The Entrepreneur Mentors Program at the Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship continues to grow and improve. The program is led by Dr. Timothy Stearns, executive director of the Lyles Center at California State University, Fresno.

Stearns said it is unlike other similar programs around the county, in that it focuses on quality, not quantity.

“This program is not about how many students we have. We take an elite group and try to be impactful with a lot of resources,” he said.

The Entrepreneur Mentorship Program teaches key entrepreneurial skills such as leadership, vision, team building, networking, and selling. Students are provided with resources to build their skills and network with professionals in their field.

More than twenty entrepreneurs in the community have volunteered their time to mentor the students in the program. Each student is matched one-on-one with a mentor that best fits their area of interest. Stearns said the program provides connections, resources and experiences that help the students in their entrepreneurial endeavors.

The program has been in place for five years. Last year, it developed into a three-unit, year-long class. Students attend weekly seminars, listen to entrepreneur presenters, participate in workshops and take two field trips. This semester they traveled to Visalia and in the spring semester they will visit Modesto.

Mentorship students also take a trip to San Francisco to take the Johnson O’Connor aptitude test, the most widely used skills assessment to help students discover natural potential and identify personal strengths. The students in the program go through an interview process and are selected from a pool of candidates who have made a commitment to pursue resources and experiences that will result in the enhancement of their entrepreneurial skills. Students network with other students and professionals during class and are able to develop a stronger relationship with their particular mentor.

The main goal of the Entrepreneur Mentors Program is for students to develop skills that will prepare them to succeed professionally as entrepreneurs.

“This class is about more than learning” Stearns said. “You can learn about entrepreneurship anywhere. This class is about building skills in entrepreneurship.”

Rather than sitting in class, a main part of the students’ grades is their community involvement. Grades in the class are based on student’s participation in class and with their mentor, community involvement, a culminating project and evaluations by other students and mentors.

This year, students in the program are working with each other and their mentors to plan and execute a $25,000 student business plan competition that is open to Fresno State students as well as students from participating Central Valley community colleges. “This class is a chance for students to actively ‘pitch-in’ and add value to their entrepreneurial skills as a group,” Stearns said. “The Lyles Center provides the space and mentoring for them to do so.”

For more information, contact the Lyles Center at 559.294.2045.

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