Entrepreneurship is no longer just about starting a small business. Established companies also must stay nimble in today’s competitive environment.
Theresa Welbourne, who joined UNL in 2011 as director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and FirsTier Banks Distinguished Professor of Business, leads the university’s efforts to help companies expand through innovative research and by training tomorrow’s entrepreneurs.
Welbourne has extensively researched fast-growth companies and initial public offering firms, studying factors that predict long-term success and performance, particularly employee relations and leadership.
She turned her research into a human capital technology and consulting company, eePulse Inc. Recently, Welbourne won the Distinguished Human Resource Executive Award from the Academy of Management, a leading professional association. She is the first woman and first entrepreneur to win.
“Good research helps everybody,” Welbourne said. “The center is here to generate knowledge and then disseminate that knowledge to students and businesses, both locally, nationally and globally.”The center’s increasing expertise in fast-growth companies aids its educational mission by giving students the skills to work not just at startups, but also at large firms looking for innovation.
“A lot of these companies are trying to be fast and agile right now, and they need a different kind of skill set,” she said. “They’re looking for entrepreneurship students to fill that need.”
Under Welbourne’s direction, the center is strengthening its educational offerings to give students an advantage with these companies, including a new curriculum and competitions through which students gain skills and recognition. An anonymous donor recently gave $250,000 over five years to fund business plan competitions. Students also can now graduate with a concentration in entrepreneurship.
Many Nebraska companies are small or mid-sized, growth-oriented businesses. Thanks to the center, they needn’t look far for the skilled talent necessary to expand.
“What really attracted me to Nebraska is the energy around growth. I think the state overall is very supportive of entrepreneurship.”