Students get taste of entrepreneurial spirit
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
Like a good entrepreneurial venture, the first meeting of the Colangelo College of Business Dean’s Speaker Series was worth the wait.
Three members of the Camelback Society, a Phoenix association of Christian businessmen, gave Grand Canyon University business students valuable insights into entrepreneurship Monday morning at an Ethington Theatre event originally scheduled for Sept. 8. It was postponed that day when classes were canceled because of the record rains that flooded the Valley.
The Camelback representatives were:
- Christopher “Oye” Waddell, executive director of Hustle PHX, which trains urban entrepreneurs, and founder of Gameplan International, which equips parents and student-athletes with the skills necessary to help them earn athletic scholarships.
- Deacon Hayes, a personal finance expert who started his company, Well Kept Wallet, in 2012 and since has been featured in U.S. News & World Report, Fox News and CNBC, among other media outlets.
- Steven Siwek Jr., 24-year-old president of Scottsdale-based Medical Marketing Solutions.
Tim Kelley, assistant professor of entrepreneurship and economics in the CCOB, served as moderator for the panel discussion, the highlights of which were a number of insightful statements wrapped in aphorisms.
All three emphasized how difficult the first few months of a startup can be.
“Entrepreneurship doesn’t always start with the most beautiful stories,” said Siwek, who was 19 when he launched his company after his father challenged him to give it a try.
Not long before, Siwek said, he interviewed for a job as a basketball camp counselor and didn’t get it. But that experience helped him realize how God’s hand is in everything that has happened to him, good and bad.
“If you blame yourself for your failures, you’ll give yourself credit for your successes,” he said.
Waddell, who grew up in inner-city Los Angeles, said watching his friends turn to a life of crime made him all the more determined to commit himself to a life of academic and athletic achievements. He went on to earn a football scholarship at the University of Washington and has master’s degrees from the University of Southern California (public administration) and Arizona State University (education).
Of the risks he took to get to where he is in the business world, Waddell said, “I’d rather die like a man than live like a coward.”
Hayes said he was catapulted into his career when he and his wife, Kim, paid off $52,000 of debt in 18 months. That convinced him to leave behind his job as a financial planner for Ronald Blue & Co. and go out on his own to help people in similar need, following in the footsteps of the nationally renowned finance guru Dave Ramsey.
“Do what you say you’re going to do while making those around you better,” is Hayes’ mantra.
One way Waddell makes those around him better, he said, is the way he treats his volunteers, often sending them gifts and thank you notes. “We treat our volunteers as we would a customer,” he said, which led to another of his aphorisms: “The difference between people who are wealthy and people who are in poverty is relationships.”
Waddell urged students to be mindful of entrepreneurship during their studies at GCU, and Siwek told them, “You have huge advantages at this school in the way it’s approaching learning and in the way it’s approaching business.”
Afterward, CCOB Dean Dr. Randy Gibb said he “could not have scripted a better discussion than we had,” and Kelley summed it up nicely when he said, “The message I hope gets across to students is that entrepreneurship is accessible. They can do it.”
No need to wait.
Contact Rick Vacek at 602-639-8203 or [email protected]