While most second semester seniors are taking minimal credit hours and making perfect attendance at dollar draft night, finance majors Wiley Curran and Scott Picklo, and accounting major Jack Tench are trying to enhance both their resumes and Miami University’s future.
The three are student fund managers for Miami’s Venture Fund (MVF), which invests in students and alumni looking to start their own business.
“We give money to a business and in return we take an ownership position in the business, based on the percentage that our investment is worth,” Tench said.
The group is currently looking for prospective clients while working with their current clients.
Tench said they are now interested in drafting a business plan and spending time to better their respective ideas, they then work with students and alumni on all aspects of developing a strong business plan.
“We are not just handing them money-we will sit down and direct them to the people they need to speak with to further develop their business plan,” said Marissa Evans, junior mass communications major and public relations for MVF. “They are coming to us for guidance and potentially financial assistance. We really want them to be prepared and serious about their ideas.”
According to Tench, the MVF was created by a professor at Miami almost 15 years ago, however it sat idle for most of that time. Tench said they don’t know why the project was abandoned, but it was jump started when entrepreneurship professor Jeff June started an independent study class to spark interest in the group last year. Students were informed of the independent study through the entrepreneurship department.
Tench, Curran and Picklo picked up the idea and with Kyle Brown and Mackenzie Smith, who graduated in 2007, they moved the legal framework through the university.
At the end of second semester last year, June approached the three students to continue work with the fund for no credit. They agreed and at the end of last year they approved the first investment, GoPicnic, under the new framework.
“We have gone through a lot of challenges,” Tench said. “When we tried to pass the framework through the university, they were worried about kids having access to money.”
Tench, Curran and Picklo have continued the work with the fund and talk with potential entrepreneurs daily.
“Most universities don’t give the opportunity for students to have such a hands on opportunity,” Evans said. “We are working with real money … to be able to manage that money is an very rare.”
The fund provides opportunities for the students running the program to gain real experience in managing a venture fund, which invests in new businesses, and a knowledge they couldn’t gain in just class.
A venture-as explained by Tench, Curran and Picklo-is usually regarded as a private company that invests in prospective businesses.
“We get a business plan (for the groups in which they are considering investing) and check it out,” Tench said. “If we like the idea … we then present it to the entrepreneurship department in a form of an investment proposal which outlines the idea and provides our rationale for the investment. We will have done so much work up to that point the entrepreneurship department trusts us … We really are the initial hurdle (for the potential client).”
Though undergraduate students, Tench, Curran and Picklo said they demand respect when examining potential new businesses.
“It’s been interesting to learn how to talk and interact with these entrepreneurs,” Picklo said. “Some have a lot of experience and some don’t. They approach you differently. A lot of them want money so desperately … You have to be able to harness that energy to their business plan.”
Kiri Boonyadate, a sophomore business major, thinks that the MVF is a great way to give students at the university real world experience as both entrepreneurs and fund managers.
“The student fund managers have to be prepared to ask potential clients questions and the clients have to have strong business plans to answer them,” Boonyadate said.
Despite their demand for a well-thought out plan, MVF encourages students and alumni to use them as a tool to improve their plans.
They have helped link different divisions of the university by setting entrepreneurs up with other organizations on campus that can help them improve their plan. They have teamed up the engineering and entrepreneurship department and introduced people with business plans to the marketing fraternity for aid in selling their products.
“We are very willing to connect students with whatever resources they might need and provide them with advice that they might need,” Tench said. “I think a lot of people are scared away at first.”
Though graduating in the spring, the three plan on staying involved with MVF.
“Right now our biggest concern is to ensure that the fund has another 10 years of life in it,” Curran said.