Barbara Mulford's transition from business major to business owner began when she took a class in entrepreneurship to fulfill an elective requirement for her major.

Barbara Mulford only expected to graduate Bridgewater State College with a bachelor's degree in business when she enrolled in the college.


After her career in banking "fizzled out," Mulford, a Canton resident, hoped the degree would land her a higher paying job to support her three children after her recent divorce.


Instead, Mulford graduated with a business plan to start her own business, three classmates who agreed to work for her start-up, and a $2,500 prize for winning the college's 2009 Business Plan Writing Contest.


"In my generation, it wasn't emphasized that you had to get a college degree to go into banking," she said. "But now, it's really important, so I figured I'd take the time to go. But, I never dreamed I'd end up owning a business."


Mulford's transition from business major to business owner began when she took a class in entrepreneurship to fulfill an elective requirement for her major. The class was offered out of the college's Center for Entrepreneurship Studies founded just this fall.


When she was required to write her own business plan as an academic exercise for the class, Mulford decided to actually start her new company, Watts Green Inc.


"As I was writing it I realized, 'Gee, this sounds fantastic,' and it's something I love and I could earn a living with," she said.


Watts Green Inc. is a photo voltaic solar energy system provider that provides and installs electric systems powered by the sun through solar panels placed on the roofs of businesses and homes. The company is currently able to install systems in homes and will be prepared to bid on commercial jobs within 60 days, Mulford said.


Even after she had the idea to make her business plan a reality, Mulford said she could not have done it without the help of Bridgewater State College.


"After I had the idea, I would sit in class writing notes in my textbook of how what we were learning applied to my particular business," she said. "The college just had a tremendous impact on my life."


Dr. Shannon Donovan, director of the college's Center for Entrepreneurship, said the center was created after she noticed a large number of students trying to "patch together" their own curriculum for how to start a business.


"You'd have art majors taking accounting, and I'd ask them why and they would say, you know, 'I want to start my own art dealership' or something," she said. "So we decided that we should put together that curriculum for them."


Currently, students at Bridgewater State College can minor in entrepreneurship and have to take six classes including consulting, introduction to entreprenurship, finance and accounting, marketing and business planning.


While Donovan said the program was not specifically designed for "non-traditional" or older students, she believes that with the recession the program will begin to see more students in their 30s and 40s.


"It's so difficult to get a job these days. A lot of people might think, 'Well, maybe I'll just start my own business instead,"' Donovan said.


While Mulford, 39, was one of the oldest students in the class, she said she didn't mind because she was "determined to get my degree."


"There were a couple older people in the class, but I remember this one time second semester when I was standing outside my class talking to my fellow students and I was the oldest person there. Everyone else was 20 to 25, tops," she said. "It was the funniest thing."


Mulford said she couldn't complain too much about being the eldest because after she graduated she hired three of her younger fellow classmates to work for her company.


"Since they went through the program, I knew them and I knew they'd do a good job," she said.


And winning $2,500 in the school's Business Writing Plan Contest helped her further her studies. Mulford said she used the prize money to take additional classes to learn about solar technology and to trademark and incorporate her new company.


While Bridgewater State is a four-year college, Mulford was able to obtain her degree in just one by taking seven to nine classes per semester.


After all her hard work, Mulford's just happy being her own boss.


"Years ago people would tell you not to own your own business because if you did, you'd be working day and night," she said. "But nowadays, with the recession, people working white collar jobs are doing that anyway, so you might as well be the one in charge."


For more information about Bridgewater State College's Center for Entrepreneurship visit www.bridgew.edu/CES/. To learn about Watts Green Inc., go to www.Watts-Green.com.