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Institute for Entrepreneurship program to assist students in business startups

EN Photo / Rachel Iacovone

FGCU students interested in entrepreneurship will soon have an opportunity to work with professionals for a chance to win a grant to accelerate their growing businesses.

The Institute for Entrepreneurship, a program under the Lutgert College of Business, will launch the Runway Program beginning on Monday, Sept. 12 at the Emerging Technologies Institute located off of Alico Road.

“It’s going to be a 12-week business incubator program,” Amy Ridgeway, project coordinator at the Institute, said. “Students will be working with FGCU faculty and staff as well as community mentors and successful entrepreneurs to get their business up and running.”

The program will be open to students of all majors – approximately half of the students involved in the Institute are not in LCOB. Those who participate are required to complete a minimum of 10 hours per week working in the incubator and three to five hours per week outside of the incubator.

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“They have equipment they can use to market their material,” Sandra Kauanui, the director of the Institute said. “We have both engineering- and business-type students. We also have interns for each semester than can apply for the incubator.”

Mentors, volunteers, attorneys as well as representatives from marketing companies will be available for students while working at the incubator. The program will also be equipped with materials needed for students to build their business ideas.

“We’ll have all of the supplies that they need,” Kauanui said. “If there’s things that they need that we don’t have we’ll provide that.”

The Runway Program will also provide those interested with 15 paid student internships. Those interns will either work in the incubator or within the LCOB.

The IFE will be working with Naples Accelerator, an institution that provides companies with facilities, networking and training to grow businesses.

“This incubator program is in conjunction with the Naples Accelerator,” Ridgeway said. “There will be a competition at the end of the program. The winner will get a year of office space there.”

After the end of the 12 weeks, students who are participating in the program will have a chance to display the work that they have been developing to an investment committee. The committee will then decide which entrepreneurship is worthy of a grant that will help them accelerate their business.

“We have a certain percentage of the money that is going to go through award winners to get grants,” Kauanui said. “We got an additional $70,000 that will be added to the grant money. We have close to $100,000 in grant money.”

Kauanui believes that a program like this one is needed at FGCU because so many students are interested in business, but need an extra boost to get them to their goal.

“A lot of students drop out of school to start businesses,” Kauanui said. “We want them to stay in school. The new millennials want to be more independent of large businesses.”

While this is the first year that the program is being implemented, Kauanui wants it to become a permanent addition to the university.

“We hope to continue after this year,” she said. “We’re going to raise additional funds for the future.”

Students interested in applying for the program can go here. The deadline for submitting applications is Monday, Sept. 5.

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