A child’s first way to make money is often learned in the front yard, selling Dixie cups of lemonade from a fold-up card table on a hot sunny day. They use this “lemonade stand” to make a little money and wind up getting some basic exposure to running a business. One University of St. Thomas class is moving the lemonade stand concept out of the front yard and into the real-world.
Students in the ENTR 200 – Foundations of Entrepreneurship class presented business concepts in a lemonade stand competition on December 12. Their assignment was to create a business that brings a value to the public. The businesses are small, but are required to earn revenue by selling something.
The class is open to all sophomores and juniors on campus, teaching practical strategies that Dr. Alec Johnson said can open a student’s eyes to solving the world’s problems, and become an entrepreneur in the process.
“Starting with smaller problems serves to build their experience,” he said. “It builds their confidence, their excitement around, ‘Oh, I can learn how to do this. I don’t have to be born an entrepreneur, I can learn how to do this.’”
Johnson and Dr. Jay Ebben teach the course, training students to “solve problems that matter to them.”
“Entrepreneurship isn’t about having the creative idea or serendipity,” added Johnson. “It’s about finding the problem, intellectually understanding the nature of that problem really well, to understand if it’s worth solving, then creatively solving it in a way that’s meaningful to people.”
Three students from the class, juniors Marcus Alipate and Dillon Farley, and sophomore Alex Puff, created a clothing line many people are finding meaningful. The line, True You, was started to remind people who they are as individuals and to be true to who they want to be. Johnson said the students saw a value in the marketplace and are using what they learn in class to capitalize on it. The students credit the class for guiding the business behind their idea.
“In class we learned what problem we were solving,” said Alipate. “We are laying a foundation right now with these classes with the lessons we’ve been learning with the clothing brand we started. We’ve gained a lot of good feedback from people.”
The clothing line is selling around the Twin Cities, with plans to keep growing.
“You’re going to be able to work harder if you’re doing it for a bigger purpose than just a clothing line,” said Alipate. “If you’re doing it for a higher purpose than just to make money, you’ll be able to keep going in those times when you didn’t think you could. Entrepreneurship has taught me to find a problem and solve it and just continue to grow.”
The class educates students about creating a business: recognizing opportunities, understanding personal values and aspirations, and learning different types of entrepreneurial ventures. Some concepts from past lemonade stand competitions have turned into successful companies, like Love Your Melon. Johnson said he’s happy to see these businesses thrive, although that’s not the goal of the class.
“This is the beginning of their process of how to solve bigger problems, by learning how to solve smaller problems first,” said Johnson. “We want them to learn the critical thinking process related to problem solving and to use a class like this to build confidence to take on other problems.”
“I know in my mind I really like fashion and clothing,” said Alipate. “I was looking for how to attack it. What I’ve learned from this class is you have to just start somewhere. You’re going to make mistakes. Entrepreneurship teaches you to learn from your mistakes.”
Alipate wants to continue the clothing line after college and keep digging into what his “True You” really is. It looks like part of it is now being an entrepreneur.