Agriculture Economics students present their projects to business experts at annual symposium, Tuesday.

Students in the Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program will have the opportunity to present their business venture projects to other entrepreneurs this week.

The 2019 Texas Farm Credit Entrepreneurial Dreams Symposium starts on Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and will showcase the poster presentations and a reception and dinner. The oral presentations and scholarship awards will be on Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. The symposium will be held in the Thomas G. Hildebrand, DVM ’56 Equine Complex.

Heather Salopeck, Class of 2011, founded the company Legacy Pecans and delayed graduation with her master’s degree so she could stay an extra semester and present at the symposium.

“I gained more confidence, knowledge and wisdom in those two days of one-on-one mentoring than I did most of my college career,” Salopeck said. “The program consumes more time, effort and heart than I would have ever thought was necessary for a college course, but it’s well worth every second of time spent.”

Salopeck said professor Ed Rister was her mentor and made a lasting positive impact on her education.

“Dr. Rister pushes you to your breaking point and then a little more,” Salopeck said. “He does it because he cares. He sees potential in students that they don't see in themselves and wants the best for them. Dr. Rister is not just one of the finest professors at Texas A&M University, he is a brilliant mentor, an excellent networker and has become a dear friend.”

Kelsea Vaughn, Class of 2014, owns Touch of Whimsy Design and Coordination. She participated in the Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program during her time at A&M, and her company has helped plan the symposium for the past four years.

“[The program] helped me come out of my shell,” Vaughn said. “It gave me the financial and business-oriented tools, and the life skills needed to be a successful, hardworking human being.”

Vaughn said the Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program was a mixture of education and real-life experiences and helped her develop networking, public speaking and time management skills to run her business.

“I work from my home full-time and have the ability to raise my one-year-old 2 days a week,” Vaughn said. “My business is a creative outlet for me and gives me the opportunity to serve others every day, and I love that.”

Colton Bubela, Class of 2017, said he picked his major based on the program and started Bubela Tree Farm and Arbor Care when he was 19 years old.

“I knew this would be the perfect program to pursue and further grow my understanding of business and passion,” Bubela said. “I originally knew quite a bit about the industry, but not so much about running a business.”

Bubela analyzed and presented his current business for the 2017 Entrepreneurial Dreams Symposium, and he was selected as Rural Entrepreneur of the Year.

“I met so many great people that want to see nothing but success in your ideas and passion,” Bubela said. “Many of the folks I met there are some of my best clients today. The perfect target market is within the Aggie network. Aggies want to support other Aggies.”

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