BUA 314: Fostering Entrepreneurship 

BUA 314: Fostering Entrepreneurship 

This semester, Thomas More University students had an opportunity to turn their business ideas into fully-developed business models through BUA 314: Entrepreneurship, offered through the Robert W. Plaster College of Business and the Anthony ’65 and Geraldine ’66 Zembrodt Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ZCEI). 

Led by Jeni Al Bahrani ‘05, director of the ZCEI and professor of practice at Thomas More, students were introduced to skills needed to navigate the challenging world of entrepreneurship and to transform their ideas into successful businesses. 

“This course emphasized developing problem-solving abilities, learning to manage uncertainty, leveraging failure as a learning opportunity, and crucial networking, communication and presentation skills,” says Al Bahrani. “These are all tools that can be applied to not only starting and growing a business, but also students’ careers and personal lives.” 

A key element of the course was the intense customer discovery process, requiring students to interact with and glean insights from potential customers. For Aliza Brock ‘27, this meant conducting interviews with the public to find the right target market and customer segment for her ceramics business, ByAliza.  

“My team and I went out in public and conducted interviews, asking open-ended questions to gauge the market,” Brock says, adding, “It was a bit nerve-wracking at first, but once you put yourself out there it allows you to recognize consumers’ pains and fill the gap in the market. It can be reassuring to meet people who resonate with your business while receiving essential feedback to refine it.” 

Mentorship was another emphasis for the course, connecting students with guest speakers and culminating in a pitch presentation and competition. Presentations were judged by a distinguished panel comprised of Tori Gilman ‘21, owner of Your Write Fit, Yvan Demosthenes ‘04, Ed.D., chief executive officer of Hamilton Demo, and Abby Over, director of engagement for Main St. Ventures.  

Students presented their business models in front of a panel of judges on April 23, 2024.

“The students are clearly able to connect their ideas and opportunities to their audience. This will certainly benefit them in the real world,” Demosthenes said. 

Based on feedback from the panel of judges, students had an opportunity to earn seed money to advance their business ideas. A team led by Colin Wilmhoff ‘26 earned the top prize for his business plan for Éntomo, which seeks to make healthy, environmentally-friendly foods more accessible through a bug-based protein powder. Prizes were also awarded to projects for ByAliza, led by Brock, On Demand Vending led by Sophia Pearson ‘27, and International Cafe, led by Ian Herrera ‘25. 

Colin Wilmhoff’s team secured the top prize for his business plan, Éntomo.

“I am incredibly proud of our students and their dedication to the entrepreneurial journey,” Al Bahrani says, reflecting on the course. “Through this program, they have not only developed innovative business models but also acquired invaluable life skills that will serve them well in any endeavor they pursue.” 

Al Bahnrani expects BUA 314: Entrepreneurship to be offered every spring and the intro to entrepreneurship course, BUA 266: Entrepreneurial Mindset, to be offered every Fall.  

About the Zembrodt Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation 

The Anthony ’65 and Geraldine ’66 Zembrodt Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ZCEI) at Thomas More University continues to foster a culture of entrepreneurship, empowering students to think creatively, take risks, and turn their ideas into reality. By providing a supportive and immersive environment, the ZCEI prepares students to tackle the challenges of the business world with confidence and resilience. For more information on the ZCEI, please visit https://www.thomasmore.edu/zembrodt-center/.