Student entrepreneurs make dramatic entrances

A student takes a slide to make a presentation to potential investors at BYU's Entrepreneurship Week. 

Brigham Young University is the only school in the country to be ranked in the top 10 the past five years in both graduate and undergraduate entrepreneurship by the Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazines. 

Students celebrated that recognition and looked to the future during Entrepreneurship Week, which concluded Friday.

Steven Fox, acting managing director of the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology at BYU, said classes in the subject started in the late 1980s.

“You can major in it, or just take classes, you can have an emphasis or not,” he said. “One in seven students across campus has taken at least one class in entrepreneurship. My guess is that is the highest in the nation.”

And there aren’t just a few classes offered. There are 32 undergraduate classes and 25 graduate level classes. The students who take those classes can apply the skills they learn in either a business or other setting, such as education.

The students may apply what they learn to start their own business or to work within an existing business, he said.

BYU has taught entrepreneurship more than 25 years, but the subject really took off during the economic downturn in 2007, 2008 and 2009, Fox said.

“People were asking how they could create their own opportunity to put food on the table,” Fox said. “Our approach is to provide the tools needed for entrepreneurs. The soil, light and nurturing they need.”

Jason Griggs was one of the student presenters at the Friday “Investors’ Day.” Potential investors attended to hear about student business ideas. They could offer mentoring or financing if they chose.

Griggs’s company is called Linq Homes, and it offers room-by-room temperature control through smart vents.

“My favorite thing about the week was the Thursday night meeting we had,” Griggs said. “We asked the men deep questions about how to operate a business so we can get a better understanding how to do a particular business.”

Griggs anticipates graduating in less than a year. He is studying chemical engineering. He told about the concept for Linq Homes.

“It is actually something I developed in my basement six years ago,” he said. “Being an engineer at that time, I loved creating things and finding solutions to problems. Right now we are installing it in other homes so we can continue our testing. We are getting into a wide variety of homes. We can take that to large corporations and eventually get purchase orders for them.”

“I am actually at heart an inventor,” he said. “Essentially I took a lot of extra courses. I can know the theory behind things — how to solve problems and create solutions.”

The entrepreneurship program also has a focus on helping female students succeed in the business world. Amy Rees Anderson has been involved in that part of the program.

“I became an entrepreneur when I was 23,” she said. “I ran companies for 17 years. I have been trying to focus my time giving back, encouraging young women to look at entrepreneurship as a pathway to self-reliance.”

“A lot of girls don’t think they can go into business,” she said. “But you can still have a marriage and be successful in business. I see too many women who have no way to support themselves. As parents we owe them that emphasis on being educated.

“It is good to keep their talents going. It makes them a better wife and mother.”

Daily Herald reporter Barbara Christiansen can be reached at (801) 344-2907 or bchristiansen@heraldextra.com. Twitter: @bchristiansen3.