Berry College is not the only institution in America that emphasizes the work experience for its students. Berry has, however, expanded the concept to help student entrepreneurs develop their own businesses while they are still taking classes.
Considering the difficult economic climate in the “real world,” students who graduate with firsthand knowledge of running a business may have a big advantage as they exit into a questionable job market.
The program was developed in the fall of 2008 after Berry President Stephen Briggs and Provost Kathy Whatley asked then-Assistant Vice President Rufus Massey to work with students, staff and faculty to convert some of the existing campus enterprises to student-managed enterprises.
The specific objectives of the program include providing students with the responsibility of planning and operating their own venture, an obvious benefit from lessons learned in the classroom.
The Campbell School of Business at Berry has also developed an incubator-like program that works with the students to help them take their business beyond the boundaries of the campus after the students graduate.
Each of the students involved in an enterprise is given $100 by the college to help get them started.
Megan Morra, from Connecticut, has been the CEO of Berry Farm Milk Enterprise for the past year. The business now employs 11 Berry students.
The milk operation lost its processor more than a year ago and at this time is totally devoted to the production of cheese.
Morra said her business is converting about 600 pounds of milk per day from the award-winning Berry dairy herd. The enterprise markets to students via e‑mail, through local farmers markets, through fliers and, yes, advertising in the newspaper.
The Milk Enterprise does not have cheese in any of the local markets. Morra said she has been in discussion with several restaurants.
Morra hopes to become a veterinarian one day. She is majoring in animal sciences and her work with Berry Farm Milk Enterprise has piqued her interest in opening a cheese business of her own after she graduates.
Casey Gray of Lawrenceville along with partners Josh Dilbeck of Powder Springs and Nathan Mock of Ringgold have created a business called Berry Sunglasses.
“A lot of times you see people walking around ... wearing the Malibu-type sunglasses, bright-colored shades with logos on them. We’re doing that for Berry College,” Gray said. “We knew we were going to do something like bandanas or koozies, something students use but could also afford. College student budgets are not very high.”
The sunglasses made their debut on Mountain Day weekend when the shades were marketed largely to folks who were visiting the campus for the special Mountain Day events. “We did pretty well, sold over 150 pair and haven’t really distributed them among the student body yet,” Gray said. “We’ve got a bunch of requests already from people trying to order them.”
Gray, Dilbeck and Mock found a vendor on the Internet who could do the custom artwork at a reasonable price and allow the students to sell the sunglasses for a profit. During the Mountain Day weekend alone, the business netted approximately $400.
The Student Operated Campus Enterprises program encourages the students to be innovative in the development of their business while trying to make a link to the college experience.
Cameron Rich and Thomas Johnson did just that when they opted to establish C&T Enterprises, a not-for-profit business to aid a local student.
Rich, from Peachtree City, and Johnson, from Adairsville, both members of the Berry baseball team, have created a nonprofit for the purpose of conducting a four-man scramble golf tournament at Stonebridge Golf Club to raise funds that will be earmarked to support Ben Masters.
Masters is a Coosa High student who was seriously injured in a car wreck Aug. 20.
The Viking Charity Classic will be played Oct. 29. The cost is $75 per person, with four-man teams costing $300. They will offer cash payouts for scramble winners and raffle off all sorts of prizes that local merchants have donated to the not-for-profit.
“We just want to use all proceeds, sponsorships for holes, donations, raffle purchases to help with Ben’s recovery, hospital bills, stuff like that,” Rich said.
The students at Berry have to come up with the ideas for their businesses themselves.
“Basically we have to cultivate that idea into a business, keep up with all the books, everything, it’s our gig,” Rich said.
“We saw an opportunity to good for someone in the community and instead of just making a product and making a couple of hundred dollars off of it, we thought we could generate a couple thousand dollars for Ben.”
Some of the initial enterprises included bicycle rental and repair, an organic garden, and genetic services related to the Berry beef cattle program.