In 1997, the first Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization was launched. It grew out of a meeting of entrepreneurminded business students in 1983. They met in Chicago and organized the Collegiate Entrepreneurs of Illinois Conference in 1984, a conference which far exceeded expectations and exposed the high level of interest among young entrepreneurs in connecting with one another.
Out of these events has grown a network of collegiate entrepreneurial organizations (CEOs) in colleges and universities around the United States.
Collegiate entrepreneurial organizations (CEOs) are comprised of students, primarily from graduate level business schools, who form groups for the purpose of educating members on small business matters, such as running a start-up and obtaining financing. They hold meetings, sponsor speakers and educational events, and serve as a storehouse of information on entrepreneurial matters. Their primary goal is to develop and support creative and competent entrepreneurs across industries and the world. They also serve as an important source for networking between prospective entrepreneurs.
According to Eric Hansen in Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice, the growth of an entrepreneurial enterprise is dependent on these types of relationships.
CEOs provide entrepreneurial students with a wide variety of resources to support their own start-up. These include opportunities to meet with business executives, information support, and in some cases, financial support.
Many collegiate entrepreneurial organizations, such as the Berkeley Solutions Group, work hand in hand with the business school itself to provide opportunities for students to put their education to work in summer internship programs. Participants in collegiate entrepreneurial organizations at top business school programs are heavily recruited by leading companies. However, some entrepreneurial organizations seek to place MBA students with start-up companies. Depending on the organization, the interns may help to improve a company’s information systems, investigate new markets and sales channels, or develop business plans.
In addition to these services provided to student entrepreneurs, many collegiate entrepreneurial organizations provide consulting services to small businesses and non-profit organizations unable to afford the fees of a professional consultant. MBA students primarily provide the services. A small business taking advantage of these services has the benefit of both a no- or low-cost consultation as well as the latest research on business management. Students may work alone or in groups to assist the small business with such tasks as feasibility studies, market research programs, and the development of an operational structure. In most cases, this support is offered during the academic year, with internship programs providing additional service or overlap where needed.
The Collegiate Entrepreneurial Organization (www.c-e-o.org ) serves as a national organization for many university entrepreneurial groups and can be used as a starting point to research some of these organizations. Further information on these groups can frequently be found on the Web site of a university’s business school.