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Club attracts members, fosters entrepreneurship

Alyssa Morones | Monday, January 26, 2009

When Notre Dame junior political science major Jaime Urquijo, attended his first Entrepreneurship Society meeting as a freshman, the club was comprised of barely more than five students. Just two years later, club meetings have an average attendance of over 150 students and the club continues to work to bring in more students of all majors.

Notre Dame’s Entrepreneurship Society was founded by Notre Dame senior and club co-president Mark Bennett during his sophomore year.

His first step was to write a 32-page mission statement.

“It was a little raw,” Bennett said, “and not all of it worked.”

In spite of the club’s initial rough start, Bennett continued to recruit talented and passionate students to help realize his dreams for the club’s future.

“Entrepreneurial leadership is a noble pursuit,” Bennett said. “It can change lives and change the world.”

He does not like to refer to it as a business club. Instead, the club aims to instill in its member an entrepreneurial mentality.

“We try to encourage non-business majors to join,” Urquijo said. “We’re looking for a diverse group of students with very different ideas and backgrounds. Anybody can be an entrepreneur.”

The club’s leaders are looking to surpass Stanford and Oxford’s Entrepreneurial Societies, both of which have more than 3,000 members.

“We can learn from Oxford and Stanford, even just their recruiting structure,” said sophomore Dominic Fanelli, who is in charge of recruitment for the club.

Fanelli and other club members continue to recruit new members with their “road show,” where they present the Entrepreneurship Society to various Notre Dame lecture classes.

The club currently undertakes between 40 and 50 projects and events per year. These include social entrepreneurial projects, such as their consulting and service projects, where club members give their opinions and advice to local entrepreneurs. This gives students the opportunity to get basic hands on experience.

The society is hoping to launch a national magazine called “Type-E.”

“This would be used as a tool for students to write and share their perspective and would be a valuable tool for employers who want to know about our generation,” Bennett said.

Club members are given a chance to participate in Case Bowl, where groups research and give a presentation on a certain company. Freshman Kevin Ortenzio was one of this year’s participants.

“There are talented students here who compete better than I do,” Ortenzio said. “It’s that competitive atmosphere that drove me to become a part of this club.”

Along with various projects, the club’s leaders arranged CEO dinners and keynote speakers to present the society with a short presentation and allow for questions. One of these speakers was Tom Suddes, a Notre Dame alumnus who has founded 19 companies and raised over a billion dollars for non-profit organizations.

“We hope that these presentations are inspiring,” Bennett said. “They show the students that the people who accomplish remarkable things are normal people who lived a very similar lifestyle to them in college.”

The club’s leaders hope to give students experiences they wouldn’t usually have – to give them the chance to meet people and make contacts and, by allowing students of varying majors to work together, to expose them to new perspectives.

“Really our biggest focus is education,” Urquijo said. “Giving students the opportunity to work in groups and with South Bend entrepreneurs.”

Co-presidents Bennett and Urquijo knew their efforts had paid off when Notre Dame’s Entrepreneurship Society was offered membership to the Entreprelliance, the premier intercollegiate entrepreneurship network whose other members include Brown, Columbia, and Harvard.

“That’s when we knew we’d arrived,” Bennett said. “It was the elite asking us to join them.”

Bennett and Urquijo hope that through the Entrepreneurship Society, they can convey their sense of idealist entrepreneurship.

“We’re working very hard to instill the same vision in others,” Urquijo said, “to pass it along to the next group of leaders.”