Online MBA Student Chris Francis Thrives at Running His Own Businesses

The entrepreneurial bug bit Chris Francis when he was a teenager.

“I’ve never really worked for anybody,” said Francis, a business owner in the Cleveland area. “I was washing boats at 14. I had paper routes. I’ve always been a do-it-yourself go-getter.

“I worked as a busboy in a French restaurant, which was pretty much my only W-2 job. Once the entrepreneur bug bites, it either sticks with you, or you hate it.”

Francis owns two businesses: a construction company (Chris Francis Builders) and a coffee and bagel shop (Brewed Awakening Vermilion, started with his wife and son). As a busy entrepreneur, he is enjoying the convenience of the online Master of Business Administration program at Bowling Green State University (BGSU).

“I knew that the degree would help me grow and scale the businesses I have with that knowledge base,” Francis said.

He enrolled in the online MBA program not long after completing a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies from BGSU in 2020.

“The cost of tuition was very reasonable,” he said. “Everywhere else I looked was almost double the tuition, so Bowling Green blazed the trail on the affordable and flexible MBA.

“I also like the BGSU brand. The online courses are challenging, but it’s much better with scheduling flexibility. ”

Perks of Learning

Francis, 50, grew up in Vermilion, Ohio, on Lake Erie, and started college straight out of high school. Then, he took a break to focus on work and build his businesses.

“I went to a variety of schools,” he said. “I had two years of college under my belt. I wanted to finish it and say that I did it. Bowling Green is a good school, so I decided to go there.”

As a bonus, Francis took a couple of hybrid undergraduate courses with his son, Brennan, who was in the BGSU College Credit Plus program as a high school senior at the time. Francis and his wife, Sherry, have two other sons, Kollin (24) and Korbin Miller (27).

“Brennan and I were in the same classes sometimes at the Bowling Green Firelands campus,” Francis said. “If it got him motivated, great. He is the operating partner in the coffee shop. We are about to open a second location. The entrepreneurial bug bit him, too.”

So far in the online MBA program, Francis has especially enjoyed Marketing Management and Strategy, taught by Dr. Gregory Rich.

“Dr. Rich is a good guy who was easy to work with and get in touch with,” Francis said. “It was more than reading from the book. There were a lot of case studies and real-world applications in the course.

“The information had to do with topics we were already involved in. He asked us to put our knowledge to use, which is always a better way to learn. Plus, I was well-versed in the online set-up because of my undergrad experience.”

Cream of the Crop

Having missed the in-person commencement for his bachelor’s degree, Francis plans to walk the graduation stage at BGSU later this year.

“I waited 30 years to go back to college, and then the graduation was virtual,” he said.

Although Francis is open to the idea of full-time employment, he would like to remain his own boss in some capacity.

“If I find something close to home with a decent salary, I might do it,” he said. “Knowledge is power. It can’t hurt to have an MBA. If I got a job, the MBA would pay for itself in the first year.”

For now, Francis is focused on working, earning a degree and boating and camping in his free time. He is also a licensed pilot who enjoys flying.

“For somebody who is already in the workforce, going back to school has an even greater value,” he said. “Since it’s for myself and the businesses, I’ve used several things I learned.

“You retain what you like, but what I have retained and used definitely came from the MBA program.”

Learn more about BGSU’s online MBA program.

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