Topic: Miller College of Business

May 6, 2016

In dark suits, bright ties, and polished shoes, four Ball State students stood before a group of executives and launched into a presentation they’ve spent months preparing. The young people had been challenged to come up with ideas for WorkHere, an app that pairs hourly wage workers with jobs near them, and the moment of truth arrived. After sharing charts and graphs, and answering a few questions, there were smiles around — success.

entrepreneurial management students

Photo by Don Rogers

Members of the WorkHere team, Richard Driscol, Jase Crehan, Kurtis Foster and Austen Putney present to the co-founders and principals of the group. The student team was one of six to work with Launch Fishers members on projects that moved the learning well beyond the classroom into real life.

The WorkHere team was one of six student groups in an entrepreneurship course, taught by Ronda Smith, assistant professor, that were paired with real-world clients, all of whom belong to Launch Fishers, a co-working space for entrepreneurs in Fishers, Indiana. The organization got its start in Fishers in 2012, in the basement of Hamilton East Public Library. But demand for memberships soon quickly outpaced physical real estate.

The solution, a new 52,000–square-foot facility off 116th Street and I-69, that houses not only Launch Fishers, with a coffee bar and open and private office space, but also Ball State’s Center for Excellence in Entrepreneurship.

It’s with that backdrop, as Launch Fishers prepares for its grand opening, that the students shared the results of months’ worth of real-world experience that came as they gathered market data, researched potential opportunities and created growth strategies for the companies.

“I’ve learned so much,” said Alivia Behnfeldt, a junior from Fremont, Indiana, who was assigned to Inwelligent Healthcare. “We had a list of goals, sat in on conference calls, and did on-site visits. We felt like we were being challenged and doing real work.”

Launch Fishers

Photo by Don Rogers

Co-working space Launch Fishers is home to Ball State's new Center for Excellence in Entrepreneurship.

Mike Goldsby, the university’s chief entrepreneurship officer and Stoops Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship, said the experience the students are receiving is second to none.

“The best way to learn about entrepreneurship is the way they are doing it,” he said after the students’ presentations. “They are very brave. As an entrepreneur, you have to take risks. In the real world, you have to pivot, adjust, adapt — just like they did with their clients in this class.

“We’re thankful to the professionals who partnered with our students, and we’re excited to see what our students do from here with what they’ve learned.”

Also on hand for the student presentations was Scott Fadness, mayor of Fishers. He said the partnership between professionals and would-be entrepreneurs is critical to securing a strong economic future.

“It’s an imperative, I think, to find the next generation of problem-solvers and business makers,” Fadness said. “With Launch Fishers, we’re trying to foster that creation. I’m excited that there are people willing to make wealth from scratch.”

“I've learned so much. We had a list of goals, sat in on conference calls, and did on-site visits. We felt like we were being challenged and doing real work.”

— Alivia Behnfeldt
Ball State junior

Building from the ground up wasn’t the first choice for Mike Seidle, chief operating officer for WorkHere. But now he can’t imagine himself anywhere else.

“I never planned on getting into a startup, but it turns out it’s a lot more fun that a big corporation,” Seidle said. “I like going to work every day and never knowing exactly what’s going to happen.”

Seidle said the partnership with the students is invaluable — to all.

“This is not an academic exercise for us, this is real research,” he said. “There is so much talent here at Ball State. The education base they are getting is so strong. The more a student can do beyond what they were hired to do, the more beneficial they are to an employer. And students can’t be afraid to go out of their comfort zones.

“This program is great.”

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