A unique program: Wake Forest’s entrepreneurship program wins a national award as a model program

The threads that led to a profitable business tie Laura Bullins Lough (’07) to Wake Forest.

She credits the launch of her business, Unique Sheep, to help she received from the Office of Entrepreneurship and Liberal Arts.

Her experience was one of the success stories that helped Wake Forest’s entrepreneurship program earn national recognition from the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE). The program received the National Model Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Program Award. The award recognizes exemplary programs that show innovation, quality and impact.

Jeff Alves, of the Jay Sidhu School of Business and Leadership at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., was one of the three judges for the undergraduate category. He said Wake Forest’s program is exceptional because of its campus reach.

“The judges were very impressed with what you might call the student-centric approach to the program, and the fact that the program is almost grassroots in that it involves so many students from various programs,” he said.

Betsy Gatewood, director of the Office of Entrepreneurship, said that the six-year-old program was designed to serve students and faculty in any discipline, rather than focusing solely on business students.

The center offers numerous programs, including an interdisciplinary minor in entrepreneurship and social enterprise; classes in entrepreneurship; seed grants; internships; mentoring and advising; and faculty training and development. Entrepreneurs at the University and from the community share advice and work with about 30 to 40 students each year who are starting businesses.

Some of the students’ projects go on to become viable businesses, while others are valuable learning exercises, Gatewood said. “We’re not incubating businesses, we’re incubating student entrepreneurs.”

Lough, who majored in anthropology with a minor in women’s and gender studies, said that the guidance and skills she learned through the entrepreneurship program were most valuable to her. Her company sells hand-dyed yarn for knitting and crocheting through its Web site.

“As a student of the social sciences, I had never taken any classes in business. The program allowed me to take classes in accounting, marketing, entrepreneurship and financial management in both the undergraduate and the graduate school,” Lough said.

She spent an extra year at Wake Forest after receiving her undergraduate degree through a post-graduation entrepreneurial fellowship that gave her support and time to develop her business plan and to take undergraduate and graduate-level business classes.

“The biggest advantage that the program gave me was the opportunity to give my business idea a chance. When you have a crazy idea for a business, in my case hand-dyed yarns for knitting and crocheting, it’s hard to set all your other responsibilities aside and devote yourself to the business. But to be successful, that’s what you have to do. You can’t part time it and expect success.”

Categories: Graduate School, Student, Wake Forest College