Is it smart to go to school for entrepreneurship?

9 aspiring tycoons tell FSB how the classes they took affected their businesses.

Melvin Cooper, 25
The Undergrad
Melvin Cooper, 25
University of Arizona

Considering my childhood, it's no surprise that I have always aspired to launch my own business. Growing up, my dad would give me and my brother $5 each week and encouraged us to use it as seed money. We started by selling snow cones and lemonade. By high school, we were buying, refurbishing and reselling old cars. I applied to colleges that would cultivate my interest in startups and chose University of Arizona.

My first two years at Arizona gave me business foundations, including finance, accounting and management. An internship at a family-run Toyota dealership fueled my desire to run my own company. I naturally selected Business Management and Entrepreneurship as my major. At the end of my junior year, I had to undergo a formal application process to be a candidate for admission to the yearlong program. I was thrilled when I got in.

The summer before the program began, all students in the entrepreneurship program were required to submit two venture ideas to professors. I had heard a professor mention a new technology that turned carbon-based waste into renewable energy. He connected me with the inventor and for a year my team and I worked together creating Waste2Energy (

Launching a business isn't mandatory at the University of Arizona, but the school is incredibly supportive if that's your goal. Upon graduating last May and making the semifinals in a business plan contest, my three teammates and I decided to pursue the venture further. We are now poised to purchase the technology and we have assembled a team of advisors.

Arizona opened my eyes to the reality of starting a business. I'm prepared for my hair to gray prematurely but it's worth it - I love the challenge and the rewards of this lifestyle. Right now, there's still a lot of risk involved with our company but it's exciting watching everything come into place. We have a working prototype of our technology that turns carbon-based waste into oil, natural gas, elemental solids and even sterile water. Waste2Energy could save Tucson $50 million in landfill expenses over the next 20 years.
- As told to Emily Maltby

The Professional

The Undergrad

The E-Learner

The Hybrid

The Idea Guy


The Serial Entrepreneur

The Owner

The Heir
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