Business professor’s passion for entrepreneurship, students fuels her work

Dawn Olson is an entrepreneur at heart. When she was 12 years old, her parents bought a video store, and Olson spent much of her time working with her dad, learning how to run the business. 

She learned to take inventory and market products, how to manage a small staff and even how to manage payroll. 

“I learned a lot about business functions from my dad and through working at the video store, like the successes and failures that go along with being a business owner. The video store didn’t last long—Blockbuster took over, and then Netflix came in,” she said, but that was just the beginning for Olson.

Olson’s business experience has been varied. Years ago as a new mom, she started an at-home daycare center to satisfy her business instinct while still being able to stay home with her toddler and newborn. After that, she said she dabbled in a few different direct sales companies, selling Mary Kay Cosmetics and Pampered Chef products. Entrepreneurship is just part of who she is. 

So when she was offered a full-time position as the director of Trevecca’s entrepreneurship and small business program, she knew the opportunity she’d been waiting for had come.

“I was teaching at another university in Texas and working at Dave Ramsey when Jim Hiatt first asked me if I was interested in teaching as an adjunct at Trevecca. I taught the Principles of Marketing in 2014, and in 2016, I came on part-time and quit my job at Dave Ramsey,” Olson recalled. “I felt like teaching was more of my calling. I knew all my experience from the time I was 12 to now was practical hands-on things that I could bring into the classroom and share with students. For the next three years, I waited. I wanted to teach full-time, and I knew it was something I was ready for. But God told me I had to be patient. Going to part-time from full-time, it is a shift in your mindset, but I said to God, ‘If this is really where you want me to be, then I’m going to be patient.’”

Olson spent three years working as a part-time adjunct for  Trevecca in the Skinner School of Business. Last spring, her patience paid off. Since then, she’s worked as the director of the entrepreneurship and small business program as well as the core course coordinator for marketing in the Master of Business Administration program. 

“If the opportunity isn’t there yet, what do you need to learn in this time of waiting to be ready when it does come? What do I have to get ready for? Sometimes we want it right away, but we have to be taught some things and meet the right people first so that when the time comes, we’ll have what we need to say yes. You’ll be stretched, and you’ll go deeper. Keep your eyes open. Turn everything else off if you need to. Your time is coming,” she said. 

Dean Diehl, dean of the School of Graduate and Continuing Studies, said Olson’s passion for people and her skill of seeing the promise of new ideas makes her perfect for this role. 

“Dawn’s background in marketing and financial planning allows her to guide potential small business owners through the whole process of business planning. Students who dream of someday owning their own business, regardless of the kind of business, will find that the program provides both the theoretical background and practical skills needed to give them a head start toward realizing that dream,” he said. “It has always been our hope that this program would provide students a place to explore and experience how owning a business can open up a world of potential. Dawn not only believes in that vision, but she models it.”

To learn more about the entrepreneurship and small business program, visit

By Bailey Basham, ’17
Media contact: Mandy Crow,, 615-248-1695