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Reel Experience

Greg Schaber

Like all successful entrepreneurs, Kristie Zuhlke knows a good idea when she sees one—and she’s not afraid to act on it. So last spring, when a study in her market research class revealed that University students were hungry for a video rental store on campus, Zuhlke enlisted fellow entrepreneurship majors Kenny Ray Schomp and Andy Gibson to help feed the demand. This October, the trio’s efforts will materialize as FliX—the first student-owned-and-operated business on campus.

Funded with a three-year, $13,500 loan from the student government association, FliX will be made up of a series of wheeled shelves located on the first floor of the Gallagher Student Center. The store will be open daily from 11:00 a.m. to midnight, and plans call for about 600 movies, most of which will be DVDs.

“We’ve done a ton of research in terms of calling other movie rental stores on college campuses,” Zuhlke says. “We’ve also done a lot of research with finding the best supplier. It’s taken a lot of hours, but it’s going in a direction we’re all very enthusiastic about.”

That direction includes involving other aspects of the Williams College of Business in FliX.

“We’re planning on having accounting interns recruited from upper-level accounting classes to help us with our accounting,” Zuhlke says. “And eventually we’d like to have a marketing student to be the marketing director.”

Ed VonderBrink, director for the University’s entrepreneurial center, says the store will serve as a model for other potential student-owned-and-operated businesses. Profits will be channeled back into the entrepreneurship program for other projects and scholarships.

“This is a business that will endure long after these three students are gone,” he says. “It will continue to provide an opportunity for students to find out what it’s like to own and run your own business.”

Providing these kinds of opportunities is what the entrepreneurship program is all about. And while FliX will certainly be the most visible of recent additions to the program, it’s far from the only one. VonderBrink and the entrepreneurial team—Peter Bycio, Sherrie Human and Melissa Baucus—recently unleashed a barrage of new opportunities designed to resonate with anyone who has an entrepreneurial mind-set.

“That could apply to people in the art department, in music, in the sciences,” VonderBrink says. “If you think about it, doctors and lawyers are entrepreneurs if they open their own practices. We recognize that many of our students are going to go out and be self-employed, work for smaller businesses or succeed in the family business.”

On that premise, the program has added a minor in entrepreneurship, open to students in all disciplines. Human says business majors will need three additional classes—business planning, venture management, and creativity and innovation—to complete the minor. Non-business majors must take those courses plus three more—accounting, marketing and either a law, human resources or micro-economics class.

And the new minor brings with it a new financial incentive—the $5,000 Phil and Jeanne Busch Scholarship. Majors also are included in the scholarship picture. Earlier this year, Eric Keller became the first recipient of a full scholarship provided by the William G. McGowan Charitable Fund.

Of course, environment plays a key role in honing business acumen. So beginning this fall, all entrepreneurship students will get the chance to brainstorm and sharpen their creativity, while learning from the advice and real-world experiences of the entrepreneurs at the Hamilton County Development Center, a small-business incubator in nearby Norwood. Through the support of Provident Bank, the entrepreneurship program recently signed a three-year lease for 1,000 square feet of space in the facility, which VonderBrink describes as the top-rated small-business incubator in the state of Ohio, housing about 50 fledgling businesses at any given time.

Finally, to ensure students get even more of the best possible advice from a variety of experienced viewpoints, there is the newly formed Xavier entrepreneurship advisory board, made up of 17 successful entrepreneurs and/or advisors to entrepreneurs.

“It’s pretty exciting stuff,” VonderBrink says. “It’s major steps forward from where we’ve been.” And should VonderBrink decide to kick back for a few minutes in the wake of all this activity, Zuhlke will be more than happy to rent him a movie.

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