New entrepreneurship program prepares for launch in January

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Sean Cauvet, Editorial Intern

A new program for student entrepreneurs will begin at Grand Valley State University next semester, sponsored by the Center of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. The program, called 77 IdeaLab, will change the way that ideas are able to come to fruition for the next generation of students at GVSU.

Although no students are enrolled yet, the Director of the Center of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Shorouq Almallah, is excited about the role of the program on GVSU’s campus.

“Accelerator programs like this one are important because they play a big role in creating an ecosystem for startups that provide infrastructure, support and training and other services that would be difficult or time consuming for the student to figure it out on their own,” Almallah said. “The students will have access to mentors and coaches from the university as well as experienced entrepreneurs and industry experts form the community.”

A big factor in the start of the program is giving students a place to bring their ideas and passion.

“Universities are seeing an increase in students pursuing their passions by being ‘dorm’ or garage entrepreneurs,” Almallah said. “Since 1995, universities have formed nearly 11,000 startup companies that supported the creation of 3.8 million jobs. With comprehensive support, access to funding and resources, accelerated knowledge and skill development, 77 IdeaLab is going to create a platform to help GVSU students take their creative ideas out of the dorm, and help elevate them to the next level and scale their impact.”

Almallah added that the projects will be done in groups to keep the students constantly moving forward and to maximize the impact on the community.

“Since this will be done in a cohort model, the teams will get to interact and learn from each other throughout the process,” Almallah said. “Access to funding is another major benefit to this program. Each team that is accepted into the program will receive a $1,000 grant as seed funding for their ideas.”

With this funding, 77 IdeaLab program director Matt Gira said students are afforded the ability to be as creative as their mind will let them without the consequences of a post-college work place environment.

“The value it creates for students is that they can start a business with a lot less risk than if they start a business after they graduate,” Gira said. “In a lot of ways, we act as training wheels as they learn how to be an entrepreneur. We can’t guarantee success, but we can at least give them a better shot at it.”

Gira is most excited about giving students the opportunity to find and fulfill their purposes, as well as preparing them for the future.

“At the end of the day, entrepreneurship is just solving world class problems, and we’re giving students opportunities to identify those problems and tackle them head-on in innovative ways,” Gira said.

The name for the program came about in an interesting way. Almallah wanted to pay homage to the roots of the Center of Entreprenurship and Innovation by referencing its history.

“People often ask me where the 77 comes from,” Almallah said. “The number references the year 1977, when the first entrepreneurship class was offered at GVSU. I found old memos dating back to 1977 from President Lubbers to Marv DeVries (the late dean of the business school), discussing establishing the entrepreneurship center and offering the first entrepreneurship class at GVSU.”

Applications for 77 IdeaLab are due Dec. 3 at 6 p.m. and can be completed on the GVSU Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation website. Gira says the program only has one requirement for a student to get involved and reap its benefits.

“All a student needs to be part of the program is a problem that they’re passionate about,” Gira said. “They don’t necessarily need an idea or business plan. We can help formulate the idea around the problem they are passionate about.”

For Almallah, 77 IdeaLab has been in the works for many years. Now, the program will be kick started in January and take students through a journey until the end of the semester in April, which includes different events such as alumni night, networking workshops, feedback sessions, investor pitching and many more that help the students achieve their goals.

“I’ve had this desire and goal to create this resource for our students for many years,” Almallah said. “I have been working on this for the past couple of years to set things in motion, as well as secure resources, funding, staffing and space to make the program happen. Creating the 77 IdeaLab was an entrepreneurial venture in and of itself. It is challenging at times to get all the pieces together to launch something, but it is very gratifying when you see in idea that was sketched on a Post-it note come to life.”