Small Business Saturday, marking its 12th year, promotes and advocates for small businesses—like those launched by UMGC graduates who have translated their classroom learning into small entrepreneurial firms.
To mark Small Business Saturday on Nov. 26, UMGC spoke with some of its alumni to find out what inspired the creation of their businesses, how their UMGC education contributed and what advice they would give others.
Vernon Green ’10 and ’14, has a Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity and Master of Science in Cybersecurity. He is also the founder of GCubed, a cybersecurity and IT government-contracting company. GCubed is a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business. It also has SBA 8a-certification, which indicates it has received training and technical assistance to reinforce its competitiveness.
How did your UMGC degree strengthen your skills and enable you to start your small business?
My educational process was ideal. Going to school while being a professional in the field allowed me to use my real-world experience within the classroom examples and demonstrated understanding. And new concepts I learned in class I was able to quickly implement into my full-time job, which made both experiences complementary and pleasurable.
What is the best advice you would give a UMGC student inspired to start a small business?
Don’t wait. There is never a good time. Just make it happen! I may not be the smartest or the brightest, but you can’t out hustle or out work me.
Dorian Cunion ’10, with a Master of Business Administration and Management Information Systems, is co-founder of Your Path Coaching and Consulting. The firm serves as a strategic partner to help emerging leaders develop their careers.
In what ways did your UMGC degree prepare you to start a small business?
By giving me the confidence that I had the knowledge and skills necessary to help others be better leaders and to grow their business. Many of the principles that I consult and coach clients on are rooted in information I learned at UMGC. In addition, I refined my research skills at UMGC, which is important since business and leadership continue to evolve, and it is important to stay informed of the latest theories and approaches to solving today’s business challenges.
What advice do you have for UMGC students thinking about a business launch?
Take time to determine what your value proposition will be. Your success as a business is linked to the value that you can create. It is important to define what will make your business special and unique. There is a lot of competition, so you must be able to communicate why people should choose to do business with you.
Dr. Selena Ramkeesoon ’19, Doctor of Management, is CEO and founder of DualStar LLC, a consultancy working with organizations on strategic communications and diversity, equity and inclusion. Ramkeesoon is also an adjunct assistant professor with the UMGC MBA Program.
How did your Doctor of Management contribute to the creation of DualStar?
The DM program covered topics like evidence-based management, organizational leadership, change management and innovation. These topics, coupled with a focus on applied research and analysis of real-world management problems, elevated my knowledge and credentials. I refined my strategic thinking and executive-level management skills, which are helping me solve complex business challenges.
Any advice for UMGC students inspired to start a small business?
Building a business takes time and effort, and there’s no blueprint to guide you. Be ready to adapt to new information.
In 2017, Brandi Bridgett ’09, along with her father, opened The Agency at National Harbor, a financial services firm. The firm’s mission is to help the community understand challenges families face in finance, retirement, debt elimination, business finance and securing a legacy for future generations.
Bridgett received a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and Business Administration in 2009.
You have been recognized as one of the top 40 under 40 professionals in Maryland and you run one of the largest financial firms inside your brokerage, with over 500 consultants nationwide. What role did your UMGC degree play?
Having UMGC as part of my life allowed me flexibility. Plus, as a military spouse, I was able to work wherever we moved while continuing my studies. UMGC also required me to have wholistic thinking when responding in our group threads, which helped me create more wholistic thought patterns, which has really helped me in business.
What is your best advice for UMGC students with entrepreneurial ideas?
I would tell them to go for it! Create a business plan, work with a mentor and take all of the knowledge that they learned from UMGC and apply it to their business. UMGC doesn’t just teach us how to obtain a degree but is shapes us for adversity in life. As a small business owner, you will have obstacles, so just take the resources that you have and use them all to the fullest.
Read more about Brandi Bridgett’s story at umgc.edu.
Visit the Alumni Student Business Directory to read more about small business owners in the UMGC community.