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Education


Multimillion dollar grants aim to help young business builders
Hoping to move forward with a new generation of entrepreneurs
by WKSU's TIM RUDELL


Reporter
Tim Rudell
 
Entrepreneurial immersion week at Kent State University. Julie Messing (lower right) is Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation at Kent State University
Courtesy of Kent State University
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In The Region:
The likes of Goodrich, Hoover, Seiberling and thousands of other businesses once made Ohio the economic dynamo of the nation.  As the region tries to recover from half a century of decline, two charities are putting $3.2 million into an effort to boost a new wave of entrepreneurship here.  WKSU’s Tim Rudell has more on a new application of an old idea
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 Concept

The $3.2 million idea is to help students at four schools – Kent State, Case Western, Baldwin Wallace and Lorain County Community College – develop and launch their own businesses…which will contribute to local economies…and create jobs. The national Blackstone Charitable Foundation and the local Burton D. Morgan Foundation are putting up half the money each.

Something new

Kent State has an Entrepreneurship Center and was among the first universities in Midwest to offer a major on the subject. It now has a thousand students in entrepreneurial classes.

But, Center Director Julie Messing says Blackstone’s Launch Pad is different.  With no specific curriculum, students from any major can use it; and it focuses on individual instruction and real world help. “It’s very hands on in a practical application of it.  So the person comes in with an idea already.  And the advisors in the Launch Pad program will help get them ready to launch. And help them get ready for that next step which would be to a venture coach, which helps take it to the next level.”  

NEO

The northeast Ohio Launch Pand, unveiled today, is the third of its kind To be created…with the help of $50 million that Blackstone has committed nationally to entrepreneurial education. The first two were in Detroit and Miami.

Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman says the effort is targeting communities that, like northeast Ohio, have taken the hardest economic hits.  He says that’s also part of the thinking behind the focus on college students.  ”Young people have the highest unemployment rate by age group.  And the lowest  levels of entrepreneurial instincts and knowledge. So we get this into the school systems  and give them an opportunity to succeed, and for the society to succeed as well.”

Other programs

The Morgan Foundation funds other college entrepreneurship programs, too. For five years, a group of northeast Ohio schools, including the College of Wooster has been involved in one of them. It’s more classroom oriented than Launch Pad but is open to students from every discipline.

Zach Boylson graduated in from Wooster in May.  He and some friends are just starting a new venture — and working part time jobs for now to make ends meet. They got their business idea while at Wooster…doing a project for charity.  “It started out as a community service project. Seven of my friends and I made hats from donated yarn for clinics and orphanages and so forth. But people kept asking us to make hats for them.  We would go downtown and people would ask about the hats.  So we took that and worked out how to be viable, to have the charitable aspect, but to support ourselves, and make the hats.”

Taylor Lamborn also graduated from Wooster, and was in the entrepreneurship program. She says she learned about business planning and best practices, but perspective was what she really got.  “was so impressed by how other students were taking the initiative to go out and start businesses, and to not just sit in the classroom but to learn through experience. Every single time we met it was a brain storming session, with new ideas and new information. It was a creative environment that I really enjoyed being a part of.”

Lamborn met the CEO of a Wooster area high-tech company during one of the college’s entrepreneurial forums, and she’s now the company's marketing director.  

Launch Pad

The four northeast Ohio schools in the new entrepreneurship program will be sharing resources.

A pilot version of Launch Pad started three years ago at the University of Miami. It has drawn 1,800 students, who have started 45 businesses, which have created more than 100 jobs.

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