Four Pierce County universities and colleges joined forces this month to create a network that nurtures and trains the next generation of local, young entrepreneurs.
The Tacoma College Entrepreneur Network launched its first event Nov. 5 at the University of Puget Sound with “Innovate! Create!,” a competition that included students from UPS, University of Washington-Tacoma, Pacific Lutheran University, and The Evergreen State College.
The competition provided the kick-off for a collaboration thought to be unique in the country, said organizer and UPS Entrepreneurial Studies Professor Lynnette Claire.
“The purpose is helping college students enter entrepreneurship,” Claire said. “I’m hoping to get people really excited about working with others.”
The network aims to enable Tacoma’s college students to explore an entrepreneurial career path. The collaboration also will benefit Tacoma and Pierce County by encouraging a local culture of entrepreneurship and creating a community of diverse, young innovators who can help drive long-term economic health.
“My goal in the future is not to direct the group,” Claire said. “I want to let the students drive it.”
During the event, student network members from the four institutions learned from practicing business leaders, experimented with entrepreneurship, worked with mentors, and participated in activities aimed at building their confidence to turn ideas into practice.
Students were divided into teams and asked to create a new business or nonprofit solution to a problem unveiled at the event. The teams had three hours to create a solution, build a portfolio for the solution, and develop a pitch. Entrepreneur and investor judges picked the winning team by considering each solution’s ability to solve the problem, its innovativeness, and the sustainability of the solution.
UPS student organizer Basnati Bail said her college has an alumni network, but nothing that links UPS students to other universities. This new network allows her and other UPS students to branch out of their campus.
“It helps forge connectedness between the schools,” fellow student organizer Shana Tsukiyama said.
Both students said they are disappointed to be graduating this spring before getting the chance to see the network fully bloom.
“I would love to see how it will turn out,” Bail said.
Organizers at the University of Puget Sound plan to continue more events through Tacoma College Entrepreneur Network in the future. Faculty and staff on the four campuses will share expertise and coordinate the clubs’ efforts.
Funding from University of Puget Sound’s Nat S. and Marian W. Rogers Professorship and the Herbert B. Jones Foundation have supported this initiative.
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