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College Prep

Need start-up help? Give your business some class.

Historically, colleges and universities have been the training ground for "corporate suits," teaching students how to work for big companies, not how to start their own small ones. But pushed by the needs of a changing business environment, institutes of higher education are becoming an increasingly valuable resource for start-ups.

Outside their regular degree programs, colleges provide a wide range of workshops and seminars on various aspects of entrepreneurship, along with one-on-one mentoring programs. In addition, schools of specific disciplines, such as business and law, are offering what amounts to free and low-cost consulting and professional services to start-ups and growing small businesses.

Here's a sampling of the programs available through colleges and universities nationwide:

Program: Small Business Institute (SBI)

Universities/locations: Approximately 250 colleges and universities nationwide (plus several international universities), usually via business schools

Description: Teams of qualified senior-level or graduate business students, under expert faculty supervision, provide consulting to small-business owners and managers as part of their educational training. The students conduct in-depth consulting and field case projects to analyze and create solutions for specific business problems. Services are provided on a no-charge or nominal-fee basis.

Contact your nearest university's business school or visit the SBI Directors Association at You can also contact Ronald Cook at the Rider University College of Business in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, (609) 895-5522, fax: (609) 896-5304,

Program: Kenan-Flagler Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology Venturing

University/location: Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Description: The center provides a wide range of services to start-up, small and midsized businesses through formal classes, counseling programs, competitions, internships and other projects.

Contact Jeff Reid, executive director, (919) 962-2031,,

Program: Irvine Center for Applied Competitive Technologies

University/location: Irvine Valley College, Irvine, California

Description: This resource helps start-up and expanding small businesses find the capital they need and develop business plans. The center also provides technical and business assistance as well as other types of training.

Contact Larry DeShazer, director, (949) 451-5203, fax: (949) 451-5648,

Program: Small Business Opportunity Clinic (SBOC)

University/location: Northwestern University School of Law, Evanston, Illinois

Description: SBOC provides legal assistance to entrepreneurs, start-up companies and nonprofit organizations located primarily in the Chicago metropolitan area. Services are provided on a confidential basis by upper-level law students under the direction of an experienced attorney. The clinic's rates for the service are significantly lower than what you would pay an attorney working in private practice.

Contact Thomas Morsch, director, (312) 503-0321,,

Program: Entrepreneurial Development Center

University/location: Drexel University, Philadelphia

Description: works with both the student and local entrepreneurial communities to promote networking, offer information and expertise, provide seed capital, and establish partnerships between start-up businesses and the university plus various outside resources.

Contact Bill Deane, (215) 895-1733,

Program: Linking Investors to Georgia High Technology (LIGHT)

Universities/locations: Georgia Center for Advanced Telecommunications Technology (GCATT) and Georgia Institute of Technology, both in Atlanta

Description: The program holds monthly meetings during which entrepreneurs polish their business plans and presentation skills, investors identify and evaluate promising opportunities, and corporate developers identify candidates for joint ventures or acquisitions. Events are free and open to the public.

Contact Steven Spell, associate director of communications, GCATT, (404) 894-1698, fax: (404) 894-1445,

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This article was originally published in the December 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: College Prep.

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