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Phoenix Forward magazine

5 tips from successful faculty entrepreneurs


Much like Batman or Superman, many University of Phoenix faculty members lead double lives. But they’re not disguise-wearing crime fighters outside the classroom. Instead, they’re entrepreneurial superheroes.

Here, five faculty entrepreneurs describe how they got started and share their advice for going out on your own:


Apply what you know.

From starting a lawn business as a preteen to creating a drum instruction video production company in college, Kevin Gazzara, an online instructor in the MBA program, has always exuded the entrepreneurial spirit. “What I tell my students is that the degree will open up the door,” Gazzara says, “but the knowledge — and the ability to apply the knowledge — will get you where you want to go.”

Gazzara runs Magna Leadership Solutions, a management consulting firm that he and two colleagues formed after leaving jobs at Intel.

When you go into business for yourself, he says, “you have to love ambiguity. You have to embrace it, and you have to deal with it.”


Learn from failure.

Everyone creating a startup dreams of success, but many new ventures fail. “While I don’t like to fail,” Beth Carls tells her students, “I do know it’s the best way to learn.”

Carls, an online instructor in the Graduate Marketing Certificate program, has helped start numerous companies since becoming an entrepreneur in 1991. She is CEO of OneSeventeen Media, a website that helps kids through a variety of common issues, which she co-founded in 2008.


Give ideas a set time to make it.

Ron Gdovic, an online instructor for the first-year sequence, has started 11 companies since 1988. He advises giving concepts a specific shelf life.

“If you cannot fully develop a business plan in your head and test the waters in 90 days, then move on,” he says. “This is particularly true with business ideas based on new technology.” Gdovic runs two businesses in Pittsburgh: BuzzSwat, a social media intelligence company, and WindStax, which makes wind turbine systems.

Years ago as a graduate student, Gdovic recalls, he met adjunct professors who had mastered their careers by day and felt strongly enough about their jobs to teach by night. “I like to think,” he notes, “[that] I bring that same hands-on experience in starting and running a successful business to my classroom.”


Never stop learning.

Melissa Black and a cousin were working for a home care agency but felt the company valued profits over patients. So they left to start Xtra Homecare Services Inc. in Greenville, South Carolina, and have been in business since November 2011.

Black, an online instructor of science courses who is pursuing her doctorate in public health, acknowledges she doesn’t know everything about operating a business.

“My students know that I continue to learn,” she says. “I’m always working and trying to improve myself.”


Expect to work in teams.

With more than 25 years of experience running Sundial Partners Inc., a private investment banking firm in Sarasota, Florida, Richard Trottier knows a thing or two about life as an entrepreneur. One of those things: Teamwork is part of the deal.

“Some students don’t like [it],” says Trottier, an instructor of philosophy courses at the West Florida Campus, “but I tell them it’s essential to business. I often talk about how I bring conflicting teams together to make business deals work.”

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