Business school entrepreneur center provides resources for students to start businesses


Paola Bula

Inside Peacock Hall, students can find the Transportation Insight Center for Entrepreneurship. The center is a part of the Walker College of Business.

Mack Foley, A&C Reporter

While at App State, addressable problems may come into view for students, a simultaneously exciting and paralyzing feeling. Fortunately for these students, App State has the Transportation Insight Center for Entrepreneurship.

“The Center for Entrepreneurship exists to help students take ideas out of their head and put them to work,” director of the center Erich Schlenker said in a video on the center’s website.

Schlenker said students who come into the center typically fall into one of three categories: those who don’t have any ideas, but want to own their own business someday; those who have an idea, but need help growing and expanding on it; and those who have an idea laid out with a business plan and are ready to start researching and implementing it.

For students without an idea, Schlenker recommends the Association of Student Entrepreneurs. The Association of Student Entrepreneurs holds workshops and teaches students about running a business, while giving them an opportunity to work in a real business environment at The Beans 2 Brew coffee shop on the second floor of Peacock Hall.

Beans 2 Brew started when members of the Association of Student Entrepreneurs were tired of having to stop for coffee on the way to class. They began making coffee in a Mr. Coffee machine in the Center for Entrepreneurship conference room and selling it for $1 per cup by the elevators in Peacock Hall. Demand grew, and the group expanded to more and better machines.

In 2016, Heather Norris, dean of Walker College of Business, gave Beans 2 Brew a permanent location on the second floor of the building. The shop, which is entirely run by the Association for Student Entrepreneurs, now works with other clubs to help fund activities, said Megan Wilkinson, director of marketing for Beans 2 Brew.

“We work with student volunteers within the Walker College of Business clubs to provide them funding for their clubs for any sort of events or trips they want to host,” said Wilkinson, senior psychology major. “The way that we fund them is having them volunteer one shift a week maybe, and they’ll earn $5 toward their club.”

Beans 2 Brew, like the rest of the Center for Entrepreneurship, is all about supporting businesses in and around App State.

Paola Bula
Beans 2 Brew is the student-employed coffee shop inside of Peacock Hall. The shop is one example of the businesses run by students who have used the Center for Entrepreneurship.

“One thing that we really focus on is making sure that we work with our community like students, faculty and staff as well as local businesses,” Wilkinson said. “We only use local businesses when it comes to getting products.”

For students who have an idea, but no plan, the center can help them do market research and come up with a business model. Those who have a plan laid out, however, are given space to work and help starting their business. Students in this phase can receive 24/7 access to Peacock Hall, and the center will help them acquire funding or provide services like printing and legal counseling.

Cameron Nelms, sophomore computer information systems major, started following YouTube tutorials to replace broken screens on phones of friends and family. With the help of the Center for Entrepreneurship, he transformed that into ASAP Repair, and now offers his services to App State. Last semester, ASAP Repair was so successful that he’s looking to expand the business.

“I’m thinking about starting something up in the student union,” Nelms said. “Something like a little pop-up shop, where I’ll just have a stock of screens and students can come by and I’ll fix their phones while they’re going to class.”

The center provided Nelms a space to work and host workshops during Association of Student Entrepreneurs meetings.

“Entrepreneurs will come in and talk about their experiences, and it really helps out,” Nelms said.

Nelms said a presentation on hashtags by App State marketing alumna Joanna Faith Williams was particularly helpful for him.

“Even though they’re kind of tacky, they actually work out,” Nelms said. “I noticed that when I started using hashtags on my posts, they’d get a little more traffic.”

Regardless of where students are in their business plans, and even if they don’t have any at all, the center is open to them.

“What I want people to understand is that, if at some point in their lives, they would like to be their own boss, run their own company or take their talent and operate as an independent contractor, they should come by and get involved,” Schlenker said.

From new students to fully grown businesses that have come out of the center like Appalachia Cookie Co., there’s never a lack of passion.

“You need to know that the oxygen is a little different in the center for entrepreneurship,” Schlenker said. “When you walk in and go, ‘What is that?’ That’s entrepreneurship, buddy.”