5 Min Read
Ingenuity is intertwined with prosperity. Innovation solves emerging challenges, whether that’s the rapid transformation of technology, addressing the sudden emergence of novel and deadly viruses, or responding to the chaotic nature of global markets.
Ingenuity also provides an opportunity for individuals to become entrepreneurs and tap into their passion to prosper. “Entrepreneurship empowers an individual to pursue creativity and passion – and find meaning in the work that they’re doing,” said LauraLee Hughes ’08, Assistant Director of Rev Ventures for Mays’ McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship. “Obviously, we all need to have money coming in to support our basic needs. Entrepreneurship enables individuals to do what they love and find fulfillment in their daily lives by making strategic decisions in business that will ultimately have a positive impact on others.”
Expanding the Definition of Entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurship often is defined narrowly. “So many people think being an entrepreneur requires developing a new product or service. They also often think that entrepreneurs are largely driven by a desire to earn more money or the freedom of being their own boss” Hughes said. “What I’ve found in my time at the McFerrin Center is that it’s so much more than that for most entrepreneurs. It’s about having a purpose in the work they do each day and being able to solve a problem or add value through their business. Often, it is an entrepreneur’s ingenuity that helps others to gain prosperity.”
Entrepreneurship is also about having a societal impact. “Entrepreneurs are integral to enhancing prosperity because, by nature, they are innovators, problem solvers, and creators. They view things differently and are always looking for opportunities to solve problems or make life better,” Hughes said. “Entrepreneurs thrive on disrupting the norm. Whether you’re talking about improving access to healthcare or a product or service that makes our daily lives better or easier, entrepreneurs – in both small and large organizations – seek constantly to improve the world around them.”
Expanding McFerrin Center’s Reach
The McFerrin Center and its activities are foundational to Mays’ standing as a business school with an outstanding entrepreneurship program. The center is well known for the 30-plus programs it runs each year. The Aggie 100™, Aggie Angel Network, Reynolds & Reynolds Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans, Aggie PITCH, and Startup Fast Pass (formerly 3 Day Startup) are examples of programs the Center offers.
Today, the Center is broadening its scope by creating a new division, Rev Ventures, which will help entrepreneurs use their ingenuity to tap into prosperity. “We named the division after our beloved mascot Reveille, and also to tie into the concept of revving an engine,” said Hughes, who is leading this effort. “Through this division, we’re building on the support that the McFerrin Center has always provided to current student entrepreneurs and extending that to our Former Students and others with an interest in entrepreneurship.”
Through the programs offered by Rev Ventures, the McFerrin Center aims to provide a better way for Texas A&M graduates who start their own business to remain connected with the McFerrin Center and Texas A&M. “Consistent with many higher education institution centers, we tend to lose touch with many of the students who participate in our programs because we have not had a way for them to stay involved once they graduate,” said Hughes. “Over the last several years, we’ve seen an increase in the number of Former Students and others that are reaching out to us looking for support in building or growing their businesses. Because most of the center’s programs have focused on current students, we’ve often had to refer them elsewhere for help, whether that’s to a small business development center or an online course. With Rev Ventures, we now have a more intentional focus on being able to serve the needs of any entrepreneur that reaches out to us.”
Did You Know?
Entrepreneur Arthur “Artie” McFerrin, Jr. ’65 earned his B.S. & M.S. in chemical engineering and launched an incredibly successful career in chemical processing and manufacturing that spanned almost 5 decades. An Aggie to the core, Artie always credited the early development he received at Texas A&M, his training as a member of the Corps of Cadets, and many resulting connections across the Aggie Network as the basis for his business success. Artie considered entrepreneurship to be the leading financial force in the world, and supporting Aggie entrepreneurs toward achieving their greatest potential stands as a core tenet of his remarkable legacy.
(Excerpt from The Executioner published by Archway Publishing)
Creating A Network of Ingenuity
In addition to working with both current and Former Student entrepreneurs through McFerrin Center programs, Hughes also teaches the Integrated Business Experience (IBE) course for the Master of Science in Business program at Mays, an intensive 11-month program designed for students with non-business undergraduate majors. The IBE class teaches students to think entrepreneurially by creating and launching a business venture. Over the course of a few months, students in IBE must identify, develop, and launch a product-based business. Students pitch their business ideas and receive seed money from Aggieland Credit Union in order to produce and sell their products. The students also align their businesses to support non-profit organizations, who ultimately benefit from receiving both service hours and any proceeds that students generate by selling their products.
Students completing courses such as IBE or other McFerrin Center programs and who graduate from Texas A&M can now tap into Rev Ventures to learn more about entrepreneurship from successful entrepreneurs. Ben Keating ’94 is one of those successful entrepreneurs. After graduating from Texas A&M with a bachelor’s of science degree in industrial engineering, Keating started selling cars at his family business. Soon the aspiring entrepreneur became intrigued by all aspects of the automobile enterprise and began learning the “ins and outs” of the business beyond the showroom floor. His efforts led to the founding of the Keating Auto Group, which now comprises 20 Texas dealerships that represent 15 different car manufacturers. The Keating Auto Group has been an innovator through creating in-house finance, insurance, advertising, real estate, and GPS-based inventory management divisions.
Keating believes that Rev Ventures will create a solid network of support for individuals with an entrepreneurial idea and a strong desire to succeed, especially those who are not enrolled currently at Texas A&M. “The work Rev Ventures is doing is so crucial for the lifelong learning of Aggies and other budding entrepreneurs,” Keating said. “Even the most ambitious graduates will experience a wide array of unknowns and difficulties that are specific to their situation. The Rev Ventures program is doing an amazing job of narrowing that gap in knowledge for those individuals who want to step out on their own. It is incredible support for Aggies and others who are interested in becoming entrepreneurs when they need it most.”
The generosity of Lifetime Partners allows Mays to fulfill the mission to be a vibrant learning organization, create impactful knowledge, and develop transformational leaders.
See Lifetime Partners
The McFerrin Center launched Rev Ventures in the fall of 2020. The new division now manages programs such as the Aggie Angel Network, Aggies in Business, Aggie Vistage®, and a partnership with Ring Ventures. In addition, new programs and services are being developed in response to the unique needs of the thousands of Former Student and other entrepreneurs in the Aggie network.
As with any effective entrepreneurial effort, Rev Ventures started by piloting several new programs to ensure it is meeting the needs of its target audience. One of its early successes was a virtual short course, “Fast Start to Buying Your Own Business,” which explored buying an existing business as one potential path to entrepreneurship.
Hughes tapped Keating as the featured entrepreneur and to serve in an advisory capacity in developing this course. He not only shared expertise that informed a series of virtual guides and other course content, Keating also hosted live sessions with participants to share his entrepreneurial story and experience to help those desiring to pursue a similar path. The Victoria, Texas entrepreneur found the experience of developing this new course invigorating and informative, saying, “It caused me to remember what it was like when I was just getting started and putting it all on the line for something in which I believed.” In an overall sense, Rev Ventures is creating an educational opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs. “One of the interesting things about entrepreneurs is that they are typically taking risks and blazing their own trails. However, if I had been able to take advantage of this type of Rev Ventures support early in my career, then the risks could have been lower and the trails could have been at least mapped out a little,” Keating said. “Part of my journey has been the realization that I prefer to purchase an existing business over doing a start-up. I wish someone had stepped in early-on to give me that little tidbit of info. Even if I hadn’t taken the advice, I would have remembered it and smiled, and just maybe taken less of a beating in the process.” For Keating, buying existing businesses as a path to developing innovative businesses practices – a form of ingenuity – is his path to creating prosperity.
Find your Program at McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship.