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GEAR UP students get lesson in entrepreneurship

Entrepreneur Chris Burns is a take-me-as-I-am kind of person who seizes every opportunity he can to teach/educate people via what he calls impromptu presentations. Entrepreneur Chris Burns is a take-me-as-I-am kind of person who seizes every opportunity he can to teach/educate people via what he calls impromptu presentations.

 Entrepreneur Chris Burns read from “One Hour to Wealth,” a book he is currently working on. It details five types of dreamers: Dream deferrers – never follow through and attempt to keep you from following through; Dream stealers – take your idea and do it before you do; Shaky dreamers – worry about what others think and never give 100 percent; Dream killers – discourage and break you down; and Dream builders – encourage and support your initiatives. (Courtesy photo)

So the 39-year-old Burns, who owns and operates four businesses, was clearly at ease as he spoke recently to student entrepreneurial teams in GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Program) at Southwest Tennessee Community College.

His stable of businesses feature arch-usa.com, a footwear company; CB Publishing, a book and movie release publishing company; Center Court Basketball (CCB) Sports Network, a sports blog; and a consulting and writing firm. He told the students that luck, accidents and mistakes forged his knowledge base.

One of his most painful lessons was the loss of his ownership rights in a joint venture (reorganization) that forced him to file bankruptcy.

“The little things that I didn’t know caught up with me in 2008 and that’s when I had to file bankruptcy,” Burns said candidly. “Because I filed bankruptcy, it has enabled me to learn and do everything that I do now.”

Burns catapulted off a basketball stint at San Diego City College to coaching high school basketball. In 2004, he founded CCB to help under-recruited basketball players attain college scholarships. The CCB Sports Network was a series of sports networks that covered high school and JUCO basketball players in Louisiana, Mississippi, California, Arkansas and Tennessee. CCB is now a nationally recognized WNBA, NBA, and NCAA blog. (http://www.centercourtbasketball.com/store/history.htm)

After founding CCB, he helped launch SHO-SHOT Athletics, which offered athletic equipment and supplies and became a nationally recognized brand.

Burns said it is important that students become knowledgeable about entrepreneurship because of over the next 10 years the warehousing and distribution industry (which powers the local economy) will become automated, translating into fewer jobs.

“So what you have right now in the GEAR UP program is an opportunity to start thinking about business,” said Burns.

During his visit, the GEAR UP students presented their business plans, with Burns offering brief critiques.

GEAR UP is a five-year federal grant program that helps students in designated middle and high schools in the Memphis City School District successfully complete high-level rigorous courses in preparation for post-secondary education. Dr. LaDonna Young, assistant professor for the Department of Education and GEAR UP site coordinator for Southwest, said more than 200 GEAR UP students have enrolled in Southwest as first-generation college students since the grant was awarded to the college.

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