MU students work to unify campus entrepreneurship organizations

When Adam Tharenos entered business school as an undergraduate at the University of Missouri, he already knew he was interested in entrepreneurship. He sought resources for starting, networking and thriving as an entrepreneur in the local startup community. But finding those resources spread across campus was not easy at first.

“For example, I didn’t know there was an entrepreneurship program at the music school, an entrepreneurship class at the textile school,” he said.


Taking inspiration from his personal experience, Tharenos, now a second-year MBA student, is working to bring the various entrepreneurship efforts on campus under one roof. He is teaming with Bryan Scanlan, a junior in the business school, on the new initiative.

The organization will combine two of the university’s major entrepreneurial groups, MU Entrepreneurs and CLIMB, and will use the MU Entrepreneurs name. It will have its first public meeting — an “Entrepreneurial Happy Hour” — Thursday evening at The Heidelberg in Columbia.

Startups often require collaboration across diverse disciplines, said Bill Turpin, president of the Missouri Innovation Center and a supporter of the new organization.

In a university setting, Turpin said, there is often little interaction between students of different majors and schools. “The engineers all go to their classes,” he said, “the business students all go to theirs.”

MU Entrepreneurs will look to help students meet people from a variety of backgrounds in order to foster a healthy entrepreneurial culture, Turpin said.

Thursday’s gathering, which starts at 5:30 p.m., is mainly for networking and helping fill out the organization’s executive team, which is expected to be in place by the end of the semester.

Brant Bukowsky, co-founder of Veterans United Home Loans, will sponsor the event.

“The goal is to have one organization to coordinate events on campus and to be a resource for students,” Tharenos said. “We want to offer resources to any MU student who’s interested, regardless of what college or major they are in.”

MU Entrepreneurs aims to work with students from every college, but the initial focus will be on the health professions, engineering, music, medical, textile and journalism schools, said Tharenos, who has served as president of CLIMB, which stands for Collaboration, Leadership and Innovation for Missouri Business.

Currently, many of the schools on the MU Campus have their own entrepreneurship events. MU Entrepreneurs will aim to consolidate them and make them a part of the Columbia startup ecosystem, Tharenos said, along with efforts at Stephens College, Columbia College and the Regional Economic Development Inc.

The first order of business will be to have a single website and landing page for all students interested in entrepreneurship on the MU campus.

“There are people out there with ideas and there are people who know how to build businesses,” Tharenos said. “We want to connect these two groups.”

A steering committee at the business school will continue to look at ways to reinvigorate student entrepreneurship efforts on campus, Turpin said.

“We are trying to get more faculty and staff involved in this project too,” he said.

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