By Kaye Burnet | News Editor
Next year, more than 40 Duquesne business students will have the chance to invest thousands of dollars in new companies and start-up ventures, as part of an overhaul of the school’s entrepreneurship program.
According to Business School Dean Dean McFarlin, the goal is to provide entrepreneurship majors with more real-world experience, especially as sophomores and juniors.
“We want our students to get hands-on experience right off the bat, not just get to the good stuff later,” McFarlin said.
To that end, the redesigned major will include three large projects: the cornerstone, which will take place during students’ sophomore year; the keystone, which will take place junior year; and the capstone, which will occur senior year.
For the cornerstone project, the sophomore class will split into groups and use $5,000 loans from the business school to start their own micro-companies. They will run the companies from the start of the fall semester until the end of the spring semester, then liquidate the businesses. According to McFarlin, any profits generated by the companies will go to charity or back to the business school to fund future projects.
“We aren’t giving away $5,000 as a gift, we expect to get our money back,” McFarlin said.
McFarlin expects between 70 and 80 percent of student companies to be profitable, based on results from similar programs at other universities. This means the university will be able to cover any losses with other profits.
The keystone project will give students the opportunity to experience what it is like to fight for funding for a company. Junior entrepreneurship majors will observe a meeting of the Bluetree Allied Angels, a group of accredited investors who chose local start-ups to support financially. McFarlin compared it to the reality television show “Shark Tank.”
“Going forward, we want students to also have the ability to make real investments as part of this process — we have some funding from a donor to help make this happen and are working on the mechanics of how everything would work, subject, of course, to University approval,” McFarlin said.
In their senior year, students will put their entrepreneurship skills to one final test before graduation: they will serve as professional consultants to a start-up company or a new initiative within an already established company. Throughout the year, students will work to develop a plan and help launch a local start-up.
According to McFarlin, these three stages will allow students to graduate with real skills that they can use to start their own companies or help their future employers.
“It makes a great double major with other business majors, or, if you aren’t in the business school, you can minor in it,” McFarlin said.