Assistant News Editor
The Students in Free Enterprise organization at the University hosted an entrepreneur forum today in the Business Building.
Students and other audience members in the packed lecture room listened as four local entrepreneur’s, Chuck Jones, owner of University Book & Bean, Elements and the Vintage Rose Emporium; Daniel Yong, owner of August Moon; Mike Cowen, owner of Sportable Scoreboards and Matt Gingles, co-owner of The Burrito Shack, shared their stories and backgrounds.
Chuck Jones began the forum by telling the story of his collection of businesses’ beginnings. A member of Pi Kappa Alpha at the four years he attended Murray State before dropping out, his reason for becoming an entrepreneur was his lack of money.
“Why did I go in business myself?” he asked rhetorically. “I needed a job. I started a computer business that still exists today called Integrated Computer Solutions.”
Along with his first business, Jones also got involved in textbook selling and rental and got into retail with his wife and started the Vintage Rose, Elements and the University Book & Bean.
Matt Gingles, co-owner of The Burrito Shack, said he too was looking for money when he began his endeavors in entrepreneurship.
“I worked for Dell for about nine months and hated it,” he said. “So I was going to move back here and work for my dad’s tobacco farm and then he brought in the opportunity to open a restaurant here in Murray, so we did that and we started two years ago.”
Gingles said he enjoys owning a business because of the independence that comes with it.
“I like working for myself just because it’s nice not having to answer to anybody else, you can kind of do what you want to, you make the business what you want it and if you don’t like the way the business is running, you have the ability to change that.”
Mike Cowen, owner of Sportable Scoreboards, said his businesses started with his son’s baseball game and after he left a company and vowed to never work in the corporate world again.
“At the age of 45, I started my own company, and what I did was I tried to design my company around the things I liked to do,” he said. “I had it pretty well detailed; I like to travel, I like electronics. I had it all designed, but I needed a product. My youngest son was a baseball player and we were at a facility that had no scoreboard, so we decided to invent and design a portable scoreboard.”
Cowen’s business is now the third largest scoreboard business in the nation.
Daniel Yong, owner of August Moon, said he began his business at the age of 21, right after he graduated college.
“When I was right out of college, three classmates of mind from the same country, different areas, got together and decided to start a restaurant,” he said.
After finally getting money from his brother to open his restaurant, Yong said he tried to find a location for it and opened the restaurant in February of 1990.
The event ended with an open floor for students and audience members to ask questions of the businessmen.
Questions ranged from how someone obtains capital to start a business to opinions on social media marketing and search engine optimization.
When putting this event together, SIFE president, D. Andrew Porter, junior from Scottsville, Ky., said he kept the organization’s mission statement in mind: “To bring generations of leaders together to create a better, more sustainable world through the positive power of business.”
“It’s important to put on these type of events because it’s part of our mission statement,” Porter said.
He also said the goal for the outcome of SIFE’s events is two things: to benefit students and to benefit the business owner.
“I feel that our program and the way the we thinking about it splits into two factors: one part of it is to benefit students who come and want to work in this type of field and work in business and be entrepreneurs and things of that nature,” Porter said. “But the other side of the coin is that we want to help businesses within our community, by reaching out to new community members and helping them become better known on campus.”
Porter said the full room was encouraging.
Said Porter: “I think this event went fantastic. By our count, just on sign in sheets alone and I know that there were many students who came in and didn’t sign this, we had 102 attendees at this event. I feel like when it comes to a numbers game, I think it was a big success.”