Juniors Peter Hegland and Peter Liavas have collected a LOT of business cards.

As the inaugural students accepted into the Entrepreneur-In-Training Program, they know how valuable those connections are, and they’re thankful for the opportunities provided by the program—sponsored by the Saint Mary’s University Kabara Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies.

It’s only appropriate that the student entrepreneurs joked that they should create and market a way to electronically enter and organize the data from those business cards into a user-friendly format.

Hegland, a triple major (Entrepreneurship, Business Intelligence and Analytics, and Finance) from Rochester, Minn., and Liavas, a Marketing major from Niles, Ill., applied for the program for essentially the same reason—the opportunity to network with, learn from, shadow, and be inspired by those whose footsteps they hope one day to follow.

The Kabara Entrepreneur-In-Training Program is for highly motivated students who want to launch their organizations either before or shortly after graduation. Students are eligible to apply at the end of their sophomore years and participate during their junior and senior years. In essence, Jim Bedtke, executive director of the Kabara Institute, said, “This unique, two-year program offers selected students the opportunity to bring their creative passions to life.”

Bedtke explained that during the first year, students meet twice monthly, once for a learning session and the second time to meet with professionals. Throughout their junior and senior years, these student entrepreneurs will journey through the various stages of the entrepreneurial process by collaborating and working in partnership with select mentors, industry experts, and faculty members. By this fall Hegland and Liavas will be paired with mentors who are specific to their industries of choice, and they will expand their network to lawyers and accountants, people who would be instrumental in establishing a business venture.

The end result of the program will be the development of a final business plan that is ready for an investor to review. Additionally, trainees have the opportunity to pitch their entrepreneurial ideas to outside investors as an avenue to obtain funding.

Both students said all of the business entrepreneurs they have met with so far have been encouraging and supportive, pushing them to chase their dreams and goals—to live life with no regrets. But they’ve also universally advised students to get valuable experience first.

Both Hegland and Liavas envision starting up their own businesses someday.

Hegland already started a window-washing business in the Rochester area. Eventually, he’d like to do something involving software technology, but following graduation he plans to get some experience in private equity and investment banking first.

Liavas also said he’d like to get some practical experience first before acting on his business plan. One of his hopes is to open a baking café, an extension of his father’s lifelong dream. Liavas would work the front end of the café and do the bookkeeping, while his father concentrates on the product. He’s also thinking about opening a fitness facility.

Both would recommend other students apply for the program, which welcomes students through an application and interview process each year. Up to two students at the end of their sophomore years can apply as a team and a maximum of three entrepreneurial teams will be selected.

“It’s a great program to supplement classes, and it’s not just for business majors,” Hegland said. “You gain the skills and the acumen you’ll need to succeed in starting your own business. It’s the ideal program.”

Liavas agreed. “Every student could benefit from this program,” he said. “Maybe you’d like to go into dentistry and want to open your own practice, or you’re a dance major and would like to open a dance studio one day. It’s an opportunity to learn what it would take to start and run your own business, to learn about the different paths other entrepreneurs have taken to get where they are, and to see what they did to stand out and what it took to be successful. Plus you can never network enough.”

The Entrepreneur-In-Training Program is just one of the programs hosted by the Kabara Institute. Others include the Elevator Pitch Competition; the Business Plan Competition; Breakfast with an Entrepreneur; and other speakers, panel presentations, and field trips.

Photo caption: Dan Arnold, president of DCM Tech and also a Kabara Institute board member, gives Saint Mary’s Entrepreneur-In-Training students Peter Liavas and Peter Hegland a tour of his Winona facility.


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