Say the word "entrepreneur" and many tend to think of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Michael Dell. But universities and colleges nationwide and on Long Island are increasingly creating new hands-on courses and programs to bring that perception down to scale and help their students envision themselves as today's entrepreneurs.
Nazanin Amirian, MBA student
C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University
Amirian, 48, of Great Neck, already has had experience running her own computer consulting business, but she said that the entrepreneurship class has given her insight into how she could have managed her business better. And, she emphasized that the course has provided her with the confidence to know that she will be able to do it again.
Hearing directly from the entrepreneurs has been empowering, she said.
"This class brings in CEOs and we can learn what their mistakes were and what were their success stories," Amirian said. "How did they start? How much perseverance does it take? How much effort did they put in?"
Amirian's said her business was a one-woman show that was booming just around the time she had her third son, 12 years ago. She decided to close the business and possibly try again later in life when she would have fewer family obligations. Now, she is one class away from receiving her master's degree and initially plans to get experience working for a company.
Amirian, however, still keeps the possibility open that she will some day start her own business. She continues to collect her ideas, she said, and is waiting for the right time and the right opportunity.
"I think there are a lot of opportunities for women on Long Island to become entrepreneurs," she said. "When women empower themselves with more education, I believe there are unbelievable opportunities for them."
Ultimately, she said she believes that entrepreneurs will turn the economy around.
"I definitely think that entrepreneurship is the way of the future and is one of the tools that will get us out of the recession and will keep the economy booming," Amirian said. "The more the merrier. All the small businesses, when they start hiring that's when the GDP [gross domestic product] goes up."
James Tomeo, sophomore
Farmingdale State College
Entrepreneurship and business classes at Farmingdale State College equipped Tomeo with the confidence and tools to transform an idea into a business, he said. He now owns a florist and nursery after taking a few classes.
"When I took the class, I realized it was not such a longshot idea," Tomeo said. "The entrepreneurship [class] puts it in perspective. Why wait five or 10 years when you can do it now, if you have the opportunity?"
Tomeo, 20, of East Northport, got the idea to open his own business while working at florists and nurseries and getting the chance to see how they worked. At Farmingdale State College, he said professors worked with him individually on his business plans. When Tomeo began shopping around for businesses to purchase, one professor in particular, Jeff Egan, sat down to help him figure out whether it would be viable.
In the end, he found a business and the perfect business partner: Egan's wife, Heather, who also was looking for a small business. They pooled their money and now own and run the Enchanted Garden, Florist and Nursery in East Northport.
Tomeo is applying his school lessons to his business. He and his partner keep a book on the side where they right down all the details of a purchase and the customer who bought the item.
"I don't think I'd be here if it wasn't for the class," Tomeo said. . . . They taught you how to take everything you learned in class and bring it into real life."
Lorrae Famiglietti, sophomore
Lorrae Famiglietti was considering minoring in entrepreneurship through Hofstra's Frank G. Zarb School of Business, but her heavy computer science requirements made that difficult. She was pleased to learn that the computer science department was tailoring its own entrepreneurship program.
"In today's economy, to have those skill sets behind you is very important," said Famiglietti, 19, of Pembroke, Mass. "You never know where life is going to bring you."
Her mother set up her own business as a title examiner about 20 years ago, Famiglietti said. Watching her mother run her own company has impressed upon her how crucial entrepreneurship skills can be.
Famiglietti is not sure yet of where her studies will lead her, but she says she realizes she has many options.
"When I first started out, I was thinking straight desktop applications of computer science," she said. "But I realize you can go into any field. There really are no boundaries in the computing industry. . . . It is very adaptable to any industry."
Jeremy LeWitt, Junior
LeWitt has tried his hand at a few entrepreneurial ventures before attending Hofstra. He first sold candy and later formed a software company with a friend to sell MP3 software they developed.
Neither quite panned out, but LeWitt, 21, of Philadelphia, said it was a good, fun experience and that it is likely he will someday run his own business.
Already, he has interned for an entrepreneur starting a diet company. His duties included conducting an analysis of all the company's competitors and potential competitors, something he and his friend could have used for their high school venture, he said.
"I had never heard of this or saw such a structured approach to looking at competitors," he said. "I thought you might Google and look at the top 10 list."
The experience gave him a much different perspective on running a business, he said.
Andrew Scheutz, junior
Andrew Scheutz realized early on that he would want to start his own business, so he narrowed his college search to schools with entrepreneurship programs.
"I fell in love with not only the campus," he said, "I fell in love with the program in general at Hofstra. It really is taking every aspect of business and allowing you to go out and start a business and feel comfortable with it."
Scheutz, 20, Kennewick, Wash., is majoring in entrepreneurship at the Frank G. Zarb Business School and is participating in an entrepreneurship project sponsored by Capital One. He and other Hofstra students have formed teams with students in Uniondale High School's business program to turn concepts into businesses with capital from Capital One. Capital One bankers help advise the teams, he said.
"This is an awesome opportunity to work with real money," Scheutz said. "Being able to do it in the college community is an awesome opportunity."
Though he is not a designer, Scheutz said he'd like to start his own fashion company and build it from the ground up. He is more interested in the business side of the fashion industry.
Scheutz also believes that his entrepreneurship background will give him an edge in finding a job in the industry.
"I find that the huge thing they [employers] are looking for in terms of internships and jobs is someone who has an entrepreneurial spirit, someone who can get the company back on its feet with innovative thinking or changing the look of the company," he said.