Christian Wells came to DePaul for an MBA and discovered a new market opportunity. Now is he is one of DePaul's many entrepreneurs.

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 Entrepreneurial Success

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 know-how.

“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 managers.”

Unique aspects of DePaul’s entrepreneurship programs include:

  • Access to the Coleman 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 team.
  • 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

Ranked 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 like.”

In 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 businesses.

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,, a technology start-up that provides a platform for quality custom apparel merchandizing.

“I started a clothing company called 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

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.

Read more ​about Nassar’s experience at DePaul and his company here.

Finding a Perfect Fit at DePaul

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.

Now a student, he recently launched his new startup,​ 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 relationship.”

DePaul’s vast local alumni network wasn’t the only attraction for Wells.

“The first 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 the business.

"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.”