UEX entrepreneur course helps Erine Gray launch online social work business


When Erine Gray’s mother was diagnosed with encephalitis, he found himself in need of finding support services in his community, but didn’t know where to look or what was available.

He knew he couldn’t be alone in feeling isolated and powerless when confronted with yards of red tape, dead-ends or incomplete information. He wanted to find a way to eliminate the hurdles not only for himself, but for anyone finding themselves in similar, unfamiliar circumstances.

While Erine had a strong background in business, he had questions and practical concerns about starting a company of his own. To find the answers he needed, Erine enrolled in Foundations of Entrepreneurship from University Extension (UEX). He came away from the course with the necessary knowledge, skills and understanding he needed to launch AuntBertha.com, a website that provides users with easy, customized solutions to their food, health, housing and employment needs.

We asked Erine some questions about his experience with UEX.

What was your goal in taking Foundations of Entrepreneurship?
Erine Gray: “I had a strong idea and vision for my company, AuntBertha.com. I understood the social work industry, but I didn’t have any experience in starting a company. I was curious to learn about how other people did it. Specifically, I wanted to learn more about hiring, raising money and the general trials and tribulations of launching a startup.”

“I have a BA in economics from Indiana University, and in 2004 I received my master’s degree in public affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin. I didn’t have any other academic goals, other than to learn from those who were more experienced. Right now, I’m 100% focused on the business and, who knows, one day I’d like to teach.”

What was the class like? Was it what you expected?
“I didn’t know what to expect, honestly. The class was made-up of about 20 people who were already successful in their fields. Most had several years of experience in management and many had already started successful businesses. The teacher did a fantastic job of sharing his successes and failures, bringing in guest lecturers and allowing the classmates to share their own stories and business ideas. I’d say that the class exceeded my expectations.”

How did taking an evening class on the UT campus work for you?
“It worked out perfectly. It gave me something to look forward to every week. For at least three hours I could zone out of the day-to-day operations and learn from my classmates, guest speakers and the teacher. It served as great motivation for the rest of the week.”

“For me it was a way to stay motivated during the very lonely period of getting a business from idea to build phase. Hearing stories from people in the community goes a long way in letting you know and giving you the confidence that this has been done before. Other people have succeeded. And there are people in the community that want to help you get there.”

Do you have any advice to someone considering taking this or any course with UEX?
“I’d say find a subject you want to learn and just go for it. You’d be surprised at the ideas that come up during the walk to your car after class is out.”


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