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Students Share in Entrepreneurial Spirit

by system

Business owners offer insights into what it takes to be succussful

Fri, Nov 18th 2011 03:00 pm
The Buffalo News  [ View Original Article ]

 Updated: November 16, 2011, 11:50 PM

Not everyone grows up to work for a company. Some people start their own businesses.

That was the message a group of students at the Charter School for Applied Technologies in the Town of Tonawanda got Wednesday when they met a group of small-business owners.

"It's really important to expose students to the concept of entrepreneurship as an option for their lives," said Thomas R. Ulbrich, executive director of the University at Buffalo School of Management's Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership.

Ulbrich facilitated the event, in which local small-business owners and members of the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership met in a "round robin" format of small group discussions with about 25 students, sharing their experiences in business and their individual paths to business ownership. The event was part of the school's observance of Global Entrepreneurship Week.

"Small business and the entrepreneurial spirit are the backbone of our country. We started to lose focus on that for a while, but the current economic conditions are forcing us to look back on it," Ulbrich said. "People get so caught up in Wall Street and forget that it's just one small piece of our economy."

Students in attendance had diverse career aspirations -- education, culinary arts, music, engineering. Discussion leaders helped point out that entrepreneurship can dovetail with almost any vocational passion.

For example, sophomore Alea Bryant shared her plans to become a neurologist.

"You could be the Dent Neurology of the future," Angie Kleeh, CEO of Triple Track HR Partners and the Synergy Group in Amherst, told her.

Joel Colombo is president of 360 PSG in Amherst, which builds, supports and hosts websites. He talked about the hard lessons he learned from his first, failed business -- a retail computer store -- that has helped him build his current successful company.

"It was a bad idea. There was too much competition from companies like Dell," Colombo said. "I didn't understand competition or credit. I didn't realize if you buy your inventory on a credit card, there's no way to pay the bills if it doesn't sell."

Kleeh, who referred to herself as a "serial entrepreneur," also shared the perks and pitfalls of being a small-business owner.

"There are a lot of government regulations," she said. "You're self-employed, but you have lots of different bosses that you're accountable to."

Also in attendance were Alicia Glaser of William's Florist & Gift House in West Seneca, Kim Grant from Applied Sciences Group in Cheektowaga and Dave Cervi of Personal Touch Food Service in Buffalo.

Susan G. Toomey, director of development for the Charter School for Applied Technologies, said that providing students with networking opportunities in the business community and exposing them to different career paths is part of the school's core mission.

" 'Every day is career day' is our motto," Toomey said. "We want to give students a greater awareness of what's available to them in terms of employment and what it takes to be successful."

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