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File / The Outlook Andrew Caldwell presents his business proposal to the investor panel at the Lake Martin Innovation Center in May 2019.

Benjamin Russell Class of 2020 graduate Andrew Caldwell has a drive for figuring out how things work and understanding what makes them tick. Whether it’s building a specific computer from scratch or learning the inner workings of the human brain, Caldwell’s desire to grasp the concept of logic and procedure helped motivate him during the Wildcat Entrepreneur Academy. He plans to apply that same drive to study neuroscience and psychology this fall at UAB.

“When I was little, all the time I asked a million questions about how things work; ‘Why does this do that?’” Caldwell said. “From Day 1 I’ve been interested in that.”

When he was a junior at BRHS, Caldwell decided to participate in the Wildcat Entrepreneur Academy because the idea of being an entrepreneur was appealing and he wanted to learn the ins and outs of business dealings.

“I wanted to learn what all goes into being an entrepreneur no matter what the business is and how to get things off the ground,” Caldwell said. “Even though I will say it’s not going to impact my future plans, as far as what I want to do in college, the thing I learned the most absolutely was how to have a business mindset.”

Caldwell’s father, Cam, owns Radio Shack in Alexander City, so the class gave Caldwell an inside perspective to his father’s job.

“In high school, you don’t ever think about the intricate details that go into a business,” he said. “I learned how to deal with every little bitty thing as myself. The best part is I learned how it’s laid out and how it works, giving me a look at what my dad does.”

Caldwell captured additional inspiration from his father when planning his business proposal, which is the main function of the entrepreneur program.

“I started custom building and customizing computers, specifically PCs,” Caldwell said. “People would give me their computers and I could put really truly anything into it or build it from the ground up. I could customize it to your needs and specifications.”

With a strong interest in technology, Caldwell said he watched his father repair a computer one day and was intrigued by how all the parts connected and worked together.

“He brought one home for me to build back and I fell in love with making the computer into one whole working unit,” Caldwell said. “No matter what you put in it, it all kind of works together.”

While Caldwell did not receive the full amount requested to the investor panel for his business proposal at the end of the class, he did receive a substantial amount and worked with his dad to try and launch the idea.

“We didn’t get too far with it, I hate to say, but I was in the middle of school and fully focused on that,” Caldwell said. “I didn’t really get around to venturing out with what I wanted to do.”

Although Caldwell did not follow through on the business plan to the full extent, he said the lessons learned from the program were invaluable.

“Because of how specific what I wanted to do was, the No. 1 (challenge) was being able to learn how to do it, which I had one of the best teacher in town, and second, being able to convey that idea to others,” Caldwell said. “Because most of the investor panel is not familiar with how to build a computer being able to lay out my ideas in a non-super techy way, in an understandable way, was probably the second hardest thing.”

Caldwell said the business plan aspect came to him the most effortlessly because it’s something he’s interested in. Knowing the inner workings of a specific technology business aided Caldwell in comfortably formulating a plan.

“It was just about finding the details that interested me but that wasn’t the hard part,” he said. “There are so many things you don’t realize you need to learn. We also learned things that can help us further along in life and in college. There is always something to learn.”

Networking, especially with the local community, was a vital aspect of the program as well.

“Being able to connect with people you’ve never met before is essential,” Caldwell said. “Community ties are so important. If you come back to work here, people will remember you.”

Amy Passaretti is a staff writer with the Alexander City Outlook.