The BOSS Experience is about opening the eyes of new college graduates to the endless opportunities of entrepreneurship.
It’s about leveraging the success stories and experiences of an amazing array of local partnerships.
It’s about considering careers, making connections and gaining momentum toward creating their own business success stories.
And, it’s truly a great thing, said Sam Roberts of Centerville: “The amount of knowledge that I gained from the program is immeasurable.”
This year’s immersion program into entrepreneurship was a whirlwind week in May of 11-hour days focused on education, networking and camaraderie for 10 new college graduates – nine from Indiana University East. They visited successful local businesses and listened to their owners’ success stories. They formulated business plans and created their own brochures and business cards.
They dined and discussed their futures together.
The second-year program is the result of brain-storming and fund-raising by Tim Scales, director of the IU East Center for Entrepreneurship and founder of the BOSS Experience in 2022.
Scales approached the non-profit Wayne County Foundation about being the main partner in this year’s program.
The connection was essentially a success at first sight. The BOSS entrepreneurial mantra matched well with one of WCF’s community missions – to be a provider for small-business development.
The result was a $18,000 grant to cover most program costs of the second BOSS Experience.
A positive start to the program in 2022 – and the track record of the original 16-year-old BOSS program – drew notice. “The pilot was evidence it had interest for upper-level students. It’s something that could drive entrepreneurship,” said Rebecca Gilliam, executive director of the foundation. “Hopefully, a local student (from the course) can launch a business here.”
Business development is vitally important, she said: “We’re looking for ways to encourage and support that.”
Gilliam said Scales “put together a great proposal. We thought that it would be successful.”
She was right. Student numbers grew by 60 percent from the first BOSS Experience class.
“We made it better this year. We had a stellar experience,” Scales believes.
The class was condensed from two weeks to one to create a stronger and more single-minded focus – and the students totally bought in, Scales said: “The entire program never left their minds. There was never anybody late, never an issue. The focus was so good, so strong.”
The 2023 class featured eight IU East graduates with business degrees, one with a communications degree and one with an associate degree from Ivy Tech.
Scales said anyone is welcome to apply. “The main requirement is that you are a graduate (from the last three years),” Scales explained. “I want to help them become successful. Long-term, I want them to become entrepreneurs.”
He said the IU Kelley School of Business is interested in taking part in 2024 and Ivy Tech is hopeful of having four more graduates take part in the program.
The IU East graduates taking the course – in addition to Roberts – were Taylor Browning, Nate Soltis, Jamisen Smith, Garrett Keener, Bryce Long, Nolan Everts, Chance Klipstien and Sarah Curry. Levi MarLatt took the courses as a two-year graduate from Ivy Tech.
Befitting their new career directions after earning degrees, each participant was paid a salary for taking part in the class.
IU East senior Colt Meyer assisted Scales for the second straight year. “I helped answer questions about running a business and offered resources to students,” Meyer said.
He took part in events and projects that totaled about 50 hours over five days. “He asks as many questions as anyone. He soaks it up,” Scales said. “He was as much of a participant as the new graduates.”
Meyer already knows about entrepreneurship – and about working as a teammate. He runs a pressure-washing business in his hometown of Oldenburg when he’s not doing schoolwork or practicing and playing as a guard for the Red Wolves’ men’s basketball team.
Meyer is majoring in business and accounting. He averaged a team-high 18.9 points per game as a junior for IU East last season.
The graduates listened to speakers, dined together and watched the productions of three television programs by Scales and IU East’s WCTV. They made multiple trips each day to local businesses as entrepreneurs gave behind-the-scenes peeks into their products and services.
“The experience was very eye-opening to me about what it takes to truly run a business, and the amount of sacrifices that each business owner makes,” said Roberts, who was amazed by the strong history of entrepreneurship and the number of small businesses in Wayne County. “I really enjoyed getting to hear each person’s story the most.”
The BOSS Experience is a variation of the national award-winning Business Opportunities for Self Starters program that was started in 2007 by Scales BOSS placed first in the Talent Category of the 2020 UEDA Awards of Excellence.
The original BOSS was designed to introduce local high school students to economics and entrepreneurship and teach them how to produce a business plan.
It proved so popular that funding kept coming and Scales added new programs.
The participants in the 2023 BOSS Experience visited Barn at Helm, Paint the Towne, Warm Glow Candle Company, Primex Plastics, Sugar Creek Packing Company, Roscoe’s Coffee Bar and Tap Room and Realtor Al Diamond of Better Homes and Garden. They dined at JoAnne’s Cafe, Stone Hearth Cafe, Mancino’s, King’s Cafe, Sip ’N A Bite, Firehouse BBQ and Quaker Hill Conference Center. The students also visited with public economic development officials of the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Corporation of Wayne County and the Indiana Small Business Development Center.
Scales ran the first BOSS Experience with the help of a Chancellor Signature Grant from IU.
Fund-raising is an ever-present activity for him. “This year, I had to start over with funding,” Scales said.
He’s already looking forward to next year’s program.
Gilliam said the WCF would evaluate the post-class material provided by Scales – and there is a good possibility that it could be the source of more funding for the BOSS Experience because of its focus on local entrepreneurship.
“That area of interest won’t change,” Gilliam said. “We look for opportunities to be engaged in that work. … Folks across all industries are interested in that success.”
Meyer said success takes hard work, whether pressure washing decks and driveways or performing at a high level in college basketball. Both high-energy roles require discipline, planning and time management. “I don’t want to sit down. I want to make it on my own,” he said.
He runs advertisements and puts out signs to solicit customers. “Ninety percent come from word of mouth,” he said.
Meyer sees his business – and future entrepreneurial efforts – as stepping stones to other possible businesses.
“I started by using dad’s truck and his pressure washer,” Meyer said. “I have started to get better equipment.”
Meyer said he appreciates the relationships and experiences he has found at IU East, including making trips to Chicago and New York City through the BOSS program.
“The people here are awesome. They are friendly and nice,” he said.
Roberts believes the BOSS Experience will pay big personal dividends. “It will help me in my career, because owning or running a business has always been something that I wanted to do and gaining that experience through the program is invaluable and priceless,” he said.