Taking care of business$$
By Irene Sherlock
Would-be entrepreneurs who dream of owning their own startup can now earn a degree at WestConn in a program specifically tailored to their needs.
“There’s so much to consider when starting a business today,” says Professor of Management Dr. Fred Maidment, head of the Small Business and Entrepreneurial Management Option, part of WCSU’s department of management in the Ancell School of Business (ASB).
“Years ago you could learn by trial and error,” Maidment says. “But today you’ve got a highly competitive marketplace. Customers are savvy and demanding. This program provides an educational foundation –– a framework, as it were –– designed to maximize, as much as possible, one’s chances for success.”
According to ASB Dean Dr. Allen Morton, Maidment has been the driving force behind the entrepreneurship program these last few years. “His guidance and experience as an entrepreneur helps prepare students to create new businesses, which are vital to our economy.”
In 2002, only 14 students were enrolled in this option. “Now we have 164,” Maidment says, adding the recent high unemployment rate partially explains the interest in what is now the department’s most popular option.
“Some see this as a way to ensure employment for themselves. Others like the idea of being their own boss. It’s a lifestyle that suits some, but they find out pretty soon it’s hard work. Also risky,” he says.
Four out of five businesses close in the first five years, Maidment says. “Mostly, it’s due to under-capitalization. But other factors can be at play, such as a poor economy or lack of planning. A business plan forces you to do just that –– plan and think things through on so many levels.”
In the Small Business Entrepreneurship course, students complete a business plan and the best are submitted to the state-wide You Belong in Connecticut Business Plan Competition.
Students compete against Yale, University of Connecticut and other Connecticut schools. “Last spring, there were more than 100 entries and we were among the 12 finalists,” Maidment says.
For five years, Maidment and his wife owned and operated Unfinished Furniture Plus Inc., a chain of unfinished furniture stores in Kansas City, Mo.
Although his own entrepreneurial chapter is closed these days, Maidment remains current in the field, in part through writing and research. He has authored five books and edited dozens more, mostly supplemental textbooks and largely for the Annual Edition Management series, published by McGraw-Hill Contemporary Learning Series. He’s contributed numerous scholarly and non-academic articles to various publications on a wide range of business topics.
Also, last fall, he was steward of the inaugural Entrepreneurship Day, an ASB event funded, in part, by a grant from the foundation of Brookfield industrialist and philanthropist Constantine “Deno” Macricostas and his wife, Marie.
At this event, the ASB honored local business owner Paul Dinto of Dinto Electrical Contractors Inc., Middlebury, Conn. Barry Moltz, author of “BAM! Delivering Customer Service in a Self Service World,” delivered a lecture later in the day.
“I am a strong believer in education and my support is motivated by a desire to encourage students to become entrepreneurs,” says Macricostas. “I’m confident and hopeful that these future entrepreneurs will, in time, become advocates for the betterment and advancement of the university.”
In previous years, the ASB honored President and CEO Lucie Voves of Church Hill Classics and Dr. Joe Platano, president and CEO of WestCo Scientific.
“Despite the pitfalls, the U.S. is still one of the few places in the world where you can start with very little and become prosperous,” says Maidment, who earned an M.B.A. from the Zicklin School of Business, The Bernard M. Baruch College of the City University of New York, and an Ed.D. from the University of South Carolina, Columbia.
Maidment, who has taught at WestConn since 2001, says that entrepreneur education is an expanding field, both here and abroad. “There are well over 500 endowed chairs in entrepreneurship in the U.S. and more than 100 abroad,” he says. Included in these numbers are 160 centers of entrepreneurship and more than 150 incubators for small businesses. “There are quite a few doctoral programs in entrepreneurship in the U.S. and with the exception of Michigan State, none of them existed 20 years ago,” he says.
“This is still the land of opportunity –– as well as the place of second chances. In most other countries if you fail, you’re done with, but here you can pick yourself up and start over again.”