Times have changed for the Kansas University chapter of the Association of Collegiate Entrepreneurs.
When Curtis Marsh, the current president, attended his first meeting three years ago, the organization for students interested in business had a small turnout.
These days, KU's ACE is the largest of the nation's 80 chapters with more than 70 members.
Marsh said many of ACE's members are not business majors, but are simply interested in the business field.
"This gives the students a chance to learn about the pitfalls that they might fall into in the business world from people who have already been through them," he said. "People in the business community are more willing than most realize to help with education."
By bringing in business figures and entrepreneurs to speak about the logistics of starting a business, Marsh said, ACE takes "people from the dream stage to the planning stage to the creation stage."
He also noted that many students who attend ACE's workshops and seminars make important contacts with the speakers.
"We had four ACE members graduate last spring. Three out of those four are employed by people they met through ACE," he said.
In addition to sponsoring about 15 speakers and workshops last year, ACE also hosted the first regional ACE convention.
The regional convention drew about 500 college students interested in business. They gathered for one weekend and had the opportunity to mingle with business figures, Marsh said.
"Basically, it was just a smaller version of the international ACE convention," where all 80 chapters meet once a year, he said.
The regional convention turned out to be a great success, he said, and led to the Kansas chapter walking away from the international convention last February with the top ranking in the nation.
"We're setting our sights on getting the No. 1 award again this year," Marsh said.
To reach that goal, he said, ACE will host another regional conference in October and will change the format of meetings during the school year.
Previously, he explained, ACE met once every three weeks when a speaker was scheduled.
This year, ACE will hold meetings every other week, alternating the agendas between speakers and organization planning, which might include starting an ACE business venture.
"Nothing's been set in concrete yet," Marsh said, "but it's definitely something we're going to look into."
If ACE members decide to set up a business, he noted, it will probably take the form of an enterprise that doesn't require a continuing, long-term commitment.
This is because with a group of people who someday want to be their own bosses, Marsh said, too much conflict is possible in long-term projects that need constant supervision.
"There would be about 20 different ways of doing things," he said.
Even if members don't start their own business, Marsh said, the members of ACE will continue to attract well-established business figures from the region.