Dr. Sharon Kerrick believes in taking risks and trying new things, which proved valuable when she came to Bellarmine. Shortly after she arrived in the summer of 2016 as assistant dean of the School of Business, she was appointed interim dean when Dr. Robert Brown stepped down to pursue international business opportunities. “In business, just like life, not everything is predictable,” she says. “My philosophy is to be flexible and be a team player—adjust and make change a welcome part of every day.”
Dr. Kerrick, who earned her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Louisville, was previously associate director of the Forcht Entrepreneurship Center at U of L, where she taught in the MBA program and founded the undergraduate Entrepreneurship minor. Before that, she was one of the founders of a technology firm that grew over 20 years to employ more than 300 full-time staff. She is an Enterprise Angel investor and the creator of VetStart, a startup program for military veterans that has assisted more than 60 veteran-owned companies since 2012. In 2014, she was named Kentucky’s Small Business Administration (SBA) Veteran’s Small Business Advocate of the Year. Over the course of her career, she has advised and coached hundreds of business startups.
How did you become interested in entrepreneurship?
I come from a military family with seven children—“survival of the fittest” comes to mind. I have always been an action-oriented person and very independent. I started a babysitting service when I was young, bought myself a car for my 16th birthday and moved to a different state at 17, all on my own and with no money, seeking to try new things and “make things happen.” So, entrepreneurship, or intrapreneurship (working to build/create within an organization), are areas I thrive in. I am also a lifelong learner, intrigued by new things and eager to figure things out, characteristics that support my interest in entrepreneurship, along with my core values: “Be the master of your own destiny” and “Lift others up.”
Can entrepreneurs be created, or are they born?
I think both. Some people have a natural tendency based on their personality; however, I continue to believe entrepreneurial skills can be taught. In my classes I infuse elements to calibrate students’ risk tolerance and analysis by creating an environment of intellectual courage.
Is today’s economy more receptive to entrepreneurial ventures?
Yes, yes, yes! There was a dip during 2008-10, but in the past six years, new business startups have been on an upward trajectory. Healthcare and social assistance entities have the highest survival rates and cont-inue to grow. Here in Louisville we have a very engaged entrepreneurial ecosystem—eager to help, support and encourage businesses.
What entrepreneurship classes or majors/minors would you like to see at Bellarmine?
I do not necessarily believe we need a major/minor in entrepre-neurship, but we do need to teach innovative thinking with elements of entrepreneurship throughout our business major. Stay tuned, because after hosting the largest Startup Weekend ever here at Bellarmine, we are evaluating what makes best sense for our students and community, part-icularly in the areas of Social Entrepreneurship, Small Business Succession Planning/Startup and Corporate Entrepreneurship.
What inspired you to create VetStart?
My father was a Marine for over 25 years. He was a highly decorated enlisted soldier earning a Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, etc. When he retired from the military, I could see that he struggled a bit to get a civilian job and integrate back into society. I created the program in his memory and to honor him.
What are some of the most interesting companies that you’ve seen launched by your former students?
Wearable technology armor, breathalyzers for cancer detection, medical devices re-envisioned, craft breweries (not so new anymore), stuffed-animal replicates of your pets, chia seeds grown in Kentucky, a programming app for children, a global thoroughbred horse portal, a jockey analytics app, beer syrup, mini bourbon barrels, fitness apps, water purification … I could go on and on. They all seem so interesting to me.
Carla Carlton | firstname.lastname@example.org