Within the scope of its mission, the Culverhouse College of Business ardently works to educate the next generation of business leaders. Many of our graduates join established organizations, helping them grow via their intelligence, skills and ambition. Others strike out on their own, starting something new after identifying untapped opportunities.
For that latter group, Culverhouse has a robust entrepreneurship educational program in place. The College’s Alabama Entrepreneurship Institute (AEI) and The EDGE, an off-campus innovation hub, provides the infrastructure. The AEI and EDGE together manage an agenda of student entrepreneur-focused events that include pitch competitions, a summer accelerator series, workshops and inspirational lectures from established entrepreneurs.
The annual Edward K. Aldag, Jr. Business Plan Competition is part of this slate.
In this competition, UA students present their business ideas to a panel of judges for the opportunity to earn a grand prize of $50,000 that could make all the difference in helping them bring their ideas to market. Slade Johnston, the 2019 grand prize winner, demonstrates how students can utilize the resources offered by Culverhouse to find success in starting their own companies.
Slade, a graduate of the College and its Manderson Graduate School of Business, used his winnings to accelerate the growth of his startup, Trips4Trade, an online platform that connects outdoors enthusiasts around the world to swap dream trips.
Slade credits his education at Culverhouse and especially some faculty mentors for inspiring his entrepreneurial ambitions: “Dr. Jef Naidoo especially provided guidance in business strategy as well as moral standards because he saw how passionate I was.”
Dr. Theresa Welbourne, Culverhouse’s Will and Maggie Brooke Endowed Professor in Entrepreneurship and Executive Director of the Alabama Entrepreneurship Institute, has played the lead role in driving the college’s entrepreneurship agenda. In her role, Theresa oversees AEI’s work to connect Alabama students with faculty, staff, investors, business leaders and community members to uncover collaboration opportunities that result in successful new business ventures.
“The University of Alabama campus and Culverhouse is a hotbed for entrepreneurship ––it permeates so much of what we do,” Theresa said. “If you ask any of our students to come up with a set of solid, actionable business ideas, they deliver. They see opportunities where others do not.”
With additional funding, Culverhouse can further expand its entrepreneurial endeavors and share more success storieslike Slade’s–made possible through enhanced educational programs, upgraded facilities and well-funded grants.
Theresa agreed: “It’s exciting to imagine the possibilities if we had additional resources to identify and coach new innovators and better support established businesses.”