VOL. 113 | NO. 103 | Monday, May 24, 1999
By SUZANNE THOMPSON
Roadmap to success
Memphis Entrepreneurship Institute at U of M adds classes,
offers business owner hopefuls training, advice
By SUZANNE THOMPSON
The Daily News
Instructor Roger Kirk is looking forward to summer, but not because hell get a break from school.
Kirk, a practicing Certified Public Accountant, also teaches at the University of Memphis, where he was recently honored with an award for distinguished teaching.
This summer, Kirk will be using his expertise as both accountant and teacher at Memphis Entrepreneurship Institute at the U of M, where hell be teaching a new class, Financing Entrepreneurial Ventures.
"Im blending the world of finance with accounting," Kirk said. "Its a unique course from the standpoint of a business.''
This course is specifically geared at showing business people how to raise capital for business ventures, and how to best use the money once they have it.
"Its a unique opportunity to help others," Kirk said.
Helping business owners is what MEI, funded through a grant from the Coleman Foundation in Chicago, is all about.
Learning about cash flow and business management boosts the confidence levels of business owners which increases their chances for success, he said.
"The Metropolitan area of Memphis is very conducive to new businesses getting started," Kirk said.
He has first-hand knowledge of that, as he works predominately with small to mid-size businesses with at his accounting practice in the 4515 Poplar Building, where he offers his services as a consultant to about 18 different companies, in addition to a core group of tax clients.
Operating successful businesses is a different story.
According to Dun and Bradstreets 1997 Business Failure Record, Tennessee had a 34 percent increase in business failures, while Mississippi had a 40 percent decrease in business failures from 1995 to 1996.
MEI, which has operated for about a year, is designed to provide business owners with the tools they need to run their operations smoothly.
The program is comprised of two parts, academic courses and non-academic training, designed to make expertise in areas like accounting and human resource training available to self-employed people.
Kirks course, which starts June 7, will include information on business start-up that entrepreneurs usually have to get from outside sources like lawyers, marketing professionals, bankers and accountants.
"Its opening the door and how to take the first steps," Kirk said.
But, coursework at MEI is not for everyone, said Dr. Barry Gilmore, interim director of MEI.
"These are Get down and get your fingernails dirty courses," he said.
Taking the course requires 55 hours of college credit because they are upper division classes - and admission to the U of M, Gilmore said.
"Paradigms of how you start and run a business has changed. Our bottom line is were interested in making things happen, not just going through the motions.
"The whole function is to stimulate business growth," he said.
It is important for the local economy to foster growth of small and mid-size companies, which Gilmore said provide more security to the local economy than large companies, which are often acquired by other companies and leave the city.
"We need more businesses in the $10 to $100 million range in sales," he said.
Courses at MEI offer students more than education, they give students an opportunity to network with other business owners that they seldom find elsewhere.
"Entrepreneurship is a lonesome business," Gilmore said.
Jay Myers, owner of Interactive Solutions, started his company in 1996 and took a course at MEI, FastTrac II aimed at helping existing business owners grow their operations.
Myers is one of a handful of people who has completed the FastTrac course in Memphis and business is booming for him.
His video conferencing operation has installations in 21 states and seven foreign countries. He is expecting his business to bring in more than $2 million in revenue this year.
"Since that class, its been a very dramatic change we will double our business in 1999. I, personally, feel like Im running the business more efficiently because of the class," Myers said.