Senior year was crunch time for Shawnda Brodnex.

As a Ball State entrepreneurship major, Brodnex had to take everything she had learned and put together a business plan that would work in the real world—and be approved by a panel of four area business professionals—or she wouldn’t graduate. Brodnex was taking the senior capstone New Venture Creation course, also known as the "senior sweat" course.

Working with the faculty of our nationally acclaimed entrepreneurship program and a mentor, who reviewed Brodnex’s financial figures from time to time, she developed her plan for a store specializing in plus-size secondhand clothing.

To create her plan, Brodnex needed accurate, up-to-date information on building costs, inventory management, equipment, the number of employees needed, and associated expenses such as health-care benefits and paid time off. Plus she had to research whether a market existed for the type of clothing she wanted to sell.

Her mentor, who worked for a local financial company, gave her feedback about whether her plan—and her numbers—made sense. Brodnex also drew on her experience as an intern in our business incubator program, where she did market research and helped write a marketing plan for a startup business.

E-Day (Evaluation Day) came. She presented her plan. She passed, and she graduated in May 2007.

Although she is currently working for Sallie Mae, she hopes someday to put the lessons she’s learned into practice. She credits her professors with showing her how to use failure to find new paths to success.

“Ball State taught me that whether it’s a class, job, career, project, or just a personal goal, it’s the dedication and willingness to take risks for great returns that makes you successful in life,” she said.