability.  Since learning entrepreneurial finance can be helpful to a broad range of people, this class is beneficial to anyone who wants to start their own business in the future.

Entrepreneurship, Barthel says, is beneficial because students are able to go through the process of developing a valid business idea, and they’re also able to receive feedback from experts in the finance field. Students are able to bring in their own business ideas and sample them in the class to see if they’ve developed a sustainable business model.

Finance and Entrepreneurship can be taken as electives with no prerequisites required. Abney and Barthel had majors from all across campus in their classes. Through these classes, students collaborate to complete the following steps: generate ideas collectively, present ideas, conduct a feasibility analysis, present the feasibility analysis, develop a business model and financial analysis, and present the final business plan collaboratively. The purpose of combining the two classes, Ms. Barthel said, is to provide students with a contingency-based approach to business planning, so they can learn to thrive in uncertainty.

Students from both classes are divided into teams where they learn the valuable art of teamwork. In these groups, they begin by participating in enjoyable team building activities that teaches students how to work together and get to know one another. 

Abney stated that “The best part of this class is the team project that allows you to act as a management team of a real start-up business.” This gives the students true management experience and teaches them how to work on a team in a professional environment.  The experience obtained in this class looks great on a resume. 

The team works together all semester and develops a full and complete business plan. Classes meet jointly throughout the semester to work on these business plans. Two of these groups worked as consultants for established businesses—a hammock company and a medical supply company—and helped them get their companies up and running.  Students developed business plans for these companies. The other four teams developed their own business ideas. 

One of the notable business ideas created by a team in class was Guardian, a safety feature that schools could use on their bussing system.  Elmer Thomas, Superintendent of the Madison County Board of Education, and Skip Benton, Director of Transportation for Madison County Schools, came to EKU to meet with the students from this team.  Thomas and Benton answered detailed questions from the team of students concerning logistics and what would need to occur to actually implement into the school systems. 

The collaboration got great reviews from students. Jaylen Babb-Harrison, a senior Finance student, had this to say about his experience: “Ms. Abney’s class was a great base to being a business person/entrepreneur. I feel like I gained so much knowledge and can really start my own business based on what I learned in Finance. Not only did we do in-class work and learn key terms, but we did hands-on work that applies to real life situations. I felt like a real entrepreneur. This class made me excited for my future in business.”

This process provides a fun and memorable learning experience where students make friends and possible future business partners because of the teamwork required for these classes. It’s also a way for students to make connections to real-world business experience through unique learning formats.

When asked about her background, Abney said, “My experience as a bank executive allows me to provide students with an inside perspective on the financial services industry.”  The class will also be a required course for a new banking minor that is expected to be offered in Fall 2016.  Stay tuned!

Published on April 25, 2016

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