Founders program supports BYU entrepreneurs



    The Marriott School hosted its semi-annual conference for the Founders of the Entrepreneurial Program at BYU this weekend.

    Entrepreneur Founders are practicing entrepreneurs who support the entrepreneurship curriculum at BYU. Through their contributions, the Founders make it possible for the Entrepreneurship Program to support itself without financial support from BYU.

    What makes the BYU Entrepreneur Founders different from those of most schools is the fact that they actually teach classes at BYU, sharing their experience in the business world with students said Ryan Henrie, a junior from Okemof, Mich., majoring in business management.

    Don Watkins, a Founder and the co-owner of American Covers Cooperation, a computer accessory business, said he enjoys teaching because the students seem interested to hear what he has to say.

    “I’ve been very, very fortunate in my business. I’ve had a lot of lucky breaks. I’ve also learned a lot of things and made a lot of mistakes. And I thought … ‘maybe the students would like to hear some of the mistakes and some of the things I have learned,’ and it has been really fun,” said Watkins, who is also the mayor of Alpine.

    Watkins said he has learned that to be an entrepreneur you can’t be afraid to make mistakes.

    “You have to say, that’s what this Earth life is for, to grow and progress. And in business, the ones that are successful aren’t the ones who never make mistakes, they are the ones who try,” he said.

    Joe Ollivier became a Founder this year. He said he thinks students from BYU especially need to hear from people who have actually worked in the business world because of the culture that surrounds them.

    “I think the Mormon culture itself in some ways fosters institutionalism because we follow along under direction, but it also fosters self-reliance and entrepreneurs,” said Ollivier, who has started around 25 businesses and taught at BYU for 29 years.

    Partly because of the culture at BYU, Ollivier said, there is a large demand for a good entrepreneurial program. He said that lots of people from BYU want to go into the world and make their own market for something. The Founders can help students be more effective at doing this by sharing their business experiences with them, Ollivier said.

    Watkins said the semi-annual Founders conference helps the Founders do just that.

    “We get together so we can bring the Founders in to meet together and coordinate with (the other Founders) and intertwine with the students to share their ideas and to review their business plans. We just have a really down-to-earth discussion twice a year with the students working on their business plans,” he said.

    Henrie said the Founders are a valuable asset to the University because they can not only teach students what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, but they also can share good business principles.

    “These are great business people from all around the world who have been very successful. Lots of business people now aren’t very integrity-oriented, but most of the Founders went to BYU, so you can trust the things they say,” he said.

    Henrie said that attending the conference gave him the desire to go into the world and become a successful entrepreneur. He said he was very impressed with the quality of people the Founders are.

    “These guys don’t have to do this. They make a lot — a lot — of money, and yet they are humble. They are willing to give their time teaching plus their financial support. They give a lot back to the program,” he said.

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