Thursday, April 4, 2013

Heads Up, Entrepreneurs: Sam Steidle's at it Again

Sam Steidle: "It's the coolest thing I've ever taken on."
My good pal Samantha Steidle, who owns the Business Lounge in downtown Roanoke and whose mind beats faster than the heart of an excited rabbit, is at it again.

This time, she's doing something (always doing, rarely stops at thinking) that many of us have been advocating--without doing--for years: trying to teach college students to create their own business, rather than looking for a job upon graduation. It makes sense any time for some of these bright youngsters (and oldsters back in school, as well), but especially in an economy that is not welcoming people into the workforce.

Sam's been teaching an entrepreneurial class at Virginia Western Community College for some months now and she's getting ready to expand that into a real-world exercise where she hopes to watch students create "20 to 30 new businesses a semester." I keep telling you that Sam doesn't aim small. 

"We're going to modify the entrepreneur class," she said at lunch at Lenore's Restaurant in downtown Roanoke today. "Give it a different format; work with entrepreneurs or help students launch their own businesses." She'll be working in conjunction with the Small Business Development Center, Virginia Department of Business Assistance, small businesses, Downtown Roanoke Inc., (DRI) and others to help give these students a leg up as they give their ideas a try.

Initially, the teaching will include about 25 percent business plan, 75 percent implementation. She'll help students with logos, business cards, brochures, websites, press releases, marketing strategy and other overlooked pieces of a small business. She's hoping to get some cheap rents downtown through DRI and, of course, Business Lounge can accommodate some businesses with offices and office help.

Sam will help analyze ideas and carry-through, as well. "If it's not a good idea," she says, "we'll advise that they scrap it. If it's good, we'll help. The overall goal is to make a visible difference in the region."

The course will be for credit or not, depending on what the students want. Costs will be in line with what the college normally charges. This will cover many basics, but it won't be in competition for some of the more advanced entrepreneurial classes, like the high tech or engineering courses at Virginia Tech.

"When I was in school, I didn't fit anywhere," says Sam. "I can't not do this. If you're unemployed, don't wait, but then so few people know how to start a business." The course will last eight weeks "and then you can get out and make money," says Sam. "This goes so much deeper than just teaching. It's teaching people how to live their dreams. It's the coolest thing I've ever taken on." And that's saying something.

(You can reach Sam at 540-397-4377 or