Starting a new business is a big undertaking that involves a lot of planning and risk. As the head of Kaplan University's FastTrac program, Dr. Carol Hancock teaches her students how to manage those risks and plan for entrepreneurial success. Carol earned two graduate degrees and started four successful businesses while raising two children in Northern California, so it's clear that she knows a lot about determination and planning ahead. In this blog she explains what entrepreneurs -- both new and experienced -- can gain from taking entrepreneurship courses.
BlogHer: Why does Kaplan University care about entrepreneurship?
Carol Hancock: When we look at the statistics, we can see that we need to pay attention to this part of our economy. Small businesses make up 50% of the United States' non-agricultural gross domestic product, provide 75% of new job creation, and make 90% of our exports. Most universities are so focused on corporations -- we forget that entrepreneurs are such a big part of the business world. That's really not good; we need to pay attention to small business. Kaplan University was chosen by the Kauffman Foundation as the only online venue for their FastTrac program, which is great because we can offer that very focused educational support to entrepreneurs.
In your experience, why should potential entrepreneurs take classes? What are some of the market needs?
When I was in my undergraduate program, I had to do a marketing plan based on a real business. My first plan focused on a part of California where we wanted to live. I discovered that our business would suffer terribly had we decided to locate it there. In the second phase of my research I discovered that we had a better opportunity in another area outside of the city that only had two competitors. We gave the business plan to a banker and we got funding. It made all the difference in the world.
I am an evangelist for business plans. The entrepreneurship courses at Kaplan focus on planning. I don’t believe that it is easy for someone to just open a business. So many businesses fail without good planning and strategy, and classes can really prepare you for success in that way.
What does FastTrac offer to folks who wish to start a new business?
The offering for new entrepreneurs is called “New Ventures”. It’s for people who want to start a new business and has two courses. One course concentrates on the conceptual part of starting a business, like developing a vision, and the other is focused on creating a business plan.
What does FastTrac offer to people who have already opened a business?
The offering for experienced entrepreneurs is called Growth Ventures. It teaches you to look at your business to see if it can grow. Students reexamine their business model -- everything is already in place with an existing venture. The end result is that you write a strategic plan to assist in ramping up the business. At Kaplan University, we have many aspiring entrepreneurs, but not as many experienced entrepreneurs.
Are the FastTrac courses usable for credits in my educational pursuits?
Yes -- you can apply two FastTrac courses (3 credit hours, or 1.5 credits each) towards an MBA. The courses can also be used to gain a certificate in entrepreneurship.
How will the content within the courses help prepare me to build a business?
You will learn how to make a business plan that works, and you come out at the end with a document that could help you obtain financing. You gain self-discipline from the structure of the courses -- they are very intense and focused -- no one can get away with falling asleep in class. The courses can also be a great place to build a support network because students work on assignments with others who have similar aspirations. Building a solid business plan, gaining focus and discipline, networking with other entrepreneurs -- these are valuable tools for building a business of your own.
Kaplan University provides a practical, student-centered education that prepares individuals for careers in some of the fastest-growing industries. The University, which has its main campus in Davenport, Iowa, and its headquarters in Chicago, is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (www.ncahlc.org). It serves more than 53,000 online and campus-based students. The University has 11 campuses in Iowa, Nebraska, Maryland and Maine, and Kaplan University Learning Centers in Maryland, Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri and Florida.
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