BW’s Blackstone LaunchPad is Firing Up Future Entrepreneurs
Blackstone LaunchPad is open for business at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea. The acclaimed program, made possible by $3.2 million in grants from The Burton D. Morgan Foundation and the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, brings new venture assessment, mentoring, and networking services to students and alumni at BW and three other Northeast Ohio campuses.
“BW recognizes that students represent the economic future of the region, but they need support right now to build their professional networks and hone their ideas and skills. Blackstone LaunchPad introduces top-notch, professional support to any student driven to turn an idea into a company and build a career as an entrepreneur,” said Amy Stursberg, executive director of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, during Blackstone Launchpad's Opening Day kick-off at BW.
“Blackstone LaunchPad will help our region continue its transformation into a talent-rich destination and a powerful incubator for entrepreneurs." said Deborah D. Hoover, president & CEO of the Burton D. Morgan Foundation. "This robust, experiential program builds on the collegiate entrepreneurial strength that already exists in our region."
Seeing Entrepreneurship as a Viable Path
Mike Nock, director of BW’s LaunchPad program, urged students at the gathering to see entrepreneurship as a viable path. “The support you need to test the waters, to flesh out your plan—it’s all here,” he said, “I’m enthusiastic about the chance to help and mentor BW students, step by step, through the process of bringing an idea into the marketplace.” Nock speaks from experience. He founded his own company at the age of 25.
Blackstone LaunchPad’s success flows in part from its unique confidential, co-curricular, and student-focused experiential approach. Students drive the pace of idea development and do not receive grades or awards. The process emphasizes developing strategies to resolve real launch or growth obstacles, as opposed to prioritizing the outcome of a specific idea.
BW LaunchPad Off to a Robust Start
In the three weeks since the formal opening at BW, Nock says more than 30 students have signed up and 15 already have venture ideas in the pipeline. Blackstone LaunchPad is aimed at attracting the interest of all types of students and majors, ensuring that an entrepreneurial biology or music major has the same support in launching a new venture as a business or computer science major.
The BW program also has held four events deigned to educate and inspire budding campus entrepreneurs—including a workshop featuring successful BW aluma Micki Tubbs '92, who earned her MBA from BW and started Fit Technology.
Blackstone LaunchPad Track Record of Success
After its conception and implementation at the University of Miami, the first regional Blackstone LaunchPad expansion opened in Southeast Michigan in 2010. In less than two years, it created a community of more than 550 entrepreneurs between two campus communities.
The 87 business ventures created or expanded as a result of their work with the Michigan Blackstone LaunchPad include an online community and e-commerce venture focused on catering to busy moms, an online tool to help caregivers match elders with appropriate care services, a high-speed electric bicycle manufacturer and a video game developer.
BW Commitment to Entrepreneurial Skills
Four campuses, representing more than 72,000 students, were singled out to offer the Blackstone LaunchPad model in Northeast Ohio: Baldwin Wallace University, Case Western Reserve University, Kent State University, and Lorain County Community College.
“BW places a high value on teaching all of our students to think and function like entrepreneurs," said BW President Robert C. Helmer. "Skills such as measured risk-taking and network-building can help turn an innovative idea into a new company or help an existing employer grow. We encourage as many students as possible to take advantage of the opportunity this program provides."