Texas A&M University senior Leon Coe felt drawn to entrepreneurship during his freshman year. There was something appealing about the autonomy of the entrepreneurial lifestyle and the flexibility of setting his own hours for work that personally mattered to him. Now three years and two summer internships later, he is passing on his passion to his peers at Mays Business School.
Coe, a supply chain major, is an instructor for Entrepreneurial Thinking, an undergraduate “Applied Business Competencies” course that he developed over the summer with Mays Lecturer Kris Muir. It debuted this fall with Coe facilitating the course under the mentorship of Muir.
The course is designed to dissect the mind of entrepreneurs and help students of all business disciplines understand how they think. “Entrepreneurs have a different way of looking at things than many people,” Coe said. “Every organization needs to have people with entrepreneurial thinking – innovative and a sense of ownership over their work. If I can show other students this mindset, they can better relate to and do business with entrepreneurs, whether or not they create startups of their own.”
In the fall class, 13 students work in groups on semester-long projects. They assess a need among Mays students, then develop a product to solve a need. They also develop their own web page as a minimum viable product, use A/B testing and run targeted Facebook ads to get experience in digital marketing.
Student projects include a food truck, a class to help students decide on a major that’s right for them and an app to connect students with small niche organizations on campus.
Finance major Xavier Marshall ’18 said he joined the class on a whim and found it to be a pleasant surprise. “Leon is very earnest and direct in his teaching,” he said. “He is always asking us and making sure that we can see meaning in the work we do.”
Dalton Barker ’18, an accounting major who has started small multiple businesses in the past, said the class has helped renew his interest in entrepreneurship. “I’ve definitely learned how much time and effort it really takes to get a business off the ground,” he said. “The process of customer discovery was one of the most interesting concepts to me, and I feel that it is universally applicable to the business world.”
Coe said he hopes his students can see just how easy it is to learn entrepreneurial skills. “Many people don’t know how easy it is to do things like build a website,” he said. “Really, anyone can do it. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s like learning a language. You don’t have to be a fluent Italian speaker to speak basic Italian.”
Marshall shared his biggest takeaway from the class so far: “Anyone can come up with a thousand reasons to tell you not to do something. So if you have a gut feeling about your idea, just try it. You may fail, but the lessons you learn will be invaluable.”
Entrepreneurial Thinking aligns with Mays Business School’s vision to develop transformational leaders who possess the qualities of an entrepreneur: responsible leaders with vision and strong business competencies, exemplify selfless service and value diversity and inclusion.
Muir said Coe’s experience of creating and executing the the course students is one of the proudest accomplishments for Undergraduate Special Programs. “We try to apply an entrepreneurial mindset ourselves in empowering students to try out new ideas,” Muir said.
Coe said he plans to teach the course again in the spring semester.
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