Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Preps in XU class on running a business

By Jenny Callison
Enquirer contributor

NORTH AVONDALE - A roomful of aspiring businessmen and businesswomen heard about the nuts and bolts of entrepreneurship at a luncheon Monday at Cintas Center.

Eight students from Cincinnati Public Schools' new Entrepreneurship High School in Winton Place joined Xavier University business students for the first session in a series hosted by the Xavier Entrepreneurship Program. The speaker was Dave Conway, CEO of locally based Construction Software Products. Construction Software operates as iSqFt.

"Success is rarely about brilliance; it's about persistence and wanting to survive," said Conway, who launched the Internet-based resource for general contractors and subcontractors in May 2000.

"Entrepreneurs must be able to learn from their mistakes," he added as he chronicled Construction Software Products' journey from bright idea through many setbacks and uncertain financing to its current steady growth.

The company started amid the meltdown of dot-coms in early 2000 and met skepticism from potential subscribers as well as potential investors.

"For two years, on the Monday before the Friday of payroll, I honestly didn't know how we were going to make payroll," Conroy said. "But we thought we had something, and we weren't going to quit."

Conroy emphasized the importance of acting with integrity and being persistent and patient.

The message hit home with many members of the young audience.

"One of the things we liked best was his focus on integrity," said Andy Gibson, an XU junior from Zanesville, Ohio. Gibson and classmate Kenny Ray Schomp of Lexington, Ky., are partners in Flix Corp., an on-campus movie rental venture.

"Also, the persistence it takes to succeed," Schomp added.

"You have to learn from failures to become successful," Enterprise High School sophomore Jessica Colber said. "I liked the points he made about integrity, optimism and how to balance your time."

"I love to listen to different entrepreneurs' experiences," fellow sophomore Annetta Waters said. "I think successful entrepreneurs out-think a lot of people."

Annetta, from Evanston, hopes someday to combine business and social work by establishing her own community-based employment service.

Acquainting students with the realities and opportunities of small-business ownership is one of the goals of the EHS, housed in the former Jacobs High School, and now in its second year, principal John Morris said.

"Our pre-college curriculum focuses on introducing students to becoming entrepreneurial thinkers," he said. "Some may go on to college, some may start their own businesses, and some will decide they want to work for others.

"The largest percentage of students enter the school thinking they will want to own their own businesses. As they learn more about what that entails, that percentage goes down. But the number of students who feel good about themselves, and who feel they can manage their own lives, goes way up."

Monday's luncheon was the first event in a new partnership between Xavier's Entrepreneurship Program and the EHS, Ed VonderBrink, director of XU's Entrepreneurial Center, said. He said a different group from EHS would attend each of the lunch lectures.

"The value to them is that they get to hear a good speaker, but more importantly, they get to see a college campus and interact with college students. ... Here's a program that I think has enormous potential."

About the program

The Xavier Entrepreneurship program is joining with the Entrepreneurship High School in the Cincinnati Public Schools. The high school will be sending 8-10 students to XU's Entrepreneurship luncheon speaker series, twice each semester.

XU invited the high school students as part of an outreach program to help develop young entrepreneurs within the city of Cincinnati.


E-mail jcallison@zoomtown.com

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