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Home › News & Events › Alumni entrepreneurs share personal stories with students on business plans, values and leadership
Alumni entrepreneurs share personal stories with students on business plans, values and leadership
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 14, 2010) —Undergraduate students with majors ranging from computer engineering and finance to Chinese and kinesiology turned out for the Bench2Business student brunch hosted by the Von Allmen Center for Entrepreneurship. Successful UK alumni entrepreneurs John A. Williams Sr. '62, Gatton College of Business and Economics and founder of Computer Services Inc., and Kim Knopf '82, College of Arts and Sciences and founder of Sleep Outfitters, shared success stories and answered questions from students interested in starting their own businesses.
The students are members of the UK Entrepreneurship Club, founded by UK President Lee T. Todd Jr., and the new Wildcat Investors club.
Williams and Knopf spoke to the students on how to develop their business plan and sustain a successful, profitable business for decades. Both Williams and Knopf echoed the importance of developing a personal value system, lifelong learning, revisiting their business plan frequently, finding mentors, and getting involved in the local community.
"I must make sure that the company's culture is right. I think our employees take pride in and really find a purpose in their jobs and their role in the company's success," Knopf said, who founded Mattress Warehouse/Sleep Outfitters in 1983, just a year out of UK. Knopf's founding philosophy of providing the best products at the lowest prices continues to drive the company's success and growth to more than 90 retail locations in four states. She also maintains a family-friendly atmosphere and views her employees as her second family, taking pride in helping them develop new skill sets and giving them opportunities to grow and succeed.
Williams, who founded Computer Services Inc. in 1965, encouraged the students to establish a value system within their business, outlining the expectations for employees and how they are to represent the company.
"I have long believed that the sooner that you can define what you believe personally and in life, the better off you are going to be," said Williams, whose company delivers core banking services such as online security and check imaging with more than $150 million in annual sales. "Defining who you are, what you believe in, how you expect your employees to perform can, in the long run, be worth its weight in gold."
Williams gave the same advice to UK faculty at the biannual Bench2Business networking event the night before. Williams and Knopf were the keynote speakers to an audience of more than 100 faculty and local entrepreneurs, investors, civic and government leaders many of whom were being recognized for their commercialization activities in 2010.
The UK Entrepreneurship Club, also known as the EClub, helps undergraduate students gain the tools and confidence to be an entrepreneur. Students learn to own and operate their own businesses through making connections at UK and in the Lexington-Bluegrass area. EClub members also gain valuable resources and experience by starting small businesses as students with the help of their advisors and Lexington-area professionals.
Wildcat Investors is a group of University of Kentucky students interested in buying and selling securities and learning about market forces. Students gain investment experience in a safe, secure way by investing small amounts of money into a hedge fund as a collaborative group. They also work with UK's Entrepreneurship Club to learn about start-up companies, and venture and angel investing.