2011 Outstanding Senior Ashley Zimmer

Entrepreneurship Program Alumni: Where are they now?

By Lauren Gault, Michael McElhinney, Matthew McMahon, and Valentina Rangel

Lately the news has been filled with stories of companies going bankrupt and needing a bailout. These stories about failing businesses and hard economic times may stop many from starting their own businesses. According to Dr. Raymond Hughes, J.D., LL.M., the director of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Entrepreneurship Program, even though the current economy will be challenging, many Entrepreneurship Program graduates are still successful after acquiring the knowledge and skills taught at the university.

"Entrepreneurship isn’t necessarily about taking risks. It’s about understanding risks and accounting for them."

óDr. Ray Hughes
Director, Dennis L. Heyde Entrepreneur Program

The Entrepreneurship Program has been available to University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire students as a management major or minor for 11 years. Classes in the program include a combination of marketing, management, administrative, and accounting classes. During the program, students learn all of the skills necessary to create a successful business, and create a business plan that previous graduates have used to secure loans.

Lana Ciolkolsz, a 2001 graduate of the Entrepreneurship Program, owns Flowers By Lana in Thorp, WI. After graduation, Lana purchased the flower shop she worked in during high school by using loans secured by the business plan she developed in the Entrepreneurship Program. Today more than ever, banks are very conservative with their lending. It is important to provide them with a solid business plan or they will not lend you the money needed to start your business. 

“I was told [by the banks] that they had never seen a business plan of that quality,” said Lana “It really helped me get ready for taking control of a business.” 

Lana recently expanded her flower shop to include a coffee shop, allowing her to hire an additional employee. She also built a day care in the back to take care of her three children during work. These additions give her the control over her life that she desired.

There are numerous accounts of graduates finding success through the Entrepreneur Program, in more ways than one. According to Dr. Hughes, starting their own businesses isn’t the only reason that Entrepreneur Program graduates are successful. Students work within existing organizations as branch or regional managers to expand businesses, and are known as "Intrepreneurs." Dr. Hughes explained that many of these students have been incredibly successful because a well-rounded education is imperative to be able to succeed in business. A great amount of graduates from the program also pursue higher education. According to Dr. Hughes, many students look into Masters in Business Administration and Law School.

Alhtough starting your own business requires a great amount of risk, risk takers are not necessarily an ideal attribute for the Entrepreneurship Program, said Hughes. "Entrepreneurship isn’t necessarily about taking risks. It’s about understanding risks and accounting for them." 

Lana Ciolkosz said, "I became an Entrepreneur because I wanted the control over my life and my career so that I could maintain the work life balance that I wanted to."

Students who are interested in learning more about this program should visit the Entrepreneur major or minor webpages.

Lauren Gault Michael McElhinney Matthew McMahon Valentina Rangel

From left to right: Lauren Gault is a junior marketing major from Shorewood, WI; Michael McElhinney is a senior information systems major from Chippewa Falls, WI; Matthew McMahon is a senior management major from Eau Claire, WI; and Valentina Rangel is a junior marketing major from Caracas, Venezuela. They wrote this article for their BCOM Advanced Writing class.

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