For Lawrentians passionate about starting up their own businesses and making their ideas realities, new platforms are emerging to provide not only foundational knowledge, but also necessary tools and networking opportunities. Starting with the Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E)program, entrepreneurial culture has been expanding its presence not only in the academic sphere, but also in many student activities due to its versatility and applicability.
According to Assistant Professor of Economics Adam Galambos, the I&E program was crafted to cater to specific interests of both the faculty and the students. Galambos describes the program as “a collaborative effort that brought together […] from several disciplines: art, theatre, government, physics, music and economics.”
“Whether you are interested in starting a new venture or not, whether you plan to work in the business world or not, you will benefit,” said Galambos. “I believe that innovative, entrepreneurial thought and action are essential skills of a liberally educated person.”
Classes under this program all aim to equip students with an innovative mindset, problem-solving skills from different perspectives, and an ability to create persuasive and effective arguments. Beyond this, the program is evolving with new programming, as more experiential learning opportunities, such as field trips and guest speakers, are presented in the coming year.
The variety in the skill sets learned propels students quickly into ventures of their own. Juniors Chelsey Choy and Zachary Martin, after taking a few I&E classes, have decided to expand this entrepreneurial culture and inspire others by establishing Lawrence University Club of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (LUCIE).
Alongside setting the foundation for the club, Choy and Martin also organized two pitch contests during midterm reading periods. These contests, Optimize LU in Winter Term and Launch | LU this Spring Term, aimed to provide interested students a chance to learn, test their skills and network with professional mentors in the field.
Choy and Martin are constantly learning and reinventing their ideas to cater to their audience. Reflecting on the two pitch contests they organized this year— three-day-long series of talks, training, and one-on-one mentoring and pitching, Choy said:
“We realize that it is a lot to ask students to be present for the entire three days of events. So we decided to do a series throughout the year to help students with how to do public speaking, how to develop a pitch to make the process easier for them and to develop their ideas through the entire year.”
Participants took away a lot from these events. Freshman Nijesh Upreti came to Launch | LU without knowing much about professional pitching. However, he enjoyed the process and said he “[had] a good idea, which struck [him] at the last moment.”
On the other hand, the platform developed by Choy and Martin also helped hopeful entrepreneurs, such as sophomores Blake Roubos and Felix Henriksson, to take their ideas in an I&E course to the next level. Roubos and Henriksson walked away from Launch | LU with a $1,000 prize in seed funding to continue developing Under Awareness. This start-up allows customers to buy quality underwear and other essentials while donating to a charity of their choice.
In the quest to empower others to innovate, Choy believes expanding such events into a club is necessary. Although LUCIE is still in the process of recognition, Choy remains hopeful, as the club aligns itself to the spirit of entrepreneurship. As Choy puts it, “entrepreneurship, as a big field, is essentially very collaborative. The more people there are, the more innovative you can be and the more people are going to come.”
The club will be a platform for like-minded people interested in entrepreneurship to meet, collaborate and work together, bringing in background knowledge from their own fields of expertise. Events like Launch | LU will still be an integral part of the club.
“I definitely want more people to understand how welcoming the environment is,” said Choy. “I definitely would love to see Launch | LU develop into a bigger thing […] We have developed a format, now we are expanding and making those connections with people in the Appleton community. Now, it is the question of how we can make it bigger and better, because the bigger the event is, the more people we can have coming and the more networking opportunities we can provide.”
As Choy and Martin continue to create a greater presence of entrepreneurship on campus, they have a message to convey. As Choy put it, “When you have an idea, even if it is crazy, it does not mean that it is impossible. I have heard a lot of people saying that ‘I have an idea, but I am not a business person, I have no experience.’ But entrepreneurship is not about having the skill sets, but learning them. It is a way of thinking that can applied to any discipline here at Lawrence.”