Business Students Learn Lessons From Entrepreneurs

September 14, 2010 at 5:39 pm

A month shy of his 25th birthday, Krish Patel, a University of South Carolina Upstate graduate (2008), is already the owner and director of operations for 14 Verizon Wireless retail outlets across the Upstate and South Carolina. While a business administration major in the George Dean Johnson, Jr. College of Business and Economics, this entrepreneur was already formulating his business plan for the company he went on to form in 2008 called Wireless Communications which now has 75 employees. He came back to the classroom on September 1 to share his remarkable entrepreneurial story to instructor Jeff Smith’s 300-level business class called Topics in Metropolitan Studies: Entrepreneurism.

“Our goal is to prepare students for entrepreneurial endeavors, to instill recognition of change and entrepreneurial thinking in all Johnson College students while in concert with assisting to create a community committed to achieving social and economic progress through entrepreneurship. The willingness of these successful individuals from our Upstate community to join us in the classroom to expose our students to examples of real success is invaluable to us completing this goal.”

Smith has scheduled 24 entrepreneurs to share their stories with the class throughout the fall semester. Billy Webster, co-founder of Advance America, Cash Advance Centers, Inc., and chairman of the board, will join the class on September 15.

Additional speakers include Mike Wood of American Storage; Steve Harvey of Roebuck Advertising; David Miller, a Johnson College alum with a career in senior management with several Upstate banking institutions;  John Bauknight and Nick Wildrick of Shred First, RJ Rockers and Longleaf Development; Justin Converse of Converse and Company; Dr. Mary Joan Black of Orthopedic Associates, PA of Spartanburg; Hamp Lindsey of  Wade’s; Carter Ridgeway of II Samuels Restaurant; Benjamin Wall and Mark Blackman of WJ Partners; and Craig Brown and Nate Lipscomb of the Greenville Drive. Patty Bock and Amanda Mathis, with the City of Spartanburg Economic Development Department, will share information about opportunities for public/private partnerships, available sources of public funding, and tax incentives for job creation.

Courses in entrepreneurship are now offered by more than 1,200 American universities, according to a recent analysis by the New York Times. The Johnson College course is a 300 level and consists of mostly junior and senior business majors. Smith says that if his students do not continue on to start their own businesses, the knowledge they gain from an entrepreneur is applicable in any corporate business setting.

Smith received a large positive response from his class after Krish Patel’s visit. Students were awed by his work ethic, drive, goal-setting and risk-taking – but most notably, they couldn’t believe he had accomplished so much before his 25th birthday. Pamela Thompson said, “For being a 24 year old, he seemed like he has been in business for decades.” Charles Oliver said, “The fact that he is so young and has been able to accomplish such great things makes it that much more motivating for me to go out and do the same.”

While a full-time student at USC Upstate taking a heavy load of classes, Krish Patel worked full-time for Verizon Wireless as a customer service representative and later as a sales representative. In 2006, he was ranked second in sales (out of 350 sales reps) in the Carolinas and Tennessee region for making 167 percent of quota. That number two designation was simply not good enough for Patel, spurring him on to higher goals. He moved into the corporate management side of Verizon Wireless and received what he says was the best management training in the industry. In 2007, while a student in the Johnson College’s New Business Enterprise Class, Patel formulated a business plan to start his own Verizon Wireless retail outlet. The business plan led to a trade partnership (franchise agreement). Patel used his house as collateral on a start-up loan, and he opened his first store on Pelham Road in Greenville in October 2008 just a few months after graduating. “Go big or go home” was his motto. He quickly added, in two years time, another 13 locations. By the end of 2010, he will open five more stores, with a goal to open five locations each year. With 75 employees and competitors like Wal-Mart and Best Buy, Patel’s life is a blur of constant motion, calls, sales meetings, and location scouting. Despite the growth and success of the company, he says he never forgets that his customers are clients, not numbers. They are treated to handwritten notes and follow-up calls – all gestures that he says nurture a long relationship.

For more information about the Topics in Entrepreneurship class, contact Jeff Smith at jeffsmith@uscupstate.edu.

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