Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1998-1999 index

Distributed February 25, 1999
Contact: Kristen Lans

Entrepreneurship Program meets student interest in starting businesses

Initiated by two undergraduates, the Brown University Entrepreneurship Program has attracted about 140 students in its first semester.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Entrepreneurs don't all hail from business schools: Two Brown University undergraduates recognized a desire among classmates for information on how to start their own businesses and sought to meet that demand with the Entrepreneurship Program.

About 140 undergraduate and graduate students with business ideas recently enrolled in the new program. During this semester, they will learn how to develop marketing strategies, how to form a team to run the business, and how to raise capital to finance the plan. Successful faculty and alumni entrepreneurs will lead that instruction through lectures, group discussions and individual mentoring.

The University-sponsored activity is currently under the auspices of Alumni Relations and managed by the Entrepreneurship Program's student founders, Evan Geller of Freeport, Ill., and David Cohen of Amherst, Mass., both seniors.

Geller and Cohen initiated the program after running their own clothing company, Yellow Planet, for three years. The change was a natural transition for the pair. At one point their clothing was on the shelves of 33 stores, including the national chain Urban Outfitters, and students "started coming to us" for advice about how to start a business, said Geller. "We figured there were better people to answer those questions than just us."

Not only can student entrepreneurs tap into the expertise of alumni and faculty who have succeeded at such ventures, but they can recruit talented students for their company while at Brown, said Geller. The Entrepreneurship Program will facilitate recruitment with a web site that invites students to locate classmates who have skills they need.

"Large numbers of our students display an interest in entrepreneurship," said Leonard Schlesinger, senior vice president for development and a faculty advisor to the program. "While we have a number of courses that are beneficial for entrepreneurs, this brings it all together under one program."

A number of faculty and alumni will serve on the program's advisory board including three who spoke at its kick-off Feb. 10: Tom Scott, co-founder of Nantucket Nectars; Tom Pincince, a founder of New Oak Communications; and Elizabeth Hamburg, a member of the management team that founded Vimpel Communications, a cellular company in Russia.

As the final activity of the program, alumni and faculty will judge the student business plans. About 70 ventures are expected to result from the program this semester, said Cohen. The Entrepreneurship Program is slated to be offered each spring for all students, regardless of their field of study.