An Entrepreneurial Dynasty

Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship Named No. 1 in U.S.
for Fifth Year in a Row

For a fifth consecutive year, the Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship in the C. T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston has been named the No. 1 undergraduate entrepreneurship program in the United States. The Wolff Center has garnered the top spot in the annual list compiled by The Princeton Review and published in Entrepreneur magazine a total of eight times, and it has ranked in the Top 10 each year since 2007.

“We are gratified to receive another No.1 ranking, especially as we are poised to reach more potential entrepreneurs through the establishment of the Wayne B. Duddlesten Free Enterprise Institute,” said Dean and Cullen Distinguished Chair Professor Paul A. Pavlou.

“The Wolff Center’s reign as an entrepreneurship dynasty has in large part been enabled by the generosity of our community,” Pavlou said. “In addition to the Wolff family and the many business leaders who contribute their valuable time to mentor our students, a recent $5 million gift from the Wayne Duddlesten Foundation will further enrich and expand this formidable program.”

“Our intent is to change students’ lives and to create the next generation of business leaders with the highest integrity who are going to go out and create their own cultures, their own companies and their own futures.”
Dave Cook, Executive Director, Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship

Since its establishment at Bauer College in 1991, the Wolff Center has educated an elite group of undergraduate business students who create businesses through a small cohort program.

“We believe in entrepreneurship, we believe in free enterprise, and we’re in the number one city for entrepreneurship,” said Wolff Center executive director Dave Cook. “When we put students into this entrepreneurial mix, and we introduce and reinforce free enterprise values, our intent is to change students’ lives and to create the next generation of business leaders with the highest integrity who are going to go out and create their own cultures, their own companies and their own futures.”

The Princeton Review’s annual ranking of nearly 300 U.S. business schools with entrepreneurship programs evaluates approximately 40 data points, such as experiential learning opportunities, career outcomes and business success. The most significant measure of success is the number of businesses that are created. Wolff Center alumni have created more than 6,000 businesses in the past 10 years alone.

"The Wolff Center continues to prepare tomorrow’s business leaders and influencers. Recent rankings are proof that UH and the C. T. Bauer College of Business are committed to supporting the achievements of aspiring entrepreneurs and contributing to the economic growth of our nation," said Diane Z. Chase, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. "Being named No. 1 by the Princeton Review five years in a row is indeed gratifying and inspiring on many levels. I am proud of the hard work of the faculty, staff and students at the Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship and look forward to further success in the years to come."

Its influence, however, reaches far beyond the award-winning cohort.

Nearly 4,000 UH students outside the business school also take classes in entrepreneurship each year. Bauer College recently added an undergraduate major in entrepreneurship and a master’s degree in entrepreneurship. UH Honors students can now supplement their degree plan by earning a Certificate of Entrepreneurship. RED Labs Summer Accelerator Program and RED Launch nurture fledgling technology business startups.

While the cohort program’s original focus of creating business leaders of integrity through experiential education and one-on-one mentorship has not changed, the Wolff Center’s willingness to grow and evolve is a key to its success, Cook said.

“We hold on to the things that work but are constantly looking at how to make it a better student experience,” he said.

Two years ago, the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship took their cohort class to Lockhart, TX, where they have mentored over 200 women who are in prison and currently working on a business plan to purse after they are released (Empowering Women Out of Prison).

Wolff Center By the Numbers

Businesses created by alumni for the past 10 years.

Funding raised by alumni businesses in the past 10 years.

Number of students taking entrepreneurship courses.

Number of mentors.

The Duddlesten Foundation’s most recent gift will enable other formative changes, Cook said.

“In the very near future, you will be able to come to the Wolff Center and not only be assigned a mentor, you will be able to speak to a patent attorney, obtain help with website design and social media, receive a stipend to get your prototype made,” Cook added.

By identifying would-be entrepreneurs with ideas and intellectual capital that have the potential to be incubated and later, commercialized, the objective is for Wolff Center expertise to be woven more seamlessly throughout the UH campus.

Its community-wide reach will also grow with the development of more opportunities to work with students from junior colleges, high school and junior high schools throughout Texas.

“With the help of the Duddlesten Institute, the Wolff Center is bringing to life a vision of entrepreneurship being nurtured and supported across the UH campus and beyond,” Cook said. “It’s an amazing program. We are grateful for this recognition and eager to continue to make a difference in the lives of our students.”

Xavier Esquivel

It started as a necessity. That’s how Xavier Esquivel opens the story of the business that became the soul of his family and his source of inspiration.

Jayli Samnaneveth

“The very motivated environment pushes you to figure out what you want to do with your life. Once you recognize your goals, your mentors and the teachers at Wolff help you find how to link your purpose to your career.”

Alim Maknojia

Alim Maknojia’s future started to become clear one day in high school, when a friend mentioned something about the Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship.