Coaching Tomorrow's Leaders


Working in the Waldron Center for Entrepreneurship and Family Business has given sophomores Mario Mejia and Nathalie Candanedo opportunities to learn more about entrepreneurship, be inspired to take risks, and pass along what they are learning to other student entrepreneurs. 

The Waldron Center was established in 2016 by David (’76) and Betsy (’83) Waldron to focus on entrepreneurial academics and competitions as well as business development for startups and family-owned businesses. Director Phil Brown and associate director Patti Summers are mentoring Mejia and Candanedo, giving them opportunities to learn marketing and business strategies through coordinating events on campus and contributing to the center’s social media plan. Together they also provide advice and resources for other student entrepreneurs.

Mejia has learned that the risk of entrepreneurship is worth it and is encouraged by Brown’s advice to “just do it.” Experimenting with business plans as part of competitions like the Arkansas Governor’s Cup and Bison Business Shark Tank gives students the opportunity to practice in an environment with less risk so they are better prepared for the marketplace after graduation. 

“Before, I thought that entrepreneurs were just people who wanted to make money, but working here in the center has changed my mind about that,” Mejia said. “Entrepreneurs are actually the ones who support the economy because they create new jobs, encourage growth and innovate.”

Candadedo is thankful for the directors’ support in connecting students to alumni and the local Searcy community.

“We are learning how to apply all kinds of skills we will need for our future,” she said. “They inspire us to keep going, learning and innovating.” 

As Walton Scholars, Mejia and Candanedo plan to return to El Salvador and Panama after graduation. They are looking forward to using the skills and connections they gain in the center to start their own businesses that will support the economies and development of their home countries.



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