(STT_ Dec 2021)-The University of the Virgin Islands is supporting the concept of entrepreneurship with a minor offered to all students, regardless of their degree program, and the annual 13D Entrepreneurship competition.
The aim is to provide students with the tools and experiences to explore the role of new venture creation within their primary discipline.
However, once an entrepreneur sets up their business, how do they let people know they even exist? That’s where Professor of Communication Alex Randall and his Digital Entrepreneurship class comes in, a course that complements the entrepreneurship program from a communications point of view.
“I’m not trying to do what the professors in the entrepreneurship program do,” Randall said. “I’m a professor of communication, and I looked at the entrepreneurship classes and the program and they are doing a great job with business plans and spread sheets and finances, but what I’m really interested in is how do you invent the thing and how do you tell people about it? How do you get the word out? What are the different mechanisms for telling people about your new enterprise?
“So, I created the class on the premise of if you create an e-commerce business, you can purvey it to the whole world. For the Virgin Islands, that’s huge.”
There are currently four students in the online class this semester. On the first day, they were informed that they were about to become real business owners, not just in a class exercise.
Randall challenged them to look around their homes and see what they might be able to sell. The task was to get something up and running as a product that could be sold and then go online with it, creating a website and e-commerce capability to reach out to a wider audience than just friends and relatives.
How do you get past Mom and Mom’s friends? How do you get to people you don’t know?
“I’m really fascinated with how you start businesses from zero,” said Randall. “Thirty different times in my life, I started with a blank sheet of paper and made an enterprise out of thin air. Entrepreneurs are slightly crazy people who are willing to take a new idea and invest their lives in it and that’s really risky. None of these students are thinking ‘Wow, this is great I’m going to be doing this forever.’ This is where they get to experience what it is to have a business and sell to people and have something that they can tell people about. My fervent prayer isn’t that these kids do this business forever. This is an experiment. What I want them to come away with is that they could start something from nothing and have people respond to it in a lot of places, not just their village, so think global. If your brain can work on the internet, your body can be in paradise. You can do it from anywhere.”
The four students came up with a diverse combination of products and services, and each one is currently up and running with a website.
Karon Reynolds is a photographer who started his own photography business in February, KSR Photography doing photo shoots and photography for weddings and events. For the Digital Entrepreneurship course, he launched KRS Prints.
He chose two of his best shots of St. Croix, one of Point Udall and one of the beach at Hams Bluff, and has mounted prints on a hard material so that no framing is necessary. More print options will be added as time goes on.
“As a communication major, I feel entrepreneurship is a skill that is crucial for college students because not everybody wants to work for somebody. There’s nothing wrong with working for somebody, but it gives students the opportunity to learn that they can be their own boss, so it’s a great pathway for students,” Reynolds said.
The class, he says, “may help propel you to finally take that business idea that you had and get that next push to start that business or give you new ideas that you didn’t have before.”
Pretty Crochet Things
Unlike the rest of the class, Shari Lewis had no idea what kind of business she wanted to pursue.
“The other students had something they were already working on and they just needed that reinforcement, that push, but I didn’t really have an idea,” she said. “I knew of a lady that made crocheted items and I kind of contracted her to make flowers and I got some clip-ons and clipped on the flower and boom — I had a Pretty Crochet Things business going on. This course has really opened my eyes, just to know that we can create a simple business and it can be something that we could go further with even after the course.
Her business, Pretty Crochet Things, offers crocheted flower hair clips to match school colors.
“For me, I could say that the business idea wasn’t really brilliant, but the different tools that we use show how you can have a simple idea, and it doesn’t have to be brilliant, but it could be brilliantly promoted into something that could turn out to be a big deal. I think that with the tools we are learning, it can be done. I just have to be committed and be willing to take on the responsibility and put in the hard work for it.”
Kendrekus Jackson’s e-commerce business, Blessings ELEVATED, is an online Christian fashion outlet that offers phone cases, baby onesies, T-shirts and a hat to begin with, all with inspirational Christian messages. As the business progresses, more items will be added to the site.
“This is something that I had placed on my vision board,” he said. “First off, I’m a follower of Christ. The Lord said ‘write the vision down and make it plain for us,’ so that’s what I did, and when I encountered this class, he actually helped me get this one manifestation in the physical. COVID may be swinging a lot of businesses into the e-commerce format, and this class forced me to make moves. It was complete fear of the unknown and fear of failure that were holding me back.”