Thomas E. Phelps Entrepreneurship Fund
When Trent Phelps decided to make her husband’s legacy something special for young entrepreneurs, she turned to the Parkway Alumni Association. Having started his entrepreneurial career at age 25, Tom Phelps enjoyed his role as a mentor to students who wanted to pursue their dreams of business ownership.
With the initial $50,000 donation by the Phelps family to the Thomas E. Phelps Fund in 2014, the Parkway Alumni Association has been helping students get their business ideas funded up to $1K per grantee. The fund is part of a two-fold plan by the association and Parkway School District to educate and encourage students to make their product or service ideas a reality, and to learn the fundamentals of launching and maintaining a real business.
Students who submit an application for a Phelps grant by the deadline (see calendar at www.ParkwayAlumni.org for Granting Dreams deadline) and get it approved by the association will be awarded up to $1,000 to bring their business idea to fruition. Applications for Granting Dreams and Phelps Awards are available online (both applications must be submitted together).
Born in 1943, Tom Phelps was a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist who had many business interests, including the brokerage/investment advisory/venture capital firm Donelan Phelps, which he cofounded with Patrick Donelan in 1968. Although not a Parkway graduate, Phelps was a resident in the district for several years until his death in 2012. He was a mentor and consultant on entrepreneurship to several organizations, including the Young Presidents Organization, the World Presidents Organization and the Chief Executives Organization.
Phelps’ wife, Trent, established the fund in his memory. The Phelps Fund is one of several funds administered by the PAA, and is available for donations from anyone who wants to give students more opportunities to be entrepreneurs.
“Tom started working for an investment firm when he was only 19 years old,” she says. “He loved motivating young people to pursue their passions. He encouraged them to thoughtfully forge their own path if the usual one didn’t lead where they wanted to go. And he wanted them to know it was okay to make a mistake, as long as they learned from it. One of his favorite quotes was, ‘Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.’”
Parkway high school students get another opportunity to receive support of their entrepreneurial ambitions if they choose to compete for a spot in the district’s student business incubator program - Spark! This program piloted in Fall 2014. Students learn the fundamentals of entrepreneurship through the development of an authentic start-up business or non-profit organization.
For more information, contact Sandy Riutcel, PAA executive director, at (314) 415-8074.