University Entrepreneurship Program Spotlight: University of Oklahoma

University of Oklahoma

The University of Oklahoma’s Tom Love Center for Entrepreneurship is recognized as one of the top 25 best Entrepreneurship programs in the United States by Entrepreneur and The Princeton Review.UO graduates have started 43 companies and have collectively raised $15,963,700.

The University of Oklahoma’s Tom Love Center for Entrepreneurship, an extension of the Michael F.  Price College of Business, was established in 2003 and has been nationally recognized as one of the top 25 best Entrepreneurship programs in the United States by Entrepreneur and The Princeton Review. Along with providing a top-notch education, Oklahoma University’s core mission is “to help students connect to the world of opportunity”.

The Tom Love Center for Entrepreneurship (TLC)

As a part of the Price College of Business, the Tom Love Division of Entrepreneurship and Economic Development continues to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem that includes experiential learning and enables the launching of successful ventures and successful careers. –Tom Love Division of Entrepreneurship, Price College of Business

The Tom Love Center for Entrepreneurship has been grooming aspiring entrepreneurs for nearly twenty years thanks to various donors, including its namesake Tom Love, successful entrepreneur and founder of Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores, which now has more than 420 locations nationwide. Love’s own dedication and drive set the standard for success within the TLC.

From its birth, the TLC was groomed for excellence.

“Our ecosystem combines the best academic resources and experiential programming to activate students as process-oriented thinkers who build revolutionary ideas and companies.” Jim Wheeler, The University of Oklahoma

Admissions, Courses, Cost

The cost to attend the University of Oklahoma is approximately $ 20 K with a 69% acceptance rate. Applicants must have a minimum ACT score of 23 or an SAT score of 1150 to be considered. Courses within the Entrepreneurship program are available to all students. The TLC maintains the attitude that “regardless of experience, time capacity or field of study, there is a place for you in the world of entrepreneurship” –Jim Wheeler, Center for Entrepreneurship

The University of Oklahoma offers both graduate and undergraduate entrepreneurial programs. The TLC currently offers 28 entrepreneurship-related undergraduate courses. However, the real value of the program is the activities and communities available to the students.

Student Resources

Students enrolled in the program have access to resources like TEDxOU talks and Entrepreneurship Symposiums where industry experts share their knowledge on market trends, entrepreneurial experiences, and the latest progress in design, tech, and media. The additional benefit of the discovery aspect of the program is being able to apply principles and ideas through the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization and Innovation & Entrepreneurship Course. This is where individuals are able to develop innovative concepts, share progress and advice, and practice collaboration and team-building.

Participants in the program can choose to refine a variety of specialized skill sets. The topics include Social Entrepreneurship, Product Design, Tech Commercialization, Software Business, Innovation to Entrepreneurship Internship, Entrepreneurship Fellows (semester-long internship), and I-CCEW (Irani Center for the Creation of Economic Wealth).

“Bring Your Ideas to Life with Innovative Business Models and Strategies,” is the tagline for the Ideation portion of the entrepreneurship program. This is where individuals can practice developing critical thinking, networking, public speaking, financial, presentation, resources and capital, and analytical skills. This is available through the Strategic Venture Development Course, the New Venture Development Sequence, the College of Journalism, and the College of Engineering.

Faculty & Funding

The University of Oklahoma offers a variety of invaluable resources that are easily accessible for students. An example would be the Tom Love Innovation Hub, a building dedicated to aiding entrepreneurial students in their journey to creating a successful business plan. The Hub hosts over 200 talks where students have the opportunity to learn about successful entrepreneurs across a variety of industries.

The Hub also offers various workshops such as the Create Challenges workshop, which was designed to push the limits of students creativity and also makes students aware of the universities resources that are available to them.

Another resource offered by The Hub is the Sooner Innovation Fund, a grant that any University of Oklahoma student with a budding business idea can apply for. The purpose of this grant is to provide a student who has a business idea but no funding to execute it with the necessary tools to bring the idea to life. There are three steps to applying for this grant: first students submit a short application online, then students learn how to build and test their project, and finally, the potential plans are executed by the students with the assistance of an OU Entrepreneur staff member. The grant ranges from $500-$5,000.

If the project is a success, the concept can be placed in the Sooner Launch Pad Accelerator (SLP) to launch the venture. Projects in the SLP will also receive $10,000 in seed funding.

“Nearly three-quarters of its undergraduate entrepreneurship faculty has started, bought or run a successful business, and 76 individual mentors worked with students through an officially sponsored school program.” –Entrepreneur

Finally, the Integrated Business Core (IBC) is another student-led program that has been actively creating and selling product for over 20 years. The program has had an immense amount of success with over 76,000 hours of community service that have contributed over $1.3 million in funding to local charities.

Jim Wheeler, the Executive Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, is an alumnus of the University of Oklahoma class of 1992. Wheeler graduated with a BBA in Marketing and is a co-founder of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and holds the Stanley White Directorship of the Entrepreneurship Center.

Jim Wheeler was also a sports media, marketing, and licensing executive for 10 years, with an extensive clientele that included the Olympic Games, the Fifa World Cup, the Cotton Bowl, and the NCAA Tournament.  Creator of the Student Venture Capital Fund and the annual Business Plan Competition, Wheeler demonstrates a deep investment in the future of the students and their future business ventures.

Alumni Success

According to Entrepreneur, UO graduates have started 43 companies and have collectively raised $15,963,700 in funding.

An example of a Sooner Launch Pad Success story is a company called BlyncSync Technology. BlyncSync is a company whose goal is to reduce the number of accidents caused by fatigued drivers and to optimize time and energy with the help of wearable smart devices that monitor the length of exertion and levels of fatigue.

Out of the company’s four man team, two are OU Entrepreneurship alumni. Austin Green, who holds a degree in Entrepreneurship and Finance from OU, handles fundraising, finance, and business decisions for the company. Steven Kastelic oversees company operations and handles all customer acquisition. Kastelic has a degree in Entrepreneurship from the University of Oklahoma. On the home page of BlyncSync’s website, there is a list of the team’s mentors. Because of the mentor resources and networking opportunities provided by the TLC, these OU alumni, along with their two other team members, were able to bring their ideas to life.

The University of Oklahoma’s Tom Love Center for Entrepreneurship is an institution that has maintained a reputation of excellence from the very beginning. Founded by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs, the TLC continues to cultivate ambitious innovators dedicated to building a brighter future.

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Emily Welch

A twice published author in poetry, Emily is a creative writer with an extensive background in English Literature. Since graduating from Lincoln Memorial University, she gained experience as a Translator and Staff Writer for a variety of Appalachian Projects across East Tennessee. Her work has been featured in The Anthology of Appalachian Writers: Nikki Giovanni Volume VIII and Hollow Volume IV with awards in poetry and creative nonfiction.