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Entrepreneurship & Innovation Program Gives Graduates Opportunities to Succeed


What better way to train budding entrepreneurs than to pair them with those who already have been successful in the entrepreneurial world?  That experience, along with the rigors of an excellent program, is the cornerstone of the full-time MBA’s Entrepreneurship & Innovation (E&I) program in the College of Business Administration. Faculty coaches Glenn Swift, Jack Mills, and Pat Richardson line up entrepreneurs and pair them with students.

“The entrepreneurial and innovation focus began with several pilot full-time MBA courses, each modeled after the skills required for the first three phases of an entrepreneur’s life—identification of the opportunity, business modeling, and implementation. To be able to spot opportunities and think them through, evaluate risks, and find investors, students need to take what they’ve learned in the classroom and apply these learnings to a real-world situation,” Swift said.

Five years ago, Swift began the process of finding successful entrepreneurs willing to work with full-time MBA students. Mike Carroll (’80) and John McCracken (’97 & ’99) agreed last fall to mentor three students, including Ted Ciuba (’08), who is marketing SAFElight, a product that was invented by UT full-time MBA graduates.

“Successful entrepreneurship requires opportunity identification, idea visioning, planning, implementation, and tremendous focus,” said Swift. “Mike and Ted are role models for what will be the results of the full-time MBA’s E&I program—entrepreneurial growth for our region.”

“Rear-end collisions cause more property damage and more injuries than any other type of auto accident,” Carroll said. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration found that 90 percent of all rear-end collisions could be prevented with one single extra second of warning. That is the basis of SAFElight, invented in 2005 by Ben Jordan, Nathan Davis, and Anthony Spezia, with the help of Professor Frank Speckhart, while they were students in a joint MBA/engineering program.

SAFElight is an after-market LED brake bulb that consumers can purchase and install themselves. Its patented accelerometer technology triggers bright bursts of light that alert trailing drivers to a car having to brake quickly, thereby giving drivers that valuable extra second of warning.

Inventing the product was easy compared to the challenges of marketing it. Enter UT’s Entrepreneurship & Innovation program, which brought the invention to the attention of Carroll whose entrepreneurial acumen, with the help of Ciuba, promises to make SAFElight a marketplace success.

SAFElight is designed to be compatible with more than 90 percent of the approximately 200 million cars, trucks, SUVs, and motorcycles registered in America today, with plans already underway to further expand SAFElight’s market to commercial fleet vehicles.

For more information on the full-time E&I program, please contact Glenn Swift at gswift@utk.edu. For additional information about the SAFElight business, visit safelightstore.com.

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