At Lipscomb University College of Business, students are busy setting up businesses from the day school starts.
In the first semester of their freshman year, all Lipscomb students take Introduction to Entrepreneurship, where they work in small teams to establish businesses. Whether it’s selling coffee mugs or a catering business, dean Ray Eldridge describes Lipscomb as a “practitioner university.” Don’t expect to just read books and learn the theories, just dive right in.
Located in Nashville, Tennessee, Lipscomb University is a private faith-based, liberal arts institution. The business school offers a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with majors in accounting, finance, marketing, and Management. They accept slightly over 100 students every year and currently has about 450 students enrolled.
Eldridge says that the school’s curriculum dedicated to experiential learning has paid off as their graduates are highly sought after. Within six months of graduating from the college, he says 96% of graduates had found jobs and every student in the accounting and finance divisions of the school had offers.
“We see business as mission and we’re looking to create global business leaders,” Eldridge says. “Our students get to work right from the beginning and the learning is hands-on.”
STUDENT-RUN BUSINESSES CREATE A COMBINED PROFIT OF AROUND $5,000 EACH SEMESTER
To start their small businesses, students are given seed capital to develop and run with a business plan. They learn about profits, losses, and reinvesting. By the end of their first semester at Lipscomb, most student businesses have broken even and the students pay back the expenses and throw in the profit for the school to use for similar educational opportunities. The school receives some capital from donors, but Eldridge says students raise most of the capital for the next class.
Some of these businesses last a semester, but some last much longer, become lessons in patent registration and win awards in national competitions. The program, aimed at finding the entrepreneur in each student was so successful this past spring semester that Eldridge says two students left the school to continue their successful ceramic pottery business in nearby Memphis.
“Every class has a $5,000 to $6,000 profit per semester and the money also goes into our program to help underserved people set up businesses,” Eldridge explains. “The students really learn that profit is good but it takes time to get there.”
THE B-SCHOOL BASED ON THE ‘VIRTUES OF JESUS’
As a Christian institute, Lipscomb University focuses their values on the “virtues of Jesus,” which are being “purposeful, bold, credible, creative, and a servant leader.” But Eldridge says that students of all faiths are welcome and that the school understands that businesses are usually secular. What the values mean for the school of business, he says, is that students are encouraged to work in, learn from, and grow with the global community. One example is the school’s Business as Mission program that was established in January 2015.
As part of the opt-in program, students work with struggling communities to help individuals launch businesses.
Eldridge says that program director Rob Touchstone, who graduated from Lipscomb in 1997, often brings up the English proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Except Touchstone, he says, adds, “Teach a man to set up a fishing business and you have fed an entire village.”
Lipscomb students are a far-traveling group. Through the Business as Mission program, they have traveled to Jamaica to help set up restaurants, art, and jewelry businesses. They have also traveled to Thailand to create coffeeshops and a bakery in Brazil.
Students can choose to join the program as soon as they enroll at Lipscomb and so some work with their foreign business partners for years, but Eldridge says incoming students are rarely ready to take the plunge globally. Rather, most get their first taste of business from the Introduction to Entrepreneurship class.
“If you want to be an accountant, we’ll prepare you to pass the CPA exam. But we want to expose every student to entrepreneurship,” Eldridge says.
SCHOOL TO LAUNCH NEW ‘ASPIRE’ PROGRAM FOR JUNIORS STARTING NEXT YEAR
In most business schools across the country, internships are optional, though highly recommended, as employers begin seeking out individuals with theoretical and real-life knowledge. At Lipscomb, internships have been compulsory for years with help from the school’s in-house career center.
But starting in 2018, their new ASPIRE program will support 25 selected juniors to work 800 hours while attending lessons. In order to be part of the program, students apply and are selected. Once in the program, students will take 37 hours of multifunctional classes together as a cohort. For example, a team of teachers may teach students about supply chain alongside marketing. Throughout the two semesters, the students will also go on a month-long overseas trip and be paired with a business for a paid, directed work experience.
“At the end of this program, our highly-motivated students will have one semester left and when they graduate, they will have a business degree and one-year’s work experience,” Eldridge boasts.
Planning for ASPIRE began last year when the faculty sat down to discuss ways to add value to their undergraduate experience. The ASPIRE model was taken from the graduate-level Masters in Management degree program, where students work 1,000 hours at a company that pays them a minimum of $15 per hour, because of the resulting high job-placement rate.
Most alums of Lipscomb’s College of Business say that they were working in their desired industry, with over 60 percent working at their desired company just two years after graduating.
NASHVILLE’S BRIGHT FUTURE AS A TECH HUB
In 2017, Nashville was identified by BIP-Capital, an Atlanta-based venture capital firm, as an emerging market-leading tech-innovation hub. This comes as little surprise since Mashable Business names the city as one of the best U.S. cities for tech jobs in 2012. The lower cost of living and lively music scene has been drawing tech firms from the coasts for at least a few years now.
Right outside Lipscomb’s College of Business are the offices of Gaylord Entertainment Company, Bridgestone Americas Holding, Caterpillar Financial Services Corporation, UBS, and HCA Holdings, Inc.
The Nashville Entrepreneur Center located in downtown Nashville partners with Google for Entrepreneurs as one of nine tech hubs in North America to help the local startup community thrive. Google provides technical content, business tools, and infrastructure upgrades to support developers and startups while entrepreneurs who run into problems can seek the collective knowledge and experience of over 200 “advisors” who have “been there, done that.”
Statewide incubator, Launch Tennessee, is also based in Nashville. The organization connects startup founders with large organizations such as Comcast, IBM, J.P. Morgan, and Dell, to help mentor their growth from concept to market launch.
Eldridge says that being located in the growing business hub makes it easy for them to connect students with job opportunities since many alums have already helped blaze a path into the prestigious firms.
“We want the companies who bring on our graduates to see that you can ask for both integrity and character along with business knowledge and experience,” Eldridge says. “People invest in us because they want a job and we deliver on that.”