Businessman returns to school to earn MBA, mentor entrepreneurial scholars

 Entrepreneur Bill Yakstis returns to college to earn an MBA and become a mentor. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Entrepreneur Bill Yakstis returns to college to earn an MBA and become a mentor. (Photo by August Jennewein)

When Bill Yakstis tells people he’s done it all, he’s pretty much telling the truth.

The 65-year-old entrepreneur has started several businesses, experienced successes and failures and learned a ton along the way.

“I tell people I came back to school to learn about all the stuff I did wrong and to do it right this time,” Yakstis said with a smile.

After semi-retiring a few years ago, he decided he wanted to teach, and to do so, he needed to earn his master’s degree.

“I chose the University of Missouri–St. Louis because of the accredited business program,” he said. “And to tell you the truth, I really didn’t know much about UMSL, but I have been pleasantly surprised by the faculty, the program and other students. UMSL is an amazing place.”

Yakstis earned a bachelor’s degree from UMSL in 2012 and continued on with his master’s degree in business administration. He’s slated to graduate with his MBA in December 2015, and then he’s hoping to hang around UMSL.

“I’ve learned a lot over the years, and I’d really like to share it with students. I know the good, the bad and the ugly of starting a business.”

Yakstis reached out to Charles Hoffman, dean of the College of Business Administration at UMSL, to let the dean know of his interest in teaching and mentoring.

“I got lucky, because he told me, ‘we have this new program with entrepreneurs and you can help,’” he said.

The University of Missouri System selected three UMSL students as part of the UM System Entrepreneurial Scholars and Interns Program.

The goal of the program is to create a steady stream of entrepreneurs around the state capable of taking their cutting-edge ideas to the market as new business ventures. Creating this new wave of well-educated entrepreneurs in Missouri will benefit the local, regional and national economies.

Yakstis is currently mentoring one of the UMSL entrepreneurial scholars.

“When I started in the 1980s, the entrepreneurial community wasn’t as strong as it is today,” he said. “The Small Business Administration was the only resource we had. Not like today, where there are so many resources and support. It was a different world. I was under capitalized. I didn’t know my market. You name it, I did it wrong.”

He served in the military for several years. In the early 1970s, Yakstis, a Fenton, Mo., resident, began working with electronics at McDonnell Douglas and then for Washington University in St. Louis.

It was then he decided to start his own company. In 1980, he founded Integrated Design Engineering, Inc., a data-communications, telecom, data acquisition and control and internet and web based applications and services company. He started the company as sole proprietor and expanded to over fifty employees and annual sales to over $6 million.

He then went on to start and sell three more companies: ProNetworks, local area networking equipment and software sales and consulting company; MicroTerm, an analog and digital electronics design and engineering service; and Ninavi Electronics Limited, Inc., an electronics manufacturer.

Yakstis then decided to try his hand in publishing and created Yakstis Communications Group. From there he started Underwater Sports World, the first scuba diving and underwater interactive online magazine in the early 1990s. That followed with the creation of Sports St. Louis Magazine, a regional sports publication.

“I hope that I can help these young entrepreneurs,” he said. “Give them advice, insight and resources to make their ideas successful.”


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