Business class

August 11, 2016

Henry Jinman is correct to highlight the major limitations of basing entrepreneurship education around the development of a business plan (“Enterprise courses in HE ‘reluctant’ to give real-world scenarios”, News, 28 July). To be effective, entrepreneurship education has to be experiential. His crowd-funding teaching tool is a positive development. However, it does not appear to give students the full experience of starting and running a business.

The most effective approach to entrepreneurship education is the mini business venture. With inputs from colleagues I have developed a business start-up class that requires students, working in groups of three or four, to develop a business that actually trades (with profits going to charity). Assessment is based on a group report to explain what they did and why, and individual learning reflections. These reports indicate that the experience of trading complements and reinforces the classroom learning (for example, “it allowed me to understand concepts that I didn’t grasp in the class”). Students also learn through practice various aspects of entrepreneurship that cannot be taught effectively in the classroom, such as negotiation, selling, pricing, pitching and the impact of regulation. They also learn various truisms about entrepreneurship – for example, the importance of passion, being customer-centric and delivering on promises. It enhances students’ personal development skills (notably organisation, time management, reliability, team-working) and for some it was an opportunity for self-discovery: one student said, “I’ve realised that I am more self-confident than I had imagined.” And finally, it raises entrepreneurial intent among the majority of students.

It would not take too much imagination to find a way in which Jinman’s teaching tool could be incorporated into this type of course, to the mutual benefit of both approaches.

Colin Mason
Professor of entrepreneurship
Adam Smith Business School
University of Glasgow

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