For eight Troy University students, the IDEA Bank on the square in downtown Troy is an important building block for their start-up businesses.
The students – all part of the Troy Bank and Trust Entrepreneurship Program at Troy University – earn a minor in entrepreneurship and come from all academic majors, not just business-related ones. Through its courses in innovation and creative thinking, innovation by design, product development and mentorship, product concept generation, business plan development and a capstone class, the program provides students with a collaborative, creative environment for learning.
The students learn to develop and defend their own opinions, to successfully pitch creative ideas and influence others to invest, engage and participate in their own ideas.
“The bottom line is it brings together University resources to assist students with developing, creating, launching and sustaining their own businesses,” said Sorrell College of Business Dean Dr. Judson Edwards.
“We expect the Troy Bank and Trust Entrepreneurship Program to experience significant growth in the coming years as student-created businesses are successfully launched. It is imperative that we provide a comprehensive educational experience to these student entrepreneurs, grounded on business engagement and mentorship, inside and outside the classroom,” he said. “When we look back on this initiative in a decade, I have no doubt the impact will be substantial, not only on the students and the new businesses created, but on the local economy as well. The Sorrell College cannot express how much we appreciate the assistance of Troy Bank and Trust in this endeavor. The leadership of TB&T believed in the potential of the new program and all future success is made possible because of their initial support.”
That support is translating into business generation for the students engaged in the program.
Hannah Dinkle, a freshman business management major from Prattville, operates an online boutique, and the program has helped her learn vital networking skills needed for success, among other things.
“I have learned that it is not easy to run a business, but it is very possible,” she said. “It helps to meet new people who are also entrepreneurs.”
Her business, Hannah Katherine Boutique Fashion Merchandising, sells women’s tops in sizes ranging from small to 3XL. She’s looking to expand her inventory and to operate a “pop-up shop” to promote the business and plans to use the IDEA Bank location to stage pop-ups.
James Fibbe, a junior business major from Mobile, and his partner LuveyAnne Patrick, a junior political science major from Tuscaloosa, found working with the SBDC through the Troy Bank & Trust program gave their company, TrojanVinyls LLC better organization for success.
“Working with the TROY SBDC, we have been able to form an LLC and create the means to hire a social media director,” he said. “This program has taught me so many things through the real-life experiences of what it takes to own a business.”
TrojanVinyls started after the pair found a sticker machine at Fibbe’s house during the pandemic stay-at-home order that shuttered in-person classes at the University last spring. Now the company provides custom graphics, stickers, koozies and t-shirts that help other businesses promote themselves.
“My idea has grown way beyond where I initially thought,” said Dawson Hicks, a junior music industry major from Bremen, Ga.
That idea: a business called Idea Bank Live that provides recordings of live performances from local musicians on YouTube and other streaming services.
“My immediate future goals are to provide exposure to artists and musicians in the community who don’t have the resources to promote their own music,” he said.
In order to accomplish those goals, Hicks leans on the Entrepreneurship Program for support.
“My experiences have been great. I’ve had complete freedom (to develop my business) while still getting the support from faculty with the aspects of the business with which I am unfamiliar,” he said.
That support has included legal and contractual documents plus providing the environment that allows him to push his company in the direction he wants it to go.
Sometimes the support is more fun in nature.
Mark Grant’s Krysala Gaming is a tabletop game developer trying to bring competitive gaming to a more accessible format and affordable model. The senior accounting major from Brundidge said in addition to access to contacts that can help him develop his idea into a business, the IDEA Bank has provided him space and resources needed to “playtest” his flagship game.
“Through the program and the IDEA Bank, I have been presented with the realization that this is something I can seriously achieve. Before this opportunity, (my company) was nothing more than something I joked about in my spare time,” he said.
All of the students landed themselves in the IDEA Bank thanks to a competition hosted by the Sorrell College last fall. The winning pitches were granted space and support from the IDEA Bank, which is managed by the Division of Advancement and Economic Development under the leadership of Senior Vice Chancellor Walter Givhan.
“The IDEA Bank is the place where we bring it all together – our Small Business Development Center, our entrepreneurial program, our economic development efforts – in support of our students, our community, our alumni, and our local and regional businesses,” Givhan said. “This is where we create the synergy that connects and fuels the economic engine of growth and prosperity at every level. It’s an exciting place to be.”