“There’s life after graduation!” echoed throughout Centennial Hall after the Alumni Entrepreneurs Panel encouraged and educated students about beginning their own businesses after graduation.
A panel of KSC Alumni consisted of three business owners: Suzy Butler, ’95, owner of Butler Business Advisors, Chris Ekblom, ’06, owner of TaleWynd Productions, and Sara Tejeda, ’06, owner of Inkprint Letterpress.
The panel came together on Wednesday, Feb. 22, in the Alumni Center to talk about their success stories and explained how the ups and downs of the real world impacted their own experiences.
Sara Tejeda began her presentation by telling students that although they may want to start their own business, she said they should work for other people first. “You gain so much by working with other people, it’s important to take small steps and know each area of a business, because not only will you gain the skills as you grow, but you’ll learn a lot about yourself.”
Tejeda also explained the importance of connections and taking the time to make sure you don’t get ahead of yourself, “The best advice I’ve ever received is simple, just to put one foot in front of the other, because you will get there eventually.”
Chris Ekblom began his presentation by telling his story after college. This included a short internship, long period of unemployment, and even longer period of numerous and repetitive sales jobs. “There’s only so many jobs I could take until I reached a point where I just told myself, I don’t want to be in a cube for the rest of my life, I’m going to make a change.”
Ekblom encouraged students to keep an open mind despite negative influences and unemployment statistics. “You are not a statistic, and resources to begin your own business are plentiful and ready for you to take advantage of them.”
Suzy Butler spent her presentation giving advice about being organized, explaining the importance behind business experience and provided tips for keeping expenses down.
Butler said, “Know your strengths and weaknesses. You can’t do everything, and that’s okay, no one is an expert with everything, and knowing what you’re good at and knowing what you need help with can only benefit you.”
The KSC Alumni Association, Department of Management, and Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) sponsored the Alumni Entrepreneurs Panel in hopes of educating students, according to Jordan Volikas, secretary of SIFE.
Volikas said, “We want to educate students for real world business opportunities. By having panelists come and talk about their personal stories will really help them gain perspective.” According to Emily Porschitz, faculty advisor of SIFE and professor at KSC, “It’s important for the Alumni to come speak about starting their own business and for students to make a connection with alumni in general because connections are important.”
Evgeny Blinkov, president of SIFE said, “I think that the entrepreneurial panel was a success! I am always excited to see students hear entrepreneurs speaking about their experiences. People today don’t hear enough encouragement from others in that they are capable of starting their own business, even from scratch.”
Blinkov explained how thankful he was for the panelists who came and how important it is for student to hear their stories, “Students need to see the successful stories that are out there and it’s crucial for them to come to these kinds of sessions.”
Volikas said, “SIFE has a main goal of helping prepare students with business skills, communication skills like public speaking, and mainly just educating them about and what it takes to either start a business or just be a part of one in the real world.”
Volikas explained this panel isn’t the first of its kind SIFE has organized to help prepare students for the real world after graduation in regards to getting a job. “We’ve had workshops where alumni came in to talk with students about how to prepare a resume, balance a checkbook properly and talk about their personal experiences after graduation,” he said.
According to Porschitz, “SIFE has helped out a handful of students with jobs and internships, and I think that’s what I’m most proud of because it is actually connecting students and really helping them out after graduation.”
Because of how beneficial it is for students, Porschitz said SIFE hopes to sponsor and organize several more events such as this in the future. To learn more about Students in Free Enterprise, you can contact SIFE President Evgeny Blinkov or Faculty Advisor Emily Porschitz.
Karen Forster can be contacted at email@example.com