Union Planters Bank has established a $5,000 scholarship award to be given annually to the Outstanding Belmont Student Entrepreneur. The first recipient of the award is Kevin Alexandroni, a business student who also operates a kosher catering business, Sova Catering.
“This annual award, highlighting the year’s outstanding Belmont student entrepreneur, is a key building block to bring recognition to the student entrepreneurs in our program,” said Dr. Jeff Cornwall, director of Belmont University’s Center for Entrepreneurship and holder of the Jack C. Massey Chair in Entrepreneurship.
“We’ve made a five-year commitment to the program,” said Ron Samuels, regional president and CEO of the Nashville-based operations of Memphis-based Union Planters Bank, “One of our business objectives is to help small business. At the core of our whole banking business is dealing with small business.
“Entrepreneurial programs such as Dr. Cornwall’s are not prevalent on every campus. We like the fact that Belmont is encouraging students to develop business plans and then implement those plans,” Samuels said. “That’s not common in most business schools.”
Establishing an award for the Student Entrepreneur of the Year “is a great way to endorse the school’s Entrepreneurship program and reward a participant for exceeding expectations,” he said.
Alexandroni, 30, started taking business courses at Belmont’s Massey Graduate School of Business four years after starting a restaurant, Le Courouge (“The Redneck”), which he says was an experiment in “French-Southern fusion” cooking. Alexandroni, a former officer in the Israeli Defense Force, say he realized he needed entrepreneurial skills to match his cooking talents.
“If you’re going to open your own business, a class in corporate financing isn’t relevant,” Alexandroni said in a recent Associated Press story about the growth of university entrepreneurship programs. “Belmont’s program gives me bootstrapping tools and experience in the day-to-day things I need to survive.”
The Union Planters scholarship award is available to any student majoring or minoring in entrepreneurship, or who is active in one or more of Belmont’s Entrepreneurship Program activities such as the Center for Entrepreneurship’s student business hatchery.
According to the awards criteria, the recipient “is required to exhibit proof that he/she through his/her own creative initiative was able to start and operate an entrepreneurial business venture.” The winning entrepreneur will be selected each year based on a variety of criteria including a written summary of their business mission, objectives and accomplishments over the year (such as increasing market share, revenue, expenses, and the long-term probability of the business having greater success.
Samuels says Alexandroni’s catering business clearly met the criteria. “He had found a real niche to serve and was doing a great job with it. His target market was very focused. He found a niche that was not being served and then delivered a quality product and made a profit. He did all the things that the courses there would teach you to do – he bootstrapped, used every resource he could to hold costs down, and delivered a quality product.”
In the Photo, L-R: Alexandroni, Allan Joiner (Union Planters vice president for commercial banking), Samuels, Cornwall.