Embodying this idea is a brand-new initiative, known as the Launch [ ]! Student Entrepreneurship Program, which was collaboratively spearheaded this spring by New College and our friends at State College of Florida (SCF) Manatee-Sarasota.
New College students are now learning how to become entrepreneurs—at no cost to them—by participating in a yearlong training program at the business incubator at SCF’s 26 West Center. The program—which is guided by industry experts—is funded by generous New College donors, and four of our students (known as “Launchers”) have joined the inaugural 2022 cohort.
“New College is the perfect partner for our 26 West Center student incubator because it reflects our values of creating an environment in which innovative thinking thrives, and then putting that mindset into action in all areas—from industry to social entrepreneurship,” says Todd Fritch, Ph.D., the executive vice president and provost at SCF.
Students in the Launch [ ]! program earn a certificate of completion for attending 10 entrepreneurship training classes—on topics such as developing a business model, finances, raising capital, customer discovery, branding and risk mitigation. While Launch [ ]! gives students the resources to start a business or nonprofit, our career coaches at New College’s Center for Career Engagement and Opportunity (CEO) help students brainstorm how to integrate their entrepreneurial ventures into their academic goals (through tutorials, senior projects/theses and course selections).
“What’s exciting about Launch [ ]! is that now we are helping students harness their entrepreneurial thinking into viable businesses and connecting them to a robust entrepreneurship ecosystem before they even graduate,” says Dwayne Peterson, the executive director of career education at New College. “New College, with its focus on student self-agency, engrains entrepreneurial thinking into all of our students. This creative approach to solving problems is a natural outcome of the New College experience and explains why so many of our graduates become successful entrepreneurs.”
Bristen Groves, a second-year theatre student at New College, got involved with Launch [ ]! because “it is the exact opportunity I have been praying for: a means of helping me finally launch my business idea through mentorship and a business community,” she says.
Her business idea is called Gracefully Creative Co.—a platform for her to encourage and inspire others through the creative arts. It will likely include a blog, a shop where Groves can sell and showcase her graphic design works, and possibly dance videos and/or a podcast.
Michelle Read, a first-year environmental studies student at New College and current Launcher, is interested in using her “passion for environmental sustainability for creating and supporting ethical nonprofits and/or businesses,” Read says. Read aims to start a company that offers healthy, sustainable snacks, such as vegan, organic frozen yogurt.
Camila Blasi, a third-year general studies student at New College, joined Launch [ ]! to “start a food forest that will supply the New College cafeteria with fresh food daily, so that students and the Sarasota community can eat for free or at a low cost,” Blasi says.
And Lauren David, a third-year enviro/urban studies student at New College, wants to build a skincare brand called Saphalata (the Hindi word for “success”). All of her products will be 100 percent organic, cruelty-free, recyclable and handmade, David says.
“Our goal is to provide transparent, trustworthy, luxury body care that leaves your skin glowing and heart happy,” David says.
Groves, Read, Blasi and David all exemplify the entrepreneurial thinking that the Launch [ ]! program—and New College as a whole—aim to nurture. We are thrilled to offer this to our students, as we help them realize their ambitious visions and prepare them for the world ahead.
Patricia Okker, Ph.D. is the president of New College of Florida.
(Story from SRQ on 5-7-22)