By Betty Dillard Three years ago, real estate entrepreneur Nancy Tartaglino Richards, chairman of First Preston HT, donated substantial funding and commitment to help start a worldwide college entrepreneurship program. Her sole request? The program must teach college students how to make money, while giving back to the community. That’s how Values & Ventures was born. Endowed by Richards and Lisa Barrentine, Preston HT’s president and CEO, the third annual Richards Barrentine Values and Ventures Business Plan Competition is set for April 19-20 at Texas Christian University’s Neeley School of Business. The competition brings student business teams from across the globe to Fort Worth with plans for profitable businesses that incorporate values, ethics and service. Thirty student teams from 30 universities will pitch 30 ventures to a panel of judges, most from companies and organizations in the Fort Worth area. Students are competing for $43,000 in cash prizes. “I think that entrepreneurship needs to be fostered in every way at every level,” Richards said. “TCU mastered exactly what we wanted to do. Everyone there is so creative, smart and forward-thinking. I give much credit to TCU because they embraced our ideas and they found a way to sponsor this out of the business school to make such an impact, not only to the students, but to all of these communities. I just feel honored to be part of this program.” For Homer Erekson, John V. Roach Dean of Neeley School of Business at TCU, the idea was a perfect fit for the university and business school. “Increasingly, business leaders are talking about values questions, so we want our students to be able to explore values and think about innovative ways to approach and apply values in their lives,” Erekson said. “Our aspiration is to be a world-class value center university and business school,” Erekson said. “So, when we look at this program, or any program, we want to ask, ‘Is it consistent with the mission of the institution?’ No question that this is a very distinctive program, and that value-centered aspect hits the sweet spot, if you will, of the university and the business school as a whole, but frankly, also hits the core of business education nationally because of its values base.” The competition also sets itself apart because it is one of the few undergraduate business competitions in the country, he said. “Most are MBA level programs. That also makes this distinctive, in combining for-profit businesses with the values,” says Erekson. Richards herself is an entrepreneur, founding First Preston HT in 1988. First Preston HT has grown to become one of the largest residential asset management companies in the United States and has sold more than 400,000 single family homes with a total value of more than $40 billion. Richards also founded HomeTelos, a technology company specializing in online real estate sale and offer management with technology products generating 12 million hits per month. Richards was recognized by Ernst & Young as their 2004 Southwest “Entrepreneur of the Year” for Real Estate/Construction/Hospitality and won its “National Entrepreneur of the Year Award” in 2005. That also figured into Richards’ support for the Values & Ventures idea. “Being an entrepreneur, I know how difficult it is to start a new business and to get a new idea launched off the ground,” Richards said. “As we developed our business over the last 25 years, it really became apparent that we needed to support and mentor others. Lisa and I decided that if our company grew to be successful, it had to be more than just about money, because you give up so much of your quality of life when you strategically grow your business. We made a pact to give a certain percentage of our profits to charities. What we didn’t realize is how it would take on a life of its own.” The philanthropic effort paid off in ways they didn’t expect. “We found that others wanted to do business with us because of it. As a result, we thought we not only had to help other entrepreneurs in business, but also teach them how to be philanthropists at an early age,” said Richards. “That was the original idea we took to TCU. With their great leadership, in two weeks, we were off and running.” While Richards is a Baylor University graduate, she has strong Horned Frog connections.
Her two sons graduated from TCU – one from the ranch management program, and one from the business school. Richards currently serves on TCU’s Board of Trustees.