Southeast Students Learn From Entrepreneurs During Spring Break

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., March 24, 2011 — Fourteen students from Southeast Missouri State University’s entrepreneurship program participated in a field survey of entrepreneurship March 14-16 as a part of the requirements for “Topics in Entrepreneurship.”

The four-week class is taught by Dr. James Stapleton, executive director of the Douglas C. Greene Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and assistant professor of management in the Donald L. Harrison College of Business.  The innovative experiential component of the class is made possible by a generous gift provided by Gene Burgess of San Antonio, Texas.

“Mr. Burgess is a graduate of the business program at Southeast and a very successful entrepreneur.  He believes that it is important for students to extend their learning beyond the classroom, and what better way to do that than have students visit entrepreneurial firms in our region,” Stapleton said. “Because of Gene’s generosity, we are able to provide this learning experience to our students at no additional cost. It was equally impressive that these students took time away from the coveted spring break, to continue their exploration of entrepreneurship,” he added. Burgess visited campus on Monday, March 21, and provided the first presentation to students. He described his extensive career in diverse entrepreneurial ventures ranging from franchise convenience stores and restaurants, real estate development and exotic animal breeding to special event rentals.  Next, the class traveled to St. Louis to tour two relatively young but already iconic St. Louis establishments: Kaldi’s Coffee and the Schlafly Microbrewery.  At each facility the students participated in a behind the scenes tour and learned about the branding strategies and rapid growth of each of these thriving ventures.  On Tuesday, March 22, the group met with Sean Simon of St. Louis Kettle Korn and Dad’s Cookie Company, and learned how a young entrepreneur balances the challenges of a full-time corporate job with the development of his own enterprise. Next on the itinerary was a site visit to the store front of Herbaria, LLC, an organic soap and specialty products manufacturer located on the Hill in St. Louis.  Ken Gilberg provided an overview of the inspiration behind the business that was launched in his basement in 2000. Now the maker of all-natural soap products, he has expanded his business into a retail storefront and sells products all over the world with a very successful online marketing strategy. The final site visited by the Southeast students was Stroco Manufacturing, an aerospace supplier of shims, brackets, terminal boards and precision machined parts.  Located adjacent to the Boeing facility in Hazelwood, Stroco is a third generation family owned business.  Managing partners Kris and Keri Welhart, and Southeast alumna Maggie Phillips provided an in-depth account of the business succession process, the transformation of the mission and culture at Stroco, the substantial investments in advanced technology, and the growth in new hires and revenues in the past five years.  Students were able to tour the production floor, the packaging and distribution facility, and ask questions of employees in the office and on the shop floor.   Kyle Hofstetter, a senior at Southeast who participated in the class, said, “’Topics in Entrepreneurship’ was a great class to get real world advice from business owners. My favorite aspect of the class was getting to network and hear the start-up stories from local entrepreneurs.  I know I speak for the whole group in thanking Mr. Burgess for making this class possible.”

For more information about the Douglas C. Greene Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the entrepreneurial support services it offers, call (573) 651-2929 or visit www.semo.edu/cie.