Wells came to DePaul for an MBA and discovered a new market opportunity. Now is he is
one of DePaul's many
Technology, ready capital and a cultural deference to tech startups have made
launching your own business a believable dream. In fact, every 48 hours, Chicago
gives birth to a new startup. Yet 90 percent of startups fail.
Still, people believe most
startups are like “The Social Network,” where two educated kids, including one
who codes, stumble upon a brilliant idea after drinking one night, drop out of
college, build a business
and end up billionaires. This rarity leads people to overlook what some see as a
crucial step to startup success—business knowledge.
“The popular myth is
that you create a business on the back of an envelope,” says Harold Welsch,
Coleman Chair in Entrepreneurship at DePaul University's Driehaus College of
Business. “In reality it’s much different. We know you need all the functional
disciplines, you need to apply every element that you learn in school to
starting a business.”
Teaching Strategies that Boost
Welsch said DePaul’s entrepreneurship programs provide something that many
next-generation CEOs desperately need—risk aversion strategies. Many startups
fail because they end up in litigation, hire the wrong people, grow too quickly
or too slowly, plus any number of other factors tied to a lack of business
“The way we
designed the entrepreneurship program is to identify what the pitfalls are so
that our students can avoid them,” says Welsch. “There’s a lot of risk involved
in launching your own business and we train our students to be risk
aspects of DePaul’s entrepreneurship programs include:
- Access to the
Entrepreneurship Center that provides a
vast array of support to students, including workshops, business plan
competitions, mentoring, networking with C-level DePaul alumni and
professionals, and connections to local startups in search of a
- Faculty members who are well
versed in starting businesses and have deep connections to business owners
around the globe.
- Alumni entrepreneurs, who
regularly mentor, speak and engage with students.
“Our alumni entrepreneurs are
usually very open. They reveal their mistakes,” Welsch says. “You can’t buy that
kind of information in the marketplace—it’s invaluable.”
Building Small Enterprises
24th in the nation by Entrepreneur Magazine and the Princeton
Review, DePaul University’s undergraduate entrepreneurship program offers
students a solid foundation in business creation. The program, housed within the
Department of Management, explores various business creation aspects, such as
how to hire or recruit a team, managing purchasing and logistics, and strategies
for growing the family business.
“Within the undergraduate program we focus on the basics and
building smaller enterprises that do not require much capital,” says Welsch.
“This includes service companies, T-shirt companies, pizza parlors and the
partnership with the Coleman
Entrepreneurship Center and the non-profit Chicago Family Business Council, which is
located at DePaul’s business school, entrepreneurship students receive
mentoring, additional workshops and seminars to support their education and
Ramzey Nassar (BUS
’13), who majored in entrepreneurship at Driehaus, says DePaul’s
entrepreneurship program gave him “a shoulder to lean on” for the recent
founding of his business, ThreadMeUp.com, a
technology start-up that provides a platform for quality custom apparel
“I started a clothing company called Habibtees.com while in the entrepreneurship
program,” explains Nassar. “which lead me to understand the inefficiencies
between production and technology and how they interact in my industry. So I set
out to solve it. This solution is called ThreadMeUp.com.”
Nassar also found his tech partners at DePaul, fellow alumni Cory Keane (CDM '12),
chief technology officer, and Paul Salvucci, (CDM '11), chief operations
officer/creative director, to run the company.
about Nassar’s experience at DePaul and his company here.
Finding a Perfect Fit at
Christian Wells was working for Blue Cross Blue Shield in
information technology when he began tooling around with the idea of getting a
master’s degree. He looked for the perfect graduate program and found DePaul’s
MBA in Entrepreneurship.
student, he recently launched his new startup PlanMatcher.com, a health care exchange
that helps the uninsured choose health plans online.
“DePaul was a
perfect fit for me,” says Wells. “A lot of people don’t realize this, but
whenever a group gets together, whether it be The Executives’ Club of Chicago or
any other leaders’ organization, there is always someone at the table from
DePaul. That instantly provides the opportunity to be able to have an
interaction and business connection to go forward with a business
local alumni network wasn’t the only attraction for Wells.
part is the academic experience, which is understanding all the different core
components that are necessary to establish a business and that just, in itself,
helps move a person way ahead of competitors. The other half of the
entrepreneurship programs is actually meeting entrepreneurs. Plus the professors
make themselves available, they introduce you to other people, and contacts that
help lend credibility to your idea and organization and also helps propel your
company to the next level.”
It was in a
graduate class about health care management that Wells got the idea to combine
his IT background with his years of experience in health care. He said DePaul’s
program and professors helped him see a business opportunity as well as a chance
to help others.
“As I was
working on my MBA, I found that I wanted to provide true healthcare value to
customers, especially those who are buying insurance for the first time," says
Wells. "Illustrating the [health care's] value in simple terms is the goal of
"So it was this idea of being able to help people
plus the stability and guidance of DePaul’s entrepreneurship program that really
allowed me to start my own company."
Birthing a Business
Much in the way Nassar and Wells discovered an opportunity while attending
DePaul, many of the next-generation CEOs are seeing profits rather than pain
points thanks to their education at DePaul.
It’s that recognition of opportunity that is the staple of DePaul’s
entrepreneurship programs, Welsch says.
“We preach the Wayne Gretsky model, which is: skate to where
the puck is going to be, not where it is,” he says. “You don’t have to develop
the idea but to develop how to get the idea to market. We teach market alertness
and opportunity recognition and that’s what makes us so unique.”