Entrepreneurship is on the rise more than ever, with 28 million small businesses accounting for 54 percent of all sales in the United States last year.
While pursuing a business degree can certainly be helpful in starting a business, students from every discipline can find success in the free market.
“Entrepreneurship allows students to solve problems in the world that they really care about,” says Kourtney Dinkins, operations manager at UCF’s Blackstone LaunchPad. “It’s your opportunity to follow your own path and beat your own drum and to solve a problem that is important to you.”
Whether you’re trying to grow your business or are stuck in the first stages of conception, UCF has resources that can help you to develop a thriving company. Here are a few of the services you can find on campus:
Coaching Through Blackstone
Located on the first floor of the Student Union, the Blackstone LaunchPad is the center for free business coaching and development. The first step to getting help is to go in and discuss your idea.
“Entrepreneurship allows students to solve problems in the world that they really care about. It’s your opportunity to follow your own path and beat your own drum.”
From there, students are paired up with one of 15 mentors experienced in their field of focus. Coaches work one-on-one with students to guide them through innovation, business modeling and business-growth strategies. During this process students also become familiar with UCF’s Ideator system, a networking platform that allows students to share ideas, find partnerships and track their success.
Blackstone’s coaching and services are available to UCF alumni up to three years after graduation, as long as they had one appointment in the LaunchPad while they attended UCF.
One tip UCF’s Blackstone LaunchPad operations manager Kourtney Dinkins suggests before seeking help from Blackstone is to Google your idea to see if it already exists and to learn more about your competitors.
Building Products and Collaborations in the StarterSpace
Located on the first floor of Business Administration Building I, the StarterSpace provides 1,500 square feet of collaborative work areas. The space includes free access to a 3-D printer, whiteboards, sewing machines, electrical tools, software-equipped iMacs, an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset and a Vive virtual reality system to help students create prototypes for their businesses.
There is no need to apply or sign up to use StarterSpace or its resources. Students can stop by 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday or 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Friday.
Experience and Funding Through Competitions
Each academic year, two competitions allow students to put their business planning skills to the test for the chance to win funding for their startup. Full- and part-time students are eligible to enter as individuals or in teams.
“A lot of times our students have never pitched their idea in front of investors, so [competitions are about] getting [that] experience.”
“A lot of times our students have never pitched their idea in front of investors,” says Dinkins. “They’ve never even created a pitch deck, so it’s getting the experience to be able to comfortably explain what your business idea is and why we should care.”
Every spring, the Joust New Venture Competition awards the top four competitors up to $75,000 in cash and services provided by local sponsors and donors. Contestants must successfully submit an application, present a 12-minute maximum business pitch and complete a 20-minute question–and-answer session with the judges.
In the fall, the Social Venture Competition rewards student who create an impact by solving social issues through entrepreneurship, with more than $4,000 in cash split among four winners. After correctly submitting their applications, finalists must present their eight-minute proposals and respond to four minutes of questioning from the judges.
Advanced Support Through UPSTARTS
Student businesses that have generated revenue for at least six months can get extra help through the UPSTARTS Student Venture Accelerator.
This program provides qualifying students with free office space, office equipment, advanced coaching resources and collaboration space. UPSTARTS Ventures will also have extensive access to the StarterSpace.
Teams of two or more students in good academic standing with UCF are accepted and typically demonstrate a focus to building their business. There is no set number of businesses that are accepted into the program, but usually 12-15 are supported each year.
Students must apply by the end of the spring semester to be eligible for support through the following academic year.
For help with developing revenue streams, use a social blueprint.
For assistance creating a financial model, check out SCORE’s financial projections template.
To get an overview of success metrics, click here.