Startup | Entrepreneurship

This Entrepreneurship Program Will Change Your Life

One entrepreneur’s startup stories over an 18 year period

Jessica Bolaños Vanegas

--

Cat Working from Home — Canva design by Goodspero, April 09, 2020

If you’re a non-traditional college student, one or more of the following typically applies to you. You:

  • Didn’t go to college in the same year you finished high school
  • Attend school part-time
  • Work full-time (35+ hours/week) while taking classes
  • Have 1 or more kids

…or a number of other factors.

Traditional students are typically described as students who attend classes full-time immediately after high school and don’t have any major responsibilities like full-time jobs or kids.

Either way, maybe school just wasn’t/isn’t for you. I thought the same thing until I started my first business with my partner and by year 2, I knew one of us needed to get up to speed on financial and managerial accounting, business laws, taxes, growth strategies, and other aspects of operating a business that as a creative, I hadn’t paid nearly enough attention to.

Enter The Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship in the C.T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston. The Wolff Center (WCE) was/is ranked the #1 undergraduate entrepreneurship program in the nation by The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur Magazine.

While Googling around to find the best entrepreneurship schools in the world a few years ago, the Wolff Center popped up online and when I opened up our monthly subscription to Entrepreneur Magazine.

FYI — If you’re an entrepreneur, have a startup, idea, want to start a business, or grow a business: The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur has again ranked this program as the Top Undergraduate School for Entrepreneurship Studies 2020.

📷: Canva Pro Photo, Goodspero, April 09, 2020

Houston has maintained its position among the top of the best undergraduate entrepreneurship programs in the nation for over a decade and has done so relatively under the radar of the local community. But step into a WCE classroom and you’ll see a mix of in-state, out-of-state, and international students who have all done their research online and are all there, determined to get in and graduate as part of the WCE family. (Only 35–40 students are accepted into the program each year.)

Among my former classmates (class of 2013), were students with roots in Armenia, Bulgaria, Colombia, Egypt, El Salvador, Mexico, Russia, Zimbabwe and students from around the U.S. — The WCE program intentionally seeks out students that represent the diverse population in the City of Houston.

There are always more men than women that apply to the Wolff Center to get a Bachelor in Business Administration (BBA) degree in Entrepreneurship in any given year.

Its been said that more men than women want to be entrepreneurs. Many of these conversations end up in discussions of women choosing to raise families over careers or at least delaying careers for families. Anomalies, gender roles and a myriad of other factors aside…

If more women (and entrepreneurs in general) sought out support from a network of entrepreneurs like the ones I met in WCE, their chances of successfully launching and sustaining successful businesses would dramatically increase. The 450+ mentors that provide support over the course of one year alone, the real world business opportunities and connections that are made available, and so much more, make WCE unmatched.

True Story.

📷: Canva Pro Photo, Goodspero, April 09, 2020

At 18 — and until I met my partner when I was 23 years old — I worked as an independent contractor for several national marketing agencies. For 8 years I worked on multiple overlapping projects at a time with multiple teams, traveling to cities in, out, and around the country.

I put college on hold after 2 semesters of basic courses at Alvin Community College that was paid for with a 3 year early high school graduate scholarship and on a credit card. (I do not recommend that. The credit card. Not the college postponement.)

At 25 — my partner and I filed a certificate of formation and started our first multi-media production & media staffing business in the City of Houston. Note: My partner had/has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Media Production with a minor in Marketing/Communications and a Certificate of Intrapreneurship.

At 27 — I went back to school and took as many courses as I could transfer from Houston Community College to the University of Houston, as I planned to apply to the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship during my Junior year — a requirement of the program.

At 28 — I was accepted into WCE where my partner and I completely transformed our professional and personal lives while implementing what I learned in that program. By the first few classes, we decided to start a completely new business in digital media, Goodspero, which we still own and operate full-time today.

📷: Canva Pro Photo, Goodspero, April 09, 2020

By 29 — I graduated with a BBA in Entrepreneurship thanks to scholarships provided by the Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Foundation, the UH Honors College, Federal Pell Grants, and a couple of tuition donations from my biggest supporter — my partner, Nelson Vanegas, who I married while in my senior year in college.

I graduated from WCE with a business plan we were passionate about in hand, a wealth of knowledge in mind, full hearts, a network of solid mentors, and friends to turn to for support — as we would inevitably need in the years that followed and to this day.

At 30 — my partner and I officially filed our certificate of formation for Goodspero with the Texas Secretary of State and with the help of Dave Cook, who at the time was the Mentor Manager and now Director of WCE , who helped us draft our first contract.

📷: Canva Pro Photo, Goodspero, April 09, 2020

This is our 7th year in business. In 2019 we saw a 50% increase in annual revenue.

Why? We started moving away from one-off projects and focused on annual retainers. We slowed down on saying yes to new clients who ask for discounts. Unless it’s the right person or the right cause. We started taking on projects we hadn’t taken on in the past like full-time social media support, social media advertising, social media graphic design and content creation, and we created an installation for social media photos and videos, turned backdrop for TV broadcasts, digital, and other ops. We experimented.

Partners for those projects have been around from the start, always innovating and coming up with new ideas to support shared missions. That’s where the magic happens.

There are hundreds of businesses like ours that are born every day with or without college or support from other entrepreneurs. It’s not impossible to survive and even thrive on your own. I did it for a while when I was younger.

There’s also a huge difference operating a business when you have a deeper understanding of what you’re doing, what the market is doing, what your numbers mean, and an extended network of support from seasoned entrepreneurs who really care about you. That includes a network of peers you’ve built trust with that you’ll end up doing business with in the future, who will help bail you out of a bind when you need it most, when you need a referral, and when a global pandemic disrupts your entire industry and the lives of everyone around you.

Like I said as its often been said, if you’re an entrepreneur, or want to be an entrepreneur, this program will change your life. Not just your career.

And if you’re like me and you’re a non-traditional student, reconsider what going back to school would mean to you. Especially now.

*Follow @WolffCenter on IG, Facebook and Twitter for entrepreneurial resources, events, support and other updates.

--

--

Jessica Bolaños Vanegas

Digital + Video + Social Impact. Storyteller. Documenting history as it unfolds. Co-Founder @Goodspero. TEDx-er. Former Contributing Writer @HuffPost. She/Her ❤