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ISSUE 121 VOL 10 PUBLISHED 12/7/2007

Entrepreneurs apply

By Mara Fink
Contributing Writer

Friday, December 7, 2007

Since its establishment in 1992, the Finstad Grant has given out over $500,000 to help over 180 St. Olaf students reach their entrepreneurial goals. Awarded three times each academic year, the Finstad Grant has another deadline approaching on Dec. 7.

In order to receive the grant, students must have an idea for a business or non-profit organization they would like to start.

They apply for the grant, and then present a business plan in front of a committee.

The committee, consisting of at least one faculty member, one person from the administration, one representative from the Center for Experiential Learning and an entrepreneur in residence, then chooses the applicants or groups of students who will receive up to $3,000 in funding for their project.

The goal of the Finstad Grants, said Sian Muir, associate director of the Finstad Program, is to teach students about the entrepreneurial skills they need to succeed in the business world.

"We're trying to teach students to think creatively, to be innovative, to mitigate risk and especially to have tolerance for ambiguity," she said.

Once students are selected to receive the grant money, they meet monthly with their advisor, who helps them plan and reach their business goals.

Grant recipient Jenna Wagner '09 said that the supportive nature of the staff had been very helpful with her knitting business, Urbane. "The advisors are there to help, but they don't babysit you. It's really your own business," she said.

The students also attend workshops on varying topics like leadership, taxation and marketing geared to teach them more about the different aspects of owning a business.

Wagner said she has found the workshops to be very informative and notes that the taxation workshop allowed her to complete her own taxes for Urbane last year.

Andrew Foxwell '08, co-founder of Modica Marketing, also received grant money to start his business, which works with small businesses and groups on marketing and advertising strategies.

He said the money was especially important in giving Modica Marketing the resources it needed to get the business off the ground and build a positive reputation. "When we meet with clients they are impressed because we can present ourselves professionally, and we also have the programs and computer tools to accomplish what we need to so our customers are satisfied," he said.

According to Muir, the benefits from the program will help recipients in the future. "Students who are involved can easily articulate what value they can add to an organization or grad school," she said. "They have something to point to and say, 'this is where I made a difference.' It shows that they have a level of creativity and innovation which is needed in the real world in all spheres."

Both Foxwell and Wagner hope to continue to run their businesses post graduation. They are not alone; according to a January 2006 survey, 26 percent of past Finstad recipients are still running their businesses today.

Furthermore, 62 percent of those who received the grant in the past are still pursuing entrepreneurial experiences, according to the same survey.

Overall, Wagner said, the Finstad Grant has provided a positive experience. "It's something a little bit different and it's a real experience," she said. "If you have an idea it's a great thing to be a part of."

The final Finstad Grant deadline of the year is Feb. 18, 2008.

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