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Monday, July 28, 2014 | Last updated: 7:39pm

Arizona leads nation in entrepreneurship, partly because of UA programs



Arizona was ranked No. 1 on CNNMoney’s list of most entrepreneurial states, and those associated with the Eller College of Management’s McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship say they aren’t surprised.

The center’s program and the college itself are ranked among the best in the nation, and contribute to Arizona’s ranking as having the highest start-up rate of 520 per 100,000 adults in small businesses.

“The center for entrepreneurship here was one of the first in the country,” said Sherry Hoskinson, the center’s director. “We’re over 30 years old. We’ve been a model program, a leadership program and a pioneer in studying.“

Arizona has always been a historically and traditionally entrepreneurial state, Hoskinson said, adding that Arizona is home to a number of Fortune 500 companies and innovative resources.

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By Robert Alcaraz / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Robert Alcaraz/Arizona Summer Wildcat The McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship, located in the Eller College of Management, sees an increase each year in the number of start-up companies that come out of the program. Arizona was recently ranked No. 1 in CNNMoney's list of 10 most entrepreneurial states.

According to Hoskinson, the center’s program is geared to help a variety of students in various degrees gather entrepreneurial principles and bring those innovative ideas to fruition, whether those principles are commercially, socially or environmentally based. She added that the center has seen its launch rate increase each year.

“Our studies have shown that entrepreneurship graduates specifically earn more money, earn more assets and report greater job satisfaction,” Hoskinson said.

Josh Banayan, co-founder of JusTouch, launched his company from the center and has been expanding it ever since.

JusTouch distributes tablet-like digital menus to restaurants, and programs their food and beverage choices onto the tablet for customers to browse through. The tablets allow customers to order and pay for their food so that waiters can focus more on customer service.

“Throughout the whole year we spent time developing the concept, going into financials, what it would take to launch, financial projections, and things like that, that we wouldn’t have been able to do without the program,” Banayan said.

At the end of the year, the program throws an event called the Year End Entrepreneurship Showcase and Celebration, where students pitch their business ideas to a small board of judges, who decide which business plan is the best. JusTouch won second place.

Since the company’s launch, e-menus have made their way into various restaurants across Tucson, such as PY Steakhouse at Casino del Sol and Taco Bron in the Tucson International Airport.

JusTouch’s success is only one of several start-up companies coming out of the McGuire Center. The custom electric bike company Velocis Bikes also originated in McGuire’s entrepreneurship program. Co-owners Taylor Hedberg and John-Mark Bantock said they were confident that the center’s faculty had plenty of real-life experience to pass on to students.

“Many of the professors are actual or former entrepreneurs who have business classes themselves,” Hedberg said. “Many fields you are learning from somebody who studies the field, but in this case you’re actually getting classical, first-hand experience.”

According to Hedberg, starting a business in Arizona has several benefits. Along with the low cost of living, there are a lot of favorable laws that help jumpstart small businesses, including a tax break for investors looking to provide capital to new businesses.

“The University of Arizona is a great place to study entrepreneurship. You have hands-on actual experience, the barriers for entry are lower, and there are a lot of resources in the community to help you,” Hedberg added.


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