Center for Economic Inclusion

The SURESM Program: What We Do

Mission

SURE℠ is an innovative educational platform that connects UH students, under-resourced entrepreneurs, and the Houston business community.

Courses for Students:

The primary stakeholder group served by the SURE℠ Program is students. Receiving an education to find employment, students face three distinct problems based on what today's workforce demands. The first is that many entry level positions require experience. The catch-22 that a job which is entry level requires experience is an irony not lost on many students. Many turn to experiential education opportunities to get much needed experience. Another problem students face is that employers are increasingly finding that good grades are not enough. They need students who possess “soft skills,” such as collaboration and leadership. It is difficult for students to both attain these skills in a traditional classroom setting and also demonstrate them to potential employers. Finally, students face the looming threat of automation brought on by artificial intelligence. The idea that students may lose their jobs to algorithms or robots very early into their careers has them looking to traditional, yet still unconventional skills associated with community engagement: empathy, human-centered design, and storytelling. Learning these skills is one way that they distinguish themselves. This confluence of experiential education, critical skill building, and community engagement puts the SURE℠ Program at the forefront of the University of Houston’s five-year Quality Enhancement Plan.

Brainstorming to Bankrolling

This core semester-long flagship course is set up for each student in the class to lead a team of 3-4 under-resourced entrepreneurs. This course is taught in symposium style in which the entrepreneurs learn from the students about how to write a business plan and pitch for funding. Additional sections of this course are needed due to demand from students.

By the end of the course, students have a clear understanding of the complexities of starting or growing a business. They have also enhanced their skills as a consultant and project leader. They are empowered to become self-directed learners and decision makers through experiential learning, collaborative relationships with subject-matter experts, and mentoring of aspiring entrepreneurs.

Students not only see how theories become practical applications, but also how this course and their involvement impact the Houston business ecosystem as a whole, and how business creation and growth create a more sustainable and inclusive economy.

Consulting for Small Business Needs

This one semester course is an optional sequel to Brainstorming to Bankrolling in which students are assigned entrepreneurs who completed the SURE℠ Program. In this course students are required to design and implement consulting projects. This is a highly flexible course that allows students to design a project around their interests and the overarching goals of the SURE℠ program. Students also assist the current cohort of consultants (students) enrolled in the Brainstorming to Bankrolling course.

Courses for Entrepreneurs:

The SURE℠ Program borrows the term “under-resourced” from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner's Complete Communities initiative, of which SURE℠ is a partner. What defines these communities is the under-representation when it comes to educational services, financial services, and the informal networks that make it easier to start a business. After passion and drive, there are a lot of things a new entrepreneur needs to be successful that are missing in some Houston communities. An estimated 21% of residents in the City of Houston live below the poverty line (compared with 14% of the U.S. population). In the top 20 most impoverished zip codes in Houston, poverty rates range between 35 and 55%. Poverty in Houston is not, however, the result of a weak economy. Instead, the prevalence of poverty is linked to other limiting factors such as insufficient education and impaired access to capital.

SURESM Program for Entrepreneur

During the semester, current and aspiring entrepreneurs come to campus in order to learn accounting, marketing, personal finance, and many other topics from some of the best subject matter experts Houston has to offer. During this time, they also receive dedicated one-on-one guidance from a University of Houston student consultant. The Consultant meets with the student on a weekly basis inside and outside a classroom setting to give detailed feedback on the entrepreneur's business plan.

SURESM Alumni Program

Following the successful completion of the program, SURE℠ Entrepreneur Graduates are welcomed into the SURE℠ Alumni Program. This program is managed by SURE℠ Alumni who bring in guest speakers and run workshops to help existing businesses continue to grow. SURE℠ Alumni also assist in facilitating the SURE℠ Program by providing peer mentorship as fellow entrepreneurs who have gone through the program.