When the words “Bentley University” are being tossed around, they’re usually in reference to accounting, finance or Wall Street. Yet, every semester, within an hour of class registration going live, all of the entrepreneurship classes are filled. Without fail.
Bentley’s Director of Entrepreneurial Studies Fred Tuffile understands outsiders’ perception that Bentley is a school of accountants. “Absolutely, that’s Bentley’s genesis,” he says. But the university’s becoming more than that.
Tuffile was approached around 2000 by former Bentley President Joseph Marone to help with the school’s entrepreneurship program. Tuffile had worked at Avon Cosmetics and Polaroid, served as the CEO of MySky Communications and is now the CEO of the Ukraine Investment Bank. Although he was hesitant to agree, it didn’t take long for him to become enamored with the classroom.
“That little romance hasn’t faded at all,” he says. “I just love working with the students… I have more fun getting stuff off the ground.”
Bentley’s entrepreneurship program is focused on two key areas, divided into the classes “Entrepreneurial Thinking” and “New Venture Planning and Financing.”
“You have to think about everything, like how to get things done when you don’t have the money. Or, how to get people on your team when you can’t pay them,” Tuffile says, referring to Entrepreneurial Thinking. “We need to get students to the right head set.”
To do that, Tuffile reminds each of his students that they’re not only the company, they’re the CEO. “There’s nobody above you,” he says. “It’s you. So, how do you get everything you need to do everything to get your business up and running?”
Once students are operating with the proper mindset, they need to learn how to execute. “A lot of entrepreneurs understand what they’re trying to do, but they forget, ‘Oh, by the way, we need money,’” Tuffile says. So, in New Venture Planning and Financing, they tackle all the tough stuff, talking about everything from early-stage bootstrapping to institutional investing. Tuffile brings in venture capitalists and angel investors to speak with the class, hoping they encourage them to the next step: building a business.
Students can opt to take “Launching Your Business.” If they do, however, they’re tasked with developing an idea, launching that idea and then securing their first customer. Since starting the class two years ago, Tuffile says there’s only been one student who wasn’t able to obtain customers, while others have attracted several.
Although the entrepreneurship program at Bentley is only a minor, Tuffile says they’re moving to an entrepreneurship concentration and hope to turn it into a major soon. Why? Because there’s a need, which is the reason why the program was developed in the first place. “We’re actually meeting a demand,” Tuffile admits. “A lot of kids today want to start their own company, or they want to go work for a startup. What they don’t want to do is work for a big establishment.”
With Babson down the road, Tuffile’s not jaded — the college recently ranked number one in entrepreneurship for the 19th year in a row. He’s not trying to compete with that, he’s just trying to fill a need at Bentley. “The students, when they come to Bentley, they get a great general business background,” he says, referring to what stands the university apart. “I think we’re doing a lot of things right.”
Given how much I dreaded what I perceived to be the slow pace of high school, the idea of spending 4 more years in “higher education” to get my Bachelor of Science was downright sickening. But I knew I would do it anyway because it was an important step in my growth.
So I searched, and I searched – in order to find a College that would allow me to thrive as an entrepreneur. Eventually I found Bentley, a small private business university outside of Boston in Massachusetts, and it was a great fit. I majored in Finance, built my business from my dorm room, and by the time I graduated I had a thriving company with an office in Burlington, Mass.
So maybe Bentley is still known for finance, but it will soon be known for entrepreneurship, too.
Photo Courtesy of Bentley