Bout boosts self-employment

Student innovators with the be-your-own-boss spirit will compete Saturday in a technology-based business plan contest organized by the Florida A&M University Entrepreneurs Club.

FAMU Entrepreneurship Day, which will take place from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. in School of Business and Industry North Presentation Room G-12, is sponsored in part by the the school as well as its and FAMU’S alumni.

“It’s a day for and by students who want to be entrepreneurs to compete for cash prizes and get help with business plans,” said Rachel Melson, 21, vice president of the FAMU Entrepreneurs Club. “It’s a chance to be around like-minded individuals, as money-making think tank.”

SBI Dean Lydia McKinley-Floyd has a progressive outlook that encompasses social and cultural responsibilities.

“As an African-American institution, we need to focus on wealth building, wealth that transcends the individual and spreads out to the broader community,” McKinley-Floyd. “Entrepreneurship is one of the best ways.”

Representatives from companies such as J.M. Huber Corporation and KMR Consulting will judge student teams from various disciplines within the university. Cash prizes totaling $3,000 will be awarded to teams exhibiting excellence in such categories as best business plan, best marketability and feasibility plan and best technology plan. Winners will also be groomed to compete nationally.

The event, open to the entire campus community, will also serve as a venue for networking with business professionals who will set up information booths, answer questions and offer expert advice and tips.

“Our mission is to be a catalyst for change on campus, to motivate students to break the chains of economic enslavement and embrace economic empowerment,” said Melson, a senior business student from Dayton, Ohio.

McKinley-Floyd said she hopes the event will “generate some appreciation for and excitement around entrepreneurship” in all students, not just those in the SBI program or the competition, and inspire them to parlay their expertise into creating marketable products.

“Students who learn business technology and philosophy can transfer their interests into real life business needs for services,” McKinley-Floyd said. Nursing and pharmacy students, for instance, can “use their knowledge, learning and experience to fulfill unmet needs in the healthcare industry.”

The black entrepreneurship presence seen predominantly in the form of micro-businesses – clothing stores, eateries, barber and beauty shops and car washes – is “grossly underrepresented” in technology-based realms, said Dennis Ridley, adviser to the FAMU Entrepreneurs Club.

Ridley said until black people undertake a major “wealth transfer” – making something that people want and selling it to them – in these distributing arenas, the “distribution of wealth is not going to change.”

“I don’t see African Americans beating that drum,” Ridley said. “It’s not a mass movement right now. It will take those who think they’re alone to get together. But it can be done.”

Ridley, a SBI professor, is also an electrical engineer and inventor of the MyPulse wireless heart monitor.

McKinley-Floyd said that small business ventures can often lead to lucrative opportunities.

“All leading-edge businesses like Microsoft come from the ranks of small entrepreneurs that eventually sell to some corporate entity,” McKinley-Floyd said.

“We’re hoping to spark an interest in students, let them know that writing a business plan is possible,” Melson said. “It’s actually done, even at this age.”