Entrepreneurship and new businesses play a large role in the U.S. economy. As Harper
College’s Entrepreneurship Program continues to grow, so will the opportunities for
students to create their dream business.
Nate Ruben started his business while he was a student at Harper, graduating with an associate degree in business in fall 2015. Ruben Digital in Buffalo Grove is now three years old and a budding full-service digital agency that runs websites and social media channels for small- and medium-sized businesses.
When it was time to find an intern, Ruben knew he didn’t have to look far.
“Ruben Digital’s very first intern was a Harper student, my sister Hannah, who started in January of 2016,” he said. “After a year of building my business with her and my mom, Michelle, we decided to look for outside help. Our first stop was Harper College.”
Through Harper’s Entrepreneurship Program and courses focused on leadership, creativity, innovation and mining funding sources, students gather and create business plans, strategies and resources for starting their own business. By taking an entrepreneurial financing class, for example, students learn how to design a crowdfunding campaign that can help them pay for their business. Other courses center on creativity and business strategy.
“It’s a mindset of working with minimal resources and coming up with a myriad of ideas and being innovative and thinking differently,” Marie Farber-Lapidus, the Entrepreneurship Program coordinator, said about the curriculum.
After speaking to a business simulation class on campus, Ruben met Harper Business Administration-Marketing student Angela Schiavon. He was impressed immediately.
“She had a nice strong handshake, made good eye contact and I could tell she was interested,” Ruben said.
Schiavon was looking for an internship, and Ruben’s presentation that day, in which he mentioned he was looking for interns, led her to introduce herself.
“I was one of two people that spoke with him and he encouraged me to apply for their Marketing/Social Media internship,” Schiavon, 22, of Roselle, said. “I went home that night and applied immediately.”
Although students are encouraged to find an internship themselves, the Entrepreneurship Program made it easy for Schiavon to find one in which she could prosper.
“I got real-world experience and fell in love with the digital marketing industry,” she said. “Not to mention the company culture aligned perfectly with my personality, so it made the experience just that much greater.”
Ruben also thought Schiavon fit in well at Ruben Digital, enough to offer her a full-time job once she graduated in spring 2017. She is now a marketing account executive.
In addition to internship help, Harper’s Entrepreneurship Program works to develop a student’s entrepreneurial mindset by infusing real-world perspectives and opportunities into the curriculum. The program also includes the Dream Big-Angel Grant competition held each spring in which student businesses vie for up to $25,000 in funding. Another $25,000 is awarded to small businesses throughout the 23 communities that Harper serves.
Other new additions to the program will support student success, as well. One will be a space where students will study, work and take advantage of the program’s resources, such as a 3D printer and a laser cutter.
Harper’s Entrepreneurship Program not only helps its own students, but also alumni.
“I am very happy to be involved with Harper today,” Ruben said. “Serving on the Business and Web Advisory boards, I am grateful to use my Harper experience to give back to today’s students.”