Entrepreneurship Week Encourages Innovation

November 22, 2010

By Jenn Crawford

J.J. Childress and Stephen Escarzaga had a simple plan when they bought a screen printing kit at a local hobby shop: make a couple of T-shirts for fun. Fate had a different plan.

Their shirt designs were so popular that they were able to recoup their initial investment. The partners decided to invest their earnings into the business. Today, they own HKD Productions, a company that makes custom T-shirts for companies, fraternities, bands and local artists. They also promote local entertainment, recreation and arts events.

When they finish college, the friends plan to open an online shop to sell their shirts, said Childress, who works at an investment firm and runs HKD as he finishes his last year as an accounting and finance major at The University of Texas at El Paso.

Childress and Escarzaga are the kind of businessmen that Global Entrepreneurship Week, which begins Nov. 15, aims to celebrate. Student groups and representatives from UTEP’s Center for Research Entrepreneurship and Innovative Enterprises (CREIE) will be available all week in the University Library to discuss start-up strategies and available resources for budding student and faculty entrepreneurs. A raffle will take place each day at the library for those who register between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

“I hope [Global Entrepreneurship Week] will begin to generate additional interest and awareness about entrepreneurship,” said Gary Williams, Ph.D., director of CREIE. The center was formed in 2009 to help faculty, staff, students and local entrepreneurs commercialize their technology. It offers workshops and assistance with market research, creating a business plan and developing a marketing strategy.

The next workshop, “Business Models and Financial Analysis,” will be offered from 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 17. To register for the free workshop, go to www.utep.edu/creie.

One of the student groups that will be represented during the week is the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization, or CEO. The group of about 35 members invites students to learn the essentials of how to start a business while in school so they can begin to work on their own companies as soon as possible. They host elevator pitch competitions and plan to start offering free workshops for students and the public on topics such as how to write a business plan and how to interest investors in your company.

CEO will host a free workshop for students on entrepreneurship at 2 p.m. Friday, Nov. 19, at the College of Business Administration Building.

“I would like for the UTEP community to learn that there are an infinite number of opportunities for a person who wants to start their own business; it’s just a matter of looking for the opportunities that are open to you,” said Arely Muñoz, a senior economics and finance major and president of CEO. “Understand the definition of entrepreneurship, and if interested, talk with others who have the knowledge to share.”

Erik Pavia For the Regional Economic Development Association (REDA), a UTEP student organization, Global Entrepreneurship Week is about spreading the message that being an entrepreneur is possible.

“We want to show students that starting a business is feasible, especially in our region,” said Richard Sapien, a senior economics major and president of REDA. “When many students think of successful student start-ups, they think of Harvard drop-outs or Stanford students with garage labs in Palo Alto. We want to prove that El Paso has the talent and resources necessary to start a business.”

This semester, REDA is expanding its online Regional Identity magazine to a print product. The members run the magazine like a business, Sapien said, with an editorial and marketing staff, a student in charge of finances, designers and artists. The magazine features local organizations that foster entrepreneurship, such as Innovate El Paso, and UTEP students who already are entrepreneurs and run businesses while in college.

“Entrepreneurship is especially important for UTEP students because it is a solution to our city’s alleged brain drain problem,” Sapien said. “People complain that El Paso does not have enough high-skilled, high-paying jobs, but they never try creating these jobs themselves.”

Information: http://www.utep.edu/creie or http://www.gewusa.org


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