After a decade of shaping the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, Dr. Richard Lester has decided to step down as Executive Director and return to teaching full-time as a clinical professor at Mays Business School.

Before he was ever formally employed, Dr. Lester was already dedicated to the growth and success of the McFerrin Center. During his time as a Ph.D. student at Mays Business School, he established Texas A&M as a founding member of the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) Consortium. “They wanted a guarantee of $150,000, and I told them it was not a problem. I had no idea what I was doing.” This dilemma was a perfect example of Dr. Lester’s entrepreneurial grit. He simply got things done. He raised the $150,000 necessary and EBV has been a signature program of the McFerrin Center since, recently celebrating its 12th anniversary.

In 2008 Dr. Lester accepted the role of Executive Director. He quickly became aware that the Center, then known at the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship, was in trouble. “We had two months of salary for our Assistant Director in the bank, and that was it.” The Center had found itself in a position that many startups are familiar with. However, Dr. Lester put his feet to the pavement, quite literally, so he could guarantee the survival of the Center. “I would get out of class at 6 pm on Wednesday and would drive around Texas for the next three days meeting with people to ask if they’d be willing to sponsor an EBV veteran or fund a program.”

Startup Aggieland was the next major milestone in the growth of the Center. “We received a TOP grant out of the University that helped to support us and establish Startup Aggieland.” The five-year grant provided funding for staff, programs, and students involved with the Center through Startup Aggieland. “After that, Startup Aggieland really began to grow organically. The students were all over it.”

In 2017 the McFerrin Family Foundation provided a generous $10 million endowment and renamed the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship to the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship. When he received formal confirmation of the endowment, Dr. Lester described it as a truly a heartfelt moment. “Artie was such an accomplished man with an unbelievable work ethic and love for Texas A&M. He was so bright and articulate, but at the same time, he was just a regular guy. We were all in agreement that we wanted the Center to help develop entrepreneurs like him.”

The Center has grown tremendously under Dr. Lester’s guidance and now boasts over 30 programs including EBV, Raymond Ideas Challenge, Aggie 100®, and 3 Day Startup. It was hard for Dr. Lester to pin-point a favorite program. “I’ve always thought that was the beauty of the Center. There are all of the opportunities that you can get involved with, all of these “on-ramps” for students to discover if entrepreneurship is really for them. Entrepreneurship is a very practical skill, and we teach it to students in experiential ways. It’s common at a University for us to focus too much on the theoretical or research aspect of academia. I see the McFerrin Center as a link between the theoretical side of Texas A&M and the practical skills needed for students to succeed in their careers.”

The McFerrin Center would not be the entity it is today without Dr. Lester’s efforts and guidance. He spearheaded the efforts that have enabled the Center to grow from a struggling two-person team to an endowed center that serves as the hub for entrepreneurship at Texas A&M University. Please join us in offering our heartfelt thanks to Dr. Lester for all he has done to secure the presence of the McFerrin Center for all Aggie entrepreneurs.

Categories: Entrepreneurship, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, Uncategorized

  On the evening of Saturday, July 27, 2019, a group of 24 veteran business owners graduated from the Reynolds and Reynolds Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV). The program, which just celebrated its 12-year “Maroon Anniversary,” is hosted by the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship and serves as an intensive, experiential training program for post 9/11 veterans with a desire to launch and maintain a successful business.

“Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect after completing phase I and arriving at Texas A&M for phase II,” said Calvin Allen, retired Army. “After completing Phase 1, my vision for a business was still not clear. After the fourth day of Phase 2, I had a clear direction in mind as to how I should go about my business goals.” Allen plans on opening a start-up classic auto shop focused on the continued evolution of Jaguar’s XJS and classic Porsches. “Attending the EBV program at Texas A&M is a must and a huge step in the right direction towards becoming a Veteran business owner! I feel ready and better prepared to aggressively pursue my business goals,” noted Allen.

EBV is a 12-month long program divided into three phases. Phase 1 is a three-week online, instructor-led course where participants build their business acumen and knowledge. Phase 2 consists of an intensive eight-day residency at a university where participants learn the “nuts and bolts” of business ownership from established entrepreneurs and educators. Phase 3 provides post-graduation support and mentorship through EBV Technical Assistance — managed by the IVMF.

This year’s Texas A&M EBV boasted a record number of mentors. Seventy-five men and women from across Texas volunteered their time, wisdom, and personal networks to help support the EBV Class of 2019. One of the most beneficial resources to EBV participants is the networking opportunities they receive throughout the week. “The mentor sessions are invaluable,” said Gilda Mitat-Del Valle founder of CBD Relief in San Antonio, “and were my favorite part of the program. You receive advice from successful entrepreneurs who really care about helping you.”

An instant camaraderie emerged between this year’s group as if they weren’t 24 strangers who had met only eight days ago. They became one another’s advisors, cheerleaders, and troubleshooters. The Texas A&M EBV Class of 2019 included a record number of participants whose businesses were already generating revenue. “The EBV program has something for everyone. Whether you have an existing business or thinking about starting one, you will benefit from this amazing program. I grew as an entrepreneur and as a person.” commented Mitat-Del Valle.

When asked what advice she would give to future EBV participants, Mitat-Del Valle stated “the best advice I can give a future EBV attendee is try as much as possible to make the most of this amazing opportunity. Try to get your home support system to take care of everything back home and try as much as possible to disconnect and focus 100% on the program for the full eight days. This program is life-changing, so be ready!”

To learn more about the Reynolds and Reynolds Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans, visit ebv.tamu.edu.

Categories: McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, Uncategorized

Next week, a class of 25 veteran entrepreneurs will be traveling to Aggieland to participate in Texas A&M’s annual Reynolds & Reynolds Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV). EBV is hosted by the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, a member of the Mays Business School. From July 20-27 participants will engage in an intensive, experiential training program where they will learn and practice the skills needed to succeed as small business owners. They’ll be taught by Texas A&M faculty and staff, network with local entrepreneurs, and will depart as honorary members of the Aggie family. This year’s program marks the 12th anniversary of EBV at Texas A&M.

When asked why the McFerrin Center views EBV as an invaluable program, Director Blake Petty responded, “We take pride in the quality and impact of each of our Center’s 30 annual programs, but EBV holds a truly special place in our hearts. For these military veterans – many of whom deal with service-related disabilities – we recognize that transition back into civilian life can be daunting. Accepting additional risks by deciding to launch their own business only compounds these challenges. We aim to provide a comprehensive educational experience and support network to help ensure the success of our EBV participants. We’ve seen this one-week intensive experience save careers, change lives, and build lasting relationships between Texas A&M and these military heroes. As we prepare to launch our 12th annual EBV program – our ‘Maroon Anniversary’ requires that we once again raise the bar on our commitment to serve those who have served our country, and help them successfully launch and grow their entrepreneurial dreams.”

EBV is a 12-month-long program divided into three phases. Phase 1 is a three-week online, instructor-led course where participants shape their business plans. Phase 2 consists of an intensive eight-day residency at a university where participants learn the “nuts and bolts” of business ownership from established entrepreneurs and educators. Phase 3 provides post-graduation support and mentorship through EBV Technical Assistance — managed by the IVMF.

Founded in 2007 at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University, EBV has expanded to include ten world-class universities. These institutions deliver EBV to post-9/11 veterans who desire to develop the skills and tools needed to launch and maintain successful businesses. Assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), corporate partners, foundations, and private donors allow participants to attend the program cost-free.

Visit ebv.vets.syr.edu for more information.

Categories: Entrepreneurship, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, Uncategorized

Reynolds and Reynolds’ commitment to developing meaningful relationships with Mays Business School students and faculty and its significant philanthropic support resulted in the corporation’s selection as Mays Business School’s 2019 Partner of the Year. This dynamic partnership was highlighted during Reynolds and Reynolds Day at Mays Business School on April 5.

The day’s events included a Top-to-Top meeting between Reynolds and Reynolds executives and Mays’ leaders to discuss industry trends and Mays’ current and future initiatives. Following a recognition ceremony, company executives participated in a meeting with students and faculty from the Reynolds and Reynolds Sales Leadership Institute.

Investing significant time, funds in Mays

The company’s relationship with Mays began with Reynolds and Reynolds employees’ increasing involvement with Mays students and faculty. During the ensuing years, Reynolds and Reynolds financial support for Mays programs has grown. “They’ve made a big impact in a short period of time,” said Mays Dean Eli Jones. “The investments that Reynolds and Reynolds have made have been significant. But it’s more than the money. We have great relationships with these folks. They are partners and have given generously of their time, talent, and treasure.”

The company established a $2 million endowment to support Reynolds and Reynolds Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans and committed $1 million to create the ReyRey Café in the planned new Business Education Complex. More recently, the company dedicated a $4 million endowment for the Reynolds and Reynolds Sales Leadership Institute, an interdisciplinary program that will teach Texas A&M students university-wide about the importance of sales and leading edge sales strategies and technology.

Industry leader

Reynolds and Reynolds is a software and technology company serving automotive dealerships and car manufacturers. While the company might not be a well-recognized name in most U.S. households, consumers are impacted by the company’s products and services every time they visit a car dealership. Reynolds is a leader in helping dealerships streamline operations and improve customer satisfaction through its products and services. In business, the community, and in their own company, Reynolds and Reynolds is well known for their strong commitment to building relationships and supporting their employees through innovative professional development programs.

That commitment makes Reynolds and Reynolds’ partnership with Mays Business School a natural fit. “We talk about networking a lot. It’s a fine word but it can be superficial,” said Senior Vice President for Corporate Development Robert Burnett ’87. “What’s real is relationships. I believe that we’re here today as Partner of the Year because of the relationships we’ve built with Mays.”

A commitment to military veterans

One of the deepest relationships is with the Reynolds and Reynolds Entrepreneurial Bootcamp for Veterans. “We love the military. We’re led by ex-military and that’s our company culture,” Burnett said. “Dean Jones brought this program to our attention and it was a no-brainer for us to become a partner. It’s been a wonderful experience.”

This unique bootcamp, which is part of Mays’ McFerrin Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship, offers cutting-edge experiential training in entrepreneurship and small business management to post-9/11 veterans who have service-connected disabilities and a passion for entrepreneurship. Veterans are able to take part in the program at no charge.

Reynolds and Reynolds employees regularly volunteer as speakers, panel participants and mentors at the summer bootcamp. Additionally, the company’s philanthropic contributions are funding the program’s growth. “Reynolds and Reynolds’ support is allowing us to expand the number of veterans that we are able to work with in this program,” said LauraLee Hughes, the McFerrin Center’s assistant director of new ventures. “The other big constraint we’ve had is space. Thanks to this funding, we’re able to expand to other facilities and increase the types of activities that we’re able to do with veterans while they are on campus.”

Enhancing knowledge of sales

Reynolds and Reynolds, endowed the recently announced Reynolds and Reynolds Sales Leadership Institute. “One of the things students need to know is sales. You’re always going to be selling something,” said Senior Vice President for Hardware Operations David Shimek ’86. “That’s one of the things that the institute will be teaching – how to present yourself and how to sell yourself, whether you’re selling a product or yourself. That’s going to be important as students go forward.”

Ultimately, Reynolds and Reynolds’ partnership with Mays is devoted to building relationships that will help students succeed both in college and after they graduate. “Reynolds and Reynolds employees from College Station, Houston, and Dayton are on our campus every semester conducting more than 300 individual role plays with students,” said Janet Parish, the director of the Reynolds and Reynolds Sales Leadership Institute. “The time invested by the recruiting team and the sales force who really help to train our students by is a huge benefit that Reynolds and Reynolds brings.”

Categories: Alumni, Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship, Dean Eli Jones, Donors Corner, Entrepreneurship, Executive Speakers, Featured Stories, Former Students, Mays Business, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, News, Texas A&M

Discover the entrepreneurial talent that is being developed at Texas A&M University at Aggie PITCH on Tuesday, April 2 from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Texas A&M Hotel and Conference Center. Aggie PITCH is hosted by the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship and brings together the top entrepreneurial talent from across Texas A&M in a unique and engaging competition environment.

The McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship isn’t focused on launching a certain number of student startups or churning out the most student entrepreneurs in higher education. Rather, the staff behind the “hub for entrepreneurship at Texas A&M University” is focused on providing opportunities that enable student entrepreneurs to succeed.

From its inception, Essentium was poised to be a lucrative venture. Their innovative and disruptive technology in the 3D printing and additive manufacturing space quickly set them on a pathway for success. They combined the grit of Aggie entrepreneurs with the resources of the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship.

Blake Teipel ’16, co-founder of Essentium and TriFusion devices, became an “unexpected entrepreneur” during his time as a Ph.D. student at Texas A&M and got involved with the McFerrin Center as he was launching his startup. “When I encountered the McFerrin Center I encountered excellence. I encountered integrity. I encountered leaders who cared about the students at every level,” said Teipel.

Teipel and co-founder Brandon Sweeney ’18 quickly took advantage of every asset that the McFerrin Center offered. “We were able to learn how to start a company. I was able to learn how to pitch an idea and cast an idea in ways that would be accessible and understandable to a wide audience.” Their hard-work and tireless efforts quickly paid off and during their time as students Essentium won multiple business plan competitions, including 1st place at the Rice Business Plan Competition, where they were awarded almost $500,000.

Three years after launching their business, Essentium closed $22.2 million in Series A funding, one of the highest in the history of additive manufacturing. “If I had not been able to participate in the McFerrin Center in a multi-faceted way I think it’s really unlikely that we would have been able to have the success we’ve had,” Teipel said.

“Blake, Brandon, and their entire Essentium team are shining examples of the impact McFerrin Center aims to have on Aggie entrepreneurs. Watching them mature from raw concept in our Raymond Ideas Challenge all the way through Startup Aggieland, and now making such a huge splash in today’s marketplace…we couldn’t be prouder of their success, and their testament to the power of the Aggie Entrepreneurial Ecosystem,” commented Blake Petty, Director of the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship.

Categories: Entrepreneurship, Featured Stories, Mays Business, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, News, Students, Texas A&M

By Richard Castleberry, Director of Full-Time MBA

There are not too many individuals who, when choosing between studying for an MBA and going onto medical school, decide to do both, However, there are not many Ahad Azimuddin(s) in the world. He is an MD/MBA student in Mays Business School.

Upon completion of his MBA degree in August 2019, Azimuddin will switch gears to focus on medical school. His primary interest is in surgery and taking “healthcare” to a whole other level. His focus on the “business of medicine” is off to a great start.

Azimuddin joined Texas A&M University’s MD/MBA Program at Mays Business School after obtaining his bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston in biomedical sciences; liberal studies; and minors in chemistry, medicine and society, and economics. While studying for his bachelor’s degree, Azimuddin worked as an undergraduate researcher for the University of Houston College of Pharmacy. Since joining the MD/MBA Program in July 2018, he has already left an indelible, positive mark on his class, and continues to impress.

Earlier this year, Azimuddin took advantage of an opportunity offered at Texas A&M’s McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship and entered the Raymond Ideas Challenge. The campuswide competition encourages undergraduate and graduate students to dream up the next great product or service. Each entry must include a 45-second video pitch of your idea. So Azimuddin submitted his 45-second video pitch of his medical device “L-Clip” idea (a pressure-sensitive medical device for a laryngoscope), and won the $3,000 first-place prize. He won with the Best Idea, as well as the Video Pitch, which brought him another $1,000 prize. …Read more

Categories: Featured Stories, Mays Business, MBA, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, News, Programs, Research, Spotlights, Students, Texas A&M

Many people believe an entrepreneur is someone who starts a business, but at their core entrepreneurs are simply problem solvers.

While studying to receive a degree in International Studies, Bryce Watson ’16 was invited to travel to China to aid a local non-profit. During his time there, Watson heard countless stories of the harsh working conditions that factory employees faced every day. Employees worked 80-hour weeks in dangerous environments for little pay, and many had been seriously injured on the job. By the end of his trip Watson had heard enough. He returned to Texas A&M University determined to find a way to improve workers’ rights in developing nations. “I wanted to do something about this,” Watson said. “I didn’t just want to learn about it, I wanted to solve the problem.”

Watson quickly realized he was attacking a complex issue. “We started to discover that these multi-national corporations have hundreds of sub-contractor manufacturing facilities that are only audited once or twice a year,” he said. “They have very little incentive to make sure their operating procedures are safe for their employees.”

…Read more

Categories: Centers, Entrepreneurship, Featured Stories, Former Students, Mays Business, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, News, Students, Texas A&M

The Memorial Student Center at Texas A&M University was bustling on Feb. 18 with business and community leaders serving as judges for the 2019 MBA Venture Challenge. Fourteen teams of Full-Time MBA students eagerly awaited their time to shine in front of the judging panels with the hope that they would take home 1st place at this year’s competition.

The MBA Venture Challenge is an annual competition held in partnership between the Mays MBA Program and the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship. The 2019 MBA Venture Challenge wrapped up its 18th year with three winning teams going home with a total of $10,000.

The winning teams – announced at a networking and awards reception immediately after the Venture Challenge – are:

  • First Place: Hasan Ahmed, Ahad Azimuddin, Hang Quan, Shelley Ruohonen, Jordan Williams; Medicinbox LLC
    • $5,000 sponsored by the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship
  • Second Place: Mark Dearden, Ahmed Ibrahim, Korbin King, Michael Reasor; VoCo
    • $3,000 sponsored by the Aggie Angel Network
  • Third Place: John Buancore, Cole Dietz, Clyde Fomunung, Chris Raman, Koki Tobita; Krueger Labs, Inc.
    • $2,000 sponsored by Fibertown
  • Elevator Pitch: Mark Dearden, Ahmed Ibrahim, Korbin King, Michael Reasor; VoCo
    • $500 sponsored by Mays Business School

…Read more

Categories: Entrepreneurship, Faculty, Featured Stories, Mays Business, MBA, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, News, Students, Texas A&M

  • Texas A&M undergraduate students join founders from Cornell University, New York University, and others for inaugural cohort
  • Each venture will receive $10,000 grant and participate in 10-week development program with Techstars mentors and support from Blackstone

The team of Ben Omonira ’20 and Elise Hackney ’20, students of Texas A&M University College of Engineering, was selected as one of seven startup teams to join the “LaunchPad Lift” program. Their startup, Lazarus, provides a specialty ammunition that penetrates a threat while minimizing blood loss post-penetration to preserve life.

Ventures were selected after the second annual LaunchPad Training Camp, an event hosted by Blackstone and Techstars designed to supercharge top collegiate entrepreneurs from the LaunchPad global network. Lazarus attended the conference on behalf of the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship and Texas A&M’s Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars . Hosted in New York City, the 2018 LaunchPad Training Camp brought together a group of top performing student ventures, who, over the course of two days, heard from experts on entrepreneurship topics and received mentoring from Blackstone employees and members of the Techstars global mentor network.

As part of Blackstone and Techstars partnership to support collegiate entrepreneurs, Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars “LaunchPad Lift” program identifies top-performing student teams from across the LaunchPad global network and pairs them with resources and opportunities to help their ventures succeed.

…Read more

Categories: Centers, Entrepreneurship, Featured Stories, Mays Business, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, News, Students, Texas A&M

In a nationwide search, Texas A&M University has been ranked as a top university for graduate and undergraduate students interested in entrepreneurship. It was part of the Princeton Review Top Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Programs 2019.

Coming in at #22, Texas A&M boasts a dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystem that includes the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, Startup Aggieland, Blackstone Launchpad, and the Texas A&M I-School.

More than 300 schools reported data about their entrepreneurship offerings and rankings are based on entrepreneurial curriculum, student, faculty and staff entrepreneurial ventures, extracurricular offerings, and scholarships and aid provided to students pursuing entrepreneurship.

Categories: Centers, Entrepreneurship, Featured Stories, Mays Business, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, News, Students, Texas A&M