By Ryan Kerley
Adam Dent has been an entrepreneur since he was in fifth grade. Back then, he picked pecans in Roberta, Georgia, packed them into pint-sized Ziploc bags and sold them for $10 each to members in his church and people at school.
Dent, now a fourth-year marketing student at the University of Georgia, may be much older, but he said his passion for entrepreneurship has only grown as he has.
The young business mind is in the planning stages of opening up and becoming a franchise owner of a Z Beans Coffee in Athens, Georgia. Z Beans Coffee is a small 24-hour coffee chain that started in Macon, Georgia.
Aside from his childhood endeavors, Dent has other experiences in his early adulthood that he is using to assist him in succeeding in opening up a Z Beans Coffee. In between transferring from Gordon State to UGA, Dent started a branch for Vector Marketing, a kitchen knife sales company, that he described as a big failure, but one that did not deter him from building a startup mindset.
“It’s okay for me to fail,” Dent said.
Dent said he learned, especially since he is a college student, that failing in business and in life can be used as learning experiences.
His business ventures are coupled with education through UGA’s entrepreneurship certificate program. Dent said the program provides hands-on learning and encouragement for those seeking to start a business.
The program also holds events for student entrepreneurs to create plans and present business pitches in front of experts.
On Feb. 24, Dent attended the first ever UGA Venture Prize Competition, where students pitched their business models to judges with a chance to win up to $10,000 in grant money. Although Dent wasn’t pitching, the entrepreneurship program encourages students like him to attend as a way to find inspiration for their own ideas.
James Flannery, an entrepreneurship lecturer at UGA and one of Dent’s professors, encourages students to think about starting their ventures while they are still pursuing degrees.
Balancing school and business can be tricky, he said, but students have more time than they may realize.
“You will never have more free time, you will never have less personal risk and you will never have more freedom to be just completely and wildly wrong,” Flannery said. “I know a lot of students don’t believe that and they feel like they are very busy and they feel like they have a lot going on, but you are truly at a point in your life where you have more free time than you will ever have in the future.”
He said his philosophy is that college should not discourage people from working to open businesses, adding that he views college as an opportunity to do so, as long as students can present a good or service that people want to buy.
“My advice to college students: If you think there is a problem out there that someone is willing to pay you for, go start it now, and if you’re right about it, it can change everything about what you’re doing,” Flannery said.
Dent has adopted this attitude over time, and said he does not listen to anybody that tells him he is incapable of successfully operating a company while he is a student.
“I think they’re crazy for not having an idea like that and wanting to go out and do it,” Dent said. “If I had a mindset of not having new ideas, I would feel dead.”
Ryan Kerley is a journalism student at the University of Georgia.