Thor’s Hammer sat on a shelf in Paul Wilson’s office. So did Narsil, the broken sword from “Lord of the Rings.” His office has many items like a 3D printer, a virtual reality headset, and microphone. Having made more than 100 apps for iTunes, Wilson, who is an entrepreneurship professor at BYU–Hawaii, teaches students about entrepreneurship to help them learn how they can make money in nontraditional ways.
The fruits of his labors
Wilson’s entrepreneurship classes have opened opportunities to current and former students. He said they have obtained positions at Google, brought Enterprise Resource Planning to India, and made 3D printed models for architects.
With these examples in mind, Wilson said, “I want students to come up with better ideas than food trucks. Those ideas are okay, but something in the field of, let’s say VR [virtual reality], is better. VR is the future and it can change not just video games, but the way we do education, exercise, or architecture.
“For example, an architect can render a 3D model and show his clients what their house would look like. There are places where there is VR setup on a track. People can run on the track and play a game while using VR.”
Wilson and one of his students, Vulcan Yengo, had the opportunity to go to the Republic of the Congo to teach locals about crowd funding. Wilson said, “I love seeing students create and build businesses not just here, but in other countries. It’s a way to get out of poverty.”
Behind the scenes
Wilson said the motivation behind his ventures in entrepreneurship is his family. “The true story behind any entrepreneur is their family. An entrepreneur’s first priority should be their family. I promised my wife I would always take care of them, even if it meant finding employment.”
Wilson and his wife have five young children plus a new baby girl. He said if an entrepreneur’s spouse is not supportive, the relationship and the business will not work.
During the ‘90s, Wilson graduated from BYU in Provo with a degree in philosophy. While studying at BYU, he entered a business competition with friends. His responsibility was to oversee marketing and explore digital marketing. Their business model was called CityNet Systems and their goal was to install wireless high-speed Internet networks into apartments in Provo.
After Wilson got married, he realized CityNet Systems was failing. He and his wife wanted to go to Hawaii after hearing about missionaries teaching business at the campus. They went on a service mission to BYUH from 2013 to 2015 teaching business. In 2017, he was offered a faculty position. He said he accepted the position because he loves to see what the students can do with the ideas he was teaching them.
Teaching through social media
Regarding Wilson’s teaching, Sophie Olsen, a junior from California majoring in graphic design, said, “I liked the way he taught. It was a lot of work, but in the end, I was surprised by how much I not only learned, but also retained.”
She continued, “He is not a typical teacher. He uses a ton of examples, which is great for visual learners. The way he taught generated lots of discussion in the class and sometimes disagreement, which you can learn from more than anything.”
Jennifer Ayala, a senior from Guatemala studying hospitality and tourism management, is currently taking Wilson’s Social Entrepreneurship class. Ayala said the classes are unique because students raise money and learn tools to prepare them for business. “He is well prepared,” she said. “ What I appreciate is his willingness to share everything he knows with his students.
“He is nice and willing to help any time he is available, and if he is not, he makes time. His teachings are fun because he includes fun stories and makes sure you understand what was taught. He has so much knowledge to share that 50 minutes are not enough.”
On the side, Wilson produces a podcast about business consulting and uses social media to promote his podcast. He teaches his students how to find markets through apps and services.
Olsen said, “I learned about how to successfully market your business through social media. Already because of that class, I have [around] 12 [thousand] followers on my Pinterest out of nowhere. It’s just understanding the patterns that are successfully in marketing.
“I think it’s important for all people to have these kinds of skills and understanding. I have definitely referred to lessons from his class since taking it. I have even been able to help others with this knowledge.
Ayala said, “I would recommend a minor [in] entrepreneurship to everyone because I have learned more about how to start up or grow a business with this than anything else or my business classes.”