The entrepreneurial bug can hit at any age – from lemonade stands to Fortune 500 CEOs, people have turned their big ideas into successful enterprises. Now, a group of college students at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point is aiming to help more people get started on their journey to entrepreneurship.
Students Keaton Schultz and Caleb Guilliams joined forces last year to form the UW-Stevens Point Entrepreneurs Club. A year later, with help from fellow students Corey Parris, Ciana Rose and Johnny Van, as well as faculty advisor Dave Eckmann, the club has officially launched and begun renovations on its own office space on campus.
While each member became involved in his or her own way – some as founders, others through networking or even ads in the local newspaper – they have combined to cultivate a resource on campus they couldn’t find elsewhere.
“We founded it because there was nothing, really, on campus that focused on entrepreneurship at all,” Schultz said. “And then we figured out we wanted to start a club, so we got a space up at UWSP and we made a good group to form ideas off of.”
Since its founding, the group has created a mission to encourage entrepreneurship from two angles: first, to help students interested in entrepreneurial experiences, and second, to spur economic development throughout the state.
“There’s a lot of our peers on campus who don’t want the status quo: come to college, go through the system, get a degree and just be spit out into the job force. They want to pursue their own passions and do their own thing – and maybe build something of their own and create jobs that way,” said Parris, the acting president of the club. “On the other side is the broader picture of economic development and how entrepreneurship can really stimulate the economy. And in Central Wisconsin, there’s definitely a need for that.”
To achieve its goal of connecting other like-minded entrepreneurs on campus, the group plans to lead activities and offer office space for resident entrepreneurs, as well as raise awareness of existing resources. Additionally, the group hopes to educate prospective members on what entrepreneurship really is and how it fits into the economy.
“It’s about connecting and letting people know that entrepreneurship isn’t just building a business and making a profit for yourself, it’s about coming up with innovative ways to solve larger problems,” said Rose, the group’s acting vice president.
Additionally, the group is hoping to create an infrastructure within the colleges and departments at UWSP to better educate students and faculty about the resources they offer, according to Parris. This infrastructure would allow advisors to send interested students to the club to learn about their options and what resources could benefit them, both from UWSP’s club and the UW System as a whole.
Most tangible among the group’s goals is to open its own incubator space on campus. The club has recently finished renovations on an office space that includes five entrepreneur offices and a conference room. The goal is to have student entrepreneurs move in to test their companies and hone their business models before graduating.
“The way we see it is, before they go out into the big, bad world, maybe they can make some mistakes and do some trial and error while they’re still in college, before they go out and have to start paying for a space like that,” said Van, the acting vice president of communications.
The club hopes to have student entrepreneurs move into the new incubator space soon, while actively recruiting new members and planning additional activities and speakers. More information on the UW-Stevens Point Entrepreneurs Club can be found on its Facebook page.