Plans for a new entrepreneurial program are on the horizon at Dixie State University with help from the former mayor of Alpine.
Don Watkins, who stepped down as mayor of Alpine Jan. 21, will be volunteering as an “entrepreneur in residence” at DSU, working with other faculty members to build a program that teaches students entrepreneurial skills. Watkins has volunteered as a mentor at Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University in the past.
The school of business has been looking into an entrepreneurial program for some time, said Kyle Wells, dean of the school of business and communication.
It takes a certain personality type to be able to deal with the risk and pressures of running a business, Wells said.
“Part of the goal of the program is to find those individuals with that drive and that ability,” Wells said. “The ones that have that drive and the education are more likely to succeed than the ones who just have the drive or just the education.”
Wells is taking examples from entrepreneurial programs at BYU-Hawaii and Weber State University to get an idea of what is successful. He said he is hoping the program will be available by fall 2016 but said there are many factors out of his control.
Wells sent an initial proposal to the dean’s council and President Biff Williams, but he said it is all still quite preliminary. He is hoping to roll out an entrepreneurial certificate that doesn’t require prerequisites in business.
“A biology student or a music student could come in and take these classes to get a certificate,” he said.
The program will be low investment and high reward, including classes that already exist, which means not many new classes or faculty members will need to be added.
“We have to start small,” Wells said. “We have to take an entrepreneurial approach to this development.”
Garett Garcia, a senior business administration major from St. George, said he is excited for the program to come to DSU. He said he hopes he will have enough time to get the certificate before he graduates. He said DSU doesn’t have many options for entrepreneurs, and they are much needed.
“It’s about time,” he said.
The former mayor
After serving in Alpine in various positions for about nine years, Watkins resigned as mayor Jan. 21. Watkins said Alpine is in excellent condition and feels he could be of better service to students at DSU. His official term as mayor would have ended December 2017.
“Entrepreneurs love to be part of startups,” Watkins said. “Being a part of [DSU] starting up a new entrepreneurship program was something I could not pass up.”
With 40 years of experience as an entrepreneur, Watkins said he is looking for opportunities to serve as he shares stories of his failures and successes with students.
“I love working with the students, teaching classes and working with them one-on-one,” Watkins said.
Watkins’ first experience starting a business was as a student at BYU. He said, as a young man, he developed his own real estate construction company.
“I thought I’d be a cocky 30-year-old millionaire,” he said.
When interest rates skyrocketed, Watkins said he was lucky not to go bankrupt.
He went on to start a company that sold computer accessories and went into the business of auto cleaning supplies two years ago. Some car air freshener products that Watkins’ company sells are “Refresh your car” and “Bahama & Co.”
Watkins is still residing in Alpine, and for the next six to nine months, said he is planning on commuting from Alpine to St. George on a weekly basis.
“I hear the best things about Dixie students,” Watkins said. “I absolutely love St. George, the people and the environment.”