Attracting and retaining local talent is paramount among the goals of the Mercer Innovation Center (MIC) aimed at fostering economic development and making use of innovative thinking and new technology in Middle Georgia.

Stetson School of Business and Economics alumnus Fabunde Mamey had his sights set on relocating to Atlanta to pursue a job in information technology following his graduation in December. However, one of the final courses he took at Mercer – and the relationship he developed with his instructor – changed Mamey’s plan and resulted in the young, creative, entrepreneurial-minded recent graduate staying in Macon to begin his career.

Stewart Vernon, CEO and founder of America’s Swimming Pool Company (ASP), entrepreneur-in-residence in the business school and former chair of the MIC’s advisory board, led a “Seminar in Entrepreneurship” last fall. The course was designed to foster an environment in which entrepreneurial creativity and confidence could flourish by introducing students to some of Middle Georgia’s most influential business leaders.

“I am honored that Mercer gave me the opportunity to help create and lead this class,” said Vernon. “Being able to help mold our future entrepreneurs, and possibly help retain some of them in Macon, is an incredible honor.”

The semester’s work culminated in each student constructing a class project proposing an original business idea to a panel of businesspeople. Mamey proposed a real estate business model for his home country of Liberia that received the “Entrepreneur of the Class” award as the top project amongst his peers.

Vernon was so impressed with Mamey’s work, not only in the course but also as an intern at ASP, that he offered the student a full-time position with the company, which was recently ranked 113th on Entrepreneur magazine’s nationwide Franchise 500 listing.

“They say, ‘Who you know will take you there, but what you know will keep you there.’ This quote has come alive for me,” said Mamey, who is currently living in Macon’s thriving downtown district. “I am grateful to God, the Stetson School of Business and Economics, Mr. Vernon and all of those who made such a course available because I almost missed this opportunity.”

Vernon’s “Seminar in Entrepreneurship” not only adds some creative flare to the business school’s curriculum, it provides life-changing opportunities for students, such as Mamey. The instructor hopes that by introducing students to prominent members of the local business community he is establishing mutually beneficial relationships that will boost Middle Georgia’s economy over time.

“When Stewart Vernon first proposed the course, I realized that his approach would provide a very realistic and practical view of entrepreneurship,” said Dr. Susan P. Gilbert, dean of the Stetson School of Business and Economics. “What I didn’t anticipate was how transformative the course would be. Many of the students who took the course told me that they now aspire to be entrepreneurs.”

“My professors at Mercer have tremendously impacted my life,” said Mamey. “Mr. Vernon, along with the entrepreneurs he invited to speak in our class, has brightened the path of my business journey. Because of that course, I have built great relationships that I am sure will help me in the future.”